A threat to freedom
By UTE SCHULENBERG
"FREEDOM of speech is not sedition."
This message may soon appear on the bumper bar of a car near you, along with its companion, 'freedom of speech is not terrorism'.
On Saturday a crowd of more than 75 people voted on the wording of the stickers as part of their grassroots action against the Howard Government's antiterrorism legislation.
The crowd, which gathered at the Bellingen Organic Markets, heard that under the Federal Government's proposed legislation, the definition of sedition now includes 'urging disaffection against the government'.
Uniting Church minister Reverend Chris Lockley said such a broad definition was a direct threat to freedom of speech.
"Under this definition people are prevented from expressing their opinion," Rev. Lockley said.
"We are gathered here because we are disaffected. Will such action carry a jail term in the future?"
One woman wondered how the laws would affect election campaigns.
"Campaigns are all about disaffection. These laws are under- mining the democratic process," she said.
Mr Lockley said there were already examples of the government acting to curtail artistic freedom.
"In Wagga this week an art gallery was contacted by the Prime Minister's Department about a painting that showed John Howard, Phillip Ruddock and Amanda Vanstone all with their lips sewn shut," he said.
"The department wanted to know whether the gallery had Commonwealth funding for the exhibition!"
A protest letter to government ministers was signed by those at the meeting. The group will meet in two weeks time.