25 Oct 2005

New Aussie anti-terror laws likened to the apartheid era

News24: Nobel Prize-winning author JM Coetzee has likened controversial new anti-terrorism laws proposed by Australia’s government to apartheid-era human rights abuses in his native South Africa, The Australian newspaper reported on Monday.

Coetzee, who moved to Australia in 2002, “launched a thinly veiled attack” on the legislation due to go to parliament next week during a public reading at the National Library in Canberra on Sunday, the newspaper said.

Preparing to read from his 1980 anti-apartheid novel Waiting for the Barbarians, Coetzee said South African security police in the 1970s could arrest and detain people without explanation “and do what they wanted” with them “because special provisions of the legislation indemnified them in advance. All of this, and much more during apartheid in South Africa, was done in the name of the fight against terror,” said the 2003 Nobel laureate.

While Coetzee was not quoted specifically referring to Australia, his description of apartheid-era laws echoed details of the new anti-terrorism legislation being put forward by Prime Minister John Howard. The draft laws would expand police powers to arrest and hold suspects preventively and in secret, imposing penalties on reporters or members of the suspects’ families who publicise their situation. If the suspect was aged between 16 and 18, only one parent would be informed of the reason for his detention and they could be jailed for up to five years if they tell the other parent why the minor had been arrested.

Coetzee’s description of apartheid-era South Africa had a similar ring.

“If somebody telephoned a reporter and said, ‘Tell the world – some men came last night, took my husband, my son, my father away, I don’t know who they were, they didn’t give names, they had guns’, the next thing that happened would be that you and the reporter in question would be brought into custody for furthering the aims of the proscribed organisation endangering the security of the state,” he said.

Howard, who is due to discuss possible changes to the legislation in meetings this week before the law is formally submitted to parliament, denied over the weekend that the new measures would contravene human rights. “I am confident the legislation has all the right balances and the right protections and the right safeguards,” Howard said.

Thanks Eon!


  • nathan
    November 5, 2005 Reply

    What’s so “Western” about Australia? Sure, it follows a similar economical and governmental system, shares many of our cultural beliefs and aspects, and followed the US into war, but it’s been agreed that the part of the world that AU is in is definitely considered East (about as East as it can be).

    Please refrain from insulting California by claiming that somewhere is “more West.”

  • lumberjack
    November 5, 2005 Reply

    Since most western countries ‘unofficially’ supported the NP’s regime, I’m not surprised at current events. Maybe old JM should move back to SA now that he (once again) can’t stand the heat…

  • Eon
    October 26, 2005 Reply

    It is sad to see that so many of the western countries are troddeling down the same road we did during apartheid. Humanity just doesn’t learn from it’s mistakes very well. 🙁

  • Fuschia Faery
    October 25, 2005 Reply

    I think all countries are screwed up, just some more than others.

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