Thoughts on economics and liberty

Category: Politics

Human rights in Australia – some notes

I had discussed the problem of human rights in Australia here. Of course, my book and my ICC complaint have extensive discussion on the issue + this.

Here’s some more information. This is a placeholder post, to inform public policy.

Here’s a good article: https://www.smh.com.au/national/covid-controls-highlight-need-for-national-human-rights-laws-20210812-p58i4b.html

EXTRACT

More than half of respondents to our poll (58 per cent) believe Australia already has a national Human Rights Act. When told we don’t, 76 per cent of people said they supported the introduction of one.

A Human Rights Act enshrined in law would make a real and meaningful improvement to human rights protection and have the additional benefit of untangling the current spaghetti bowl of legislation confusing all of us at a time when we need clarity more than ever.

 

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Further notes on civil disobedience

I had raised some basic issues here a few days ago. I found a few minutes to undertake some background research. Here are some findings.

Above all, civil disobedience is entirely different to ordinary disobedience/ protest.

The idea of civil disobedience has a long history including the work of Gandhi which preceded Henry David Thoreau’s work by a year. The work to master the implementation of civil disobedience took Mahatma Gandhi many decades.

Civil disobedience is likely to lead to significant anguish and even injury for the volunteers. The volunteers must be mentally prepared to be injured by the police. The police are the instruments of the state and often consider that they are doing their duty. They can sometimes be excessively brutal in the performance of their “duty”.

Volunteers must be ready not only to be arrested but to be jailed – often for long durations. The government will try to record a criminal prosecution against the volunteers’ names, thus disrupting the volunteers’ future career. The sloppy record of Australia’s lawyers during the covid pandemic also means that there may not be an adequate defence of the civil disobedience volunteers in the courts.

In the light of this, the only reason why someone may choose to become a volunteer is because they firmly believe that a forthright challenge is needed to the authority to recover a semblance of humanity.

Three key principles of civil disobedience.

The first principle is that you maintain respect for the rule of law even while disobeying the specific law that you perceive as unjust. [Source]

The second principle of civil disobedience follows from the first: you should plead guilty to any violation of the law. [Source]

the third principle of civil disobedience: you should attempt to convert your opponent by demonstrating the justice of your cause. [Source]

NOTES FROM TALAT AHMED’S BOOK

BASED ON Talat Ahmed’s 2019 book, Mohandas Gandhi: Experiments in Civil Disobedience

An illustrative act of civil disobedience: the Salt March

In 1930 Salt March, when [Gandhi] walked 240 miles from Ahmedabad to the coastal town of Dandi with 78 male volunteers. Under the 1882 Salt Act, the British had a monopoly on salt, levying a tax that all had to pay. Upon arrival at Dandi on 6 April 1930, Gandhi issued a statement to the world’s press saying that, although the government had not interfered with the march, ‘the wanton disregard shown by them to popular feeling and their high-handed action leave no room for doubt that the policy of heartless exploitation of India is to be persisted in at any cost.’ The only interpretation he could put on the non-interference in the march was that ‘the British Government, powerful though it is, is sensitive to world opinion’ which would ‘not tolerate repression’ of civil disobedience ‘so long as disobedience remains civil and therefore necessarily non-violent’. He would now test whether the government would ‘tolerate the actual breach of the salt laws by countless people’.4

Gandhi picked up a lump of muddy salt and declared ‘With this, I am shaking the foundations of the British Empire.’5 After boiling it in seawater to produce illegal salt, he implored his followers to do likewise ‘wherever it is convenient’.6 The effect was dramatic as 2,000 people bathed in the sea at Dandi with Gandhi to pick up salt and so declare the salt laws broken.7 Mass civil disobedience spread throughout India as millions broke the salt laws by making salt or buying illegal salt.

Built upon the principle of love and kindness

Civil disobedience “recognize[s] the eternal law of love, inherent in humanity”. – Leo Tolstoy.

“in the final analysis, his [Gandhi’s] intentions were not to overthrow the system but make it kinder.”

Moral foundations, even puritanism

Following from the above is generally an appeal to moral superiority of the position adopted by civil disobedience participants. Without such moral superiority being repeatedly demonstrated, there is little possibility of the underlying demand for change being accepted by the broader community.

In Gandhi there was puritanical streak which catapulted him to the highest ranks in Indian society which admires such an approach even if it is hard for many people to abide by the expected standard. In n August 1921, Gandhi declared:

“We must understand thoroughly what self-purification means. Give up drinking alcohol, smoking ganja and eating opium. Give up visiting prostitutes … Today India lacks the power for peaceful, civil disobedience of laws … But this power will not come through drinking and debauchery. Therefore give up drinking, give up debauchery. This has a very deep meaning. If you would rather have nothing to do with dirty things, you should become pure yourselves.”

The objective is to change public opinion

“No feats of heroism are needed to bring about the greatest and most important changes in the life of humanity … All that is necessary is a change of public opinion”. – Tolstoy.

