In Australia, as is well known, there is a greatly disproportionate imbalance when it comes to the number of indigenous people in jails. For virtually all of the 110 years of the Commonwealth Government there has not been a single indigenous person in the Australian Parliament. The Commonwealth Government has never moved to recognise First Peoples and/or the original laws of this of this country.
But when it comes to the rights of First Peoples caught up in the one-sided Anglo-Australian laws, the Coalition happily striped them (and others) of their rights to participate in society while they are in jail, and now opposes government legislation to restore some of the rights of prisoners.
The tone of the Liberal Party line here deserves close attention from scholars of totalitarianism as practiced in Europe (and elsewhere) in the last century.
In debating the Electoral and Referendum Amendment (Enrolment and Prisoner Voting) Bill 2010 now in the Senate, and which seeks to restore rights removed by the former Government, we are provided with a very clear example of how the Coalition thinks:
Senator (Mitch) Fifield, Liberal Senator for Victoria:
” Prior to 2006, any prisoner serving a custodial sentence of three years or more was prohibited from voting in federal elections. In 2006, the Electoral Act was amended so as to prevent any prisoner serving a custodial sentence of any length of time from voting.”
” The bill before us today reverts the law on prisoner voting back to the legislation that existed prior to the 2006 amendment, in line with the High Court decision in Roach v the Electoral Commission. The coalition introduced that amendment in 2006 because we believe that people who commit crimes sufficient enough to warrant a prison term should not, while serving that prison term, be entitled to vote and thereby exercise influence on the society whose laws and rules they have disregarded. We believed that in 2006 and we believe that now. People serving prison sentences have committed significant crimes and have proved themselves unwilling to accept the laws that govern this country. As a result, they have forfeited their right to have a say on the governing of this country for the period of their prison sentence.”
“This bill is contrary to the principles that form one of the foundation stones of the justice system in Australia. We believe that if you refuse to live by the laws of our community, then you lose your right to participate in our community‘.(emphasis added – songlines)
Read more of Senator Fifield’s speech in the Senate:
You can “catch up with Mitch” at: