The Guardian • Issue #2076


Silencing voices

  • The Guardian
  • Issue #2076

It’s common for people to say “it’s a free country,” meaning, go ahead, do what you like, say what you like. 

Australia is a country where we have the right to speak up – except when we do not. Australians tend to assume that they have a right to free speech because they’re part of ‘the West.’

In fact, our freedom to express our opinions is strictly conditional. That freedom is going to be much more limited soon.

What silences our voices? The interests of our real masters.

Example one: action on climate change. Real action to reduce Australia’s carbon emissions would involve seriously inconveniencing companies and people who are making eye-watering sums from making things worse. They donate a lot of money to political parties, and they have a huge presence in the media. Hence the laws in NSW, which Violet Coco felt the brunt of, being given the sort of sentence for blocking traffic on a bridge that would normally be handed down for violent assault. Have a look at South Australia, where the penalties for disrupting traffic went from $700 to $50,000 very quickly in the face of protests. You might also check out Victoria, where a VicForests, a government agency set up to manage logging used private detectives to harass activists. In WA police have used powers set up to tackle terrorism on journalists documenting the destruction of Aboriginal lands by mining companies.

If you’re thinking “so what,? I’m not a greenie, this won’t affect me,” think again.

Example two: Palestine. The recent threats to use laws designed to stop race riots against peaceful protesters on Palestine, show another elephant in the room – the US. Australia works as a US franchise, and seriously getting in their way gets big smacks.

A young staffer working for Tanya Plibersek has been made to apologise for attending a pro-Palestine protest, after getting a blast from our coal-mine loving Environment Minister in person. Plibersek probably had an eye to the Australian media, a lot of which has been pushing the line that solidarity with Palestine equals anti-semitism. Coalition Senator James Patterson, normally a pro-freedom libertarian chimed in, saying that “no decent person” should have shown up to the demonstration. Patterson, and indeed his entire party, were missing in action when his leader lied about crime amongst Aboriginal people and Australians of African backgrounds.

Overseas, the most famous silenced Australian is Julian Assange, who has been in prison in one way or another for thirteen years for exposing US war crimes, and still looking down the barrel of a 175-year sentence in the US, despite our supposedly strong ‘alliance’ with that country.

There’s going to be a lot more silencing when working people speak up against vested interests in this allegedly free country.

The Communist Party of Australia speaks up for working people and for the oppressed of the world. You can support us by donating to the press fund, by reading the paper, and by taking action.

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