Australian news, and some related international items

Bloggers vulnerable in Australia’s metadata retention bill.

civil-liberty-2smGeorge Brandis says Bloggers won’t be covered by Metadata Amendments MAR 18  by conspiracyoz Lanai Scarr BLOGGERS are unlikely to be covered by provisions protecting journalists in the government’s controversial metadata retention bill…… Prime Minister Tony Abbott yesterday agreed to amend the laws to ensure journalists be better protected under the bill amid fears investigative journalism would be stifled.

A further amendment will be moved requiring law enforcement agencies to obtain a warrant to access journalists’ metadata to identify a source.

But Senator Brandis said bloggers would not be covered by the provisions. “I wouldn’t regard bloggers as journalists,” Senator Brandis told ABC radio……Independent Senator Nick Xenophon said there should be provisions in the amendment that would ensure a journalist would know when a warrant was being issued.

He said Australia should follow the lead of the US on the laws.

“(Whistleblowers) won’t come forward if they don’t know they will be protected.

“It will have a chilling effect on investigative journalism.”

Under the government’s new data retention laws which it hopes to pass in the next sitting fortnight, Australian phone and internet providers will be required to store various customer metadata for up to two years for law-enforcement agencies’ access.

No warrant will be required to access the data, just an agencies’ senior officer’s sign off……..

March 21, 2015 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, civil liberties | Leave a comment

Western Australia government – new laws to stifle protest

civil-liberty-2smProtesters face new laws Daniel EmersonMarch 6, 2015, The Barnett Government has declared war on radical protesters with new laws criminalising thumb-locks, barrel locks or any other way of physically preventing or threatening lawful activity.The laws – introduced to the Legislative Council last week without fanfare – reverse the onus of proof, carry maximum penalties of two years jail or a $24,000 fine and ensure cost recovery for any police response.

Stung in recent years by campaigns against shark culling, gas processing at James Price Point and, more recently, logging of Mowen Forest in the South West, the Government says it needs enhanced laws to combat evolving tactics of protesters. The Opposition has warned the wording of the Bill prohibiting the “physical prevention of a lawful activity” is so broad it could capture a range of activities, including sit-in protests at electorate offices or marches that impede traffic.

The laws make intentionally or physically preventing a lawful activity an offence punishable by 12 months jail or a $12,000 fine. Police suspicion is enough to determine the intention was there, which the accused person must disprove in court.

The penalties double when the conduct risks physical harm to anyone, including the accused. It will also be an offence to manufacture or possess any “thing” suspected to be used for physically preventing lawful action……..

Shadow attorney-general John Quigley said Labor was yet to adopt a party position but he was concerned at the Bill’s onus of proof reversal and ramifications for legitimate protest. Greens MLC Lynn MacLaren said the Bill was “jaw-dropping in its overreach”. A spokesman said Nationals MPs had no concerns with the Bill so far……
WA Forest Alliance convenor Jess Beckerling said the laws were excessive but would not stop people from defending the environment.

March 7, 2015 Posted by | civil liberties, Western Australia | Leave a comment

Minerals Council wants environmental groups to be stripped of charity status

Hear-This-wayAUDIO: Minerals Council calls for green groups to be stripped of charity status ABC Radio The World Today Tim Lamacraft reported this story on    February 16, 2015  

ELEANOR HALL: The peak lobby for the New South Wales mining industry is calling for green groups to be stripped of their charity status. The Minerals Council says activists are masquerading as environment organisations and should not receive special tax treatment.

Critics say it’s an attempt to squash free speech.

Tim Lamacraft has our report……..

SIMON LONGSTAFF: When the NSW Minerals Council makes this claim, I’d really be cautious to know whether or not their membership supports this.

There’s some very large international companies, like BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto there, and I’d be quite personally surprised if they supported this kind of call.

The second thing I’d be wanting to think about is who’s actually making the call, and in the case of the Minerals Council from New South Wales, they are a body which is an industry association, they have an interest to promote things like subsidies, tax relief for mining and a whole lot of other benefits and clearly anything which seems to stymie the progress of their members……..

PHIL LAIRD: Minerals Council have had a history of trying to silence people who oppose different projects that are put up.
They’ve only just recently put a strategy in to try and remove the planning assessment commission in New South Wales, the independent decision maker, after two mines had been rejected.

