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Wartime poster against loose talk


Repressive Laws

in Australia

1868 - 1989

Many people truly believe that Australia has a system of law, police, and courts which preserve the essential equality of the citizens and guarantee justice. This is a misconception - and a dangerous one at that.

Before we proceed, one point should be made: Most police, and most courts, have a basic honesty as far as the formal laws of the country go. Police arrests suspects, and the courts judge them. However, we are not talking about the "ordinary" processes of the law. We are referring to the USES to which the State can put the law, the police, and the courts. There are many ways to organise and enforce repression.

Wartime poster against loose talk [British?]


The Establishment today is making great use of such bodies. The usage of "legal" harassment against unpopular organisations and private persons is commonplace. This type of harassment is difficult to defeat, since it is backed by enormous resources. In other words: the legal system is NOT impartial. In many ways, it is truly a rich man's law!

Police corruption and violence is growing; judges and magistrates have been caught out by honest police, etc., conspiring to pervert the laws. This process is indicative of a society under great stress, one which is in crisis. Money, social prestige, and/or political power, permits one to buy the right police and subvert the courts. In most states there are networks of entrenched judicial corruption. Drug crime has revealed the huge nature of "legal" corruption, and has dragged it out into public view.

Against such a system, the ordinary Australian has little recourse. The system of law has been endowed by its protagonists with a halo of innocence and virtue. Anyone who goes outside of the law to achieve justice, or who has a cynicism towards the police and the courts, is regarded as being somehow a "hooligan", "violent criminal", etc. - and is seen by some as "undemocratic". Anyone who suggests that the solution to this problem lies outside of the legal system is called an "advocate of criminal action" and may find himself outside of any protection from police or courts.

It must be remembered that our legal system emerged from the filth of convictism - and has been tainted by it. The history of Australian law is truly the history of monied classes seeking protection for their plunder and social abuses. For them, laws against gun ownership were, and are, essential. An attempt was made to introduce a nation-wide I.D. card. Laws against public assembly, the right to strike, and the right to petition to get redress, along with "contempt of court" and libel laws, all exist to protect the State from its citizens. And police have wide powers to ABUSE even these laws to achieve the "result" desired by the Establishment.

We should recognise that the State is always ready to bring in repressive laws when it feels that the Establishment, or its ideology, is under threat. We can look at several instances:

*  1868. The Treason Felony Act was brought in following an attempt by an Irishman to assassinate Prince Alfred during his visit to Sydney. It made it illegal to voice or publish statements "disrespectful to the Queen", or to be one "avowing a determination not to join in any loyal toast or demonstration in honour of Her Majesty, or who expressed sympathy with or approval of any offence under the Act"; and it also gave police "extraordinary powers ... for entering any suspected house and searching for persons, papers, or arms".

Anti-Traitor State graphic from
The Nature of State Power, 1996


*  1894. The Peace Preservation Act (also known as The Coercion Act) was brought in, due to the Shearers' Strikes, supposedly to "suppress lawlessness". It removed the right to a trial by jury, prevented the keeping of arms without special permission, gave police extraordinary powers to search premises and seize "evidence", and allowed "suspects" to be jailed for up to two months without trial.

*  1900. The NSW Crimes Act made it a criminal offence to promote republicanism (i.e. "whomsoever .... intends to deprive or depose Our Most Gracious Lady the Queen, her heirs and successors" from the Throne). This section of the Act is still in law, making republicanism technically an offence in NSW.

*  1917. The Unlawful Associations Act was used to combat the I.W.W. (the Industrial Workers of the World was a radical organisation seeking to establish "One Big Union") which had angered the Government by opposing conscription and Australia's part in the First World War. Under the Act, the I.W.W. was declared illegal, and it became a criminal offence to be a member.

*  1941-42. The National Security Act was used to declare the Communist Party of Australia an illegal organisation (this ban was revoked by the ALP after it came into government).

*  1942. The National Security Act was used to arrest - and jail in concentration camps (termed "internment camps") - various members of the nationalistic Australia First Movement (its leader was kept locked up from March 1942 until August 1945).

*  1950. The Communist Party Dissolution Act banned the Communist Party. However, financial resources were made available to them to have the matter taken to the High Court, which then disallowed the law by declaring it unconstitutional. A referendum was then put to the people in 1951 to enable the banning of the CPA, and this was only narrowly defeated. (Also; Sections had been included in the Crimes Act in 1920 and 1932, aimed in effect at declaring the Communist Party an illegal organisation).

Wartime poster against loose talk


*  1989. The NSW state parliament passed Australia's first Racial Vilification Act, and other state parliaments followed suit, as did the Commonwealth government in 1995. These laws, while supposedly aimed at stopping acts of "racial hatred", were actually specifically designed to suppress nationalist groups, and any other organisations opposing the Asianisation of Australia, as well as to scare ordinary Australians into silence.

This system of repression is called into play the moment a normally docile citizen raises his voice against any national or social "wrong". It needs to be overturned. The means to do it are hazardous indeed; yet there is no alternative.

It is a fact that anti-Australian policies enforced by the State cannot be altered except by means of attaining State Power. And that implies getting rid of the present "State" which preserves the power of the established social order.



This document is an extract from The Nature of State Power: The Farce of Democracy in Australia (revised edition, edited by David Tremayne, 1996, section three, pages 5-7)

The Association for the Advancement of Australian Culture