I reproduce here a news piece written by my friend Antonio about another friend Peter.
Civil liberties in Australia are under threat and the right to protest is very limited indeed.
Too much law and liberty
By Antonio Castillo
Arresting academics for speaking out is usually associated
with dictatorships and governments unable to deal with
When former academic Peter McGregor was arrested and charged
last July while attending the Gilbert & Tobin Symposium on
“Law & Liberty in the War on Terror” at the University of New
South Wales, the irony of the situation was quickly replaced
A group of academics from the University of Western Sydney
where Mr McGregor was a well-respected lecturer wrote: “To
prosecute Mr Macgregor for exercising the rights the Gilbert
& Tobin Centre and its staff have been on public record
supporting and advocating would seem to be contradictory and
hypocritical. We believe that Universities need to be places
where robust debate and differences of opinion can be
expressed without fear of reprisal.”
The arrest of the former academic followed his attempt after
the symposium proceedings to peacefully protest against the
presence of Attorney-General Phillip Ruddock, the keynote
speaker. He was removed by police from the event and informed
that his permit to attend the event had been revoked by the
organisers. He was then charged.
“When I registered to attend the Gilbert & Tobin Symposium on
“Law & Liberty in the War on Terror” I was appalled to see
that Attorney-General Philip Ruddock was a ‘keynote’
speaker,” Mr McGregor said. “And that there were two other
speakers from the Attorney-General’s Department and one from
the Australian Defence Association but no speakers from the
anti-war movement, or even the Council for Civil Liberties.”
In a letter to the event organisers Dr George Williams and Dr
Andrew Lynch, University of Western Sydney Law School
Associate Professor Michael Head requested the charge be
dropped. “I call on you to immediately contact the police and
request that the charge be dropped. It would be entirely
hypocritical of you not to do so, while at the same time
writing publicly in defence of the civil liberties of Mohamed
Haneef. McGregor, a retired academic, was wrongly evicted
from the symposium for seeking to make a peaceful and
legitimate protest against the presence of the Attorney-
General,” he said.
Associate Professor Head said many participants had objected
to the false report given to the symposium that McGregor had
“rushed at” Mr Ruddock. “McGregor, who is a well-known
political figure, simply rose to address the audience before
he was frog-marched out by police. Unless you intervene with
the police, you will be involved in using similar methods of
slander and smear as those being used in the attempt to
convict Dr Haneef,” he said.
Mr McGgregor – a member of NSW Council for Civil Liberties –
has pleaded not guilty and the trial will begin on Wednesday
September 5 at Waverley Court.
Addendum: this is going to make some recent visitors Ethical Martini salivate, for others it’s a sad indictment of the current poor state of democracy.