What they see is how farmers and others who have a charity that’s working on their behalf to put forward their concerns about mining and for the Minerals Council this is something that they don’t want to see.

I think that these guys are trying to shut down free speech on behalf of multimillion dollar mining companies who are basically exporting our wealth overseas.

February 18, 2015 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, civil liberties | Leave a comment

Tasmanian government dumps its proposal to stifle free speech

Freedom-of-speechExplainer: Why the Tasmanian Government abandoned defamation law changes, ABC News 5 Feb 15  By Michael Atkin Tasmania was pushing to become the first state in the country to allow companies to sue people for defamation but recently dumped the proposal, breaking an election promise.  Attorney-General Vanessa Goodwin admitted there was zero appetite from other states for the move.

It was the second blow to the Government’s plans to crackdown on forest protesters, a push much heralded in last year’s election campaign.

In the Government’s sights were groups like Markets For Change, Bob Brown Foundation and activists like Miranda Gibson who sat in a tree for a record 457 days……….

the move prompted widespread criticism from lawyers, environmentalists, civil libertarians. Even Australian businesswoman Janet Holmes a Court joined the campaign against the move.

Backlash beyond Tasmanian borders

Peter Bartlett, a partner at Minter Ellison Lawyer, defends some of the country’s top media organisations in court. He said breaking away from Australia’s uniform defamation laws was a retrograde step that could have turned Tasmania into the defamation capital of the country.

“We have a uniform defamation act, it took us nearly 30 years to get the states and territories and the Commonwealth to get a like mind … and they were able to agree to uniformity which meant that one of terms [was] corporations were not allowed to sue,” Mr Bartlett said.

“State and territory borders are largely irrelevant to the media so they would need to self censor because of the risk of a corporation suing them in Tasmania.”

Crikey’s business editor Paddy Manning was sued by the big end of town and he was concerned that if Tasmania proceeded it would happen more often. “It’s already quite difficult to write tough [and] investigative stories about big business in Australia,” he said.

“I think it’s undemocratic. It’s an attack on free speech and it’s not the way we do things in this country.

“Misinformation is actually in the eye of the beholder and business does not need another law reform in its favour that’s going to lead to open slather on journalists just because Tasmania wants to shut down its forestry debate.”

February 6, 2015 Posted by | civil liberties, Tasmania | Leave a comment

Tasmanian government moves to restrict citizen’s power to criticise corporations

justiceThe examples of public campaigners being on the butt end of large-scale legal responses are too numerous to mention, but we should not forget: the Bannockburn Yellow Gum Action Group, the Hindmarsh Bridge campaigners, John Sinclair who campaigned to stop mining on Fraser Island, anti-nuclear campaigner Noel Wauchope and even the author of Forest-Friendly Building Timbers, who ran foul of the National Association of Forest Industries, resulting in some retailers withdrawing the book from sale.
To further restrict the ability of public interest campaigners to press their case, as the Tasmanian government proposes, is to make Australia’s free speech landscape deeply depressing. 
civil-liberty-2smCompanies suing critics. That’s the real enemy of free speech  Richard Ackland, Guardian 23 Jan 15 Tasmania wants to break ranks with uniform defamation laws to allow companies to take action against individuals. ….
….It is an article of faith in the Liberal party that the reputations of corporations and their delicate “feelings” be fully protected by the law. The Business Council of Australia was adamant. Hugh Morgan – the council’s president in 2005 – said the very idea that corporations should not be permitted to sue for defamation was an “outrageous attack on the corporate sector … The proposal remains an abomination.”

The Coalition government fought hard to give the captains and cabin boys of industry what they wanted. Ruddock insisted that companies be able to sue their detractors in the courts, but the Labor state governments wanted the prohibition against corporate libel actions to be the rule across the nation. It was one of the sticking points during the negotiations and, in the end, to get agreement Ruddock relented.

There was a weird sort of compromise, whereby only very small corporations, of less than 10 employees, could sue in their own name. This was a crumb tossed off the table so the commonwealth attorney general could save face.

