Breaking a bad law is an act of conscience, not a crime

Show me an unjust law and I’ll happily break it

What precious snowflakes Australian political journalists are. Bernard Keane has written an excellent piece in Crikey about the hypocrisy of reporters “tut tutting” the new ACTU (and first female) secretary, Sally McManus, for suggesting that breaking an unjust law was something she – and the trade union movement – would be prepared to do.

Keane points out that reporters who regularly publish stories from leaked documents are breaking the law. He skewered Turnbull and the Liberals by pointing out that the whole of the NSW branch of the party contravened political donation laws and he noted that employers (bosses) regularly flout the tax laws, the employment law and occupational health and safety regulations in pursuit of profit.

But it goes further than this.

The legal system is not a level playing field. For the rich and the powerful (bosses) changing a law you don’t like is easy — all you have to do is pick up the phone and make an appointment to see Malcolm or a senior minister.

Paying too much tax? Easy, get the tax rate dropped

Hate paying your staff penalty rates to work unsociable hours? Easy, get the government to stack the Fair Work Commission and change the laws.

Don’t like the power unions have on your building site? Easy, give the Liberals a donation and they’ll reconstitute the ABCC.

However, if you’re a trade unionist these avenues are closed to you — just ask the Victorian firefighters if you don’t believe me.

The law is not handed down on silver platters from on-high, never to be changed, amended or tampered with.

The law is a plaything and a useful tool of control for the rich and powerful (bosses). They can change it on a whim, we are stuck with it — unless we are prepared to break it, to challenge it publicly, to mount a campaign and to defy it.

If it wasn’t for people breaking unjust laws – people like me and you – there would be no votes for women, there would be no eight-hour day, there would be children working in coal mines and there would be no penalty rates to be cut.

Street protests were illegal during the Vietnam War, but we protested anyway and we stopped the war.

Street marches were illegal under Joh Bjelke-Petersen’s government, but we marched anyway, and we won.

Fuck stupid unjust laws, fuck ‘em until they are unworkable. Then fuck ‘em again till they’re repealed.

Oh … and if you’re a journalist who pontificates on this stuff and joins the “tut-tut” brigade, don’t drink and drive, don’t lead the cops on a merry chase around southern NSW until you decide you’ll pull over; don’t use your phone while driving and stop taking recreational drugs on the weekend.

And by the way, did you fill in the 2016 census form correctly?

Didn’t think so; but you blamed it on the hacking and denial-of-service attacks, didn’t you?

You can read more by IA’s political editor Dr Martin Hirst on his blog Ethical Martini and follow him on Twitter @ethicalmartini.

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Australia License

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