Australian government proposes jail terms for satire


Originally published at:


Judging by past experience, I fear that young people who consider themselves “liberal” will be defending this as a reasonable measure in twenty years’ time.

When’s the last time you heard someone protesting passports, for example? My grandfather, born in the 19th century, was pissed about that betrayal of humanist principles, but today self-described liberals can’t even conceive of a world without an authoritarian global tracking system, and will defend passports fervently and instinctively.


Passports are a technology of control.


Jeesh, they’re making it redundant and jailing it at the same time? Satire is having a tough week down under!


wtf are you talking about? I’ve never had one. Not a fan.


Australia —
The new Turkey of the South Pacific.


“Genuine” satire?

What’s next? “True” Scotsmen?


Naw, they’re all in New Zealand mate.


I reckon that’s a bad idea.


This law looks troubling because of the timing and because of the authoritarian bent of the Australian government. The stuff about Australia being vulnerable because it doesn’t have the first amendment is nonsense.

First, Australia has something about as good as the first amendment for this purpose. Their top court ruled that as the right to vote is constitutionally protected, the right to political communication is protected by implication.

Second, it isn’t up to “the government” to determine what is “genuine” satire, it’s up to the courts. Just like it’s up to the courts in the US to determine what is “protected speech” and what is not. In both countries the courts have the power to decide whether speech is okay based precedent.

Finally, the law is against impersonating a government agency. It is presently illegal to pretend to act under the authority of a government agency in the United States and it has been since at least 1948. So a law with the same effect exists in the US and that hasn’t been struck down by the first amendment because the first amendment doesn’t apply unless the government attempts to apply the law disingenuously.


Wait, you mean Cory posted something alarmist, hyperbolic, and/or poorly-researched? Say it ain’t so!


I lived in the land down blunder for a while in the early to mid 1970’s and saw the transition from Liberal to Labour and the suspect dumping of the progressive Whitlam government for the repressive Fraser of Moonee Ponds (anyone here recall Fraser’s Flu?).
Through it all the one constant of the Aussie was the pride it took in being able to laugh at itself.
Satire was everywhere, from the oddball Redback On The Toilet Seat, to Graham Kennedy and the songs of Greg McAinsh, or the madcap Auntie Jack and Norman Gunston, they were pushing the edge of good taste, but still all with tongue in cheek and with good nature.
TV, the press, on radio, Australia was far better at embracing it’s quirks than many other places. I’m wondering how the place could have become so thin skinned.


See @Humbabella’s post above.

It’s alarming because of the dodginess of the Turnbull government. However, we can probably rely on the courts to prevent overt abuses, and the Turnbull administration is unlikely to survive the next election.


Canberra is a different world from the rest of the country now. I think it was a terrible mistake. The place is one big outer suburb, so we finish up being ruled by the worst of us.


You’d think that the descendants of criminals would give satire a pass.


You don’t have to support the idea of passports to understand that in a world where the contents of a single suitcase could eradicate all life in a city, and journeys that used to take months are now routinely accomplished in a matter of hours, some kind of border control is necessary.

Acknowledging these realities does not mark one as “liberal” or “conservative”. However, jumping from there to the idea that it will be liberals who champion the idea of jail time for satire is…well, it’s a very conservative thing to do. The government proposing this measure is a conservative one, governments that in the past have tried to crack down on humorists have been conservative ones, and based on past performance, it seems overwhelmingly likely that in 20 years, the people who are most willing to punish people who poke fun at them will be conservatives.


Before Trump, that would have produced a sense of pride in me, but with Trump eyeing conservatives to replace whoever in the courts…


That’d depend on which criminals.

Historically, the Australian left descends from the Irish rebels who formed the bulk of the original convict population. The Australian right descends from the English settlers who came in once they converted the place from concentration camp to slave plantation.

OTOH, both factions are culpable in the genocide of Indigenous Australia, so there’s plenty of criminality to go 'round.


Effing RIPE for satire, man!

I just don’t understand it.


at least a smile and a Vegemite sandwich!