Australian news, and some related international items

USA tried to make Iceland complicit, (like Australia is), in the persecution of Julian Assange

What is Australia doing? Isn’t Julian Assange an Australian citizen? However, I don’t see Australian authorities taking on the responsibility to protect their citizen. Australia shows, as far as I can see, the same indifference and hence complicity with the U.S. as is the case in most other lands. And may I add where is the world press, the same press which gratefully published the material WikiLeaks provided them with? Why are they quiet? In the end, we are all responsible. We are seeing an individual and an organisation taken to court, with 18 charges which could lead to 175 years in prison.

The FBI tried to make Iceland a complicit ally in framing Julian Assange,13277

By Sara Chessa | 5 November 2019 Former Icelandic Interior Minister tells Independent Australia how he blocked U.S. interference in 2011 in order to defend WikiLeaks and its publisher Julian Assange. Sara Chessa reports.

Former Icelandic Interior Minister tells Independent Australia how he blocked U.S. interference in 2011 in order to defend WikiLeaks and its publisher Julian Assange. Sara Chessa reports.

A MINISTER OF THE INTERIOR wakes up one summer morning and finds out that a plane full of United States Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) agents has landed in his country, aiming to carry out police investigations without proper permission from the authorities.

How many statesmen would have the strength to say, “No, you can’t do this”, to the United States? Former Icelandic Interior Minister Ögmundur Jónasson, in fact, did this — and for the sake of investigative journalism. He understood that something wrong with the sudden FBI mission in Reykjavik, and that this had to do with the whistleblowing website WikiLeaks and its publisher Julian Assange. Continue reading

November 12, 2019 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, civil liberties | Leave a comment

Australia’s media fights for freedom of press – BUT NOT FOR JULIAN ASSANGE

Mainstream Media Fights for Own Freedom, But Not for Assange’s, Sydney Criminal Lawyers, 02/11/2019 BY PAUL GREGOIRE Major Australian mainstream media outlets joined forces a fortnight ago to launched the Right to Know campaign. It aims to see public interest journalism decriminalised, and safeguards for whistleblowers enhanced.This unprecedented display of unity has seen The Guardian, the ABC, Nine, News Corp, SBS and the MEAA join forces in calling on the government to enact reforms. And this is rather significant, considering some of these organisations have been much criticised for towing the party line.

The Right to Know has six demands: exceptions so journalists can’t be prosecuted under national security laws, freedom of information reform, defamation law reform, a narrowing of the information classified as secret, protections for whistleblowers and the right to contest warrants.

Of course, the campaign was sparked by the June AFP press raids, which saw agents rifle through the house of a News Corp journalist, as well as the offices of the national broadcaster, in what was understood by many to be a warning to the media and whistleblowers to keep quiet.

However, a glaring campaign omission is the case of an Australian publisher who’s currently being remanded in the UK over charges that apply in the US, which relate precisely to public interest journalism. Yet, the Australian media has all but forgotten their colleague, Julian Assange.

Silenced by association

“The Right to Know campaign drives to the heart of the matter more than many journalists realise,” remarked Ian Rose, a member of the Support Assange and Wikileaks Coalition.

“While on the one hand, they’re right to finally be calling out the creeping incursions and restrictions into media freedoms,” he told Sydney Criminal Lawyers. “On the other, they don’t have the inner fortitude to stand up for Assange.”

According to Rose, there are two reasons that the Australian media has abandoned the Walkley award-winning journalist. One is that he’s “an egalitarian”, which “frightens the hell out of the ruling class”, as most of the work of WikiLeaks has been all about exposing their lies.

The second reason behind the silence is that the “oligarchs” are the “journalists’ paymasters”. And for this reason – which is underscored by the justifiable fear of losing their lives – journalists have refrained from “calling these people out”.

An excuse for silencing

Attorney general Christian Porter spoke out against the Right to Know campaign, claiming that by providing the media with the right to contest warrants could hinder criminal investigations. And he also asserted that the campaign demands could lead to national security threats.

As an example of how the media could become such a threat, Porter pointed to Assange having published leaked classified documents on WikiLeaks. The top lawmaker further set out that while this act of publication was widely condemned, the local industry still awarded Assange a Walkley……..

