Further reform is needed to our treachery laws to outlaw reckless as well as intentional acts that assist the enemy

Our treachery laws rightly outlaw assisting the enemy if the assistance is both intentional and an act. Given recent subjective, thoughtless and irresponsible claims which mindlessly parrot or spread factually incorrect enemy propaganda, reckless acts of assistance should also now be prohibited.

Letter to The Australian

Wednesday, 05 September 2012
(published Thursday, 06 September 2012)

Australia is at war, not just our defence force.

We all therefore need to debate the Afghanistan War with sensitivity to bereaved families, without endangering our troops and without undermining informed public debate.

Especially where factually incorrect, simplistic or ideological claims about complex and nuanced issues bolster enemy propaganda in both Afghanistan and Australia.

And where this consequence would or should be known by any reasonable and responsible person.

The recognition, discouragement, prohibition and punishment of irresponsible acts are necessary reciprocal obligations every Australian owes to the fellow citizens our government lawfully commits to war.

Our reformed treachery laws now rightly criminalise intentional acts — anywhere in the world — that assist an enemy we send our defence force to fight on Australia’s behalf.

Thus closing the 1945-2001 Burchett loophole that allowed its namesake, and later David Hicks, to escape prosecution for acts that if undertaken now are criminal offences.

As with many other offences, such as dangerous driving and racial vilification, our treachery laws need further reform to also criminalise reckless acts.

As with vilification incitement offences, reasonable, responsible and morally legitimate public dissent would not be affected.


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