So this morning I was on the Outsiders segment on Radio National. Two topics came up, abolition of the carbon tax, and increased ASIO powers.
Remarkably I was the only person concerned by the increase in the surveillance state. Statist 1 argued that ASIO powers hadn’t been updated in 30 odd years and that this was necessary and we needed to think about appropriate checks and balances. Perhaps more time was necessary for the appropriate checks and balances. Statist 2 argued that the ATO should be given the same surveillance power as ASIO to clamp down on tax evasion.* Simply remarkable – no doubt that is where we will end up.
My view on this are informed by Schumpeter (emphasis added):
In capitalist society—or in a society that contains a capitalist element of decisive importance—any attack on the intellectuals must run up against the private fortresses of bourgeois business which, or some of which, will shelter the quarry. Moreover such an attack must proceed according to bourgeois principles of legislative and administrative practice which no doubt may be stretched and bent but will checkmate prosecution beyond a certain point. Lawless violence the bourgeois stratum may accept or even applaud when thoroughly roused or frightened, but only temporarily. In a purely bourgeois regime like that of Louis Philippe, troops may fire on strikers, but the police cannot round up intellectuals or must release them forthwith; otherwise the bourgeois stratum, however strongly disapproving some of their doings, will rally behind them because the freedom it disapproves cannot be crushed without also crushing the freedom it approves.
So we start with the notion that Australia faces an increased risk of terrorism. Then we increase the surveillance power of the state to listen in on phone calls, read emails, check out everyone’s selfies and, if Edward Snowden is to be believed, their porn collections too.
Surprisingly (/sarc) the government doesn’t seem to be increasing the penalties associated with acts of terrorism. Rather it is increasing the power of the state to spy on citizens at home and abroad.
This is an area where politicians are especially gutless – few seem willing to stand up and ask the tough questions like, “How precisely will this improve national security?” or “Will those public servants who abuse this increased authority be sent to prison?” and so on.
* To be fair – he might have meant that this extension of ATO powers would galvanise the business community to speak up against the expansion of ASIO powers – but perhaps I’m being too generous.