The objective of civil disobedience is to press upon the general community the reasons why a particular law is immoral and therefore worthy of being disobeyed.

The CRITICAL role of imprisonment in civil disobedience

Thoreau proclaimed that “under a government that imprisons unjustly, the true place for a just man is also in prison.” Gandhi and King would go to jail for much longer terms and willingly accept the punishment for breaking the law. [Source]

“Jail, no bail” was a rallying cry of the American civil rights movement. Gandhi reasoned that if the government’s jails are overwhelmed, and the government would have to compromise or collapse.

Martin Luther King Jr said about Gandhi’s strategy:

Nonviolence is a powerful and just weapon … a weapon unique in history, which cuts without wounding and ennobles the man who wields it … He [Gandhi] struggled only with the weapons of truth, soul-force, non-injury and courage … Nonviolent resistance had emerged as the technique of the movement, while love stood as the regulating ideal. In other words, Christ furnished the spirit and the motivation while Gandhi furnished the method.

Specific roles chosen by volunteers of civil disobedience

This may appear outdated, but “at major protests” in Gandhi’s movements, “women were expected to nurse the male satyagrahis when they were struck down by police charges”. The issue here is that there needs to be preparation among the volunteers and allocation of roles – some would take the beatings by the police, others would tend to the injured.

Not the slightest scope for violence

“In the aftermath of the Chauri Chaura incident, on 12 February 1922, Gandhi called a halt to the Non-Co-operation Movement and suspended civil disobedience. Gandhi undertook a fast for five days as penance for what he considered a violent crime committed in his name. He was arrested and sentenced to six years’ imprisonment but released in February 1924 on health grounds”.

Only the strong can participate

“The aim is probably to become aware of the violence inside us; the result, however, is that only those who are psychologically strong can participate in these exercises.” [Source]

Strong preparation

“There is a significant difference between a course that is a direct preparation for civil disobedience” [Source]

This suggests that once a leadership has been identified, a systematic way must be found to build a training program for volunteers.

Plan, plan, plan. A half-century after the street struggles in Birmingham, no American movement has yet surpassed the strategic mastery of the civil rights movement. Civil rights leaders were fighting a war — nonviolently, but a war nevertheless — and they planned it as such. They mapped out protests to create escalating drama and pressure. They ran training schools for activists, teaching them how to ignore provocations to violence, among other lessons. [Source]

Advance notice to the Police and other preparation

See this.

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Is Australia ready for civil disobedience against public health terrorism?

As far as I know, there’s never been mass-scale civil disobedience in Australia. There’s no role model like Gandhi or Mandela to lead the people to protest bad laws.

One of the reasons for not having had any major civil disobedience in Australia in the past is obvious: this country has been exceptionally well-managed and except for a few areas (e.g. Aboriginal affairs), it has been largely a great place to live and to work.

But everything has changed in March 2020, with politicians refusing to stop their inhumane “public health” policies that breach Australia’s laws and pandemic plans. They are terrorising the people and now we do need civil disobedience to challenge these unlawful actions.

I’ve noted this on my FB page:

Australia needs three things to become free:

  1. A well-planned information campaign to stop the hysteria.
  2. A well-organised civil disobedience movement in which tens of thousands of people court arrest. Ideally this will be led by someone with moral stature.
  3. A well-organised set of opposition political parties that offer people a genuine platform to vote for after they realise how badly they’ve been misled.

Without all three of these I suspect nothing much is going to change since the incentives of politicians are to keep things going the way they are: they don’t pay for the costs they impose on society, and keeping a population in fear is a proven way to get re-elected.

THE CASE FOR CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE

The decisions of NSW and Victorian governments to prohibit protests during lockdowns raise fundamental issues.

The right to protest is the most fundamental of democratic rights. There must be no reduction in the rights of the people between two elections. A pandemic is no excuse to diminish the right to protest. I understand the High Court of Australia has said that protest is an implied right in the Australian Constitution but now is not the time for legal niceties. Too many laws have been broken and the courts have allowed all kinds of atrocities to be justified. The Parliaments have failed, the political parties and politicians have failed, the bureaucracy has failed, the courts have failed.

In theory, therefore, this may well be a correct time for civil disobedience.

WHAT IS CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE?

The most well-known exposition of civil disobedience is the 1849 essay by Henry David Thoreau. His work influenced Mahatma Gandhi who then experimented with various forms of mass-scale civil disobedience in South Africa and India.

By formal civil disobedience I mean a group led by someone with moral authority that formally rejects the authority of government through non-violent means and challenges the government to arrest and jail those who formally and publicly break one or more of the immoral laws – with advance notification to the government of such action.

In brief, civil disobedience requires the leader and followers prepared to be arrested – in fact, who demand to be arrested. The various Freedom rallies to date are a form of ordinary disobedience, NOT civil disobedience.

HOW CAN CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE BE SUCCESSFUL?