Such has been the case since the uniform Defamation Act came into being in 2006. Now, nine years later, the Hodgman Liberal government in Tasmania is proposing to break ranks, amend its act and let corporations of all stripes off the leash so they can sink their fangs into citizens critical of “job creating” proposals……… Continue reading

January 24, 2015 Posted by | civil liberties, Tasmania | Leave a comment

Great timing? Tasmania’s govt attacking freedom of speech

civil-liberty-2smLabor lashes timing of defamation law change DUNCAN ABEY MERCURY JANUARY 12, 2015 NEW corporate defamation laws proposed by the Tas­manian Government represent a direct attack on freedom of speech and will ­stifle public debate, the Opposition says.

And deputy Labor leader Michelle O’Byrne said the timing could not be worse, in the wake of the deadly attacks on the staff of satirical Paris-based magazine Charlie Hedbo.

“Once again Tasmania is at the front of the national stage for the wrong reasons,” Ms O’Byrne said.

“The State Government wants to bring in legislation around defamation that will mean nobody can ever say any­thing against a corporation.

“Now this doesn’t just apply to the people the Government says it will target, such as forestry protesters, but it will apply to individuals and it will apply to the media.

“The right to free speech has never been more warmly embraced by the world than after what we have seen in Paris, and for nobody to be ever allowed to say anything negative about a corporation just smacks of silencing dissent.”………….

January 12, 2015 Posted by | civil liberties, Tasmania | Leave a comment

Maralinga nuclear compensation cases blocked by Bob Hawke when PM

Hawke government schemed to stymie Maralinga nuclear test compensation, cabinet documents reveal  PETER JEAN POLITICAL REPORTER THE ADVERTISER JAN 1, 2015  THE statute of limitations was invoked by the Hawke Government to prevent hundreds of compensation actions being pursued in court by veterans of British nuclear tests in Australia.

Government documents from 1988 and 1989 released by the National Archives of Australia reveal that cabinet decided to try and invoke time-limit rules to fight court compensation actions launched after 1988. Continue reading

January 2, 2015 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, civil liberties, history, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Censorship of calls for climate change to be included in G20 agenda

Abbott-fiddling-global-warmBrisbane G20: Airport vetoes #onmyagenda climate change billboard, Brisbane Times November 3, 2014 senior reporter Brisbane Airport Corporation has vetoed a “political” billboard asking for climate change to be added to this month’s G20 conference.

The billboard – backed by nine national and international conservation groups – was planned for Brisbane International Airport.

A second billboard is being unveiled in Peel Street at South Brisbane on Monday.

The groups wanted world leaders and their delegates to see the billboard as they arrived in Brisbane. The #onmyagenda campaign encourages people to tweet G20 leaders asking them to include climate change as a stand-alone item on the G20 agenda.

Climate change issues have been on the agendas at eight previous eight G20 summits.

It is not on the agenda in Brisbane.


The decision comes as the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change on Sunday released its most recent report on the impact of climate change.

The report found that the world must stop almost all greenhouse gas emissions through a phased elimination of fossil fuels by 2100 if we are to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has urged companies to disinvest from fossil fuel-based industries.

In broad terms, the UN IPCC report finds there are “multiple pathways” available to keep global warming below two degrees.

All of these pathways require “substantial” cuts to greenhouse gas emissions over the next few decades, and “near zero” emissions by the end of the century, the report’s authors concluded.

BAC told Fairfax Media the billboards were rejected last Wednesday because they were  deemed to be “political”.

November 4, 2014 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, civil liberties, Queensland | Leave a comment

Brisbane to enter a military lockdown for the G20?

Commandos and Black Hawk helicopters stage operations in Brisbane CBD as G20 security ramps up

By Francis Tapim G20 security preparations are ramping up in Brisbane, as commandos and Black Hawk helicopters flooded the Eagle Street Pier area in a counter-terrorism training operation last night.

Around 50 personnel dressed like commandos, armed with semi automatic rifles and wearing body armour staged the training exercise on Sunday.

Courier Mail photographer Marc Robertson stumbled on the operation, and said there were four helicopters “only a few feet from the buildings”.


“I counted about 50 blokes wearing paramilitary uniforms, combat pants, and wearing body armour carrying full automatic weapons,” he said.

“They are not wearing any insignia at all… there was a lot of action in amongst the buildings.

“There were guys with night vision goggles running around the boardwalk, it was obvious that it was a training exercise and it had been left until after midnight before any of this action took place.”

There was no official information about the operation, but Queensland police confirmed they had been assisting with traffic control for a G20 training exercise in the CBD.

