Antinuclear

Australian news, and some related international items

We should be outraged at the silencing of Julian Assange

Daniel Ellsberg’s decision to release the Pentagon Papers was an act of valor—his actions saved countless lives. He was a whistleblower who changed the course of history and curtailed an ongoing genocide which ended up preventing the needless dissolution of American soldiers and Vietnamese civilians alike. The publishing of the Pentagon Papers is a prime example of the critical part a free press plays in keeping governments in check and exposing the corrosive nature of consolidated power. This is why the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights enshrines the rights to free speech and of a free press in the United States Constitution. 

Tyrants throughout history have targeted journalists and reporters for a reason.

On Wednesday afternoon, Julian Assange, who has been forced into self-imprisonment at the Ecuadorian embassy since 2012 to ward off prosecution from the United Kingdom and the United States, had his internet access cut off. Assange is our generation’s Daniel Ellsberg; WikiLeaks—the online publication he started—has been invaluable in letting the public know about the malfeasance of their elected officials and highlighting the duplicity of governments throughout the world. In an era where mainstream journalists have been turned into a corporate-state propagandists, WikiLeaks stands out in their dogged pursuit of truth and exposing deep-seated corruption and graft.

Where Is the Outrage About Julian Assange’s Silencing? https://www.truthdig.com/articles/where-is-the-outrage-about-julian-assanges-silencing/ 3 April 18, Teodrose Fikre / The Ghion Journal 

On October 12, 1969, Daniel Ellsberg copied a secret dossier with the intention of disclosing the truth about the Vietnam War. The Pentagon Papers were a chronicle of events that recorded the scope of operations in Vietnam and beyond—details which were being withheld from the American public. The Vietnam War was built on the foundation of lies; we were rushed into the war using the Gulf of Tonkin as a false flag and defending freedom as a pretext to further the interests of the defense-financial complex. The truth eventually caught up to the lies of politicians and bureaucrats; Defense Secretary Robert McNamara later admitted the Gulf of Tonkin attack never took place. Continue reading

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April 4, 2018 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, civil liberties | Leave a comment

The Cambridge Analytica scandal: are we now ready to choose privacy?

There are intermediate steps we can take right now, as long as we remember that that’s all they are. Bringing political parties under the remit of Australia’s mediocre privacy laws would be a start. Joining and supporting dedicated organisations like Digital Rights Watch and Electronic Frontiers Australia helps extend their reach and yours.

The question is whether we’re ready to exercise our data sovereignty, or whether we’re content to play passive victims while surveillance capitalism extends ever finer threads into every corner of our lives. For better or worse, a window is open in which to have that conversation

Large Man Looking At Co-Worker With A Magnifying Glass — Image by © Images.com/Corbis

Don’t waste the Cambridge Analytica scandal: it’s a chance to take control of our data  https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/mar/23/dont-waste-the-cambridge-analytica-scandal-its-a-chance-to-take-control-of-our-data @Scottludlam,  23 Mar 2018 

March 23, 2018 Posted by | civil liberties | Leave a comment

Townsville City Council censors documentary about Adani coal megamine plan

Anti-Adani documentary screening axed for safety reasons, not politics, council says, ABC News, 21 Feb 18 By Josh Robertson   Public safety concerns, not politics, were behind the axing of the screening of a documentary on the Stop Adani protest movement, a north Queensland council says.

February 22, 2018 Posted by | civil liberties, politics, Queensland | Leave a comment

Julian Assange remains stuck in London, still at risk of extradition to USA

Julian Assange ‘has suffered enough’, his lawyers tell British judge, SMH, Nick Miller, 6 Feb 18, London: Julian Assange has suffered enough and shouldn’t face prison for absconding from justice, his lawyers have told a court.

The Wikileaks editor is depressed, in constant pain from an infected tooth, and has been stuck in the Ecuador Embassy in London’s Kensington far longer than the maximum 12-month jail penalty for breaching bail, his barrister said.

On Tuesday Assange lost a legal bid at Westminster Magistrates Court to quash the arrest warrant that has awaited him since he entered the Ecuador embassy in June 2012.