Neglecting an ally

And as for what the Australian media should be doing about one of its own locked away in isolation in circumstances that undermine the rule of law, Mr Rose says that it “ought to get over its jealousy and unite to support Assange”.

Indeed, the Right to Know campaign should embrace Assange’s cause, as it’s the quintessential example of the concerted crackdown on journalists that’s currently taking place across the western world. And there’s a clear correlation between his silencing and the local AFP raids.

“The way Assange is being treated is the way journalists are starting to be treated, and the way all of society will be treated if we don’t collectively call for a stop to the new dictatorial world order,” Rose warned.

And as an example of how this silencing of dissent is spreading beyond the media, Rose pointed to the recent assault on nonviolent climate activists, which has seen the application of ongoing arrests,  draconian bail conditions,  intimidatory procedures and the passing of restrictive laws……..

November 11, 2019 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, civil liberties, media, secrets and lies | Leave a comment

The movement to save Julian Assange – his father in Ireland

Will you come and help?’ Father of Julian Assange on campaign to free his son, Irish Examiner,  MICHAEL CLIFFORD  November 09, 2019    At 80, John Shipton thought he would be enjoying his retirement, he tells Michael Clifford. Instead, he is touring European capitals campaigning for his son, Wikileaks founder Julian Assange.

A parent’s work is never done. John Shipton entering his ninth decade. He’d like to kick back, maybe learn a few recipes, stroll at a leisurely pace towards the declining years.

But his son needs him. His son’s health is in serious danger and his future looks dark, with the prospect of spending decades, if not the remainder of his life, in prison.

His son is Julian Assange. It’s a name that is familiar to most people, although many would, at this remove, find it difficult to couple his celebrity standing with his talent or achievement.

Assange is an Australian who has been a serious thorn in the side of the powerful. His Wikileaks organisation was responsible for disseminating information that showed what exactly the US and its allies were getting up to in foreign wars.

Wikileaks exposed war crimes. It was the receptor for whistleblower Chelsea Manning’s treasure trove of documents that painted a picture of torture and maltreatment by US forces in Iraq, among other crimes.

Vanity Fair described the resultant stories as “one of the greatest journalistic scoops of the last 30 years… they have changed the way people think about how the world is run”…….

Assange is a category B prisoner, which means he’s not considered an immediate danger to fellow human beings or society in general, but his conditions of detention are still onerous.

“He’s locked up 22 or 23 hours a day,” his father says. “It’s a grade A maximum security prison. Because those in it are treated like terrorists, that’s what Julian is being subjected to.”

Shipton was in Dublin recently on a flying visit that now forms part of his current “job”. That entails lobbying, meeting, and publicising on behalf of his son. Shipton is on a tour of European capitals trying to round up support……

Assange is in a bad way, there is no doubt about that. Both physically and psychologically, his condition is deteriorating. The prison conditions are onerous but they come following eight years cooked up in the embassy, at times under serious stress. The day before arriving in Dublin Shipton had been in to see his son.

“As you would expect after nine years of persecution, he’s a bit down in the dumps,” he says.

“The report of the UN rapporteur on torture says it all really, pointing out that he has every sign of having suffered torture with both physical and mental results…..

The UN rapporteur on torture, Nils Melzer, did visit Assange with two doctors in June in Belmarch and were highly condemnatory of the conditions in which he was being kept.

Last week, Melzer issued a further statement, saying Assange’s life was at risk and that he must not be extradited to the US as a consequence of “exposing serious governmental misconduct”…..

Melzer goes further and offers an opinion on what is driving the harsh treatment.

“In my view, this case has never been about Mr Assange’s guilt or innocence, but about making him pay the price for exposing serious governmental misconduct, including alleged war crimes and corruption,” he says. “Unless the UK urgently changes course and alleviates his inhumane situation, Mr Assange’s continued exposure to arbitrariness and abuse may soon end up costing his life.”…..

Since coming to power, Trump has railed against many forms of the free press. And his government has requested Assange’s extradition to stand trial for spying.

If he is extradited, his father doesn’t have much confidence in the prospects of a fair trial.

“The espionage law courts are held in Elizabeth, Virginia,” says Shipton. “It’s a town where all the constituents are from the intelligence community. Every judgement in the espionage courts they say just go to jail. It’s not theoretical. If he’s tried he will go to jail.”

