…believing that the ignorance, neglect, or contempt of the rights of man are the sole cause of public calamities and of the corruption of governments, [we] have determined to set forth in a solemn declaration the natural, inalienable, and sacred rights of man…Men are born and remain free and equal in rights… These rights are liberty, property, security, and resistance to oppression…
Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen, France, 26 August 1789.
Liberty, next to religion has been the motive of good deeds and the common pretext of crime… In every age its progress has been beset by its natural enemies, by ignorance and superstition, by lust of conquest and by love of ease, by the strong man’s craving for power, and the poor man’s craving for food.
The History of Freedom in Antiquity, Lord Acton 1877
…recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world…
Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1948
What I hope to show via the aforementioned quotes is that individual freedom has always been at the center of the Western political tradition. Indeed many of our ancestors laid down their lives to fight oppression and arbitrary rule, bequeathing to us the fundamental freedoms and liberties we now take for granted.
For Common Law countries the struggle for individual liberty has a long pedigree. In 1215, the English barons entered London and forced King John to sign the Magna Carta a document created to ensure basic freedoms. Habeas corpus was created to protect the innocent from unlawful arrest and imprisonment and the people of England went into revolt, and revolution, and beheaded King James to protect themselves from absolutist and arbitrary rule. Great Parliamentary battles have been fought to protect or gain basic rights; England, the home of the Common Law was one of the earlier nations to outlaw the slave trade and give women’s suffrage.
Australia as a colony of Britain and then as an independent country is a nation with a truly liberal history and Australian’s have traditionally been greatly attached to these freedoms and liberties.
However, over the last few years we have slowly allowed the state to question that legacy our forefathers handed down to us through their toils, sweat and blood. In the name of security, anti-terrorism, prevention of crime, we have allowed governments to take away those freedoms and move closer to a surveillance state.
If we take a few moments to reflect on the position of the West at the beginning of the twenty-first century, a point in time before “Al Qaeda’s” attack on the exclamation marks of Western capitalism, dominance, greed and hubris – the World Trade Centre – the liberal democracies of Europe, North America and Australasia could and indeed did sit back in smug satisfaction, confidant in their place in the world order and their dominance over the “others”. What made the liberal democracies of Europe, North America and Australasia dominant was the culmination of over five hundred years of political progress. At the beginning of this process only a tiny minority of people, limited in reality to aristocrats and senior clergy, had attained the level of wealth, education and security that we in the liberal democracies took for granted as being a basic right of all citizens. We took for granted our right to participate in the political process, to travel, to engage with all around us. The trouble was that this was more illusion than substance, or at least it was in Australia.
I am nothing but a name
In Australia, I am nothing but a name, or nemo nisi nomen, is a term that can now be applied to our so called liberties; liberties that our ancestors have fought and died for in a long struggle for equality stretching back to at least 1215.
When the Australian Federal Police (“AFP”) or the Australian Labor Party (“ALP”) proudly boast that they have managed to fit-up another ‘Indian’ or another ‘blackfella’ or another ‘gin’ or another ‘Muslim’, what they are really saying is that they have stripped away even more of the rights and liberties our ancestors fought and died for in that long struggle for equality and justice.
A major problem with what is going on in Australia at the moment is that people are not taking the time to fully appreciate the ramifications of the ongoing process of stripping away our legal rights and protections in the name of security. For all the devastation that 9/11 caused it pales when compared to the devastation caused by the Global Financial Crises (“GFC”), a gift that keeps on giving and one that has wrought economic destruction both sides of the Atlantic. More importantly, the GFC was home grown, fertilised by corporate and individual greed, nurtured by corrupt government and regulatory institutions and finally harvested by the human dross those in power pretend are equals! Surely corporate greed, corruption and lack of accountability are far more immediate and dangerous challenges to our way of life than are a few radicals living in caves in a faraway land called Afghanistan or even Indonesia.
The very institutions the government is entrusting to defend our liberties and rights from an ephemeral if not non-existent terrorist threat are the same institutions: the AFP, ASIO, the Attorney-General’s Department that see no issue in fitting up so called undesirables at the behest of their political masters. Remember, it’s the same AFP that is the ultimate beneficiary of the security, anti-terrorism and prevention of crime legislation that the Commonwealth is passing in spades that glibly kidnapped the Attorney-General of a foreign independent country, Mr Julian Moti QC to further Australia’s neo-colonial interests in the Pacific. It is the same AFP that fitted-up Mr Fred Martens in PNG to cement a treaty with the PNG Government. It is the same AFP that fitted up Pat, the former Commissioner for ACT Revenue, to hide the ALP’s involvement in the theft and transfer of $130,000,000.00 of taxpayer’s money from the ACT Department of Treasury, now Commerce and Works. It is also the same AFP that fitted-up Dr Haneef, Jill Courtney, etc… more people than I can name in a single post!
What is the bigger threat to our way of life? A few radicals living in caves in Afghanistan or an organisation that apparently sees no issue in fitting-up innocent Australian’s to further the political ends of their pay masters? In putting politics before integrity and justice what the AFP are actually doing is undermining all those liberties that we have come to enjoy as a people, the same liberties that our ancestors have fought and died for in battles against greed and authoritarianism over the preceding centuries.
In the end, if we keep allowing a corrupt ALP to strip away more and more of OUR liberties and hand them to corrupt institutions and organisations like the AFP, our liberties will indeed become nemo nisi nomen! Who will bear the brunt of this loss of personal freedoms? You guessed it, the same people who have borne the brunt of the GFC, the human dross those in power pretend are equals – that’s you and me I’m talking about!
I’ll leave readers with the words from the soldiers of the New Model Army 3 November 1647
…having by out late labours and hazards made it appear to the world at how high a rate we value our just freedoms…
How highly do you, my fellow human dross, value your freedoms? Now is the time to say NO to more government and corporate corruption, now is the time to make a stand. To risk a cliché, “tomorrow may be too late”!