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Thus Spake Mungo: Nothing

Our Prime Minister assures us that the AFP raids of last week had absolutely nothing to do with him. Well, of course not – he and his government are never responsible for anything.

As the economy staggers towards recession – tanking growth, moribund wages, rising unemployment and massive under employment, consumer spending falling away, national debt doubled – it has nothing to do with Scott Morrison and his colleagues.

They have been in office for six years, but for most of that time all the failures were the fault of the previous Labor opposition, until they became the chilling effects of international headwinds.

The governor of the reserve Bank, Philip Lowe, is becoming desperate – he is running out of interest rates to cut, and in any case that will never be enough to fix things.

He is virtually pleading for the government to do something, anything – more stimulus, a serious infrastructure program as opposed to the ad hoc pork barrelling that preceded the last election.

But hey, it’s nothing to do with ScoMo. He has his own agenda. He will stay the course for a few more years until the big tax cuts for the wealthy kick in, and then the rest of us may soak up a few drops when and if they trickle down.

Morrison has always been blameless – remember when the chaotic brawl in August last year delivered him his leadership. He was never involved – it was divine intervention

Morrison has always been blameless – remember when the chaotic brawl in August last year delivered him his leadership. He was never involved – it was divine intervention. He merged fully formed and immaculate, like Venus rising from the foam, an innocent bystander.

And so it must have been when the police arrived to execute their warrants to troll through the works of Newscorp’s Annika Smethurst and the staff at the ABC.

The plod were just doing their job – no one is above the law. Nothing to see here, so move on – and do it quickly before you too get into trouble.

But as the AFP Assistant Commissioner Neil Gaughan pointed out, the law is made by the government. The laws that enabled him to bring on the raids were pushed through the parliament by Morrison and the previous governments of which he was an integral part, and they were enacted in the full knowledge – and the overt encouragement – of the way they would be used.

Gaughan says, in effect, that he is just obeying orders; Morrison replies that their implementation has nothing to do with the legislators that promulgated them. This is utterly implausible deniability – unadulterated bullshit.

Morrison says he is completely comfortable with the fact that the laws are being enforced

Morrison says he is completely comfortable with the fact that the laws are being enforced – and I’ll bet he is. After all, they are his laws.

By definition, all governments are comfortable with their own laws, and that applies to the governments of all regimes. There is nothing illegal, at least domestically, about the repressions in Russia, China, Turkey or North Korea – or, for that matter, Nazi Germany.

Australia is not yet at that stage – the boots on the staircase, the midnight breaking down of the door. But this does not mean, as Morrison tries to claim, that they are entirely compatible with the democratic process.

The backlash against the raids from numerous human rights defenders both locally and overseas shows how fragile freedom of the press can be when governments drift into authoritarianism to maintain their own self interest above that of the public.

Obviously press freedom, or even the wider issue of free speech, cannot be absolute

Obviously press freedom, or even the wider issue of free speech, cannot be absolute. We accept restrictions on defamation, bans on incitements to violence and terrorism, and suppression orders in the courts to ensure fair trials.

The extent of such laws may be argued, but their existence is not seriously challenged. And, as we are constantly reminded, there has to be a balance between the rights of the press and national security.

But the Catch 22 in that balance is that it is the government which determines just what constitutes national security.

In last week’s cases Smethurst reported that the Home Affairs minister Peter Dutton and his departmental doppelganger Mike Pezzullo wanted to use the secret spooks of the Australian Signals Directorate to engage in domestic surveillance. The ABC was investigating potential war crimes by Australian troops in Afghanistan.

In a functioning democracy such revelations would surely enhance national security rather than harm it. But the current government regards security as little more than a synonym for secrecy and it follows that as much should be kept secret as possible. When in doubt, classify it, and make a law to make disclosure – which includes even mentioning the existence of the classification – illegal.

In my career as a journalist I have seen many classified documents, some marked top secret, and very few of them merited such status.

This is not just overreach – it is the road to totalitarianism. In my career as a journalist I have seen many classified documents, some marked top secret, and very few of them merited such status. Most had nothing to do with security – they were about protecting the government and its bureaucrats. Stamping them classified was lazy, incompetent, or deliberately deceptive.

