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The Right to March Movement protested against Bjelke-Petersen Government civil rights restrictions from 1977-80 (Image via workersbushtelegraph.com.au)

With Opposition Leader Annastacia Palaszczuk unveiling the ALP's law and order policy today, Queensland Council of Civil Liberties president Michael Cope releases political party responses to their pre-election questionnaire.

THE Queensland Council for Civil Liberties (the QCCL) is a non partisan organisation, which has as one of its objectives the education of Queenslanders about their human rights and civil liberties.

In 1983, I learned a number of things about politics. One of the most important was a lesson that I was taught by Terry White, which is that civil liberties issues are not on the radar when most people go to vote. The reality is that most election campaigns are about the “hip pocket nerve” issues, to borrow a phrase used by Ben Chifley

However, this election should be about civil liberties for two reasons. The first is the behaviour of the current government in its last term of office.

As a conservative Government, you might think the LNP would look favourably on liberties for which men and women have given their lives over centuries.

Instead, it has:

  1. Engaged in a knock them down drag them out fight with the judiciary.
  2. Attacked freedom of association with its so called anti-bikie legislation and restrictions on the political activities of unions.
  3. Thrown out the door the fundamental principle of juvenile justice that children are not the same as adults and need to be treated differently. A principle that has been established for at least a hundred years.
  4. Undermined due process by passing laws which make people guilty not on the basis of what they have done and intend to do but on the basis of who they know.
  5. Expanded further the cancerous growth of the use of secret evidence in our Courts and Tribunals.

The other reason civil liberties ought to figure is that this year will mark the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta. In amongst dealing with weirs on the river Thames and the Medway, that document established for the first time in the English speaking world (though the people who negotiated the deal were probably speaking French) that rulers are subject to the law and that citizens are entitled to the protection of the law so that they cannot be deprived of their liberty without due process.

The QCCL wrote to each of the seven registered political parties participating in this election and sought their views on ten issues. Only four of the parties had the basic good manners to respond. They were Family First, The Greens Party, the LNP and the Labor Party — although we did not receive the LNP response, dated 23 January 2015, until 27 January 2015.

I set out below the questions and the answers in summary form (some of the answers have an explanation and the full answers can be found on our website, www.qccl.org.au):

  1. Do you support the creation of an independent Judicial Commission to make recommendations as to the appointment and removal of judicial officers in this state?

FF – Qualified Yes; Greens – Yes; ALP – No; LNP – No.

  1. Do you support the repeal of the Vicious Lawless Association Disestablishment Act 2013 and of the Criminal Organisations Disruption Legislation of 2013?

FF, Greens & ALP – Yes; LNP – No

  1. Do you support a review of the above legislation by an independent body, such as the Queensland Law Reform Commission to assess whether or not it is necessary, effective and consistent with the principles of the rule of law and due process?

FF – Yes; Greens – Yes; ALP – No; LNP – No

  1. Do you support the restoration in our law of the principle that juveniles should be imprisoned as a last resort?

FF, Greens & ALP – Yes; LNP – No

  1. Do you support the restoration in our law of the principle that juvenile offenders should not be named publicly unless they have committed a heinous offence?

FF, Greens & ALP – Yes; LNP – No

  1. Do you support restoring to the Crime and Corruption Commission the power to conduct reviews and inquiries of its own initiative?

FF – Conditional Yes; Greens and ALP – Yes; LNP – No

  1. Do you support the establishment of the consultation in Queensland along the lines of the Brennan National Consultation on Human Rights to determine whether or not there is adequate protection in Queensland for our human rights and civil liberties and, in particular, whether Queensland needs a Human Rights Act?

FF – No; Greens – Yes; ALP – No; LNP – No

  1. Do you support the introduction in Queensland of a Human Rights Act similar to that presently the law in the Australian Capital Territory?

FF – No; Greens – Yes; ALP – No; LNP – No

  1. Do you support the establishment of a permanent committee of Parliament to review each piece of legislation and report on whether or not it complies with Australia’s international human rights obligations?

FF – No; Greens - Yes; ALP – It already happens; LNP – No

  1. Would you support a reference to the Queensland Law Reform Commission of abortion law in this state?

FF, Greens, ALP, LNP  – No (for very different reasons)

On 4 March 2014, Ms Palaszczuk described the VLAD laws as unworkable. She undertook to repeal them and have an inquiry to work out some replacement laws. On 21 January 2015, the ALP was still committed to repealing the laws. And yet, eight days later, on 29 January 2015 Ms Palaszczuk announced she would keep the laws and simply have an inquiry into them.

How can she justify keeping laws she has described as unworkable? These are laws which in our view strike at the heart of long established civil liberties.

As I have already said, the QCCL is not a partisan political organisation. We leave it to your judgment to determine how to cast your ballot and hope the answers the parties have given will assist you in doing so.

It would be nice to think that at least some people when they exercise that most precious right, the right to vote, will have in their minds not just that very important issue of who best will manage the economy but also who will best respect the institutions that are fundamental to our way of life as free citizens namely the rule of law and due process.

Find out more about the QCCL here. Follow Michael Cope on Twitter @michaelcope64.

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