Edmund Burke, who declared the tyranny of bad laws, was a deep political thinker and a ferocious polemicist. In 1777, he wrote to the Sheriffs of Bristol that the true danger to freedom was when liberty was nibbled away, for expedience, and by parts.
We should wish that 1777 is now, and that Burke was writing to our prime minister. Perhaps then John Howard would be less reckless in his pursuit of additional security powers and more concerned about the damage his legislation will do to important traditions of free association, opinion and debate.
I declare, therefore, that I write the following with open, seditious intention.
The Federal Government proposes to amend the Crimes Act 1914 so as to be able to jail any body of persons, incorporated or unincorporated, which by its constitution or propaganda or otherwise, advocates or encourages the doing of any act having or purporting to have as an object the carrying out of a seditious intention.
Seditious intention means an intention to bring the sovereign into hatred or contempt; or to urge disaffection against the constitution; the government of the Commonwealth; either house of the Parliament; to urge another person to attempt, otherwise than by lawful means, to procure a change to any matter established by law in the Commonwealth; and to promote feelings of ill-will or hostility between different groups so as to threaten the peace, order and good government of the Commonwealth.
"Under this constitution a High Court can rule that a man, charged with and guilty of no crime, can be locked up indefinitely. Under this constitution, rights are left to the mercy of predators such as Howard and expedient windbags like Beazley. The Australian constitution enables the government to spend without constraint to serve its own political interest. As such, it deserves the disaffection of decent, democratic people."
Just so it is clear, I urge all Australians to hold the sovereign and her heirs and successors with hatred and contempt. Lecherous, callow, adulterous; inbred, exclusive and foreign; they remind us that, by them, we are made no democratic people. Because they are appointed by bloodline, and because talent, accomplishment and merit enter not into the question of their position and the prominence accorded to them, they exist as proof that government can be degraded by the powerful in service of their own interests. As such, they deserve our democratic hatred and contempt.
I openly urge disaffection with the constitution. Concerned with matters of commerce, and gerrymandered to protect states instead of individuals, the Australian constitution serves a reduced purpose poorly. Under this constitution a High Court can rule that a man, charged with and guilty of no crime, can be locked up indefinitely. Under this constitution, rights are left to the mercy of predators such as Howard and expedient windbags like Beazley. The Australian constitution enables the government to spend without constraint to serve its own political interest. As such, it deserves the disaffection of decent, democratic people.
I openly urge disaffection with the Government of the Commonwealth. Its leaders behave with the morality of the gangster. They are shameless in their pursuit of their own self-interest and in the efforts they make to maintain their control on power. They plunder the public purse to benefit their own careers and to maintain their own grip on power. They reward incompetence and cruelty; they themselves behave incompetently and cruelly.
Moreover, they work not to strengthen democratic practice but to strangle it. The good health of a democracy depends on the engagement of informed citizens. In turn, a citizenry is made informed by public debate, between parties of opposing views. John Stuart Mill, who once was precious to the Liberal Party, made it clear that diversity of opinion was not an evil, but a good. This gang, however, chooses to debate laws bearing on matters of our freedom behind closed doors, and then ambush a compliant parliament.
I openly urge disaffection with both houses of the Parliament. They have become an imperial court, tending to their own affairs before and above all else. Indifferent to matters of good policy, they are focused on the gaining and distribution of positions of power. Houses of Parliament? - our democratic houses are now foul, muddy and stinking - no better than sties. Our Parliament also deserves the disaffection of decent, democratic people.
I have read the proposed anti-terrorist bill and see that reference is made to sayings and acts done in good faith. I make as clear as possible, in terms as unambiguous as possible, that in urging disaffection - and hatred and contempt - I am motivated by no sense of good faith whatsoever.
Instead, I am prompted by a sense of malice and ill-will and seek to create a maximum level of public discontent, disorder and disturbance.
Because I do not want to see liberty nibbled at, I urge an association of Australian men and women to act mightily, with seditious intention, against the sovereign and against the Government of the Commonwealth of Australia.
Chas Savage is a Canberra writer working on his first novel, On Radio. This article is reproduced from The Age of 24 October, with the kind permission of the author.