Australian news, and some related international items

Julian Assange to remain behind bars

Julian Assange to remain behind bars due to ‘history of absconding’   SBS 13 Sep 19, The founder of Wikileaks has been told he will be kept in jail beyond September 22.   Julian Assange has been told he will stay in prison after the custody period finishes on his current jail term because of his “history of absconding”.

In June, then home secretary Sajid Javid signed an order allowing Assange to be extradited to the US over computer-hacking allegations.

A 50-week jail term was then imposed in the UK after he jumped bail by going into hiding in the Ecuadorian embassy in London in 2012.   He would have been released from HMP Belmarsh on September 22, Westminster Magistrates’ Court heard on Friday, but the 48-year-old Australian was told he will be kept in jail because of “substantial grounds” for believing he will abscond again……. Another administrative hearing will take place on October 11 following by a case management hearing on October 21, the court heard.

The final hearing in Assange’s extradition case is due in February……


September 13, 2019 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, civil liberties | Leave a comment

‘All of us are in danger’: John Pilger delivers warning from Julian Assange

Today, in further flagrant and conscious censorship, no British, Australian or American newspaper is carrying a report on Waters’ initiative and the rally.

Roger Waters and John Pilger make powerful defence of Julian Assange in London, WSWS  3 September 2019

Up to 1,000 people gathered last night in central London to hear internationally acclaimed musician Roger Waters deliver a musical tribute to imprisoned WikiLeaks’ publisher Julian Assange.

Performing outside the UK Home Office, just miles from Belmarsh Prison where Assange is being held as a Category A prisoner, Waters sang Pink Floyd’s iconic song “Wish You Were Here.” He was accompanied by guitarist Andrew Fairweather Low.

Supporters filled the forecourt and pavement on both sides of Marsham Street, many carrying banners and placards demanding Assange’s freedom and the release of imprisoned whistleblower Chelsea Manning. Spontaneous chants rang out, “Free, Free Julian Assange!” and “There’s only one decision: No extradition!”

John Pilger, a veteran filmmaker and investigative journalist and a personal friend of Assange, opened the event with an impassioned speech. Pointing in the direction of the Home Office, Pilger told the crowd: “The behaviour of the British government towards Julian Assange is a disgrace. A profanity on the very notion of human rights. It’s no exaggeration to say that the treatment and persecution of Julian Assange is the way that dictatorships treat a political prisoner.”

John Pilger, a veteran filmmaker and investigative journalist and a personal friend of Assange, opened the event with an impassioned speech. Pointing in the direction of the Home Office, Pilger told the crowd: “The behaviour of the British government towards Julian Assange is a disgrace. A profanity on the very notion of human rights. It’s no exaggeration to say that the treatment and persecution of Julian Assange is the way that dictatorships treat a political prisoner.”………

Pilger warned that Assange’s condition was a matter of grave concern. “I worry a great deal about him if he spends many months in Belmarsh,” he said. “The regime there is imposing a kind of isolation on him that is deeply psychologically wounding. He’s in a small cell in the hospital ward. They seem not to know what to do with him. Of course, what they should be doing is letting him out. He certainly should not be in a maximum-security prison.”…….

Underscoring the point made by Kristinn Hrafnsson about the mainstream media, no major British television station reported on the event on their evening news broadcasts. Today, in further flagrant and conscious censorship, no British, Australian or American newspaper is carrying a report on Waters’ initiative and the rally.

Via social media and publications such as the WSWS, however, reports and video of Waters’ performance, Pilgers’ speech and the statements of Gabriel Shipton are circulating widely and will be viewed by hundreds of thousands of people internationally over the coming days.

September 5, 2019 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, civil liberties, media | 1 Comment

They are trying to break Assange “physically and psychologically” 

Clinical psychologist Lissa Johnson: They are trying to break Assange “physically and psychologically”  WSWS, By Oscar Grenfell , 28 August 2019Australian clinical psychologist Lissa Johnson has been an outspoken defender of Julian Assange, writing extensively on the grave implications of his persecution for democratic rights and freedom of speech.

Johnson explained to the WSWS that she writes about the psychology of politics and social issues. She has a background in media studies and sociology, and a PhD in the psychology of manipulating reality-perception.