The next hearing on extradition isn’t scheduled until February and on the basis that he previously did skip bail while awaiting an extradition hearing he is unlikely to get bail. For his family and close friends, the most immediate issue is his health rather than the political and legal vortex into which he has been drawn.

At a recent court appearance on October 21, he was described by eyewitnesses as appearing “distressed and disorientated”.

He is subject to a legal process, but few could argue that it is anything more than political. Assange published leaked material. In that he was performing an act of journalism.

Manning, for instance, was prosecuted and served seven years of what was originally a 35-year sentence. But Assange’s role was that of publisher.

Much of Wikileaks most serious material was presented in collaboration with leading global newspapers, including the New York Times and The Guardian.

His father believes that the attack on the press through Assange is not fully appreciated.

“It’s in the self interests of all journalists and news corporations to ensure that this is fought,” he says……

November 11, 2019 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, civil liberties, politics international | Leave a comment

A travesty of justice- extradition process of Julian Assange

November 7, 2019 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, civil liberties, legal, media, secrets and lies | Leave a comment

Strong public demand for climate action, but Australian government determined to punish climate protesters,

An increasingly outraged public is demanding action in a nation intimately linked to coal mining. The government has responded by threatening a new law to punish protesters. NYT, By Damien Cave and Livia Albeck-Ripka, Nov. 6, 2019 SYDNEY, Australia — One climate activist halted train service by chaining himself to the tracks. Others have glued themselves to busy roads, causing gridlock. And just last week, protesters locked arms to stop people from entering a mining conference before being forcibly dispersed by police officers with pepper spray.

A surge of climate activism is flooding Australia as the country falls behind on its promise to reduce emissions — effectively ignoring the Paris Agreement the Trump administration just abandoned. Prime Minister Scott Morrison has responded with a threat that’s alarmed scientists and free speech advocates, arguing that the government should outlaw “indulgent and selfish” efforts by environmental groups to rattle businesses with rallies and boycotts. “The right to protest does not mean there is an unlimited license to disrupt people’s lives,” Mr. Morrison said, adding, “I am very concerned about this new form of progressivism.”

Australia’s “climate wars,” once confined to election campaigns, are now spilling into the streets with some of the biggest protests the country has ever seen. An increasingly outraged public is demanding action while the conservative national government refuses to budge, relying on the police to squelch dissent……..

Two years ago, when Mr. Morrison was Australia’s treasurer, he stood up in the House of Representatives with a hunk of black coal in his hand.

“Don’t be afraid. Don’t be scared,” he said. “It won’t hurt you.”

His shiny prop had been shellacked to keep his hands clean, but the point he made then is one he and his governing coalition stand by: Coal is good……Now, Australia is the world’s largest coal exporter. It is also a major exporter of natural gas, making for a resource-driven country that is

“rich, dumb and getting dumber,” according to one recent headline summarizing the findings of a Harvard study that ranked Australia’s economy 93rd in complexity, behind Kazakhstan, Uganda and Senegal.  The mingling of mining interests with national interests is perpetuated through a revolving door: lawmakers frequently work for the coal industry after leaving office. And for some, defending coal has come to be equated with defending the country.Even the opposition center-left Labor Party is hooked, pushing for emissions cuts while continuing to support more coal mining……

Poll after poll shows growing concern about climate change among Australians of all ages and political persuasions.In September, a survey by the Australia Institute found that 81 percent of Australians believe climate change will result in more droughts and flooding (up from 78 percent in 2018). Two out of three Australians agreed that the government should plan for an orderly phaseout of coal, while 64 percent said Australia should aim for net-zero emissions by 2050.

And researchers continue to sound the alarm. A paper co-written by an Australian scientist and signed by 11,000 other experts warned on Wednesday of a clear “climate emergency.”……

The so-called climate strike
 in September, part of a global effort led by children, was the largest mass demonstration in Australian history.

It was quickly followed last month by the Extinction Rebellion protests, and then came last week’s anti-mining protests in Melbourne…..   Over 10 days of protests in London, the police arrested more than 1,700 Extinction Rebellion protesters.

Australia aims to go further. A law passed last year allows the military to break up protests. The Labor government in Queensland is fast-tracking a law to add new fines for protesters who use locking devices to prevent their removal……. Reduced coal mining would not hurt the economy as much as people think.