Meanwhile, the RAAF said the public would notice increased activity in the skies over south-east Queensland in the lead-up to the summit.

It said fighter jets, Black Hawk helicopters and surveillance planes would increase patrols, and conduct training exercises. Commander of ADF support to the G20 Major General Stuart Smith said the training period would allow the military to sharpen their response skills.

November 4, 2014 Posted by | civil liberties, Queensland | Leave a comment

Soldiers and police gear up for the G20

G20 security: Soldiers man checkpoints in inner-Brisbane ahead of summit ABC News 4 Nov 14 By John Taylor Soldiers and police have begun stopping and searching vehicles going into G20 restricted zones in inner-Brisbane.

Checkpoints have been set up at Milton and Spring Hill to search for explosives and weapons, manned by military personnel who have served in war zones.


Major General Stuart Smith said the soldiers and police would be involved in the searches over the next fortnight, using high-tech latest equipment.

“You’ve got soldiers here that have got experience in Afghanistan doing high-profile search techniques and they’ve done specific rehearsals to build them up in cooperation with the police over the last few months,” he said………

More than 900 soldiers will be helping with security during G20 and have spent months training for every eventuality.

Barricades to go up as ‘countries take over hotels’

Barricades and fencing will begin appearing around Brisbane city from next week, G20 Assistant Police Commissioner Katarina Carroll said………

At the weekend, two people were served with notices prohibiting them from the G20……..

On Sunday night dozens of soldiers with machine guns and body armour took part in an exercise in the CBD…….

November 4, 2014 Posted by | civil liberties, Queensland | Leave a comment

Government cover-up of Australia’s involvement in nuclear bomb testing

The following summarizes some of the key conclusions of the Royal Commission: 

  • The Australian government controlled media reporting such that news items provided what the UK government deemed suitable only;
  • Prior to the first tests on the Australian mainland, the Government Cabinet, Parliament and news media were not informed of what was happening;
  • It is likely that the major tests resulted in a general increase in cancer within the Australian population;
  • Exposure to radiation increased the risk of cancer in nuclear veterans;
  • There was a failure to adequately take into account the distinctive lifestyle of Aboriginal people living in the region;
  • The authorities were negligent in their management, equipping and briefing of the crews of the Lincoln aircraft who were directed to fly through the nuclear cloud in the Totem 1 test;
  • In the Buffalo tests, “. . . the attempts to ensure Aboriginal safety during the Buffalo series demonstrate ignorance, incompetence and cynicism on the part of those responsible for that safety.” (12)

This summary is a very small and selective account of the content of the Royal Commission’s Report.

Since Hiroshima: Australia’s Active Involvement in the Use and Abuse of Nuclear Energy Sunday, 05 October 2014 09:59By Lindsay FitzclarenceTruthout  “………..By 1952, the government had signed a contract with the CDA (Combined Development Agency) representing the UK and United States to supply uranium (5).


At the same time, in a remarkable expression of executive power, the pro-royalist prime minister of Australia, Robert Menzies, agreed to a British request to begin testing of atomic weapons in its former colony (6). At the dawn of the Cold War nuclear arms race, Australia was an active participant at both ends of the weapons cycle: the source of primary nuclear fuel and as a nuclear testing ground. Continue reading

October 6, 2014 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, civil liberties, history, secrets and lies, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Community rights disappearing under Campbell Newman’s uranium mining push

Newman,-Campbell-jackbootsTo many Traditional Owners, these places are known as sickness country, or poison country, and are often considered sacred. Upsetting the poison and letting out into the landscape would be a disaster, particularly in the life giving and food providing Mitchel River basin.

The Bill, passed in parliament in early September, gives the Coordinator General the power to exclude community objection rights over some of the largest mining projects

Mining companies now have more rights than the community in Newman’s Queensland  1 Oct 14    Queenslanders have more reason than ever to be concerned about uranium mining in the sunshine state. By  Andrew Picone Back in 2012 Queensland Premier Campbell Newman made a series of ‘crystal clear’ commitments to keep the door closed to uranium mining in Queensland. In a letter to former ACF CEO Don Henry, Newman wrote “I take this opportunity to reaffirm my statements, made before the last election, that the State Government has no plans to approve the development of uranium in Queensland”.

It proved to be one of his first broken promises. Just a fortnight later this commitment was dumped, without any independent assessment or community consultation. Uranium mining would not just be permitted in Queensland, the Premier started actively encouraging uranium mining companies to set up shop in the sunshine state.

