PM Transcripts

Transcripts from the Prime Ministers of Australia

Transcript 2601


Photo of McMahon, William

McMahon, William

Period of Service: 10/03/1971 to 05/12/1972

More information about McMahon, William on The National Archive website.

Release Date: 24/05/1972

Release Type: Broadcast

Transcript ID: 2601

EMBA--GO~ 1,7T FOR RBhLEASF BEFORW 5. 30 m.( EST) ~~ 17
L I Btpal
By the P-rime -M-is ter, The Pt lion.
William " Ar111hon, C11, MP. 2.4 " AY 19 07 2
Of late, we have heard a great deal a&-out the problem of
freedom under the law, and what it means.
Democracy and the guarantee of individlual human ri-ghts to
freedom and inderendence dernend on two concents. They are: the rule of
law and thne maintenance of p~ ubli'% c ord! er;-and kegu] Lar free Parliamentary
elections. The rule of law means that everybody has equal freedom and
equal rights under Jlavs t-hich are administered fairly, impartially and
honestly. That mcans freedom for ' cvcry*) ody, without any sort of discrimination.
To be effective' the rule of law requires discipline and the
use of sanctions which, in turn, require legal enforcement. That is what
the maintenance of nublic order means.
It is truly said that witi-out law is without liberty. When w,-
speak of freedom we mean your freedom under the It is not a licence
to do as you please without reastraint, or without respect for the rights
of othe-rs. For some, particularly zsore young neo ple, these ideas may now
seem dull and boring. For somo*. it may seoem fashionable or exciting to
becom3 involved with the' so-callad conscientious breaking of tho law,
through civil disobedience. Such * po'le are easily exploited and
manipulated by a small hard-core group of militant activists hecause of
their relatively innocent Political idealism. Thi. s hard--core group
makes no pretence whatsoevor of rcsnect for t'he law or concern for
democracy, although as -most of us know, thcy ful. ly exp~ loit democratic
fre; e doms to oreach their own nronacaanda.
Our political op~ ponents try to ridicule and degrade froedom
undcir the law with a smokescreen of self righteousncss, or wvith attacks
on the nolice. Let11 us look at the facts about this kind of civil dis.-
obedionce. In 19i79, thore wer 18 such i4ncide--nts throughout Australia,
In 19170, total was 3A. In 1971, it morc than doubled to 88. 1972
is going to be much worse:. This month alono, there have:_ boen 16 incidents,
almost as many as for the 171olce of 1969. ./ 2

Of these at least 25 per cent are claimed by self-styled
" liberation army" groups. These grouns have a distinct terrorist flavour
and their aim is destruction rather than dissent.
The foremost objective of the Liberal Party platform is " An
Australian Nation Dedicated to Political Liberty and the Freedom and
Dignity of Man". We believe in the right of dissent. But dissent must
be within the law. Repeated campaigns of civil disobedience of the kind
I have mentioned tend to weaken the authority of the law. It is the
old story of dripping water. Each particular act may not be important
in itself but each one does its bit to bring the whole notion of the
rule of law into contempt, and each act encourages the idea that the
law can be brushed aside or crushed if it interferes with political
objectives of others. That is where we differ so strongly from today's
Labor Party. So I want to emphasise that Labor deliberately promotes and
oublicises the notion that if a law interferes with oolitical purposes,
it can be brushed aside. What a contrast between today's Labor leadership
and when John Cur-in led the Labor Party He said it would be
treading on dangerous soil to set the Labor Party up as a non lawobserving
party by accepting a policy of revolt against the law.
Many Australians must wonder why, and how, the Labor Party
abandoned John Curtin's principles.
Last year we amended the Commonwealth law about -public order,
and one of Australia's leading constitutional lawyers an acknowledged
expert commented " The underlying theory of all these provisions is that neaceful
assembly and procession should be allowed, but not to the
extent of nersistent occunation or sit-in.
" This", he said, " Won't please the many contemporary'civil
libertarians who are prepared to give the demonstration
priority over all other public occupations, but I should
think it corresponds to the majority view on the proper
limits of civil nrotest.'
We think the same way that is why we strengthened the law.
These principles are the guarantee of your freedom.
That is why we stand for freedom and liberty within the
authority of the law.
The law is there to protect you.

Transcript 2601