Nomadic posting ~ theatre notes

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Nomadic posting

Poet and translator Pierre Joris today posts an illuminating comment on his Nomadics blog that illustrates some of the ugliness of debate around the Rachel Corrie issue. (In particular, some of the ugliness that occurred when I posted information on the controversy to the American poetry discussion list, Buffalo Poetics.)

He goes on to point to a well-researched London Review of Books article by John Mearscheimer, Professor of Political Science at Chicago, and Stephen Walt, Professor of International Affairs at Harvard, which traces the deleterious influence of the "Israel lobby" on US foreign policy. A must read for anyone who wants to understand the larger pressures which touch on this issue.

Closer to home, playwright Ben Ellis points to Freedom of Expression, an excellent blog which updates news on the amendments to the Sedition Laws rushed through Parliament here in December. The Australian Law Reform Commission is currently conducting a review of these disgraceful, repressive and unnecessary laws.

The Sedition Laws are of grave concern to artists and media organisations: as they stand, under the vagueness of the criminal definition of "recklessness" and the wobbly defence of "good faith" (which reverses the onus of proof: the accused has to prove his or her innocence) you could be sent to prison for seven years if you invented a fictional character who advocated the overthrow of the government, or reported the statements of an organisation considered to be an enemy by the State. Government statements that "of course" the laws wouldn't be used in that way are, oddly, not very reassuring. Interestingly, of the 294 Senate submissions on the legislation, only two were in favour of the amendments - the Attorney General's Department and the Australian Federal Police. Go figure...

2 comments:

John Branch said...

Re. Australia's Sedition Laws: Governments that otherwise protect freedom of expression (I'm not sure how many of these there are) routinely make an exception when it comes to their own continued existence, thus proposing that people can be trusted to hear and decide for themselves every question but this one. This mistrust invites my own in turn, which I won't bother to state...

Alison Croggon said...

Yes, sadly - though we don't have any constitutional protection of free speech, as you do in the States, so it isn't embedded in our legislation to begin with. In fact the biggest threat to free speech heretofore have been our very confusing libel laws, which are different in each state.

It does seem that in many ways Australia is quietly, with neither a bang nor a whimper, sliding towards fascism.