As I have expressed in my ‘About’ page, a major consideration for me in becoming a cyber-pamphleteer was to protest about the racist and subsequent violent treatment I have been subjected to by the Australian Federal Police (AFP) over the last seven years. It is not only me; over two hundred other Indigenous Australians have provided me with statements alleging racial vilification and physical assaults by the AFP. When I raised my concerns about systemic failures, amounting to racism and torture by the AFP against Indigenous Australians in 2005, I was fobbed off by the Australian Ombudsman because the then Chief Police Officer of the ACT, Ms. Audrey Fagan, expressed the view that my claims could not be substantiated. All two hundred of them with over one thousand witness statements. I guess all those alleging mistreatment are Aborigines so they can’t be trusted!
Wallah! We now have an absolute plethora of non-Indigenous people levelling the same accusations against the AFP and what happens? AFP Officers have been charged and convicted, though true to form none have been jailed for fear of being ”bashed and buggered” in Goulburn prison. How many innocent Australians, Indigenous or not have been ”bashed and buggered” in Goulburn prison, having been incarcerated because or primarily because of AFP fit-ups? More than one would be my guess.
On 29 September 2009 the Canberra Times reported that the AFP may face a class action over watch-house capsicum spray incidents, as there have now been convictions or guilty verdicts in over 10 alleged attacks using capsicum spray or foam by police officers on watch-house detainees and charges are still pending over one more alleged incident.
Indeed former sergeant John Arthur Birch avoided a jail sentence because his barrister argued that he would be ”bashed and buggered” in Goulburn prison. Obviously, Mr. Birch shrinks from meeting those he has dealt with on something approaching an even playing field, the very hallmarks of a bully and a coward.
The matter of former sergeant John Arthur Birch raises some rather important issues. Would Birch’s victims have been assaulted if the Commonwealth Ombudsman had actioned the concerns I raised with his office in 2005 and what about all the other victims of AFP brutality? Where is their justice, where is their day in court? Where is the community left if the watchdog is a toothless, spineless, self serving entity?
The issues I raised with the Commonwealth Ombudsman were also raised with members of the Stanhope Government and the ACT Department of Justice. What action did these august bodies take? You guessed it, none. All the complaints were Indigenous. So much for accountability.
“The struggle of man against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting.” Milan Kundera
Does the right to rule now include the right to lie? Is lying simply another perk of contemporary politics? It is a grave error to view a politician’s or police officers lies like other people’s lies. There is a big difference between lying about “the cheque is in the mail” and lying about “they are all paedophiles, pornographers and drunkards”. The lies of the rulers are not idle throwaway lines; they are backed by the machinery of government, the police, the courts and the Bureaucracy. The power the police exercise over the normal citizen is something that should be at the forefront of everyone’s minds following the Haneef case. How easy it is for a citizen to lose his rights through political lies, bureaucratic incompetence and wilful self interest.
But today, the scant response to official lies implies that people believe that politicians can deceive citizens without wronging them. This is part of the reason why so little attention is paid to political lies. It is as if all the traditional warnings about the dangers of lies are waived when it comes to politics and government. Lies are dangerous, unless the liar can destroy you. Or perhaps the more power a person seeks the more harmless his lies become.
It is a rarity that the issue of political lying leads to news of more than a week or two in a row. Yet, the aberration is in media focus, not the frequency of lying.
Mendacity is no novelty in Australian politics. The Northern Territory Intervention, Australia’s refugee policy, Tampa and its human cargo of misery and the bungled detention of Indian-born doctor Mohamed Haneef in Queensland, were identified by Amnesty International as some of the bigger lies foisted on us by our political overloads in recent years. All of the people adversely impacted by these political lies are ordinary people – the poor, the marginalised and the vulnerable – and those who suffer the most.
From talk back radio to parliamentary discussion, detention of asylum seekers and the Northern Territory intervention have dominated public fora. Indeed, it appears that Howard won the 2004 national election on the back of the asylum issue and tried a repeat performance in 2007 on the back of the Aboriginal issue. All of these debates are driven by political expediency and informed by political self interest.
The more ignorant the populace, the easier it becomes for rulers to frighten people into submission. As long as enough people can be frightened, then all people can be ruled.
The idea of human dignity consists in recognising that man is a being that has ends proper to himself, his own ends, to be freely complied with by himself. Or putting it in other words, maybe clearer, man ought not to be treated as a mere means for ends which are not his own, which are strange or alien to him. Although this formulation evokes some words of Kant, it is not necessarily tied to his philosophy. In defining human dignity, Kant did not express an especial idea of his own system, but presented in a clear and concise way an idea generally admitted for many centuries, an idea which appears in the Bible and especially the New testament and in classic Greek philosophy (Plato and Aristotle). It is this very concept of human dignity that political and police lies put at risk.