Thursday, September 02, 2004

Advocacy is not terrorism

I'm constantly appalled by the right's eagerness to fling charges of "treason" at anyone who disagrees with them, and sadly our local right-wing bloggers are no exception. In response to last week's comments by Margaret Mutu, MyRight suggested that she be prosecuted for terrorism, under the Terrorism Suppression Act 2002. I suggest that he should actually read the legislation. While he has correctly quoted section 5 (2), which says that terrorism is about inducing terror or compelling governments, he seems to have missed the part where it says that a terrorist act must be "1 or more of the outcomes specified in subsection (3)". What are those "outcomes"? Subsection 5 (3) is fairly specific:

(3) The outcomes referred to in subsection (2) are -

(a) the death of, or other serious bodily injury to, 1 or more persons (other than a person carrying out the act):

(b) a serious risk to the health or safety of a population:

(c) destruction of, or serious damage to, property of great value or importance, or major economic loss, or major environmental damage, if likely to result in 1 or more outcomes specified in paragraphs (a), (b), and (d):

(d) serious interference with, or serious disruption to, an infrastructure facility, if likely to endanger human life:

(e) introduction or release of a disease-bearing organism, if likely to devastate the national economy of a country.

So unless she kills people, blows stuff up, or poisons sheep, Mutu isn't a terrorist. But I guess MyRight didn't bother to read that bit.

But what about threats? Didn't Mutu threaten to do some of the above? This is covered by subsection 5 (5):

(5) To avoid doubt, the fact that a person engages in any protest, advocacy, or dissent, or engages in any strike, lockout, or other industrial action, is not, by itself, a sufficient basis for inferring that the person -

(a) is carrying out an act for a purpose, or with an intention, specified in subsection (2); or

(b) intends to cause an outcome specified in subsection (3).

The law explicitly states that advocacy, by itself, does not constitute terrorism. There must be evidence of actual participation in a conspiracy, not just protests or vague threats. I guess MyRight didn't bother to read that bit either.

But what if, for the sake of argument, we granted MyRight's underlying contention that advocacy is terrorism and changed the law to suit? This would certainly allow Mutu to be prosecuted - but the second person into the dock would be Don Brash. His comments in Australia can certainly be seen as a deliberate attempt to cause "major economic loss" for political gain, and as a former Governor of the Reserve Bank, there is no question that he knew exactly what he was doing. What's good for the goose is good for the gander, after all; if Mutu should be prosecuted, then so should Brash.

Strangely, I don't think MyRight will be so keen on adopting a consistent stance on this matter...