Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Does security trump freedom?

"When it comes to the crunch, people prefer to be safe than to have freedom."

A quote from Orwell's 1984? Soviet era politburo? David Koresh?

Nope, that is West Australia Liberal MP Peter Abetz opining on the desirability of legislation before parliament this week. The proposed law would give police the power to indiscriminately stop and search people without so much as a sniff of wrongdoing.

West Australian Police Commissioner Karl O'Callaghan assures that the cops will not perform such searches unnecessarily, but there are no such assurances in the text of the legislation, which ignores the "reasonable suspicion" standard applied in democracies around the world.

In recent years, privacy and freedoms have been eroded almost everywhere in the "free world" by those who claim that security has priority, and who use that as an excuse to extend their authority. Ironically, the so-called "defence of freedom" is perhaps the greatest threat to freedom.

Freedom is leaking away, small drips in a thousand places that are almost unnoticeable individually but have a huge cumulative effect. Let's hope the West Australians draw a line here.

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