Why reading legislation isn’t boring

There is often talk about wanting to change the system or that a certain component within the system is broken and must be fixed. However, when you look at the original premise of a particular Act it may actually be sound in its objectives. Where it can go wrong is in the implementation or amendment stages. Also, if you are unaware of the legislation then it makes it easier for governments to disregard the intent of the objectives. As the majority always holds the balance of power, many distractions are employed to make sure they don’t take it upon themselves to be informed.

This is where reading legislation comes in as it helps to hold governments accountable and gives citizens the ability to protect themselves from misinformation. And where necessary change the system.

Furthermore, when legislation is dealt with only by the ruling class then it is evidently written to enrich them while forcing the majority into servitude.

The good news is that it is all there, hidden in plain sight just waiting for you to discover it. All easily accessible through government websites. Here is one I suggest you start with to see where it leads. www.legislation.gov.au

Then click on “What’s New” on the left-hand bar, then click “Bill” in middle of screen and then pick a date from the dropdown, then select any that piques your interest. Those that were introduced on the 24th of August 2018 include the Australian multicultural Bill 2018. From there scroll down to Section 3. Definitions In this act – Australia’s multicultural policy: see section 10. This is a good read in relation to understanding the true objectives and if you then compare it to what is said in the news and what comes out of some politicians mouths it is hard to see how they intend to actually achieve these objectives. And therefore the question must be asked are they even really trying to achieve them?

A further dig takes you down to Part 2 – Section 7. Alternative constitutional basis. 3 (c) “the international covenant on Civil and Political Rights done in New York on 16 December 1966 ([1980] ATS 23)” enter this into your search bar click on International Convent on Civil and Political Rights – Treaties Australian Implementation Requirements, scroll down to Human Rights Commission Act 1981 (No 24 of 1981) click on this and even a quick browse will reveal the need to create a world that fosters the human ideal of freedom;

“Recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world, Recognizing that these rights derive from the inherent dignity of the human person, Recognizing that, in accordance with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights , the ideal of free human beings enjoying civil and political freedom and freedom from fear and want can only be achieved if conditions are created whereby everyone may enjoy his civil and political rights, as well as his economic, social and cultural rights,”

If freedom in this context is the prerequisite for peace which ultimately provides for the best form of security, then it makes for some interesting reading when you relate it to matters such as the offshore detention of asylum seekers for instance. It may cause you to question if what is written into law is actually what is acted upon. And if it isn’t then what really is the legislation achieving if it is impossible to implement?

I know there is a substantial amount of fear mongering that is done in regard to asylum seekers and this can distract from the real issues. Which include the function of law, responsibilities as global citizens and accountability of the ruling class. For example if in the legislation that governs the people it states one is allowed to seek asylum due to fear of say political or religious persecution and then the government makes another law that requires entry to be done by only one method and failure to adhere to this method results in non-grant of asylum, and then government blocks refugee registry method “in November 2014 Australia announced it would no longer resettle refugees from Indonesia who had registered with the UNHCR in Jakarta after June 2014.” (Missbach. August 8, 2018. www.policyforum.net/falling-through-the-cracks)

Is the second law in contravention to the first? And if so then the question becomes what legislation governs the lawmakers to allow them to contravene the law?

What I am pointing out here is if the amendment to the original piece of legislation makes it harder or near impossible for the goals set out in the original legislation to be met, then an implementation problem has occurred. It has created a roadblock to achieving the objectives of the legislation that was meant to be good for humanity and freedom and in turn security. So, what are the hidden objectives of the legislation if it is blocked from being implemented?

If we fail to ask ourselves these hard questions, we put democracy at risk because we create a situation where “people don’t even know what they don’t know” (Noam Chomsky). This leaves us open to exploitation through misinformation, also known as propaganda.

Reading legislation ensures democracy can function because it then becomes the topic of conversation as opposed to say just which football team won on the weekend. Knowledge helps form opinion, opinions then form ideas and ideas can have consequences. As we can see from capitalism, communism, democracy etc these entire concepts were formed from ideas. Making knowledge very powerful stuff, even though the football game might be more fun legislation has the bigger impact on your life. It’s not a case of one or the other it is more about expanding on areas of interest.

Considering this importance, it might seem that watching the news would be enough to gather this information, it isn’t (unfortunately). As it can be told from a personal or business bias in some cases and in others it may not be detailed enough to convey the full story. Whereas written legislation is uncensored raw policy allowing you to build your own opinion? The news should supplement this as you can draw comparisons from what is written and what is said and then acted upon.