According to the Australia Institute poll from last month, Australians believe coal mining accounts for 12.5 percent of Australia’s economic output and employs 9.3 percent of its work force. “In reality,” the report says, “coal mining employs only 0.4 percent of workers in Australia and is 2.2 percent of Australia’s G.D.P.” Of the roughly 238,000 jobs that mining provides in Australia, only around 50,000 are tied to coal, according to government figures.

“The government relies on ignorance,” Professor Eckersley said. “It’s a very toxic politics.”

Portrayals of extreme activism are also exaggerated. The vast majority of protesters demanding climate action are not radical disrupters.  They are more like Jemima Grimmer, 13, who asked adults to “respect our futures” at the Sydney climate strike in September, or Vivian Malo, an Aboriginal woman attending last week’s protest in Melbourne, where she said the experience of being pepper-sprayed felt like chemotherapy “on the outside.”  Here in a country rapidly losing its laid-back image, the future of Australia’s climate battles could be seen in her bloodshot eyes as she stood near a line of stone-faced police officers, describing their use of force as “scary.”

“The insatiable drive for resource extraction,” she said. “It’s out of control.”

November 7, 2019 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, civil liberties, climate change - global warming, politics | Leave a comment

Gross injustice: the relentless destruction of Julian Assange

The charge against Julian is very specific; conspiring with Chelsea Manning to publish the Iraq War logs, the Afghanistan war logs and the State Department cables. The charges are nothing to do with Sweden, nothing to do with sex, and nothing to do with the 2016 US election; a simple clarification the mainstream media appears incapable of understanding.

The campaign of demonization and dehumanization against Julian, based on government and media lie after government and media lie, has led to a situation where he can be slowly killed in public sight, and arraigned on a charge of publishing the truth about government wrongdoing, while receiving no assistance from “liberal” society.

Unless Julian is released shortly he will be destroyed. If the state can do this, then who is next?

The Annihilation of Julian Assange,, Craig Murray  “In Defense of Julian Assange,” edited by Tariq Ali and Margaret Kunstler, is now available for OR Books.

I was deeply shaken while witnessing yesterday’s events in Westminster Magistrates Court. Every decision was railroaded through over the scarcely heard arguments and objections of Assange’s legal team, by a magistrate who barely pretended to be listening.

Before I get on to the blatant lack of fair process, the first thing I must note was Julian’s condition. I was badly shocked by just how much weight my friend has lost, by the speed his hair has receded and by the appearance of premature and vastly accelerated aging. He has a pronounced limp I have never seen before. Since his arrest he has lost over 15 kg in weight.

But his physical appearance was not as shocking as his mental deterioration. When asked to give his name and date of birth, he struggled visibly over several seconds to recall both. I will come to the important content of his statement at the end of proceedings in due course, but his difficulty in making it was very evident; it was a real struggle for him to articulate the words and focus his train of thought.

Until yesterday I had always been quietly skeptical of those who claimed that Julian’s treatment amounted to torture – even of Nils Melzer, the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture – and skeptical of those who suggested he may be subject to debilitating drug treatments. But having attended the trials in Uzbekistan of several victims of extreme torture, and having worked with survivors from Sierra Leone and elsewhere, I can tell you that yesterday changed my mind entirely and Julian exhibited exactly the symptoms of a torture victim brought blinking into the light, particularly in terms of disorientation, confusion, and the real struggle to assert free will through the fog of learned helplessness. Continue reading

November 2, 2019 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, civil liberties, politics, politics international | Leave a comment

Scott Morrison doesn’t like even the “quiet people” speaking up

Morrison doesn’t like it when the quiet Australians start to speak up, Canberra Times, Ebony Bennett , 2 Nov 19,

In his government’s latest free-speech crackdown, Prime Minister Scott Morrison has vowed to outlaw civil society groups campaigning against Australian businesses that work with companies with dubious environmental, human rights or ethical records.

Morrison’s plan would criminalise, for example, the thousands of young people who joined the Australian Youth Climate Coalition’s call for the Commonwealth Bank not to finance Adani’s coal mine. A generation of Dollarmite kids, who would quite like to protect the remaining half of the Great Barrier Reef from mass bleaching, used stickers, posters and ATM signs to ask the Commonwealth Bank not to lend to Adani’s coal mine. This secondary boycott (targeting one entity through its relationship to another) worked.