Earlier this year, Johnson wrote an extensive fivepartinvestigative series titled The Psychology of Getting Julian Assange, published on the New Matilda website. Johnson provided the following responses to a series of questions from the World Socialist Web Site earlier this week.

WSWS: John Shipton and John Pilger have recently detailed the punitive conditions of Assange’s detention in Belmarsh Prison. Could you speak about the way in which his isolation, and the denial of his right to access computers/legal documents is aimed at stymieing his defence against the US extradition request and increasing the psychological pressures upon him?

Lissa Johnson: If anyone takes a moment to imagine what it must be like to face the prospect of 175 years in a US prison, having already been subjected to nearly a decade of arbitrary detention and judicial harassment, knowing that you have no chance of a fair trial in the US, having been smeared in the media and branded a “terrorist” and enemy of the state, then that gives you an inkling of what Julian Assange was dealing with even before being placed under lockdown in Belmarsh prison. If you add to that having read hundreds of documents from Guantanamo Bay and knowing, in intimate detail, what the United States does to those it brands terrorists and enemies of the state, then Julian Assange’s reality becomes even clearer.

Now, with the full force of the US national security state bearing down on him, Julian Assange has been stripped of his most basic abilities to protect himself. Continue reading

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

Injustices to Julian Assange in British prison

Julian Assange: Deprivation of Justice and Double Standards in Belmarsh Prison, 21st Century  Wire , AUGUST 28, 2019 BY NINA CROSS 

Alfred de Zayas, former UN Rapporteur, has described the actions of the British authorities in pursuit of Assange as “… contrary to the rule of law and contrary to the spirit of the law.”  What we see on the surface is an illusion of British justice, masking a political agenda behind it.

Britain’s notorious Belmarsh Prison is now being presented as beacon of good governance, indicative of a fair and just society which equitable but firm with perpetrators. After carefully reviewing the case of Julian Assange though, there can be little doubt that placing the award-winning journalist in such a facility is nothing but the latest vehicle for his rendition to the US.

So far, Belmarsh has been fulfilling that state agenda.

Belmarsh as the state’s next weapon of choice

Judge Deborah Taylor sent Assange to category A Belmarsh prison for a bail-skipping offense, even though he’d demonstrated that he had good reason to skip bail.  It is difficult not to conclude that the category A assignment was done so that he would be weak and vulnerable.  In essence, Assange was sent to Belmarsh for 50 weeks for failing to turn up at a police station.  There was no ongoing court case; he had no prior offenses; there were no charges; the Swedish investigation had been dropped.  So skipping police bail was all the British government had. It should also be pointed out that Judge Taylor made a series of mistakes during the sentencing on 1st May, referring to rape charges in Sweden, which Assange corrected and which she then acknowledged were wrong.  This indicates that Judge Taylor went into court at least uninformed, set in her mind that Assange had somewhere, somehow been charged with rape. This would seem to explain some of the reasoning behind Judge Taylor’s cruel sentencing, described by the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention as ‘disproportionate’ but also as furthering the arbitrary deprivation of Assange’s liberty.  What’s more, it has been pointed out how several thousand people in the UK skip bail each year and are in now way subject to such harsh punishment.

Clearly, Judge Taylor had used narratives provided by the state in order to send Assange to a category A penitentiary, even though these narratives have been thoroughly debunked.  …….

Following his assessment of Assange in May inside Belmarsh prison, Nils Melzer issued a statement detailing the conditions of dentention. Melzer was accompanied by two medical experts who specialize in the examination of possible victims of torture as well as the documentation of symptoms, both physical and psychological.  On examining Assange Melzer observed the following:

Most importantly, in addition to physical ailments, Mr. Assange showed all symptoms typical for prolonged exposure to psychological torture, including extreme stress, chronic anxiety and intense psychological trauma.

In addition to these concerns, reports also indicate Assange is being medicated. Continue reading

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

Australian investigative journalist Mark Davis explodes the myths around Julian Assange

While the Internet was meant to democratise the transmission of information we see a few giant technology companies, Google, Facebook, and Twitter, have near total control of what is seen and shared.

