Preserving the distinction between treachery and responsible dissent

No Australian has a right to dissent so absolute that it somehow over-rides their reciprocal responsibilities as a citizen not to endanger our troops in Afghanistan or elsewhere.


Letter to The Canberra Times

Sunday, 16 September 2012
(published Wednesday, 19 September 2012)

John Passant, David Stephens and David Roth (Letters, September 15) continually avoid the nub of the issue that no Australian has a right to dissent so absolute that it somehow over-rides their reciprocal responsibilities as a citizen not to endanger our troops in Afghanistan or elsewhere.

This is why intentionally assisting the enemy our defence force is fighting is, quite rightly, already illegal under laws such as the Security Legislation Amendment (Terrorism) Act, 2002.

The further reform the Australia Defence Association is advocating is only that reckless acts of assistance should also be criminalised — using the standard courtroom tests of recklessness when prosecuting many other offences (driving a car, workplace safety, criminal defamation, incitement to racial hatred, etc).

No censorship or other unreasonable limitation on dissent would be involved because responsible and justified arguments, honestly made, would be an absolute defence in court using the reasonable person test.

David Roth’s misrepresentation that the ADA is instead somehow advocating “speech crime” offences worthy of dictatorships, or John Passant’s wild claim that we seek the destruction of democracy in Australia and his jailing, are simply more straw-man hyperbole and ideological fervour.

Indeed expressions so lacking in intellectual merit, relevance, forethought and community fraternity might well be found unreasonable and reckless by a court in other peacetime and wartime contexts where the lives of fellow citizens were at stake.

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