Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Terror Laws, by Jenny Hocking

For the most part, this book (published 2004) is mostly made up of the author’s original 1993 book Beyond Terrorism. She’s junked the first chapter of Beyond Terrorism, which dealt with the actual term of terrorism, and how frustratingly vague it was. I’m glad, because I found that first chapter of Beyond Terrorism quite difficult to follow. It’s full of that sort of post-modern language about ‘constructions’ etc. etc, and was a chore to read. The new chapter she’s written for Terror Laws is far more accessible.

That’s a good thing, because it’s such an important point. It’s also worth noting that the term ‘terrorism’ has become ridiculously malleable. For example, recall Liberal MP Sophie Pannopolous (sorry for wrong spelling) called her fellow back benchers ‘political terrorists’ for dissenting from the party line on mandatory detention, calling for a softening of the policy. She did not apologise for her comments, nor did it appear that they were uttered in jest. John Howard didn’t pull her up for these offensive and silly comments either.

As mentioned, the main body of this book reproduces Beyond Terrorism, which I wrote about below.

Professor Hocking has added a couple of extra chapters that deal with the terror laws that were introduced in 2002, lingering on some of the more draconian details. It is worth remembering that the original Bill had provisions for the detaining of children, without age limit.

Hocking opines that the best way to strengthen the security of the state is not by a reduction in the rights of its citizens, and by extentsion, democratic rights, but by enlarging our democracy to bring in groups that feel left out in the cold:

‘If we consider that acts of extreme political violence, labelled ‘terrorism’, may reflect a local but systemic failure in participatory democratic practice, then the narrowing of acceptable political discourse and legitimate political activity may well be one of the precipitating factors of terrorist activity. If so, then what is needed as part of the struggle against terrorism are not further constraints on effective political participation, but a more inclusive politics; not less democracy, but more.’

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