Sunday, November 19, 2006

Malcolm Fraser - "Human Rights and Responsibilities in the Age of Terror"

I have not been a great fan of our erstwhile leader because of his underhand connivance to unseat the ALP in 1975. My generation have long memories on that subject!

However, his pronouncements on Howard's departure from the basic principles of human rights and rule of law - in pursuit of political advantage dressed up as the "war on terror" - has redeemed him in my eyes in so many ways. Critics of Howard from within conservative bastions are few and far between and they are invariably set upon by the reactionary commentariat that springs to Howard's defence whenever someone takes aim at his appalling record.

Following is an excerpt from his address of the above title delivered at the University of Melbourne, 29 November 2005:

"It is possible that the fateful and horrific events of September 11, 2001 changed our world for ever. But the change is not represented by the age of terrorism; terrorism is not new. It is not represented by the War on Terror; wars are not new. It was not even the scale or nature of the attacks themselves, terrible as they were, that brought about our changed world; we have been attacked before. But the change as I see it has been brought about by the haste with which leaders of great democratic nations around the world made the fundamentally wrong assumption that we cannot maintain liberty and the Rule of Law and defend ourselves.

In discarding these principles, Governments have created fear and practiced discrimination based on race and religion. For Australia, fear was created and deception practised in relation to the boat people and over Tampa in late 2001. There was serious discrimination against legitimate asylum seekers. This was the effective end of the liberal age and the beginning of a period of regression. As a response to the War on Terror, liberty has been seriously compromised and arbitrary powers sought by the executive."

This is an important lecture that will become a key source for historians and political scientists who will, in time, pass cogent judgement on Howard's unfortunate legacy.

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