Langer to stay behind bars

by Chris Griffith
Published 4 March 1996 in The Courier-Mail


my face


Jailed voting reform campaigner Albert Langer seems destined to remain behind bars despite the change in government yesterday.

During the campaign, Prime Minister-elect John Howard made an issue of his concern about the circumstances of Mr Langer's jailing. Mr Howard said the laws that led to the jailing were "very strange".

"Can I say Langer is about as far away from me politically as anybody could possibly get," he said. "I think the law, that present law really is foolish. I think those laws ought to be changed."

Langer is a revolutionary communist who in the early 1970s was well known as a prominent Victorian student leader in the Vietnam anti-war protest movement.

After winning the December 1972 federal election, the new Whitlam government rapidly ended Australia's involvement in Vietnam and immediately released the so- called draft dodgers -- those young people jailed for avoiding compulsory military service.

But yesterday a spokesperson for Mr Howard indicated the new coalition government did not have the same enthusiasm for unbolting prison cell doors.

The spokesman said it always had been Mr Howard's view that Mr Langer's jailing was a state matter.

Langer is serving a 10-week sentence at Melbourne's Pentridge prison for contempt after he breached a Supreme Court injunction granted to the Australian Electoral Commission.

A spokesman for Pentridge Prison yesterday said Mr Langer's appeal against the injunction had been dismissed in the Federal Court last week and he was expected to serve out his full sentence.

The injunction restrained him from advocating that voters rank both major parties equal last on their ballot papers. This could be achieved by placing the same number in the square beside a major party candidate's name.

A vote completed this way is counted, but promoting the method is prohibited by the Commonwealth Electoral Act.