However his lawyers immediately launched a new push to end the UK government’s attempt to bring him to justice – arguing that it is against the public interest to punish him for refusing to leave the embassy.

It is a criminal offence for someone on bail to refuse to surrender to police without “reasonable cause” – and Assange refused to leave the embassy despite a court order for his arrest.

 But Assange’s barrister Mark Summers QC told Judge Emma Arbuthnot that it was not in the interests of “justice and proportionality” to bring an action against Assange.

Assange went into the embassy after he exhausted his line of appeal against a decision to extradite him to Sweden to face rape allegations.  Sweden last year ended its investigation into the allegations, and the European arrest warrant against Assange was cancelled. However the British warrant for his arrest still stood – and judge Arbuthnot said she was not persuaded it should be quashed simply because the underlying investigation had stopped.

Mr Summers said Assange was not “thumbing his nose” at justice and his five and a half years in the embassy were “adequate if not severe punishment for the actions that he took”.

Assange had genuine fears – later proved correct – that the US were keen to prosecute him over his work with Wikileaks, Summers said.

If arrested he would face rendition to the USA, treatment similar to that meted out against Wikileaks whistleblower Chelsea Manning – and possible “persecution, indefinite solitary confinement and the death penalty”, Summers said in a written submission……….

Judge Arbuthnot said it was a “very interesting” case.

She will rule on the public interest application on February 13.

Outside court, Assange’s lawyer Jennifer Robinson said whether or not the warrant is quashed Assange would not leave the embassy until he had an assurance he wouldn’t be extradited to the US.

“Mr Assange remains willing to answer to British justice in relation to any argument about breaching bail, but not at the expense of facing injustice in America,” she said.

“This case is and always has been about the risk of extradition to the United States and that risk remains real.” http://www.smh.com.au/world/julian-assange-has-suffered-enough-his-lawyers-tell-british-judge-20180206-p4yzjt.html

February 7, 2018 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, civil liberties, politics international | Leave a comment

Media silence on Julian Assange’s precarious situation

Wikileaks specifically noted Reuters’ coverage of these latest developments: “Depo Akande, an international law professor at Oxford University, said that Ecuador could argue that Britain had no right under international law to reject its declaration that Assange had diplomatic status.”

Additional press reports indicate that if the UK were ordered by the International Court to accept Ecuador’s decision to treat Assange as a diplomat, and were then to “declare him persona non grata, it would then ‘have to give him facilities to leave’ the country unhindered.” One hopes that the current Ecuadorian President, Lenín Moreno, will not bow to pressure from the United States to withdraw support from Assange. Ecuador’s former President, Rafael Correa, has indicated that this is a real possibility.

So far, legacy press has not taken the UK to task for attempting to “ignore” Assange’s new diplomatic role. Now more than ever, the media’s silence is important in informing or misinforming the public regarding Assange’s situation. The legal implications of Ecuador’s decision to confer Assange diplomatic status are potentially massive, but many outlets have been atrociously silent on the matter when they are not outright lying regarding Assange’s circumstances.

In light of the precariousness of recent events, human rights activist, journalist and Wikileaks supporter Randy Credico recently issued a call for Wikileaks supporters to ‘mobilize‘ in his support. This is a statement which should be taken seriously by the public and by independent media, which has increasingly been tasked with filling the void left by mainstream outlets that no longer function in the interest of honest reporting.

Telesur recently reported that former Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa had warned: “It will only take pressure from the United States to withdraw protection for Assange.” He added: “Surely it’s already being done, and maybe they await the results of the Feb. 4 (referendum) to make a decision.” Correa also referred to Ecuador’s current president as a “traitor.”

Over the last twelve months, Disobedient Media has reported extensively on the hypocrisy of legacy press, including The Washington Post. The outlet’s recent coverage of Assange’s circumstances serves as an emblem of the overall problem of intelligence agency narratives being pushed by a corporate press with which they are entangled.

