Why doesn't democracy work in Australia

Australia: How Australia uses fear of terrorism to undermine democracy

The Canberra call is one of a number of laws and measures that are being used to dismantle democratic rights in Australia. In recent years, "a massive number of laws have been passed that would have been unthinkable before 9/11," said Pauline Wright, president of the Sydney Civil Rights Council.

The terrorist attacks in New York in 2001 led to a series of new laws in Australia. "There have been cuts in freedom of expression, freedom of the press, freedom of movement, the right to demonstrate - all fundamental rights that underpin our democracy," Wright said. She believes that no other western country has passed so many and such drastic laws under the pretext of "ensuring national security" as Australia.

This also includes the laws against "outside influence", which particularly restrict the rights of journalists in Australia. According to the activist group Get-Up, reporters face life imprisonment if they publish information that the government believes is harmful to “national security”.

According to the specialist magazine Sydney Criminal Lawyers (SCL), this fact already applies if the information provided by the journalist causes a third country to lose “its faith and trust in Australia”. For example, according to Get-Up, journalists could end up in jail for reporting on ongoing human rights violations in refugee camps run by Australia.

One of the laws also extends the definition of “national security” to include economic goods and trade. "It is now an offense to report anything that could damage Australia's reputation internationally - politically or economically," said SCL.

A reporter who writes an article about the coral bleaching “Great Barrier” reef is theoretically liable to prosecution because it potentially endangers the economically important tourism.

"Dangerous staggering towards authoritarianism"

The country has passed more than 50 counterterrorism laws since 2001, according to the University of New South Wales Law School in Sydney. In a 2016 survey, the institute concluded that 350 national and regional laws in Australia have the potential to restrict democratic rights and freedoms.

The human rights organization Amnesty International sees the laws against “outside influence” as a “dangerous reeling of the government in the direction of authoritarianism”.

In Parliament, on the other hand, criticism is limited. All bills proposed by the conservative government were also waved through by the social democratic opposition after a few adjustments. This does not want to be accused of being "soft" in the fight against terrorism.

Australian citizens are also increasingly restricted in everyday life. A new law will make it easier for state governments to call in the army during domestic protests. Police body searches have doubled in the state of New South Wales.

In December, parliament passed a law that also made headlines internationally: According to the government, in order to “better pursue terrorists and pedophiles”, software providers, messaging service providers and device manufacturers can in future be forced by secret services and the police to give them access to encrypted messages from suspects To provide. Technology providers can even be instructed to install software developed by intelligence agencies.

Such far-reaching interventions must be approved by the Minister of Justice and the Minister of Communications. Nevertheless, the industry reacted to the decision with dismay. She fears "damage to the reputation of Australian software developers and hardware manufacturers in international markets," said an association spokesman.

"The law will have consequences worldwide," says an IT expert with connections to Australian surveillance services. Having 'Big Brother' on WhatsApp is a dream not only for Internet police officers, but "for every authoritarian politician".