Taking liberties? five whizzbangs about testing the limits of power

Sometimes the connections within our monthly collections of Whizzbangs only become clear after they are posted and we look at them again on their way to our Choice Whizzbangs section. Some, indeed, have quite long fuses. Some are timeless; some have relevance thrust upon them.

Always thus? ‘Australia gives us freedom. Let us guard her well, train for her sake in peace, and die for her, if need be, in war.’ (Rule 36 for Senior Cadets under universal training scheme, Australia, c. 1910)

Been there before. ‘The passage of emergency powers during wartime was not especially remarkable, but in practice it gave the executive extraordinary discretion and arbitrary power. When Hughes became Prime Minister in late 1915 he would exploit the War Precautions Act not just for purposes of waging the war but for political advantage. The Act was amended several times and its regulations constantly increased until there were more than a hundred regulations imposing restrictions on freedom of speech, freedom of assembly and freedom of the press. Once when the Solicitor General Robert Garran was asked, “Would it be an offence under the War Precautions Act ….?” he simply cut the questioner off with “Yes”.’ (Joan Beaumont, ‘Going to war 1914-18: the view from the Australian Parliament’, 2014)

Missing links. ‘There is nothing about human liberty in our constitution that we can point to with pride, or happily invite our children to recite in school. We will not, I fear, have an interesting future until we tell of a more inspiring past, a past where we participated in, and sometimes led, human progress.’ (Geoffrey Robertson, Dreaming Too Loud, 2013)

Going too far? ‘Many laws introduced with unseemly haste before Christmas in the name of national security go well beyond what might be deemed to be necessary, creating a chilling effect on freedom of speech and the press and breaching the right to privacy.’ (Professor Gillian Triggs, Human Rights Commissioner, 5 June 2015)

Troublemakers? ‘The Christian, if he is true to his calling, is always an agitator … At the heart of our religion there lies a principle in absolute contradiction to the principles by which the world speaks and thinks and acts.’ (South African Bishop Trevor Huddleston)

29 June 2015

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