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New Zealand's longest-running online daily news and commentary publication, now in its 25th year. The opinion pieces presented here are not purported to be fact but reasonable effort is made to ensure accuracy.

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The inexorable death of freedom

27 August 2019

I just watched a fascinating ABC News current affairs story.

Bearing in mind the fact that such pieces are often carefully crafted to dramatise the facts and over-state the issues, it was still a sobering piece of journalism that should strike fear and foreboding into the hearts of every Aussie and Kiwi.

I strongly recommend you watch this video:

Then reflect on where our countries are headed and how the issue of "National Security" is increasingly being used as a justification for governments ignoring the most basic tenets of democracy and human rights.

It seems that these days, the only thing worse than engaging in illegal acts of spying, deception and fraud -- is whistle-blowing on a government that does such things.

The Australian situation might sound unusual but I strongly expect that NZ has very similar policies and perspectives - but how would we know?

We've already seen on many, many occasions that the rights of NZers are arbitrarily cast aside when it suits the government to do so. This happened when the GCSB illegally spied on NZers in clear breach of laws specifically enacted to prevent such things. This happened when Kim Dotcom's mansion was illegally raided by police under the direction of a foreign power (the USA). This happened when police "unlawfully" held almost an entire town at gunpoint back in 2007 whilst allegedly engaging in an anti-terror raid.

As is the case in Australia, the authorities seldom admit culpability, preferring instead to have their political masters retrospectively change laws to legalise that which was illegal at the time it happened.

The banner of "National Security" or "the war against terror" has become little more than a broad sweeping brush that can effectively dismantle all the supposed protections that things like the Bill of Rights and other Acts are supposed to bestow on regular folk like you and I.

I think it's time this was stopped.

It is becoming obvious that more crimes are being committed by the state under the guise of "public safety and national security" than these anti-terror laws have ever prevented.

Did these tough anti-terror laws prevent the Christchurch mosque massacre?

No they didn't.

All these laws seem to have done is provide police and security agencies with a "get out of jail free" card that they seem to use with monotonous regularity so as to sidestep the laws designed to protect the public from the over-reaching power of such authorities.

Unacceptable.

I recall writing a column quite some years ago when parliament gave the then PM Helen Clark the power to declare anyone a terrorist, without any legal right for that person or organisation to challenge that declaration. How can this sort of thing happen in a so-called democracy?

As we've seen so very often, governments will do whatever is necessary to protect, not the public, but themselves. If that means side-stepping inconvenient laws by declaring their actions to be "in the interests of national security" then they'll do that. What's more, they can suppress knowledge of those actions under the same laws so we (the general public) are unlikely to know when this has happened.

Even the freedoms that the media once enjoyed which allowed them to effectively act as the "watcher" protecting the public's rights have been dismantled -- as witnessed by the raid on journalist Nicky Hager's property back in 2014.

I fear that this is all "thin end of the wedge" stuff and that Kiwis and Aussies, although aware that it's happening, have gradually become desensitised to the scope and magnitude to which their rights have been eroded and the openness and transparency of authorities has been reduced.

Where are we headed with this?

What can we, as mere citizens, do to reverse this worrying slide away from democratic principles and personal freedoms?

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