The situation is even worse in Australia with two or three media companies and the same technology giants having control. And the Government of Australia has granted them ever wider market access to extend their monopolies.

Slowly, instance by instance, the malicious and deceitful smears of Julian Assange’s character have been exposed for what they are; an effort to destroy trust in a system of anonymous leaking that will educate everyone.

WikiLeaks’ threat to the powerful was recognised and every effort was, and is, being made to criminalise anonymous leaking, which would be akin to criminalising Gutenberg’s printing press, but there is not much chance this criminalisation will succeed.

It’s time to bring Julian Assange home. Torturing and punishing him has never been legitimate and serves absolutely no purpose.

Media dead silent as Wikileaks insider explodes the myths around Julian Assange, Michael West, by Greg Bean — 16 August 2019 – It is the journalists from The Guardian and New York Times who should be in jail, not Julian Assange, said Mark Davis last week. The veteran Australian investigative journalist, who has been intimately involved in the Wikileaks drama, has turned the Assange narrative on its head. The smears are falling away. The mainstream media, which has so ruthlessly made Julian Assange a scapegoat, is silent in response.

August 17, 2019 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, civil liberties, media | Leave a comment

Australians need to rally in support of Julian Assange

Dan MonceauxAugust 7    The combined imperial crusade against Julian Assange involves a multi-pronged effort to erode his support base. As a supporter, I have experienced this first hand, with various individuals trying to influence my opinion of his character and work. I have used Wikileaks documents in submissions made to government and in forthcoming documentary film work. WL is an invaluable repository of information, ready for anyone interested to know how power “works” internationally.

In the wider public, Assange’s standing has been weakened by the media and hostile commentators fixating on rape allegations while overlooking the serious matters exposed in the contents of documents Wikileaks received from anonymous sources then elected to publish.

As it stands, Assange will most likely face a Grand Jury in the US, before which he can present no defence. He may then go to prison for life (for a cumulative sentence of 175 years under offences listed in the US’s Espionage Act) and may spend much of this in solitary confinement.

But what of those responsible for the wrong doing Wikileaks has exposed? Is this what justice looks like in the 21st century? People need to rally behind Assange now, more than ever.

August 13, 2019 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, civil liberties | Leave a comment

Nuclear waste: residents near proposed dump told to sign draconian code of conduct,

Nuclear waste: residents near proposed dump told to sign draconian code of conduct,  

Code bans residents from taking notes or recording any part of meetings without prior agreement, Calla Wahlquist  @callapilla 8 Aug 2019 Residents in small South Australian communities shortlisted for a proposed nuclear waste storage facility have been told if they want to attend community consultation meetings they have to sign a code of conduct that bans them from taking notes.

The shortlist for the proposed dump has been narrowed down to Lyndhurst or Napandee, in the Kimba shire area on the Eyre Peninsula, and Wallerberdina Station, which is near Barndioota in the southern Flinders Ranges.

If approved, it would be a permanent storage facility for low-level nuclear waste and provide temporary storage for intermediate level waste, including waste temporarily stored near the research reactor at Lucas Heights in Sydney.

The process has been stalled for more than 12 months because of a federal court challenge by Barngarla traditional owners, who hold native title over land adjacent to the two proposed Eyre Peninsula sites.

Barngarla Determination Aboriginal Corporation last month lost a federal court case arguing that a decision not to include native title holders in a local government poll gauging community support for the dump was in breach of the Racial Discrimination Act, but have appealed that decision to the full court.

A majority of Adnyamathanha traditional owners have also said they’re “totally opposed” to the facility being built at Barndioota.

Meetings of two local consultative committees, appointed by the federal industry department’s National Radioactive Waste Management Facility Taskforce (NRWMFT) as its main platform for ongoing community consultation, were put on hold while the court case was underway but have been scheduled to resume next week.

But locals have complained that a new code of conduct for people wishing to observe the Barndioota and Kimba consultative committee meetings is unnecessarily restrictive and makes it harder for the community to obtain up-to-date information and voice their concerns.

The code, seen by Guardian Australia, states that “observers” must be approved and cannot “take any notes, or record any part of the meeting … except with the prior agreement of the department, the independent convenor and all representative members of the committee”.