The bank ruled out lending to Adani, as did other banks – in part because AYCC’s Dollarmite protests were a real risk to their brand (this was before the banking royal commission tanked it) but also because Adani’s coal mine is a dud project that has failed to secure finance from virtually any bank or investor, except for billionaire Gautam Adani himself. 

Scott Morrison says this style of campaigning “is a potentially more insidious threat to the Queensland economy and jobs and living standards than a street protest”.

Is Australia a democracy or not? The fact the Prime Minster of Australia considers street protests an “insidious threat” to anything is shocking in itself. The risk to free speech from a clampdown on secondary boycotts was clearly articulated by the then-director of policy at the Institute of Public Affairs, Simon Breheny, who said: “Freedom of speech is vitally important for a properly functioning economy. Liberal democracies should never be in the game of clamping down on an individual’s freedom to express their values in the choices they make through the market. Advocating for or against a particular company’s practices is an important part of that equation.”

That was in 2014, when former prime minister Tony Abbott proposed a ban on secondary boycotts. Australia’s competition laws already restrict secondary boycotts – but that is mostly targeted at unions, with exemptions for campaigns run by environmental and consumer groups……

Scott Morrison doesn’t like it when quiet Australians break their silence and take aim at dodgy companies or those who choose to provide services to them – especially when they’re in his favoured industries, like the coal industry. While the Coalition government rolls out the red carpet for the coal industry, it can’t pull up the drawbridge fast enough when it comes to renewables.

If the Minerals Council says jump, the federal government (and NSW and Queensland governments) say “how high?” Whereas the Coalition government has done its level best to kill off the renewables industry. Thankfully, in the long term they have been about as effective at killing off renewables as they have been at cutting emissions: hopeless.

The Morrison government regularly boasts about Australia’s record on renewables, but the fact is it is single-handedly destroying the holy trinity of renewable energy policy: the Renewable Energy Target (RET), the Australian Renewable Agency (ARENA) and the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC).

Collectively, the RET, ARENA and the CEFC are responsible for unleashing $23.4 billion worth of investment in renewable energy over a five-year period (2013-18). But there’s nothing the Coalition loves more than throwing sand in the gears of the success of the renewables industry.

Looking ahead, the RET has been exhausted, ARENA is running out of money and the last bastion of renewable energy investment, the CEFC, is now being bastardised to fund fossil-fuel projects……..

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has gone to great pains to talk up renewables, but the truth is that the PM is quite happy to wreck the renewables revolution. He labels those who protest companies wrecking our environment as “selfish and indulgent”, but the truth is that under Scott Morrison, free speech is reserved only for people with paid jobs, and protests are only to be tolerated at convenient times, in convenient places.

If you don’t like it, shut up – or Scott Morrison will make you shut up.

How good is Australia?

November 2, 2019 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, civil liberties, climate change - global warming, politics | Leave a comment

Scott Morrison delivers a speech that sounds very like an attack on democracy

November 2, 2019 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, civil liberties, climate change - global warming, politics | Leave a comment

Australian government rejects call for help from Julian Assange’s legal team

Why is it that the Australian government is so helpful to Australian murderers and drug dealers imprisoned overseas, but so relentlessly unhelpful to an Australian whose only crime is to tell the truth?

Assange legal team asks for Australian government help amid growing health fears,, By Rob Harris

October 28, 2019, Julian Assange’s British legal team has requested Australian diplomatic help as fears grow for his health and mental state in a London prison.

The WikiLeaks founder has been held in HM Prison Belmarsh since his April 11 arrest at the Ecuadorian embassy, where he had lived in asylum for almost seven years.

Australian officials told a Senate estimates hearing on Thursday that diplomats had not heard back from Assange’s lawyer since writing to her last week asking that she raise with him their offer of consular assistance.

The 48-year-old is fighting US attempts to extradite him to face 17 counts of spying and one of computer hacking in relation to WikiLeaks’ release of thousands of classified Pentagon files regarding the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

Barrister Greg Barns, an adviser to the Australian Assange campaign, told The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald his UK lawyers on Friday requested consular assistance following a recent inquiry from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

“Julian’s lawyers are asking for the Australian government’s assistance in dealing with their client’s inhumane conditions in Belmarsh prison which has led to, and is continuing to cause, serious damage to Julian’s health,” Mr Barns said.

