From under the linoleum
Old newspapers show Mussolini's imperialism looked a lot like today's

I sat on the floor and picked through the tragedy of the country we now call Ethiopia laid out on the yellowing pages. It was eerily reminiscent of the current Iraq adventure.

A tale for our times
The December 1934 assassination of Sergei Kirov

Seventy years on, the killing of Sergei Kirov casts an eerie light on the events of 11 September 2001, the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, the “war on Terror” and the state-sponsored hysteria surrounding the shadowy figures of Osama bin Ladin and Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

Ninety-three years of bombing the Arabs
It was the Italians, hell-bent on acquiring an African empire, who got the ball rolling. In 1911 the Libyan Arab tribes opposed an Italian invasion. Their civilians were the first people in the world to be bombed from the air.

Dispossessed all over again
After spending nearly two months in the West Bank the pull towards my village was growing stronger, especially after being detained twice and threatened with deportation … an Australian Palestinian returns to her ancestral home.

The tragic inevitability of a forlorn hope
Australia slides further into the Iraq quagmire
Cabinet documents recently released under the 50-year rule show that, in 1954, Liberal (conservative) Prime Minister, Robert Menzies, and key figures in his Cabinet were extremely gloomy about the prospects for success in an American war against nationalists in Indochina. But eventually they went to the Vietnam War anyway.

Bombing King David
One man’s freedom fighter is another’s terrorist

Some historians date the beginning of modern terrorism from the 1946 bombing by Zionist terrorists of the British military HQ in Jerusalem.

Don’t loiter near the exit
Military debacle and economic decline haunt the Bush regime

When I was just a young possum in the school cadet corps there was a hoary old war story that we all knew. It was almost certainly apocryphal, but it ruefully expressed a nasty historic truth about the US role in the demise of the British Empire.


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An elegant resolution to the law-and-order auction

1 October 2006

We’re six months out from the next NSW state election and already there’s frenzied bidding in the law-and-order auction. Peter what’s-his-name, the Liberal leader, is bidding 200 Men-of-Middle-Eastern-Appearance (MoMEA) rounded up instantly on any old charge and bugger the question of guilt, or evidence. The Labor incumbents will top this for sure. I can’t see Morris Iemma throwing in less than 400 MoMEA in orange jumpsuits and leg irons.

This whole law-‘n’-order “dabate” has exposed an ugly fault-line in the national consensus. To hear the shock-jocks and the Murdoch press tell it, around half of all Australians believe adults should be entirely personally responsible for their actions whatever the circumstances and that the police, the government and radio personalities know for certain, and by instinct, if the accused is guilty.

According to the shock-jocks, right-thinking folks realise that allowing judges to exercise discretion as to whether some circumstances warrant mitigation – factors such as previous good character or diminished responsibility or the degree of harm demonstrably caused by an offence – is an invitation to mollycoddle criminals and other, generally un-Australian, types.

The half of the population who doubt this obvious truth are lawyers, dope-smokers, teachers, doctors’ wives, judges, ageing hippies, poofters, trade unionists, Muslim terrorists, greenies, university lecturers, Trotskyites and intellectual throwbacks yearning for the nanny state.

This “debate” has been going on for some time now with no sign of consensus. The gulf is widening and the whole matter is becoming a dangerous distraction from The War Against Terror.

The time has come for an elegant resolution, and I’d like, with the Aussie authority only a marsupial can command, to propose one. It’s time we made the justice process and the penalties applied by the law the responsible choice of the individual.

The application of this principal would be simple. Our efficient federal bureaucracy should take no longer than six months to register every adult Australian’s choice of two categories: Standard Citizen (SC) or a Full Personal Responsibility Citizen (FPRC). Thereafter, all young people, on turning 18, will be required to choose which of these categories applied to them. The whole scheme could be stitched up before the federal elections.

This is how it would work:

Standard Citizens will retain the right to legal representation and to have their penalty, should they be found guilty, decided by the judge. In the case of an alleged offence committed overseas they will retain the right (admittedly highly theoretical, in view of the David Hicks and Bali drugs cases) to representations on their behalf by the Australian Government.

Full Personal Responsibility Citizens, should they be apprehended for any civil or criminal offence, will forego any right to legal representation and, in the event they are found guilty will automatically draw the maximum applicable penalty. If they are arrested overseas they waive their right to representations on their behalf by the Australian Government.

The advantage to the nation accruing from the choice made by FPRCs should be recognised by removing from their tax equation an amount proportional to government expenditure on maintenance of the judicial system. If, however, they are found guilty of an offence, all trial and gaol costs will be automatically be taken from their estate, or from any remuneration for employment subsequent to the penalty.

Of course it would be unfair for individuals to have their initial choice set for the rest of their lives, so reasonable allowance should be made for any change of heart. I propose that individuals should, after giving three year’s notice, be able to change their registered status. In the case of a change from FPRC to SC, the law should apply harsh additional penalties if it is shown in the courts that the change was made with the object of avoiding the maximum penalty for an offence already committed but not apprehended by the authorities.

As a matter of principle, the personal choice of each individual must be open to public scrutiny. Every Australian will have their status registered in an online database. All will be identified by their full name, date of birth, current address, driver’s licence number and so on. Also recorded will be any public offices held, and a description of current occupation (for example “talk-back radio personality”, “media proprietor”, “property developer”, or “member of parliament”).

It’ll be most interesting to see how much support my solution gets from all those right-thinking, flag-waving politicians who are always loud in their condemnation of wrongdoers, rag-heads and tricky judges. Since, ipso facto, they’re committed to taking complete responsibility for their actions, they’ll surely have no hesitation in legislating my scheme and immediately registering as Full Personal Responsibility Citizens.

Freedom of choice. It’s the wave of the future.