It also says they cannot “repeat or share the individual ideas or views of [committee] members,” and can’t repeat confidential information or try to interject in committee discussions.

“This agreement does not prevent you from discussing information shared during a BCC meeting unless it has been identified as confidential or sensitive,” it says. “The [convenor] may ask you to leave the meeting if you do not comply with this Code of Conduct.”

Farmer Dean Hooper, who has applied to attend the Barndioota meeting, said that restrictions on repeating confidential information and behaving respectfully were reasonable but other conditions placed on attending were “bullshit”.

“They are trying to keep it low and quiet and get this dump to happen as easily and quickly and quietly as possible,” he said.

Hooper opposes the dump and is a member of the Flinders local action group.

The NRWMFT said that the code of conduct concerned behavioural standards and that information in the meeting was not confidential, unless stated otherwise, and that the minutes of all meetings had been published online.

Committee members have also been restricted from discussing meetings with the media. Susan Andersson, a GP from Hawker who sits on the Bandioota committee, said the contract extension that committee members signed in March was “more restrictive” than the original contract and represented an apparent desire by the department to control public information.

NRWMFT general manager Sam Chard said the facility “will only proceed near a community that broadly supports it and which could provide an ongoing workforce”.

In a statement on Wednesday, she said that ballots of residents and ratepayers, like that attempted by Kimba before the federal court challenge, “remain one method that we intend to use to help inform if that necessary broad community support exists”.

People living outside the local government areas can make a submission.

August 8, 2019 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, civil liberties, Federal nuclear waste dump | Leave a comment

Senate voted on Press Freedoms – Matter of Public importance

Press Freedoms – Matter of Public importance Senator Sarah Hanson-Young
Today the Senate voted for an inquiry into press freedom and whistle-blower protection showing that there are some in our Parliament who care about a frank and fearless media.

This week’s arrest of four French journalists highlights how badly we need to rethink press freedom in Australia.

This inquiry will get to the bottom of what has gone on and ensure a future for a free press in Australia.”

July 25, 2019 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, civil liberties, media, politics | Leave a comment

Adani protest: French journalists arrested while filming anti-coal activities

Adani protest: French journalists arrested while filming anti-coal activities, Guardian
Journalists charged with trespassing after filming Frontline Action on Coal activists include Hugo Clément,
Ben Smee @BenSmee, Mon 22 Jul 2019 Four journalists working for the public television network France 2 have been charged with trespassing for filming a protest near the Abbot Point coal terminal, in north Queensland, targeting the operations of the Adani group.

The group of journalists includes Hugo Clément, a reporter well known in France for his documentaries about climate change and environmental issues.

Clément and a crew were arrested while filming anti-coal activists from the group Frontline Action on Coal, which early on Monday morning set up a blockade outside the Abbot Point port. About 20 members of the environmental group gathered outside the port entrance from 7am. Two locked themselves to a concrete barrel on the roadway.

In a statement Frontline Action on Coal said Clément and others were told by police they were “obstructing the railway” while filming the protests.

“Without warning, all four Frenchmen were immediately placed in handcuffs and put into police vehicles,” the statement said.

The group was taken to a police station in the nearby town of Bowen. They were released on bail on Monday afternoon and ordered to face the local magistrates court in September.

Clément said he spent several hours in a cell after being arrested while filming a protest, which included two demonstrators locking their hands inside a concrete barrel.

“We were just filming the action at the blockade of the highway and police came straight to us and arrested us without a word, without saying anything,” Clément said.
“They took us into a cell for seven hours.”

He said he and his crew, who work for French public broadcaster France 2, were charged with trespassing and released on conditional bail, which included that they not go within 20km of the Carmichael site.

“We didn’t understand why they arrested us because we weren’t doing anything wrong, we were just doing our jobs by filming the action,” he said.

“I had a good picture of Australia … this is not a very democratic thing to say to a film crew, to say you cannot go there.”…

July 23, 2019 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, civil liberties, climate change - global warming, media | Leave a comment

Adani’s search for scientists’ names – pressure on scientists to shut up about climate change, water scarcity?

