22920Trouble for Howard on "terror" laws
- Oct 30 5:43 PMHoward's "anti-terror" wedge politics runs into obstacles
By Bob Gould
John Howard obviously thought his cynical wedge politics "anti-terror"
legislation was an effective response to the Government's difficulties
with the industrial relations laws, which are becoming increasingly
He wedged the Labor premiers brutally but effectively at the recent
COAG meeting and they caved in, by and large, with the honourable
exception of the Australian Capital Territory Chief Minister John
Stanhope, who wasn't happy with the civil liberties implications.
He published the draft "anti-terror" bill on the ACT government
website and from that point the whole project began to come apart.
Daryl Melham, the chairman of the federal Labor parliamentary caucus,
and Lindsay Tanner, MP, began to campaign against the proposed
legislation and the obvious police state aspects of the laws, brought
into the cold light of day by Stanhope, began to produce misgivings
among the other Labor premiers.
These misgivings increased with legal advice by state
attorney-generals to the premiers that the proposed laws were probably
unconstitutional. In addition, the obvious police state character of
laws started to make the federal Government's backbench uneasy.
Outcry from lawyers, civil liberties groups and teachers of law also
had an impact, although populist sections of the media have tried to
present the proposed laws as popular.
I'm reliably informed that there has been heated debate about the
necessity of the laws in the NSW Labor cabinet.
A number of Labor branches have condemned the proposed laws.
I spoke strongly against the proposed laws at an industrial relations
protest meeting called by three Labor branches and the Sydney Labor
electoral council, and got a good response when I pointed out that so
far, with the honourable exceptions of Melham and Tanner the Labor
left had made no public statements against the proposed laws.
That has now been rectified. The national Labor left met over the
weekend and decided to reject the proposed laws. This all leaves Kim
Beazley in an extremely difficult position as a result of trying to go
even further than Howard in supporting some aspects of the police
In a political situation like this it's hard to predict the outcome
because fear of terrorism is real in the community at large and Howard
and the bourgeois media are using this frantically in support of their
wedge politics manoeuvre.
Nevertheless, there's a reasonable chance that an energetic defense of
civil liberties, in the first instance in the labour movement and on
the progressive side of society, and in the second instance in the
community at large, may be successful in defeating, or at least
blunting, Howard's proposals.
There is an interesting and careful article by Daryl Melham in this
morning's Australian Financial Review. Unfortunately, it's pay per view.