For many people issues of human rights, social justice and counter-terrorism legislation are issues that might occasionally arise but don’t pervade their life. For Mark Rix these issues are the focus of much of his research, research which given the current political and social landscape post 9/11 seems all too relevant.
Mark Rix is a senior lecturer at The Sydney Business School and the University of Wollongong. Despite his work in the business school, much of his research focuses on the legalities of human rights and terrorism laws in both Australia and abroad. This interest he claims stems from his early work on the Management committee at the Illawarra legal center, this is where he began “Researching into Justice and the role of the community legal sector”. This though was just the beginning of Mark’s research, as from here he delved into counter-terrorism measures, how this impedes on human rights and how often in the face of a terrorist threat, or supposed threat our laws become arbitrary.
Many of Mark’s papers propose different measures, that he and at times other academics believe should be taken. In our interview he expressed a desire to see lawmakers tackle terrorism as a social problem, stating terrorism laws are based on “to much deterrence, to much prevention and not enough focus on justice.” He often cites the case of Mohamed Haneef as a prime example of too much, and un-just prevention.
The question of how necessary counter-terrorism laws are is always the point of conjecture, with no one conclusive answer. Rix admits that there is a need for counter-terrorism measures but is dubious about the implications on human rights and the secrecy involved in intelligence gathering. Mark himself stated governments need “more transparency and accountability”, stating that the two “go together”. Given the recent Australia Indonesia spying debacle one could see merit in what Mark says about transparency and accountability. Whilst the question of how much transparency is needed is still something Mark is unsure of, he is certain that at present Australia and many other nations don’t have enough transparency in it’s intelligence gathering operations. To sum up this sentiment Mark stated, “It comes down to how much secrecy do we need and if there is so much secrecy how can we ever make a judgment”.
Mark is also an advocate of human rights, something that is often touched upon in his articles. He believes that Australia having never adopted a Bill of Rights is at odds with human rights, however he does admit that often even in a country such as America where there is a Bill of Rights it is often overlooked. Whilst often legislation created in the wake of 9/11 in Australia, such as a Witness Non-disclosure statement, is often not used Mark believes the problem is more that “the legislation is there and can be used”.
Mark Rix’s research certainly bears relevance to the issues of the day and should be considered very authoritative. There are still many questions regarding the balance of human rights and counter terrorism, but Mark still doesn’t believe the right balance has been struck. Maybe in time his ideal of more transparency and accountability will become a reality of policy making.