The Senate on Thursday passed new laws giving law enforcement agencies the power to access the xylophones, glockenspiels, and other tuned percussion instruments of persons without having laid charges or suspecting such persons of committing a criminal offence.
The Government argued that the contentious laws strike the right balance between protecting the rights of citizens to enjoy melodious percussion music against the need for law enforcement agencies to protect ordinary Australians against the ever present threat of terror lurking beneath the pure, bell-like sounds, not unlike those made by non-polyphonic mobile ring tones.
‘I am proud to present the Tonal Communications (Interception) Amendment Bill 2006 for signature,’ said Prime Minister John Howard, in a boldly syncopated statement made in 4/4 time. ‘This Bill will protect the Australian people not only against the common xylophone, but also against more potent weapons such as the vibraphone, whose wavering sounds are similar to those made in a Muslim call to arms. A Muslim call to arms. Sorry, there was a repeat there.’
The Bill, which was considered and debated for whole hours in the House of Representatives and in the Senate, has been criticised by civil liberties activists and ragtime music enthusiasts alike. ‘OK, I can understand why we would want to monitor what people are playing on the xylophone. But what about some of the lesser-known instruments, such as the marimba? Do we really want our law enforcement agencies wasting their time and resources monitoring loser-instruments like that?’ said one activist.
Attorney-General Phillip Ruddock, in response, said that the only opposition to the proposal came from the far-Left, citing the use of the glockenspiel by so-called ‘progressive’ artists such as Radiohead, The Mars Volta and Kanye West.
‘I mean, have you heard that new Kanye song?’ asked Mr Ruddock, ‘ Mother-f***er, mother-f***er ping! Mother-f***er, mother-f***er ping! Is that the sort of sentiment we want in our country?’
New Matilda joins the opposition to this instrumentalist legislation. Chair of the New Matilda Board, John Menadue, commented ‘What we really need to think about is the value that our society places on the rights of citizens to freely express themselves in a range of melodies and rhythms. The Government says that these powers will only be used to intercept tonal percussive communications but where will it end? That is why we propose a Human Rights Act for Australia, which would require the Government to present a human rights impact statement done in the style of a NoÃ«l Coward musical with every Bill that might have an impact on musical liberties.’
About the Author
Emily Saluszinsky is a Bob Dylan fan, has read some books and barracks for Hawthorn
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