His supporters say he is being kept in solitary confinement and is allowed out of his cell for only 45 minutes a day. At a court appearance last week, he appeared gaunt and disorientated.

Assange was due to be released on September 22 but was told at a court hearing last month he would be kept in jail because there were “substantial grounds” for believing he would abscond.

The Australian Lawyers Alliance (ALA) passed a motion at its national conference on Saturday calling for the Australian government to do “all it can” to bring Assange home and resist US attempts to extradite him.

ALA national president Andrew Christopoulos said it was an important issue about the rule of law and protecting an Australian in a vulnerable position overseas.

“This is about standing up for the rule of law, fairness and the freedom to expose wrongdoing,” he said. “The reported decline of Julian Assange’s physical and mental health heightens the need for urgent government intervention. The government has intervened in cases like this before and should do so in this circumstance.”

If the case goes to a series of appeals, Assange could remain in a UK jail until at least 2025.

Foreign Minister Marise Payne last week acknowledged the publicity around the case and that Assange had high-profile and loyal supporters. She said it was important to let the legal process run its course.

“He has been offered consular services … like any other Australian would,” Senator Payne told the Senate committee. “I think it’s important to remember that as Australia would not accept intervention or interference in our legal processes, we are not able to intervene in the legal processes of another country

October 29, 2019 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, civil liberties, media, politics international | Leave a comment

Australia’s media under threat

‘It is all part of the same disease’: media and other key institutions under threat,, By Nick O’Malley, October 28, 2019 —The prosecution of journalists, cuts to the ABC budget and the appointment of “dud” politically connected officials to roles in key agencies present an unprecedented threat to democracy in Australia.“Media provides crucial accountability and transparency functions,” said a report by the Centre for Public Integrity, due to be released this week. “Investigative journalists often unearth wrongdoing long before any public integrity agencies investigate, for example the recent Crown Casino investigation by Nick McKenzie at The Age [and The Sydney Morning Herald], and the Four Corners investigation of police corruption in Queensland that triggered the Fitzgerald Inquiry.

“Media outlets have faced attacks in the form of centralisation of private ownership, funding cuts to public broadcasters, and potential prosecution of journalists, including News Corp journalist Annika Smethurst.”

One of the report’s authors, Geoffrey Watson, SC, former counsel assisting the Independent Commission Against Corruption, said he had been shocked by how quickly the brutal type of politics that evolved in the United States and the United Kingdom, and partly led to the ascendancy of Donald Trump and Boris Johnson, had taken root in Australia.

“One day you see the judiciary attacked and the next someone in the media,” said Mr Watson, who is a director of the Centre for Public Integrity. “On the third day it might be the CSIRO, they even attack our scientists. Some people don’t recognise it as the same problem, but it is all part of the same disease.”

He said the effectiveness of the media in Australia as a watchdog was not only threatened by personal and legal attacks by the government, but by regulations that had allowed ownership of newspapers to be reduced to an effective duopoly.

The report, entitled “Protecting the Integrity of Accountability Institutions”, said that a range of institutions – including the judiciary and the Administrative Appeals Tribunal, the public service, integrity commissions such as the ICAC, statutory authorities such as the Human Rights Commission and the Fair Work Commission, and the CSIRO – had all been targeted in recent years by interested parties seeking to undermine their independence and public trust.

“These institutions are important not only because they ensure actual accountability, transparency and good governance but because they build confidence and trust within the Australian community,” it said. “When this confidence and trust is diminished, divisiveness and conflict increase. This impacts social cohesiveness and the economy, and the welfare of all Australians suffers. Ultimately, as international experience has shown, it is a threat to democracy itself.”

It cited as examples of interference attempts by federal ministers to influence the Victorian Court of Appeal in 2017 terrorism cases, sustained funding cuts and personal attacks on the ABC, and the de-skilling of the public service through the outsourcing of up to 50 per cent of government departments to contractors.