But there was, and still is, no appeal against this process.

If journalists, whistle blowers, or other defenders of transparency and honesty in public life are hauled before the courts, their trials are often conducted in secret as well – in the name of national security. It is the default option, the political philosopher’s stone – the simple words ”national security” override all other considerations.

It may be different if we had a bill of rights or the equivalent, as all other democracies – not some, but all – have embraced. But not in Australia – a bill of rights would allow unelected judges to rule on the dictates of politicians. It could undermine national security.

Gaughan denied that the raids were an attempt to intimidate, which is disingenuous to the extreme

Gaughan denied that the raids were an attempt to intimidate, which is disingenuous to the extreme. Obviously people are intimidated when the cops spend hours riffling through their belongings in the hope of finding evidence that would have them charged and possibly jailed. That’s precisely what the laws are for: to remind dissenters that Big Brother is constantly watching.

And that is why our freedom – not just freedom of the press, but freedom more generally – is at risk. The media may be selective in its outrage about confronting the national security mantra, but this time it has stood up for itself – and for the rest of us.

A famous, if disputed, quote: “News is what someone does not want printed. All the rest is advertising.” Given that our current prime minister was brought up on advertising and seems far more at home with it than a truly free press, this is a worry – and, given the events of last week, a threat.


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27 responses to “Thus Spake Mungo: Nothing”

  1. tuatha says:

    …shome mishtake shorely..? It wasn’t so much that Mr Smug McShouty “…merged fully formed and immaculate like Venus…” as emerged like a stool from a cloaca.
    Also, it was remiss of Mungo not to mention above that ALL of these highly controversial & coercive pieces of legislation were waved through on the nod by those impersonating the erstwhile “Labor” party.
    Supposedly for fear of being ‘wedged’ or labelled ‘soft on terrorism’ by the mudorc’s minions in the gutter press but that’s not true.
    The reality is that they would be equally happy to have these draconian pieces of legislation in their tool kit should they, perchance, ever stumble into the Lodge in the dim, distant future.
    Alas, as Kim Beazley snr said, probably after looking ruefully at his massive waste of space son, “the Labor party used to be the cream of the Working class, now they are the Dregs of the middle class“.
    Seriously, look at the time servers, chancers, apparatchiks & men(sic!)-without-navels that infest the current party.
    There isn’t a cig. paper between them & the tories.

  2. Jon says:

    It’s not a conservative government we should be afraid of, it’s the leftist regime currently running Victoria. Remember a couple of years ago when 3 coalition politicians narrowly avoided contempt of court charges for criticising judicial ineptness in sentencing terrorists there? Who’s the REAL big bad wolf?

    https://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-06-23/ministers-apologise-to-court-for-criticising-terror-sentencing/8645026

    • Anthony Hogg says:

      Considering this happened on a conservative govt’s watch, how can you stand by that statement? Also, who says you can’t be afraid of BOTH?

  3. Hotspringer says:

    Mungo, those deplorable laws were waved through by her Majesty’s loyal opposition. The truth shall not set you free, the truth will see you jailed.
    Pox on both their houses.

  4. Harald Ehrlich says:

    It is intersting that the raids did not happen 5 days before the election. But I do feel a biot sorry for Scomo. His lifelong supporter Dutton did wait until Scomo was out of the country to organise the raid, make the PM look evil and collect a few votes for his next putsch. Potato Man still does not get my vote.

  5. Well – it’s most certainly the time for
    Australia to have a ‘Constitutional
    Charter of Rights.’ Let us demand
    one.

  6. Joe Monks says:

    And given that governments now do not generally represent the will of the common person how can we trust our government to make a just and fair decision on what is “national security” ?

  7. Gina says:

    Your article meant a lot to me because it is really great to see content that talks more about the real story i.e. Freedom and less about this Government.

  8. Doug says:

    Mungo,
    as usual straight to the point. It seems even the indomitable Mr B. Joyce says people should always operate within the law, which of course he is guilty of himself, even if only the laws of the 10 commandments.

    What is being shown is that we need a ´Bill of Rights´ in Australia. I am no expert, but something similar to the Canadian model could be easily implemented because it would not require changes to the Constitution.