Adani has set a dangerous precedent in requesting scientists’ names, The Conversation     Samantha Hepburn, Director of the Centre for Energy and Natural Resources Law, Deakin Law School, Deakin University
July 17, 2019  A freedom of information request has revealed Adani sought the names of CSIRO and Geoscience Australia scientists involved in reviewing groundwater management plans related to its proposed Carmichael mine.

Adani argued it required a list of people involved in the review so as to have “peace of mind” that it was being treated fairly and impartially on a scientific rather than a political basis.

Ten days before Adani’s request, Geoscience Australia’s acting director of groundwater advice and data reportedly raised concerns that Adani had “actively searched/viewed” his LinkedIn profile and that of a colleague.

Significantly, Adani’s request to the government was made before CSIRO and Geoscience Australia had reported their review findings back to the Queensland government.

While the federal Department of the Environment and Energy reportedly declined to hand over the names, the fact the letter was sent in the first place is concerning. It fundamentally interferes with the capacity of individual scientists to provide clear and informed evaluation………..

The letter sent by Adani requesting the names of scientists was allegedly grounded in concerns about the possibility of anti-Adani activism by expert reviewers. Despite this, Adani made it clear that it was not explicitly alleging bias. Its objective, the letter said, was a desire to be “treated fairly and in a manner consistent with other industry participants”.

The real purpose of the letter

If Adani was seriously concerned about a breach of procedural fairness in the review of their groundwater management plan, it would have sought a judicial review. It did not – because there was no breach.

The scientists working at CSIRO and Geoscience Australia are all experts in their disciplines. They were engaged in the important process of determining whether Adani’s plan for managing groundwater around their mine would meet the environmental conditions of their mining licence. In other words, the scientists were doing their job…….

As Adani has not brought an action for judicial review, the substantive purpose of the letter appears to be, as suggested by CSIRO representatives, to pressure scientists and potentially seek to discredit their work. The potentially chilling effect is clear.

Concern about climate change is not bias

The profound concerns raised by climate change and fossil fuel emissions are shared by many scientists around the world. The reports prepared for the International Panel on Climate Change make it clear that coal fired electricity must drop to nearly zero by 2050 to keep warming within 1.5℃.

This shared concern does not make scientists political activists. Nor does it prevent scientists from acting fairly and impartially when reviewing a groundwater management plan.

An acceptance of climate science and even a belief that coal-fired energy should be decommissioned does not constitute bias. A reasonable bystander would expect most environmental scientists to be concerned about climate change…….

The letter, sent before the review was handed down, sets a dangerous precedent. Not because it suggests the scientists were impartial or there was any procedural unfairness involved in the process. But rather, because it jeopardises the independence of our scientists who, in seeking to ensure the longevity of our water, food and energy resources, carry a heavy responsibility to the public interest.

July 20, 2019 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, civil liberties, politics | Leave a comment

Warning on the likely police surveillance of young climate protestors

July 18, 2019 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, civil liberties, climate change - global warming | Leave a comment

Adani demands names of CSIRO scientists reviewing groundwater plans

July 16, 2019 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, civil liberties, climate change - global warming | Leave a comment

Australia’s police raids on the media will silence whistleblowers

It sends shockwaves through your life’: how the media raids will silence whistleblowers, Guardian  Christopher Knaus @knausc 9 Jun 2019

Those forces have already exacted a crippling toll.

“[My ex-wife] would probably say – and I think there’s an element of truth in it – it killed David McBride,” he says. “The man that she married was killed by the defence force, and I’m someone who’s different.

“Doing something like this, taking on the whole government, it sends shockwaves through your life, and not much survives, really.”

Wednesday’s raid on the ABC prompted outrage among civil rights groups, transparency campaigners, journalists and unions. It came just a day after federal police searched the home of the News Corp reporter Annika Smethurst, searching for documents related to her coverage of proposed new surveillance powers for the Australian Signals Directorate. 2GB host Ben Fordham’s revelation about asylum seeker boats attempting to reach Australia from Sri Lanka is also the subject of a home affairs investigation, as the department attempts to identify his source.

