Two of the scariest words in the English language

I recently attended a public seminar offering practical advice and information for the creators of content. Defamation and Sedition Laws “A New Way of Talking?”

The standout speaker was Julian Burnside QC. He spoke eloquently, clearly and economically about the changes to basic rights we as Australians naively believed were somehow enshrined. Rights such as knowing what you are being charged with. Within the new legislation the only words permitted for utterance, by a detained person, when making a phone call are “I’m safe.”

I was left chilled by the lack of resistance to this legislation. Just how easy was it for Ruddock and HoWARd to push this through.

We are not safe from our government. We are also not being served by an opposition to the government.

Update: The ABC’s Media report recorded on the night and played it today (13 April).  Audio download available here.


L-R Professor Jill McKeough, Raena Lea-Shannon, David Marr, The Hon. Bob Debus MP, Kate Gilchrist, David Levine QC RFD


Listening to questions from the floor


Julian Burnside QC


The Hon Peter Garrett AM MP

Comments spamproofed by Akismet

Trackback disabled until further notice.

13 Responses to “Two of the scariest words in the English language”

  1. Jennifer Says:

    People should get very angry about this! WHY don’t we have a proper opposition in parliament?

  2. kartar Says:

    Because the Opposition don’t actually disagree with this legislation. I emailed Nicola Roxon repeatedly before the legislation was passed and it was obvious that not only was the ALP not going to take a stand against it – they agreed with it – barring some fiddling around the edges. The ALP love wedge politics as much the Liberals – they just aren’t as good at it as the Government.

  3. Kieran Bennett Says:

    We do have an oppisition, they’re called The Greens. Ultimately, parties of government have convergant interests when it comes to the powers of the state. In the US, the democrats didn’t oppose the various “Patriot” Acts, in Britain the Conservatives didn’t oppose Blair’s various police powers.

    One day they’ll be in government again, and they will have such fun!

  4. Lee Says:

    So if you kidnap someone and get them to phone home and say only ‘I’m safe’ no-one would start looking for them for a fortnight because they assume that they are in custody??

  5. Suki Says:

    Lee, good point- absolutely nothing about the words “I’m safe” can ever have the same meaning again.
    Julian Burnside suggested we all wear “I’m safe” badges in an effort to highlight the profound danger that those two words convey within the context of this law.

  6. kartar Says:

    Sadly – whilst both a Greens voter and a member of the party – I fear we won’t actually represent a majority or a true Opposition in the next election.

  7. Suki Says:

    kartar I fear you are right.

    With legislation such as this I sense that most people are disinterested and rationalise their apathy by believing that the legislation won’t affect them or anyone they know.

    We really do buy into the “she’ll be right” casualness- at our peril.

  8. kartar Says:

    I am reminded of Martin Niemöller’s famous quote – “When they came for me,
    there was no one left to speak out…”

  9. Helen Says:

    How about “I’m Safe” T shirts?

  10. kartar Says:

    Helen – that’s a good idea – might suggest that to the local greens. Maybe with a quote from the relevant section of the legislation on the back of it…

  11. Brownie Says:

    “only words permitted for utterance, by a detained person, when making a phone call are “I’m safe.” ” … which would not actually be correct.

  12. Suki Says:

    It was a long, long time after the lecture Brownie, that I started to shake free of the disbelief and anger that I felt when I heard of these legally sanctioned extreme measures.

  13. mgk: Machine Gun Keyboard Says:

    […] Quite a number of people in the US and Australia work with the famous faulty notion that “…if I’m not doing anything ‘wrong’, I shouldn’t worry…” about government invasions of privacy on false pretenses. It’s all well and good until law enforcement makes an irreversible error or a government decides to persecute people for their political beliefs. Remember, if you’re arrested in Australia on a terrorism related offence, all you can tell one member of your family is “I’m safe,” when absolutely nothing could be further from the truth. Australia in desperate need of a Bill of Rights. […]

Leave a Reply