Orwell Down Under

I don’t normally comment on Aussie affairs, as our esteemed colleague Down Under usually handles that so well, but another blogger’s Tweet about this case caught my eye yesterday.

Broadcaster Derryn Hinch has been sentenced to five months’ home detention and a wide-ranging media ban for breaching a suppression order that prohibited the naming of two sex offenders.

Australia takes disobedience to the rulings of their courts very seriously, it seems:

Under the sentence handed down this morning, the long-time journalist has been banned from carrying out any media work, using social media, engaging in interviews or publishing any material electronically.

Yes, they have decided he cannot, by law, earn a living, despite failing to sentence him to a prison term:

Magistrate Charlie Rozencwajg also banned him from having others carry out media-related tasks for him.

And how is that supposed to be enforced?

3AW program director Clark Forbes said he was ‘‘totally devastated’’ by the sentence and had expected Hinch to get no more than three months’ home detention.‘‘I think it’s particularly shattering for him because he’s been silenced,’’ Mr Forbes told 3AW.

‘‘Even if he was in jail you would probably imagine he would be able to communicate.

‘‘It’s really a double whammy, he’s not only confined to quarters as it were, he’s silenced, they’ve taken away this person’s absolute right to make any comment on anything.’’

Disobey a court order down under, and they really go to town!

And no, they won’t tell you what’s likely to break a court order, either…

Hinch’s lawyer, Nicholas Pullen, said they would consider appealing some aspects of the order.

He was unclear whether a 60 Minutes program, due to feature Hinch, would air on Sunday night.

Mr Forbes said it would be ‘‘absolutely ridiculous’’ if the 60 Minutes segment could not air as it had been filmed before the sentencing.

Mr Rozencwajg said he would not make a ruling on whether the program could go to air.

Hinch commented from his seat that the program was ‘‘a medical story’’, but Mr Rozencwajg was unwilling to comment on whether showing it would breach the order.

‘‘I’ve made the order I’ve made and I will not respond to your query,’’ he said.

‘‘It might contravene the order…but I’m not going to give a declaratory ruling on it.’’

In other words ‘Do you feel lucky, punk? Well, do ya?’.

And anyone wondering if there’s something behind this draconian sentence, well, far be it from me to point out that there just might well be:

Today, Mr Rozencwajg said it was ironic Hinch had campaigned against home detention orders and suspended sentences.He urged Hinch to consider this irony when discussing the judicial system in future.

“You may very well be the last person in this state to be sentenced to a home detention order in its current form.”

Translation: ‘This might be the only time I get to do this, so take that!’

10 comments for “Orwell Down Under

  1. Lord T
    July 24, 2011 at 6:01 pm

    Nice to see all the Western countries are up to the same things on their citizens. Only New Zealand to go.

  2. Paul
    July 24, 2011 at 6:32 pm

    That’s really very frightening. It’s only a short period of time, most likely, until such measures are regularly taken against everyday people. How long? A couple of years, perhaps?

    Indeed, some of the authoritarianism that comes out of Australia is shocking – not just film (and game) censorship, but Internet and other kinds too.

    • July 24, 2011 at 6:52 pm

      If it makes you feel better the Aussies do ignore a fair bit of it. Well, some of them do. Much of the authoritarianism relating to the internet is practically unenforceable anyway, and the big government filter is on hold while instructions on how to bypass the ‘voluntary’ ones put in by a couple of ISPs came out very quickly after the filters themselves. However, it’s true that we’re stuck with two mobs of paternalist politicians, who both think they know what’s best for everyone, taking it in turns to run the place and being massive tools when they do. In many ways it’s just like home but with better weather. 😉

      • Paul
        July 24, 2011 at 6:58 pm

        True – and in fact some films that are available uncut in Australia are cut or banned here and vice versa. The unbearably cheesy Love Camp 7 and the very sleazy I Spit On Your Grave are good examples.

        In many ways it’s just like home but with better weather.

        And no real ale. And people with funny accents. 😉

        • July 24, 2011 at 7:11 pm

          And all called Bruce :mrgreen:

          • July 24, 2011 at 8:35 pm

            Except for the ones called Sheila. 😀

        • Twenty_Rothmans
          July 25, 2011 at 1:28 pm

          You’ve named two of my favourites. There’s also Baise Moi, Bad boy Bubby, Necromantik and Penetration Angst.

          A pal of mine had some DVDs seized by the Bundessomethingorother. You have to ask yourself – just how hard must they have been?

          Hinch has form from a long, long time ago – he was banged up in the 80s ISTR.

          >publishing any material electronically.
          Unless he’s evolved, even saying one word could be deemed to have been electronic.

          >Today, Mr Rozencwajg said
          I think this chap has a bug in his ass because of the fun he must have saying ‘Romeo Alpha Zulu Echo November Charlie Whisky Alpha Juliet Golf’ on the ‘phone all the bloody time, and subsequently adding: “No, I am sober, and this isn’t a prank call”.

          They say that you shouldn’t use anything guessable as a password, but a supercomputer could spend years trying to crack how that name is spelt.

  3. July 24, 2011 at 6:45 pm

    It sometimes comes as a surprise to people who bang about constitutions a lot that Australia has a constitution and freedom of speech is one of only very many natural freedoms that it doesn’t guarantee.

    • July 25, 2011 at 5:50 am

      That’s a surprise to me!

      • July 25, 2011 at 9:29 am

        There are only two or three freedoms guaranteed by the Aussie constitution – I think religious freedom is one but I can’t recall the others off the top of my head. It’s basically a document laying out how the government functions, the roles of the various parts of it including Mrs Queen and her representatives at national and state level, the relationship between the Commonwealth of Australia and the states and territories, yadda yadda yadda. There’s nothing like the US Bill of Rights in it, possibly because the Yanks had to fight for independence from Britain and Australia, a collection of even younger colonies which pushed for independence more than a century later (and which wanted to keep many ties anyway), had it granted.

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