While the Burchett-Hicks loophole is finally closed, our modernised treachery laws need to proscribe reckless as well as intentional acts of treachery. There is no danger to free speech or legitimate dissent, not least because treachery involves acts of betrayal that go well beyond the exercise of democratic rights - and indeed involves acts that undermine those rights.
Letter to The Australian
Tuesday, 23 December 2014
(published Wednesday, 24 December 2014)
Graham Hyde (Letters, 23/12) rightly condemns Man Haron Monis’s despicable letters to the grieving families of troops soldiers killed in action.
But he is surely mistaken to couch Monis’s criminal prosecution as just a potential free-speech dilemma.
When our government commits our defence forces to war, every Australian has a reciprocal citizenship obligation to not join, or otherwise assist, the enemy our troops are fighting on behalf of us all.
Monis's letters, in both intent and effect, clearly went well beyond legitimate dissent from the national decision to resort to war.
His intentional, or at least reckless, assistance to the enemy constituted treachery and should have been prosecuted as such.
While the Burchett loophole in our treachery laws was finally closed (post Hicks) in 2002, they unfortunately still only outlaw intentional acts.
Further reform is now needed to proscribe reckless acts of treachery, not least to remind all Australians that their right to free speech is not so absolute it can over-ride all our mutual citizenship obligations.
Especially where so many factually or conceptually-flawed contributions to public debate recklessly cross over into undermining the community resolve, and national unity, we again need to face down extremist threats to our liberty domestically and internationally.Back to Letters: 2014