    I wonder if a First People law preview group could also be set up by regulation instead of Constitutional change as well? If there was Bi-partisan agreement on what is required, the laws would be unlikely to change in the future. Also First people agreement would be easier to obtain too.

    What we really need is a Government that institutes real required change, not the Liberal Oxymoron currently making policy in my estimation.

  9. Stephen Griffin says:

    “The laws that enabled him to bring on the raids were pushed through the parliament by Morrison and the previous governments of which he was an integral part, and they were enacted in the full knowledge – and the overt encouragement – of the way they would be used.”

    That statement is not correct: The laws pushed through in 2018 were not used in the cases specified but the law from 1914 was.

    The fact that they chose to use a redundant law says it all though.

  10. Keith Dufty says:

    Go Back to the 1930 and read the history books and you will see the this is only the beginning of what’s to come.

  11. Roberta Hillier says:

    I feel intimidated when pulled over by the police for a simple breath test. I wonder who the Jack Boot Duttons will take down first, apart from the journos that cross them. Will it be Union members, Labor members or Greens?

  12. Dr Christiaan Willems says:

    Thank you Mungo for articulating the chilling reality.

  13. Bruce McQueen says:

    As usual Mungo has hit the nail on the head as far as his latest column goes. But as usual he has overlooked the culpability of the Labor party, both in government and opposition, in aiding and abetting the passage of a swathe of anti-democratic laws (must be about 70 different sets of laws since so-called 9/11).

    It might hurt, Mungo, but it’s time to accept that there is no difference between the LibNats and Labor. Both parties have the utmost contempt for real democracy, proper justice and human rights. Just look at the bloody weak response from the ALP’s latest “leader” Albanese to these AFP raids – basically he said that the parliament should look into the events! What a strong response to fascism that is!

    Australia is teetering on the precipice of becoming a full-blown police state and both the COALition and Labor have brought us to this place.

    C’mon Mungo, tell it like it really is.

  14. So true, Bruce… The government is accountable to
    the people of the country. Like it or not, we employ
    both sides & likewise expect the ‘best’ of both. That
    is not-in-play so it is now time that we stood up to
    leaders pretending to lead ‘for the people’ & call
    it for the fakery it is – a 1914 law was used – how
    cockeyed was that! Yes to a Bill of Rights & a
    First People Law group to be set up is the way to
    deal with this. Add activism as well – front-line if
    needed. While we’re at it, is there any way we
    can send ‘the great pretenders’ to mars???

  15. Patricia says:

    First they came for the socialists – and I did not speak out.
    Because I was not a socialist.
    Then they came for the Trade Unionists – and I did not speak out.
    Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
    Then they came for the Jews – and I did not speak out.
    Because I was not a Jew.
    Then they came for me – and there was no one left to speak for me.

    Martin Niemoller

    If we don’t speak out, we will end up like 1930’s Germany with no freedom of speech at all.
    The silencing of the media is a precursor to the silencing of the population.

  16. Russell Brown says:

    Yes, the bit about the raid happening while our Scumbag was out of the country says it all. Expect this to be the norm from here on. If that type of happening, happens while he was visiting the Queen, imagine events when he’s in the States, doing penance, i.e., shaking hands with the evangelical VP Pence.

  17. JALaing says:

    You are spot on Mungo! This is a very thoughtful analysis of the tactics of Morrison & the Lib’s government. Their behaviour is a disgrace. There is so much that needs doing to improve our society Let’s support a humanitarian agenda & not a sneaky totalitarian one.

  18. robot says:

    Totalitarian? Have any of these respondents read a single word on the fact? Except in pamphlets? The West is at war and so-called free press wants to drive its stakes into anyone or any body that wants to blow their nose. And as for a bill of rights it would read like a UN document, have us all in courts for the rest of our days, because there is a difference between structural integrity and a bunch of wishes. The latter we instil in our children. The former has to be the best of solutions (sorry the fascist illusion but I’m not positing a gulag on mars). This country like all in the West is at war and we’re arguing over semantics.

