O’Brien on Authoritarianism – 19 August 2021

Kerry O’Brien Alarmed by Authoritarian Drift

Remarks by the long-time host of ABC’s 7:30 Report and later Four Corners,
in the Four Corners Anniversary Program of 19 August 2021,
republished in The Sydney Morning Herald on 23 August 2021:

“The lockdowns themselves have been necessary and not a direct threat to robust journalism. But I’m concerned that the imagery of such a substantial and aggressive use of police action coupled with the increasing military presence of uniformed soldiers in the streets of our cities and manning border roadblocks will become more acceptable to the public generally, and set an unfortunate precedent.

“If political leaders take comfort now in sharing platforms with police and military commanders to enhance their own authority, and feel there is some political benefit in doing so, they’ll be tempted to do it again in the future, and it becomes a part of the normal fabric of politics, which it shouldn’t.

“I’d be less concerned if we hadn’t seen a steady erosion of civil liberties over the past 20 years, but we have.

“Every year, there are more changes to national security laws; every year there is much greater access both at a government and commercial private level to our private lives and in the accumulation of data,” he said. “The Freedom of Information laws, which were originally introduced by the Whitlam government to try and create a greater culture of openness within government, are diminishing in front of our eyes.

“There are all these strictures that are creeping into our society, which I think are a serious worry.”