Silencing Dissent: How the Australian government is controlling public opinion and stifling debate

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Clive Hamilton, Sarah Maddison
Allen & Unwin, 2007 - Political Science - 300 pages
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Silencing Dissent is a timely, disturbing and unnerving book'

from the foreword by Robert Manne

For over a decade, the Howard government has found ways to silence its critics, one by one. Like the proverbial frog in boiling water, Australians have become accustomed to repeated attacks on respected individuals and organisations. For a government which claims to support freedom of speech and freedom of choice, only certain kinds of speech and choices appear to be acceptable.

Silencing Dissent uncovers the tactics used by John Howard and his colleagues to undermine dissenting and independent opinion. Bullying, intimidation, public denigration, threats of withdrawal of funding, personal harassment, increased government red tape and manipulation of the rules are all tools of trade for a government that wants to keep a lid on public debate. The victims are charities, academics, researchers, journalists, judges, public sector organisations, even parliament itself.

Deeply disturbing, Silencing Dissent raises serious questions about the state of democracy in Australia.

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Selected pages


1 Dissent in Australia
2 Redefining democracy
3 Universities
4 The research community
5 Nongovernment organisations
6 The media
7 The public service
8 Statutory authorities
9 The military and intelligence services
10 The Senate
11 Signs of resistance
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Popular passages

Page 224 - The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.
Page 31 - The time has come to abandon the assumption that the problem of politics is the problem of promoting discussion among all the interests concerned in a given problem. Discussion frequently complicates social difficulties, for the discussion by far-flung interests arouses a psychology of conflict which produces obstructive, fictitious, and irrelevant values.
Page 83 - There is a frustrated mainstream in Australia today which sees government decisions increasingly driven by the noisy, selfinterested clamour of powerful vested interests with scant regard for the national interest...
Page xiv - Professor in the School of Politics and International Relations at the University of New South Wales.
Page 54 - It is the function of the university to offer not merely a technical or specialist training but a full and true education, befitting a free man and the citizen of a free country.
Page i - They say if you drop a frog in a pot of boiling water, it will, of course, frantically try to scramble out.
Page 54 - ... be proof against the waves of emotion and prejudice which make the ordinary man, and public opinion, subject from time to time to illusion and self-deceit...
Page 61 - That which can be seen with the eye is form and colour; that which can be heard with the ear is sound and noise. But alas ! the people of this generation think that form, and colour, and sound, and noise, are means by which they can come to understand the essence of TAO. This is not so. And as those who know, do not speak, while those who speak do not know, whence should the world derive its knowledge ?' The first half of this last sentence has been pitchforked a propos de bottes into ch.
Page 107 - The dimensions of the control it imposes impedes quite unreasonably the possible flow of information to the community information which, without possibly prejudicing the interests of the Commonwealth, could only serve to enlarge the public's knowledge and understanding of the operation, practices and policies of executive government.

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About the author (2007)

Clive Hamilton is the executive director of the Australia Institute and author of the bestsellers Growth Fetish and Affluenza.

Sarah Maddison lectures in the School of Politics and International Relations at the University of NSW and is author of Activist Wisdom.

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