The report listed a series of principles that needed to be respected in order to protect the independence of the threatened institutions. They include protection from political retribution, secure and sufficient funding, secure tenure of senior officials and public access to advice to the government from accountability institutions, as well as the creation of an effective federal integrity watchdog.

The Centre for Public Integrity, a independently funded think tank, was formed earlier this year in part to champion the case for a such a body. The report comes in the midst of a campaign by Australian media, including the Herald and The Age, to defend the public right to information in the face of increasing attempts by government and government agencies to suppress information, prosecute whistleblowers and criminalise legitimate public interest journalism.

October 29, 2019 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, civil liberties, media, politics | Leave a comment

ABC challenges the validity of Federal Police raids

We don’t want any sensationalist headlines,’ AFP allegedly told ABC, Michaela Whitbourn ,October 28, 2019 —An Australian Federal Police agent told the ABC it wanted to avoid “sensationalist headlines” such as “AFP raids ABC” before it seized a raft of documents from the broadcaster’s Sydney headquarters, the Federal Court has heard.

The ABC is challenging the legal validity of the search warrant authorising the June 5 raid by the federal police on its offices in Ultimo and is seeking the return of documents seized at the time. Continue reading

October 29, 2019 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, civil liberties, legal, media | Leave a comment

Australian Federal Police put their case at Federal Court hearing about their raid on ABC

No role’ for implied freedom of political communication in ABC raid decision: AFP, The Age  Michaela Whitbourn, October 29, 2019 The ABC had “no basis” for claiming the implied freedom of political communication acted as a handbrake on a court’s power to issue a warrant to the Australian Federal Police to raid its Sydney headquarters, lawyers for the police have told the Federal Court.

The national broadcaster is challenging the legal validity of the search warrant authorising the June 5 raid on its offices in Ultimo and is seeking the return of documents seized at the time.

After a series of preliminary legal fights earlier this year, the full hearing in the Federal Court commenced on Monday and continued on Tuesday with submissions from the federal police.

The ABC is challenging the warrant on four bases, including the decision to grant the search warrant, made by a Local Court registrar, fell foul of the implied freedom of political communication in the Commonwealth Constitution…….

In documents filed in court, the ABC argues the implied freedom is relevant and “investigative journalism in the public interest that relies on information provided to journalists by confidential sources … is fundamental to the maintenance of the Australian system of representative democracy” which is provided for in the Australian Constitution.  ……

David William McBride, a former military lawyer, has previously admitted leaking material to the ABC that formed the basis of its reports and has been charged with a range of criminal offences.

Mr Williams, for the federal police, told the court Mr McBride had supplied documents to other news outlets who had not published the material.

The hearing continues.

October 29, 2019 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, civil liberties, media | Leave a comment

A new court order is being abused in order to harass a journalist


YOU CAN’T HANDLE THE TRUTH! Media’s dwindling role in Democracy Panel

Toxic “Safety” orders the latest tool to shut down free speech, by Michael West — 25 October 2019 It’s #YourRightToKnow. There are many ways to silence the media: persecution of whistleblowers, defamation threats, contempt of court claims, lobbying of media bosses by powerful interests, injurious falsehood claims, the government’s draconian secrecy laws and police raids on journalists. Michael West reports on the latest abuse against free speech.

Today we can unveil yet another threat to freedom of speech: the Personal Safety Intervention Order (PSIO), a court order which is intended to help victims of domestic violence but instead is being abused as a tool to harass journalists, namely Sandi Keane, Editor of this publication.

It’s #YourRightToKnow. There are many ways to silence the media: persecution of whistleblowers, defamation threats, contempt of court claims, lobbying of media bosses by powerful interests, injurious falsehood claims, the government’s draconian secrecy laws and police raids on journalists. Michael West reports on the latest abuse against free speech.

Today we can unveil yet another threat to freedom of speech: the Personal Safety Intervention Order (PSIO), a court order which is intended to help victims of domestic violence but instead is being abused as a tool to harass journalists, namely Sandi Keane, Editor of this publication.

There have been some reports about the abuse of Personal Safety Intervention Orders in Victoria by those seeking malicious revenge. The editor of this journal, Sandi Keane, is believed to be the first journalist to be silenced in this way. She’s attended court seven times after receiving two Orders and has been threatened with a third. “An Intervention Order is now a sure fire way to shut down a story,” says Keane. “Getting an Intervention Order in Victoria is instant and cost-free (no lawyer required).”