The Washington Post exemplified the issue when it published an article erroneously titled: “Ecuador’s president calls Julian Assange ‘more than a nuisance.” The article in question incorrectly referenced Assange in the following incorrect terms: “the WikiLeaks founder was wanted in Sweden on sexual assault charges. Those have since been dropped. ” Assange was never charged with sexual assault, and Sweden ended their investigation into the subject.

Although false narratives around Wikileaks are nothing new for establishment press, the latest smear attempts are particularly important due to the precarious nature of Assange’s current position.

The Washington Post’s allusion to non-existent sexual assault charges dishonestly paints Assange and the reasons for his exile in the Ecuadorian embassy in a light that not only is factually untrue, but conveniently distracts from the manifold ways in which Assange and Wikileaks employees have been directly targeted as a result of their journalistic endeavors. As this author previously reported, there have been a plethora of calls to assassinate Assange from media pundits, as well as individuals associated with the Democratic Party establishment.

In light of all this, it is absurd to discuss Assange’s predicament without also addressing the intelligence community and plutocratic establishment that has fundamentally driven the situation from the beginning.

UN rulings on the matter of Assange’s detention have stated: “Assange has been arbitrarily detained by Sweden and the United Kingdom since his arrest in London on 7 December 2010, as a result of the legal action against him by both Governments, the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention said today.” In essence, even the UN has recognized that Assange’s longstanding exile in the Ecuadorian embassy is due to governments who feel threatened by the content of Wikileaks publications.

At this juncture, it bears reminding that Jeff Bezos, the current owner of the Washington Post, has a $600 million contract with the CIA in relation to his monolithic company Amazon. The Nation wrote in 2013:

“Amazon, under the Post’s new owner, Jeff Bezos, recently secured a $600 million contract from the CIA. That’s at least twice what Bezos paid for the Post this year. Bezos recently disclosed that the company’s Web-services business is building a “private cloud” for the CIA to use for its data needs. Critics charge that, at a minimum, the Post needs to disclose its CIA link whenever it reports on the agency. Over 15,000 have signed the petition this week hosted by RootsAction.”

The Nation’s coverage of the CIA’s contract with Amazon has since been removed from their web page for unknown reasons, but is available through archive services.

When discussing The Washington Post’s exercise in gaslighting, it is important to keep the outlet’s well-documented financial connection with the CIA through Bezos in mind. In so doing, it is also pertinent to note that the CIA has made its hatred for Assange very clear, especially over the course of the last year. CIA Director Mike Pompeo put the agency’s hatred for Wikileaks were on full display as recently as yesterday, when the CIA Director lambasted the journalistic organization as a threat on par with Al Qaeda. Pompeo said of Al Qaeda and Wikileaks: “They don’t have a flag at the UN, but they represent real threats to the United States of America.”

That a group who publishes information that is inconvenient for the CIA would be likened to a terrorist network speaks to the threat which Wikileaks represents not to the safety of the American public, but to the plutocratic class and the American deep state.

Pompeo is well known for his previous reference to Wikileaks as a “non-state hostile intelligence service.” The Hill wrote of the incident: “In his first major public appearance since taking the top intelligence post in the Trump administration, Pompeo took aim at WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor Edward Snowden…” The Hill also cited Pompeo’s characterization of Assange as a: “fraud, a coward hiding behind a screen.”

Pompeo’s vitriolic characterization of Wikileaks is helpful, because it demonstrates that the CIA’s response to Wikileaks is on par with the force with which terrorist organizations like Al Qaeda are pursued. In that light, the magnitude of the threat faced by Assange and Wikileaks associates cannot be over-estimated. Pompeo’s words are not only absurd in light of Wikileaks being an extremely accurate journalistic organization, but also depict the real impetus behind Assange having been trapped in the Ecuadorian embassy for years.

The CIA Director’s statements, even taken at face value, completely undercut the manipulative coverage of Wikileaks and Assange by outlets like the Washington Post. That providing evidence of corruption is considered an existential threat by the establishment is indicative of the value of Wikileaks to the public. The publisher is only a threat to those whose lies are exposed by their publications. The same plutocracy that has aggressively targeted Assange and Wikileaks has progressively strangled free press and freedom of thought in the United States and the world for decades.