The raids have not occurred in isolation. Multiple whistleblowers who revealed government wrongdoing are currently being pursued through the courts with alarming vigour.

The government is prosecuting Witness K and Bernard Collaery, who revealed an unlawful spy operation against Timor-Leste during oil negotiations. Richard Boyle, the tax office worker who revealed the government’s heavy-handed approach to recovering debts, faces a long stint in jail if convicted.

Assoc Prof Joseph Fernandez, a journalism lecturer at Curtin University, has spent years studying source protection and the Australian media. He says the consequences of this week’s raids are clear, regardless of whether journalists are charged.

“Such raids, regardless of what happens here to journalists or to others, will have an immeasurable censoring effect on contact people have with journalists,” Fernandez says.

“In my research in this area over the years, it was clear that even senior public servants are apprehensive about having contact with journalists, even about mundane things, in the wake of laws that enable the authorities to track down sources.”

The McBride matter had been bubbling away for some time before Wednesday’s raid. Guardian Australia understands police have been talking to the ABC since at least September, trying to find a way to access the documents without resorting to a very public raid. …….

Denis Muller, from the University of Melbourne’s Centre for Advancing Journalism, says arguments about the police operating at arm’s length from government miss the point.    “The point is that the politicians have constructed a repressive legal regime designed to protect the executive branch of government, impede accountability to the public and exert a chilling effect on the press,” Muller wrote in the Conversation……….

June 10, 2019 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, civil liberties, media | Leave a comment

Statement by Ita Buttrose, ABC Chair, on the public’s right to know

An untrammelled media is important to the public discourse and to democracy. It is the way in which Australian citizens are kept informed about the world and its impact on their daily lives.

Observance of this basic tenet of the community’s right to know has driven my involvement in public life and my career in journalism for almost five decades.

The raid is unprecedented – both to the ABC and to me.

In a frank conversation with the Minister for Communications, Cyber Safety and the Arts, Paul Fletcher, yesterday, I said the raid, in its very public form and in the sweeping nature of the information sought, was clearly designed to intimidate.

It is impossible to ignore the seismic nature of this week’s events: raids on two separate media outfits on consecutive days is a blunt signal of adverse consequences for news organisations who make life uncomfortable for policy makers and regulators by shining lights in dark corners and holding the powerful to account.

I also asked for assurances that the ABC not be subject to future raids of this sort. Mr Fletcher declined to provide such assurances, while noting the “substantial concern” registered by the Corporation.

There has been much reference in recent days to the need to observe the rule of law.

While there are legitimate matters of national security that the ABC will always respect, the ABC Act and Charter are explicit about the importance of an independent public broadcaster to Australian culture and democracy.

Public interest is best served by the ABC doing its job, asking difficult questions and dealing with genuine whistle-blowers who risk their livelihoods and reputations to bring matters of grave import to the surface. Neither the journalists nor their sources should be treated as criminals.

In my view, legitimate journalistic endeavours that expose flawed decision-making or matters that policy makers and public servants would simply prefer were secret, should not automatically and conveniently be classed as issues of national security.

The onus must always be on the public’s right to know. If that is not reflected sufficiently in current law, then it must be corrected.

As ABC Chair, I will fight any attempts to muzzle the national broadcaster or interfere with its obligations to the Australian public. Independence is not exercised by degrees. It is absolute.


For further information contact:
Peter Munro, ABC Communications

June 8, 2019 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, civil liberties, media | Leave a comment

Australia heads for authoritarian rule, as Federal Police under government control, threatens press freedom

The AFP media raids aim to suppress the truth. Without it we head into the darkness of oppression

According to the Australian Federal Police Association’s president, Angela Smith, there was a widely shared feeling across the AFP that the body had “lost autonomy”. “It’s an embarrassing situation,” Smith was quoted as saying. “We look the least independent police force in Australia.”

In the wake of the AFP’s raids on a leading News Corp journalist Annika Smethurst on Tuesday and the ABC on Wednesday, the position of the AFP has gone from embarrassing to deeply disturbing.

Even Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp, the cheerleaders of the re-election of the Morrison government, seemed in no doubt as to the political purpose of the raid on Smethurst two weeks after a federal election. It was, News Corp said in an official statement, a “dangerous act of intimidation”.