  19. the UNSOI says:

    Dear Sirs,
    The question of rehabilitation on the planet Mars is not as strange as it seems. Although Mars has been dismissed in ongoing assessment, a little too far. Venus would be a better venture, an environment mostly untouched by human involvement, maybe some sulphur, but an attractive investment option. Anyone could apply for such an outpost, though some knowledge of local weather conditions would be favourable, and a liking of colourful scarves and tie-dye dresses most favourable. Please contact us if you want a break from despicable humanity. A shuttle service should be available soon. No beginning begins without a beginning to the beginning.

  20. robot says:

    Let’s not try forget, the Z in Nazi is Socialist. For a totalitarian putch you need the unions under control, whether from the left or right, and there is no real difference; they both have us believing in the difference, the extremes that is, we refute that naturally. If it’s about just money, seek a divorce.

  21. robot says:

    Our country is alright, I’ve spoken to abs who have said as much. The rest of the world another question, we’re not responsible for all of it though we have to make our alliances. A hundred million refugees or more? A lot of diplomacy and probably lots of wars. No point worrying here about the number of angels.

  22. robot says:

    I don’t hear of any refugees heading for China and I don’t blame them; who wants to work for a adobe hut and a nightly bowl of rice? But that’s what they get for all our imports including solar panels and bits for windmills, batteries in the future and then the whole recycling industry involved when it comes to that. Where is the real shame here? I would have paid another $500 for my latest fridge if it was made in Australia, but there wasn’t one. And we scoff how cheap renewable energy has become.

  23. robot says:

    Still, some good arguments on “national security”. It seems to have affected both sides to the spectrum so a sense of affinity there for press freedom. Still, anyone in a public or even semi-public position has to watch what they say these days, even if you’re just talking to your missus, always the element of Big Brother, and the press are hot on that as well, don’t sneeze. As Les said, last hellos, not goodbyes.

  24. robot says:

    Still, some good assessments on national security as a device. How much assessment does the press apply to privacy, beyond the need of the law? You sneeze and wonder if you should have. Comments public and private, as with documents, can fall under any criteria including the amount of alcohol involved, so the question of Big Brother goes byond government. Presumably, Mangostein, a lawyer reads your copy. As the Echo’s enforcer reads my drivel. As always, your scripted robot.

  25. Mikell says:

    The last time that the idea of a Bill of Rights was put on the table dearest Bob Carr fought tooth, claw and nail against the proposal.

  26. Pro government Accountabilty says:

    Thanks for the honesty and people perspective. Surprised you haven’t been raided I have and I am not a journalist. I just asked the PM AG to do their jobs.

    Anyway great points
    Can I please clarify Australia is currently run by despots ( a monarch rules to rule of law) vs despots who rule to their own will and caprice

    I asked them to uphold constitutional rights to our home savings and our human rights ( UN ratifications they refuse to honour) and rule of law.

    Yes Australia desperately needs a bill of rights like our parent has the UN can put it in easily but instead scomo is perverting equality by quickly forcing in a ” religious freedoms bill” to legalise discrimination.

    Did you all know Australia officially removed church from state many decades ago. There’s. Queens order.

    So the great scomo kkk like homophobic sexist racist PM & batmans sidekick AG porter – are getting Derrington ALRC to bless this disgraceful life sentence to inclusion and diversity Denialism
    And what of the 7 women in cabinet that act like handbag stepford wives and also refuse to stand for equality of all and human rights of all. So much for caring female qualities we needed.

    Ah Australia is now a recession and it’s pretty easy to see why with scomo terrorizing the public and using ( the dog ate my homework excuse) of national security which has not credibility when it’s just being used to cover up domestic violence and silence AFP partners who are victims. Ironic when DV is Australia’s greatest national security issue.

    Attack destroy that’s what mungo you are right about their culture of Accountabilty. Scomo even had the guile to say he was running a successful economy while hiding the facts labour didn’t fact check or hold to account Australia’s moral social economic rights dive into scomo hell.
    Scomo number is call 911 and his true north is 666. He has nothing to do with holy ( love hope faith and charity) and his sadistical divide and concur discriminate covert attorosities hidden by Murdoch press are catching up on him. But it’s not his fault nothing is. Like mungo said.
    Yet fact is scomo he’s innocent only of running a hate culture genocide by practice and policy perversion

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