The anger of intelligence agencies towards Assange and Wikileaks may seem superficially unrelated to the disgracefully inaccurate treatment of the publisher in American press. However, it is necessary to view mainstream outlet’s coverage of Assange, including both their misinformation and their resounding silence on his having been targeted by the intelligence community, as an expression of aggression from the American ‘deep state.’ This is especially noteworthy given the close ties of the intelligence community to legacy media, as encapsulated by The Washington Post.

Disobedient Media previously reported on the unanimous echo chamber of establishment political think-tanks and apparently left-wing news organizations when it comes to issues pushed by the intelligence community, including the reauthorization of deeply flawed FISA legislation. In the case of Assange, the litany of lies and gaps in coverage over the years are too numerous to recount in full, but represent a concerted effort to silence truth through deflection and manipulation.

Alternative media must refuse to be silenced by the American deep state’s fanatical crusade against Wikileaks and its supporters. If it were not for Wikileaks, the growing niche of independent journalism would have virtually zero factual standing when attempting to counter disinformation by press outlets that have completely abandoned their role as a watchdog against government abuses.

If there was ever a time to support Wikileaks and its Editor in Chief, that time is now. To abandon Assange at this critical moment would be more profound than its deleterious effect on the life of an individual: it would represent a complete forfeiture of integrity across the entire spectrum of journalistic endeavors.

See link for associated tweets; https://disobedientmedia.com/2018/01/op-ed-washington-post-legacy-press-betray-assange-as-his-freedom-hangs-in-the-balance/

January 31, 2018 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, civil liberties, media | Leave a comment

Australian government’s repressive action against charities

Silencing the Poorhttps://probonoaustralia.com.au/news/2018/01/silencing-the-poor/By attacking charities and their ability to advocate, we’re creating a society where only those with power and access to start with have the ability to influence policy, writes Anglicare Australia executive director Kasy Chambers.   23rd January 2018      Kasy Chambers     @ProBonoNews  Over the past four years, community organisations and charities have gotten used to being under sustained attack. Think of the de-funding (and later re-funding) of community legal centres, the targeting of environment groups, and the recent appointment of charities critic Gary Johns to head up the charity regulator.

But the latest attack goes beyond the sector and threatens democracy itself. The government is proposing to classify most major charities as “political campaigners”, allowing it to audit their advocacy work and their sources of income. It suggests an impurity of motive, yet nothing could be further from the truth.

This is because a new amendment to the Electoral Act would force any group to register as a political campaigner if it has spent more than $100,000 on “political expenditure” in a three-year period.

Political expenditure is defined as: “The public expression of any views on an issue that is, or is likely to be, before electors in an election (whether or not a writ has been issued for the election).”

In other words, this would apply to any comment on any policy issue at any time. Every charity that employs someone to analyse issues like aged care, homelessness, disability, living costs and virtually any other issue is likely to end up classified as a political campaigner.

The end result will be a set of requirements so complicated that some charities will be forced to hire staff simply to manage their compliance. Any charity would rather spend this money on their core mission. Others might stop speaking out altogether, deterred by the new requirements and huge penalties for getting it wrong – miscalculating the date that you become a “political campaigner” could cost up to $50,000 per day in fines.

So why, when almost everyone would agree that the most corrupting influence on public debate comes from lobbyists and big donors, is civil society being targeted?

Charities already enter the public debate with a huge disadvantage compared to moneyed interests. They are barred from endorsing candidates, donating to parties, or advocating outside their charitable purpose.

The big influencers in Australian politics can do all of this and more. Charities now have their DGR status threatened regularly, while business spending on advocacy and lobbying can be written off as a legitimate cost. Membership fees that companies pay to their own advocacy bodies are tax deductible. Even donations to political parties, from both businesses, unions and individuals, can be taken from pre-tax income. Just this week, the Minerals Council admitted that its donations are designed to buy access to decision-makers.

