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Anyone who’s politically active in Aus now lives with anxiety about crossing “unknown threshold”, says Australia Institute chief

Posted by gasweek on 18 September, 2007

Anyone who was politically active in Australia, especially if they were critical of the Federal Government, must live with low-level anxiety about what might happen to them or their families if some unknown threshold was crossed, said Clive Hamilton, executive director of the Australia Institute, in The Sydney Morning Herald (7/9/2007, p.26).

Careful, they might hear you: “It is not just the politically active: just to know someone who might be active could land you in hot water. Here are some of those indistinct thresholds that come to mind. What might happen to me if I send an email to a supporter of the Tamil Tigers? Is that an illegal organisation? Are those who spoke out against the treatment of Haneef now under surveillance? What would happen if I wanted to find out what al-Qaeda really stands for? If I go searching on the Internet, will an alarm bell ring in a high-tech basement somewhere? Should we hesitate before we use the word “bomb” when speaking to someone on the tele­phone?

Avoid demos: “What could happen to my son if he joined a demonstration and some agitators at the front jostled police? Is he going to be dragged out and assaulted by men who refuse to identify themselves – something that has happened in the past year?”, he asked.

Reference: Clive Hamilton is the executive director of the Australia Institute. This is an edited extract of a talk delivered at the Melbourne Writer’s Festival.

The Sydney Morning Herald, 7/9/2007, p. 26

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