The Australian, 07 Sep 1968, p8
THE COUNCIL for Civil Liberties in South Australia has come out roaring like a dove with an attack of tonsillitis.
Scientology is not the kind of cult that invites the heroic defensive gesture on the part of idealists and the watchdogs of basic human rights.
Scientologists claim that in Victoria they were subject to a kangaroo court, despite the protracted proceedings of the Anderson inquiry which preceded the legislative ban on their activities.
In South Australia, on the basis of statements this week by the Premier, the Chief Secretary, and Mr Andrew Jones, they are soon going to find out what a kangaroo court is really like. On Monday, the Chief Secretary, Mr de Garis, announced he was considering legislation to ban Mr Ron Hubbard's particular brand of mumbo-jumbo.
Mr Jones was particularly elated at the prospect of a hanging without a trial. "The Government is to be congratulated on its initiative in moving in this direction without creating a hullabaloo and putting the public to expense by having another commission," he said.
Despite the terrifying jubilation of Mr Jones, few South Australians thought legal action would be taken without the adducing of specific regional evidence, or the chance being given for individual scientologists to defend themselves against such charges.
South Australia takes enough pride in its parliamentary constitution and its individual common law apparatus not to advance the argument that what may be deemed established in the context of another State is also proven without any individual process of justice in the South Australian context.
But on Wednesday, the Premier, Mr Hall, announcing a coming bill on scientology, startled the sluggish consciences of the Athenians of the South by declaring: "I see no need for a select committee because there is no doubt in my mind that the scientology group which operated in Victoria was no different from the group here now."
Mr Hall and Mr de Garis, with the frenetic assistance of Dobber Jones, as he is nicknamed in his home town, had decided to act as prosecutor, judge, jury and hangman.
However, the proposed bill may not have as easy a passage as Mr Hall imagines. There are rumblings of disquiet at a number of levels in the South Australian community. Legal theorists are not all that happy at a bill which proposes to ban a set of ideas, no matter how crackpot, in order to eliminate breaches of common law such as blackmail or intimidation.
It is a slur on the effectiveness of the ordinary but competent procedures of the legal apparatus.
The general public is more concerned about the Premier's stated grounds for legislating against scientology in South Australia. His public statement on the matter is limited to a declaration that "Scientology is an extraordinary mixture of mythology and paranoid fantasy."
If this is all that is required to satisfy the public that a prohibition of one species of mumbo-jumbo is necessary, it's the very thin edge of the democratic wedge. There are numerous organisations in South Australia which manifest similar crackpot intellectual symptoms. Who gets the chopper next?
Some South Australians believe this rather totalitarian precedent could even lead potentially to legislative action banning the thoughts of the individual. It is not impossible in such a context even to imagine a legislative act banning the existence of Mr Jones himself.
- MAX HARRIS