We can further see the pitfalls of only relying on the media for our information when we look at the US and despite all its democratic ideals it has officially been downgraded to a flawed democracy (The Economist Intelligence Unit. 2017. http://dagobah.com.br/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/Democracy_Index_2017.pdf). And no not because Trump is president, it is due to their loss of public funded media, it has all been privatised. Leading to the information being put out comprising of a message that must support the business agenda that it works under. Some grassroots media will still exist, but it will struggle to have its voice heard. Perhaps this is why they are trying to get rid of the ABC in Australia because “those that set the agenda win the debate” (Noam Chomsky) and it becomes the ‘manufacturing of consent’ (Chomsky. 1992. Manufacturing Consent) by the manipulation of information. Ideas are then formed not from real information but rather misinformation, otherwise known as propaganda. Not that the ABC is really left leaning at all, it is simply that it does have the ability to do real investigative journalism should it choose to and that poses a real threat to neo-liberalism.

The argument that within a democratic country like Australia your life is determined by your own actions of free will and choice hides the influence of legislation. We all accept that we must have certain rules of law to keep society functioning so we must acknowledge that our freedom and choices are influenced by legislation. Obviously, I am not arguing that legislation is bad because it impacts on freedom, I am making the point of the importance it has in shaping your life. In this way it is not boring to read about what is influencing the way you live.

The way legislation is worded and implemented will be a contributing factor to the types of opportunities that will be presented to a person(s). From the opportunities made available to the person(s) choices will then be made.

You may think I’m too tired to read that mountain of over complicated paperwork. Watching a game of football is much more entertaining compared to the huge amount of legislation that absolutely does discourage inquiry. However, this isn’t school there isn’t going to be a test at the end you don’t have to read it all, just pick an area of interest or something you have heard about on the news and see where that leads. It also makes for interesting conversations.

I know that we are taught ‘no politics at the table’ but I often wonder about this because we are never told no football talk at the table. Actually, it can be what makes up the majority of polite conversation these days. Considering how passionate people are about their football team then if we can trust ourselves to have a polite and civil conversation about football surely, we can trust ourselves to talk about the latest legislation that is going to be introduced. Getting another perspective should not be feared, when it could have the ability to promote a more inclusive and better functioning system. So perhaps change starts at the dinner table, just a thought.

We can be tempted to think we should leave these sorts of conversations to those who are making the legislation as they are meant to benefit the country as a whole. Yet I can’t help but ask the question; can they always do this and still get past what is in their own best interest?

Not really sure the evidence supports that? And then the expectation might at times be a bit high. The best safety net is then to inform yourself. Especially for those that would like to see change, you must first understand what you are fighting against and where the problems exist.

In short reading even a little bit of legislation provides the best protection for democracy, makes politicians accountable and is a great fact check resource. Especially for when you suspect a government department might be trying to pull the wool over your eyes by acting as a gatekeeper. It’s not about going through piles and piles of paperwork it’s about reading it when you need the facts. This is an empowering tool that starts the conversation for change as it is a way to uncover the truth and “the truth can set you free but first it will piss you off” (Steinmen 2015).

Some poems inspired by my reading and research of legislation. You can also see my poetry prints and poetry art prints in my online shop.

The Truth Cannot be forgotten

Stand it on its head
Spin it, until disorientated
Turn your back on it
Lay it down to die
Bury it in the paperwork
Lose it to carelessness
Throw it out with the trash
It still bobs to the surface
The cheerful friend…
Always ready to progress forward
The dignity of trust we all deserve
And the best companion of freedom

The truth cannot be forgotten
It is in memory’s service
Unless the mind is lost,
It will always be there

No Integrity to their Written Word

For I have held it up
In black and white
Watched it disintegrate
Wept over its disservice

Pondered words without meaning
With their false sense of security
Armed to discourage outrage
These words of weightless blockades

The secret code to oppose
Any chance to correct
Destructive facilities are not serviceable
As the silent witness will testify

The Alien Refugee

I am told they are not found
Until at least a human tries to flee
From one land across a sea
Then the threat is unreal

The guns come out to greet
These humans from the same planet
The alien now declared real
These illegal aliens with human hearts

Travelling to seek refuge
From a home unsafe to stay
Saddened to need a new home
Unlucky to find the lucky may not share

This shared planet earth
With plenty to share in diversity
Amongst a group of human beings
But no aliens live here on Earth

Camille Barr

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