To be successful, civil disobedience needs a leader with moral authority who can attract a large number of followers and get the media to report on his/her actions. I also believe that around 30% support in the general community is needed for a successful civil disobedience movement – even though the actual protestors may only number a few hundred.

The slightest hint of violence is fatal to civil disobedience. Gandhi’s stopped his 1922 civil disobedience movement because of the Chauri Chaura incident. Any violence will effectively destroy the moral authority of the movement.

FATHER DAVE AS A POSSIBLE LEADER?

I recently saw some comments from Father Dave which seem to me to indicate a possible willingness to undertake civil disobedience. He is calling upon people to prepare to sacrifice to wrest back our liberties. People have to be prepared to be arrested and beaten by the Police.

See the video at: https://www.rebelnews.com/watch_aussie_priest_makes_the_perfect_case_against_lockdowns_at_sydney_protest

AUSTRALIA NEEDS TO PREPARE SYSTEMATICLALLY FOR CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE

In my view, Australia is not yet ready for civil disobedience. Not only is the opposition scattered and diffused, there is no leader (yet) with moral authority whose voice the community will listen.

It is in this context that that someone like Father Dave could potentially become the nucleus of a civil disobedience movement. But a lot of preparation will be needed.

We will need a single united movement that will be ready to face the baton of the Police, with members of the movement willing to be arrested and jailed – potentially for months on end. There are real costs of civil disobedience.

A force of volunteers involved in this will have to be trained not to retaliate in the face of severe provocation – and indeed, violence – by the police.

Once all these conditions are met, civil disobedience can become an option for Australia.

PREPARING FOR CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE

To prepare Australia for formal civil disobedience, I’m starting to compile a reading list that will include original works from Thoreau, Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., Mandela, etc.

If anyone has access to an existing reading list for civil disobedience, please share with me asap at sabhlok@gmail.com.

READING LIST/ TRAINING MATERIAL

I’ve found the following so far:

Training manual

Your Essential Civil Disobedience Reading List

Article in Spectator by James Allan with some good arguments for civil disobedience.

Protests? Whatever for?

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Can OCIs contest elections in Australia? Liberal and Labor parties are wrong on this as well.

This question has come up because the Labor and Liberal parties have concluded that OCIs can’t contest.

Here’s my Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) card with some of the details blocked out (PDF).

The operational words in the document are “LIFETIME VISA”.

On 17 April 2019, the Indian High Commission clarified that: “OCI is not to be misconstrued as ‘dual citizenship” [Screenshot]

According to the SBS radio report, the question of OCI being considered as dual citizenship DOES NOT ARISE.

Here are the relevant sections of the Indian Citizenship Act that apply to OCIs.

The practical rights of an OCI holder are akin to the rights of a permanent resident of Australia. When I held the Indian passport I was able to be a permanent resident of Australia which gave me very similar rights (in fact MORE rights) than the OCI card does. But that did not mean that I could contest elections in Australia. I had voting rights and the right to contest elections only in India.

Now, the situation is reversed. I have an Australian passport and and Indian permanent residency.

Since I have to visit India fairly frequently to meet my family it makes economic sense to get a lifetime visa than to keep applying for short term visas – which can in the end add up to a greater cost than purchasing the OCI card. The fee for the OCI card is quite heavy – $389 including processing charges (calculator here) – in comparison, visas are much cheaper.

Holding an OCI card is NOT Indian citizenship. The Indian passport has to be surrendered in order to get the OCI card.

In my view that the section 44 restriction in the Australian Constitution on candidates does not apply to OCI card holders. The Liberal and Labor parties are wrong on this, as well. At a minimum this needs to be tested in the High Court of Australia.

=== THE CLARIFICATION ISSUED BY INDIAN HIGH COMMISSION===

Deputy High Commissioner of India to Australia, Mr PS Karthigeyan stated, “An overseas citizen of India shall not be entitled to the following rights conferred on a citizen of India.

  • under article 16 of the Constitution with regard to equality of opportunity in matters of public employment.
  • under article 58 of the Constitution for election as President.
  • under article 66 of the Constitution for election of Vice-President.
  • under article 124 of the Constitution for appointment as a Judge of the Supreme Court.
  • under article 217 of the Constitution for appointment as a Judge of the High Court.
  • under section 16 of the Representation of the People Act, 1950(43 of 1950) in regard to registration as a voter.
  • under sections 3 and 4 of the Representation of the People Act, 1951 (43 of 1951) with regard to the eligibility for being a member of the House of the People or of the Council of States, as the case may be.
  • under section 5, 5A and 6 of the Representation of the People Act, 1951 (43 of 1951) with regard to the eligibility for being a member of the Legislative Assembly or a Legislative Council, as the case may be, of a State.
  • for appointment to public services and posts in connection with the affairs of the Union or of any State except for appointment in such services and posts as the Central Government may by special order in that behalf specify.”

He added, “Detailed instructions and procedures on the OCI Scheme are available on the MHA’s website: www.mha.nic.in”

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