The two essential criteria are for applicants to claim they have been threatened and are suffering mental stress as result.

An Interim Order will be issued immediately against anyone in Australia.

Sandi Keane says the applicants lied about the threats but no evidence was needed until the Final Contested Hearing some 12-18 months later.

The effect on public interest reporting therefore is chilling as most news is time-critical, so by the time the story might eventually be published, its news value might have evaporated.

There are no consequences for abusing the legal system and costs cannot be claimed by the Respondent in the proceedings.

The Applicant can also manipulate the date of the final hearing as a magistrate will only set a date for the Final Hearing if both sides have had a chance to get a lawyer; are ready for the hearing; or agree to the date.

Furthermore, court reporters cannot report on an Intervention Order unless they withhold the name of the court and names of the relevant parties.

So, not only does an Intervention Order trump an Injunction in the High Court with all its attendant costs and adverse publicity, it also ticks the Suppression Order box.

Yet the sting in the tail is that, from the date of the Interim Order, all references to the “protected person” must be deleted from any media site including social media (Condition 10).

Journalists can forget about getting another colleague to publish the story as this is prohibited under Condition 8.

Breaching the order risks a criminal conviction or prison sentence.

Journalists union, the Media Arts and Entertainment Alliance (MEAA), has met with the Victorian Attorney General with the hope of amending the Personal Safety Intervention Order Act to protect freedom of the press. In a letter to the Chief Magistrate, the MEAA wrote:

“This is a dangerous assault on press freedom, has a chilling effect on legitimate journalism in the public interest and undermines the public’s right to know.”

Editor’s Note:

Sandi Keane’s investigation was into the fraudsters operating in the pedigree dog industry. She was successful in contesting one of these orders. The unsuccessful Applicant in this case had served a jail sentence for fraud and was also found guilty of arson. The other applicant also has a conviction for fraud. These two people have taken out five PSIOs of which we know. The others were granted against people who had taken legal action against them, made an official complaint or given evidence against them.

The rise of PSIOs, and their abuse, coincides with the rise in other forms of suppression of free speech in Australia, by all three branches of government: the judiciary, the executive and the legislature.

It’s time to enshrine free speech in the constitution such as is the case in the US. You can take action to stand up for your right to know. Check out MEAA’s Take Action site here.

October 26, 2019 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, civil liberties, legal, media, secrets and lies | Leave a comment

 Australia’s environment department is unlawfully withholding documents from the public

The Transparency Project Freedom of information Environment department illegally withholds thousands of FOI pages

More than 10,000 pages of documents have not been made public, including records on Adani and the Angus Taylor grasslands saga , Guardian,   Christopher Knaus @knausc  Wed 16 Oct 2019

Australia’s environment department is unlawfully withholding more than 10,000 pages of freedom of information documents from the public, including internal records on Adani and the Angus Taylor grasslands affair.

The department has failed to place documents on its FOI disclosure log for the past 10 months, meaning material it has released to individual applicants is not visible to the wider public.

The failings, first reported by the Mandarin, are a breach of FOI law, which compels government agencies to publish documents online within 10 working days of giving them to the initial applicant.

It means more than 10,000 pages have not been published on the log, including internal records on its decision to approve the controversial groundwater plan for the Adani coalmine and on Taylor’s interactions with an investigation into land-clearing by a company he and his family part-owned.

Guardian Australia understands the department’s conduct has been the subject of an official complaint to the information watchdog, the office of the Australian information commissioner (OAIC). The OAIC typically does not comment on ongoing investigations………

Peter Timmins, a lawyer and highly-regarded FOI expert, said it showed a broader problem with the federal government’s attitude toward FOI.

“It shows a broader problem really about the state of FOI if we have agencies that can disregard quite clear obligations to make documents released publicly available on their disclosure log,” Timmins said. “The broader problem is that I think without appropriate leadership – and that really is at the highest level of government – about the importance of transparency and integrity, we see these breaches occur.”……..

October 24, 2019 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, civil liberties, politics, secrets and lies | Leave a comment

Judge denies Julian Assange a delay in extradition hearings

October 22, 2019 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, civil liberties, legal, media, politics international | 1 Comment