Government Shutting Down Community Voices

We are witnessing the shut down of democracy, specifically community voices advocating for change.

Excerpts from Hugh de Kretser, Talking Justice event 2018 – Speaking Truth to Power

Stifle criticism by charities and community groups.

A survey with Pro bono Australia and University of Melbourne of not for profit that showed:

  • 92% respondents agreed economic power and strong vested interests are the main drivers of government policy.
  • 69% agreed dissenting organisations risk having the funding cut;
  • 53% agree NGOs put under pressure to amend public statements in line with government policy;

It is critical for organisations to speak up and gain independent funding.

Governments use different levers to pressure NGO’s to suppress their criticism of government, particularly in the environment sector.

On press freedom seen intensification of secrecy. Seen borders force laws, ASIO laws, special intelligence operations laws which threaten journalists and others talk about laws 5-10 years jail. Metadata laws that allow government to expose confidential sources of stories that might embarrass government. Seen laws used against journalists and their sources exposed laws around the treatment of asylum seekers and boat turn backs have infringed international law and boundaries. Seen awful prosecution of Witness K and Bernard Collaery exposing illegal bugging of East Timorise Cabinet office by the Australian spy agency when Australia was negotiating oil and gas revenue with East Timor, and to thank them for their role and exposing misconduct. We have seen them now prosecuted with a risk of up to 2 years jail if prosecution proceeds. Attacks on protest rights. Attacks on institutions like the commission, the rule of law. To finalise for me (Kretser) speaking truth to power is not about exposing the truth to government. They know the truth. Chomsky said power knows the truth and is busy concealing it. For me speaking truth to power it is about exposing truth to the public. Government is deliberately secretive, locking people up on offshore islands far away from the rule of law. Far away from journalists and human rights advocates. Years of hard work of many individuals and break open cracks in that regime to show the human faces of those subject to this regime.