Jun 222007
 

Ex-Customs official spared jail

Allan Kessing may have been spared jail, but he has a conviction recorded against his name which morally should never have presented itself. As has been stated elsewhere, he deserves to be feted for what he did. Not castigated by the law.


Kessing ran foul of what David Marr so accurately identified in his Quarterly Essay as his view of Howard government policies having stifled freedom of speech and corrupted public debate in Australia.
Now, I should preface any further comments with the fact that I’m quite at home with Marr’s opinions on many, many matters. I find his perspectives to be common sense and egalitarian, and especially socio-democratic. At $14.95 I reckon this edition will make excellent reading. I’ve already had a taste of what might be contained within, from a listen to the May 31 podcast of Radio National’s Late Night Live, where Marr, and self-declared staunch Libertarian, Andrew McIntyre ‘discussed’ Marr’s postulations of Howardian censorship of public debate in Australia over the past eleven years.
If you’re a listener to LNL, either live or recorded, you’ve probably already heard the broadcast. I’m a little behind at the moment, but must say I enjoy the robust exchange very much. I can’t say I was impressed to any degree by the arguments put forward by McIntyre, countering Marr’s views. Rather McIntyre effectively neutered his own arguments by playing the man, rather than the ball, but then again, his kind usually do. If you’ve not had the pleasure, do download & take in some auditory entertainment.
But back to the issue at hand, I’m please Kessing wasn’t subjected to the full force of the technicality he ran into, even if the law does hold provision to treat him more harshly than it has. Clearly the beak in charge recognised Kessings leaking of the Customs reports to The Australian, as being to society’s benefit rather than it’s detriment. Nine months suspended sentence is the proverbial slap over the wrist, even though Kessing had to wait two years for the relief it must bring to he and his family. This kind of issue is precisely what David Marr writes about. Political pressure being brought to bear on government instrumentalities to silence critics and hide potential embarrassments due to government inefficiencies. Max Moore-Wilton and his crew deserved to be held to account by Kessings revelations. One wonders if we’d have seen Sir John Wheeler or his report, had Kessing not acted as he did.
The disturbing element of the Howard government’s history of impinging on public debate which it doesn’t want or can’t control, is that it’s unlikely to end with any change of government later this year. The benchmarks have been laid, and I don’t really see Labor being a whole lot different in that regard. Secrecy has become political security for politicians. We are just as much to blame for allowing that secrecy to exist. As the introduction to Marr’s essay states,

In His Masters Voice, David Marr investigates both a decade of suppression and the strange willingness of Australians to watch, with such little angst, their liberties disappear.

Have we been beaten around the head & shoulders so often, or frightened so much that we’re now immune to such tactics? One would hope not, but I wonder.