Fast forward to 2014 and Queenslanders have more reason than ever to be concerned. In an echo of the heavy handed police state politics that so characterized former Queensland Premier Joh Bjelke Petersen, the Queensland government’s hand-picked co-ordinator general will now have sole authority over major new mining projects.

Proposed legislative changes introduced in the Mineral and Energy Resources (Common Provisions) Bill 2014, literally rushed through the Parliament at five minutes to midnight on September 9th 2014, in particular provision 47D entitled ‘restriction in giving of objection notice under the Environmental Protection Act’ – should sound the community alarm.   Continue reading

October 3, 2014 Posted by | civil liberties, Queensland | Leave a comment

Australian environmental justice activist refused entry to Malaysia 

exclamation-flag-Malaysia1 Sept 14, Australian resident Natalie Lowrey was refused entry into Malaysia after returning as an observer on the criminalisation of environmental defenders against Australian rare earth miner, Lynas Corporation. On arrival at in Malaysia, Lowrey was detained by customs who said she had been blacklisted by Bukit Aman (the police headquarters in Kuala Lumpur) and that she would be deported back to the country she flew in from. She is being sent to Bali and will fly into Sydney on Tuesday 2 September at 6.50am. Lowrey was informed of a strict denial of entry to Malaysia, reasons not given.

Australian rare earths company, Lynas Corporation Ltd, whose processing plant is in Kuantan, Malaysia is the focus of Malaysia’s largest environmental movement. Lynas has been under pressure for the past three years for having no social licence to operate. Their 2 year Temporary Operating Licence (TOL) is due to expire on 2nd September. Continue reading

September 2, 2014 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, civil liberties | Leave a comment

Secret gagging of the Australian Press is revealed by Wikileaks

highly-recommended civil-liberty-2smWikiLeaks reveals Australian gagging order over political bribery allegations Superinjunction reported to have been issued on 19 June to block reporting of claims involving international politicians   The Guardian, Wednesday 30 July 2014 

A sweeping gagging order issued in Australia to block reporting of any bribery allegations involving several logo-Wikileaksinternational political leaders in the region has been exposed by WikiLeaks.

The prohibition emerged from a criminal case in the Australian courts and applies throughout the country. It was issued by the criminal division of the supreme court of Victoria in Melbourne “to prevent damage to Australia’s international relations that may be caused by the publication of material that may damage the reputations of specified individuals who are not the subject of charges in these proceedings”.

The Australia-wide gagging order is a superinjunction, which means it also contains a clause insisting that the terms of the order itself should remain secret. It was issued on 19 June and states: “Subject to further order, there be no disclosure, by publication or otherwise, of any information (whether in electronic or paper form) derived from or prepared for the purposes of these proceedings including the terms of these orders.”

In a statement published with the leak, Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, said the gagging order relates to a case that “concerns the subsidiaries of the Australian central bank”.

He said it was the first blanket suppression order of this nature in Australia since 1995. “With this order, the worst in living memory, the Australian government is not just gagging the Australian press, it is blindfolding the Australian public,” said Assange, who is himself Australian. “This is not simply a question of the Australian government failing to give this international corruption case the public scrutiny it is due. Foreign minister Julie Bishop must explain why she is threatening every Australian with imprisonment in an attempt to cover up an embarrassing corruption scandal involving the Australian government. The concept of ‘national security’ is not meant to serve as a blanket phrase to cover up serious corruption allegations involving government officials, in Australia or elsewhere. It is in the public interest for the press to be able to report on this case.”

Assange has been holed up for more than two years in the Ecuadorian embassy in London evading extradition to Sweden where he is wanted to face questioning over allegations of sexual assault.

July 30, 2014 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, civil liberties | Leave a comment

Climate research censored by Queensland University?

civil-liberty-2smQueensland University tries to block climate research GRAHAM LLOYD THE AUSTRALIAN MAY 17, 2014  THE University of Queensland has threatened legal action to stop the release of data used in a paper that establishes a 97 per cent scientific consensus on ­anthropogenic climate change

The paper, lead authored by John Cook, has been the subject of debate over its methodology since it was published last year…..(subscribers only)

May 17, 2014 Posted by | civil liberties, Queensland | Leave a comment


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