Letter to the editor: Fears versus freedoms

We’re often told that those who have nothing to hide have nothing to fear. We trade the comfort of “increased security” against a loss of freedom and increased oversight from our governments and police. We trust special powers will be used wisely against “terrorists” or “extremists” and they are not for people like us.

Justin Field MLC. Photo: NSW Greens

Justin Field MLC. Photo: NSW Greens

Well, the lesson of history is that freedoms surrendered are hard won back, if at all, and maybe one day these powers will be used against our neighbours. Maybe one day they will even be used against us.

Over the past week or more we’ve had government plans for driver’s licence photos and details to be recorded in a national facial recognition database. 

We’ve also learned cameras will scan the crowd and recording identities at the Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast in April and facial or palm scans will be trialled for access to Brisbane public transport.

On the face of it, these may seem like small encroachments on our daily privacy. Taken together, and with the suite of tougher measures since 9/11, it is a massive reach into our right to privacy that should concern us all.

The NSW Premier was alert but not alarmed, by the announcement of a federal facial recognition database, making our driver’s licence a default ID card. 

In her own words: “I think all of us have had to accept that our civil liberties from time to time aren't what they used to be in order to protect public safety,” she said.

My question to the Premier and the Prime Minister and other leaders is – how far do we go? How much do we trade until we have given up the very thing we’ve been saying we are defending all along?

If we can’t walk down the street, drive our cars, catch public transport or attend a sporting match without being recorded, assessed and kept on record – what have we achieved?

We can’t ever remove all risk from our lives, but we risk ending up in a gilded cage of our own making by trying. Safe, but never free.

Justin Field MLC, Greens Member of the NSW Legislative Council