Implicit in News Corp’s statement is that this is not an act of policing, but an act of politics.

What are we to make of two raids in two days as anything other than a symptom of deeply disturbing developments at the heart of our democracy?Smethurst’s story was over a year old. It was about a plan to allow the National Signals Directorate, for the first time, to directly spy on Australians by “hacking into critical infrastructure”.

In a statement the AFP attempted to justify its raid on Smethurst by arguing the disclosure of “these specific documents undermines Australia’s national security”. But how can our knowing about a possible major change to our freedoms as citizens in any way threaten our national security? The AFP doesn’t tell us because there is no argument they can make, only an unfounded assertion that they can repeat, mantra-like.

If mass surveillance is brought in, how will we know about it? Is national security best served by the inevitable abuses of such a scheme about which we are never told and which would go unpunished? Would national security be enhanced or weakened were Mr Dutton to use such powers for political advantage or to enable political persecution without our knowledge?

And if we cannot know the truth of such fundamental matters, what security as a democracy do we have?

If one raid was “a dangerous act of intimidation” what are we to make of two raids in two days – the second of our national broadcaster – as anything other than a symptom of deeply disturbing developments at the heart of our democracy?

The story in this case was not one but two years old, a major exposé of how Australian special forces soldiers had killed unarmed men and children in Afghanistan. On what possible grounds is it a good thing to not know atrocities have been committed by our nation?

How is our national security threatened by revealing crimes done in our name? Surely we are best served as a nation by a military that we can be confident acts within certain boundaries that are deemed acceptable in war and does not go beyond them?

In all this we cannot pretend to be surprised. The repression and culture of lying, deceit and evasion of public accountability that cloaked previous Liberal governments’ refugees policy is now coming home to haunt us all.

It was after all under Scott Morrison’s stewardship of the immigration portfolio that the notorious section 42 of the Border Force Act was enacted, allowing for the jailing for two years of any doctors or social workers who bore public witness to children beaten or sexually abused, to acts of rape or cruelty. The new crime was not crime, but the reporting of state-sanctioned violence on the innocent.

National security was invoked then to justify the enforcement of a national silence over what were no more or less than crimes.

And so it is again.

The consecutive timing of these acts represents not just a moment when a government crackdown on journalism began. The method may be to intimidate any whistleblower or journalist who would wish to reveal crimes committed by our government or in the name of our government.

But the aim is to suppress the truth.

And without the light of truth shining on what happens in public life we head into the darkness of oppression.

The Morrison government will soon seek to assume the high moral ground by diverting public discussion to the need for religious freedoms. But until I see Hillsong being raided by Dutton’s stooges, with the feds occupying their offices, accessing all their phone and computer records, I am not buying any of it.

This is a new government uninhibited, and it would now seem, unhinged. It does seem extraordinary that two cases, each of long standing, would immediately after an election, suddenly be activated to this level of public attention without ministerial knowledge. And yet, we have Dutton’s word it is not so. And were a news organisation subsequently to report, based on government documents, that the truth is otherwise, who knows who might come knocking on their door in the interest of national security?

Under his home affairs super ministry, Peter Dutton has more overt and covert power than any minister in our history. And this week officers of his ministry have been willing to use their powers recklessly against those practices that make us a democracy.

After the raids of the last two days, Australians would be justified in feeling fearful about their future. The politicians who might speak for us have long ceased to do so. And the journalists who still can, now risk everything if they publish political secrets that may be in our interests to know but are in our political masters’ to keep hidden.

Tweeting live from the ABC boardroom in which he was sitting with the AFP officers as they were going through the ABC’s files, John Lyons, the ABC’s executive news editor, wrote: “I have to say, sitting here watching police using a media organisation’s computers to track everything to do with a legitimate story I can’t help but think: this is a bad, sad and dangerous day for a country where we have for so long valued – and taken for granted – a free press.”

The Morrison government could not have signalled its turn to the new authoritarianism that is poisoning so many other democracies with any clearer message. Get ready for the future, because it may already be here.

June 5, 2019 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, civil liberties, politics, secrets and lies | Leave a comment

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