In Democracy, Politics

In Western Australia, the Iron Ore Processing Agreement Amendment Act provides the Premier and his Attorney General exemption from the criminal law and civil liabilities.

Clause 12 of the Act provides that decisions and actions in relation to certain government decisions cannot be appealed.

It adds that “the Rules known as the rules of natural justice (including any duty of procedural fairness) do not apply to, or in relation to, any conduct of the State that is, or is connected with, a disputed matter”.

In addition, this Act prevents citizens from obtaining information about what the Western Australian government is doing to hold it accountable. Indeed, such a legislation seeks to make documents connected to a “disputed matter” exempt from freedom of information association laws and grants criminal immunity to the State and its agents.  

The Premier now has power to make laws via executive diktats, without reference to Parliament.

The Western Australian Parliament has also passed the Emergency Management Amendment (COVID-19 Response) Bill.

Under this Act, State authorities can issue directions to a “class” or group of people, rather than an individual, and impose penalties of $12,000 fines and 12 months of imprisonment for non-compliance.

These extraordinary powers may last much longer than that of the duration of the pandemic. While these security powers can be used during a state of emergency, only one of these provisions carries a “sunset clause”, thus not guaranteeing their expiry with the end of the alleged emergency.

In other words, the Act allows for expanded security powers during an unlimited period of time. The Western Australian government can use, for an indefinite period of time, invasive technology to analyse, control and determine everyone’s actions according to a carefully designed plan.

As can be seen, this is not just a concern regarding people’s health during a time of epidemic. It is primarily about power and control by the ruling elites of Western Australia. For nothing can produce a police state more rapidly than such arbitrary measures.

In fact, as a constitutional lawyer I can confidently state that Western Australia is no longer a truly functional democracy, but is currently experiencing a disguised form of elected dictatorship.

Dr Augusto Zimmermann is Professor and Head of Law at Sheridan Institute of Higher Education in Perth, WA. He is editor of Fundamental Rights in the Age of Covid-19, a book published by Connor Court with contributions from leading law academics and policy makers.

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