On top of that, big business and vested interests can afford to spend millions on lobbyists to help them secure important meetings, on advertising before elections, and on airspace to set the political agenda.

All of this is known to have a major impact on public debate, yet none of it would be curbed by the new rules. In light of that, attacking the groups who speak up for the public good, a purpose that goes beyond their own self-interest, seems perverse. Unless it was the point all along.

Maybe it simply suits governments these days for charities to provide essential services (work that many Australians would rather see done by government itself), without ever questioning the root causes of poverty, inequality, and homelessness. It serves the dual purpose of turning charities into an arm of government while also silencing the poor and protecting an unfair system from scrutiny.

The charity sector is uniting against the proposed changes. But seeing off the Electoral Act amendments won’t end the attacks. One of Gary Johns’ first major tasks as commissioner will be to review the ACNC, and there is every reason to be concerned that community advocacy will be threatened yet again.

It seems to us that all of these attacks are driven by an agenda to exclude the least powerful members of society, and those who speak up on their behalf, from public debate. By attacking charities and their ability to advocate, we’re creating a society where only those with power and access to start with have the ability to influence policy.

Community advocacy has proven to be one of the only ways we can balance the coordinated, self-interested, and privileged forces that drive decision making and policy in Australia. It is in everybody’s interests to protect it.

About the author: Kasy Chambers is executive director of Anglicare Australia. Anglicare Australia is a network of 40 agencies, more than 20,000 staff and volunteers, working with over 900,000 clients annually across Australia.

January 24, 2018 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, civil liberties | Leave a comment

Australian government helps business lobbies, while punishing charities

Business lobbies get free rein, while govt delivers charities a legal body-slam https://www.crikey.com.au/2017/11/15/business-lobbies-get-free-rein-while-govt-delivers-charities-a-legal-body-slam/  Michael West, 15 Nov 17 

The government is crunching charities for foreign donations and tax breaks. Why, then, are the Minerals Council and other corporate lobby groups allowed tax breaks on their foreign funding?

SLAPP: a strategic lawsuit against public participation (SLAPP) is a lawsuit that is intended to censor, intimidate, and silence critics by burdening them with the cost of a legal defence until they abandon their criticism or opposition. Such lawsuits have been made illegal in many jurisdictions on the grounds that they impede freedom of speech. 

— Wiktionary

It’s all happening to charities: Australian Tax Office (ATO) audits, investigations by the charity regulator and the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC), and new laws slated for early next month to stymie tax deductibility, contain advocacy and ban or restrict foreign donations. Many in the not-for-profit sector are scared to speak out for fear of reprisal.

Left-wing activist group GetUp went before the Senate inquiry into political donations last week and pulled out a report detailing the vast amount of money that is spent buying influence in Australian politics.

I should declare an interest here: yours truly did the research, which found 18 corporate lobby groups had raised $1.9 billion over the past three years.

These are vast sums, yet they only represent a few of the most powerful advocacy groups in a handful of sectors: banking, mining, property and big pharma. There must be 100 more. And, together with an estimated $1 billion in corporate political donations since 1998, the “revolving doors” between industry and government, and the hundreds of millions spent by individual companies on “in-house” government relations and external consultants, the real numbers involved in swaying politicians must be well north of $1 billion a year, or more than $4 million per federal politician, per year.

There is already a dangerous imbalance between corporate political power and people’s political power in this country.

In her new autobiography, Christine Milne: An Activist Life, the former Greens leader warns of the shift from democracy to plutocracy. “The takeover is almost complete … The rush toward the revolving door between business and politics has become a stampede. Of the 538 lobbyists registered by the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet in 2016, 191 were former government representatives,” wrote Milne.

The farmer, and veteran of death threats, jail time and arrests as an activist, describes the hegemony of corporate influence as a “major factor in the disillusionment with politicians and democracy”.

Meanwhile, the government is slapping down its ideological adversaries with Tax Office audits and investigations by the AEC and charities regulator, the Australian Charities & Not-for-Profits Commission (ACNC).

Draft legislation is prepared and a bill is tipped to come before parliament in the final sitting week of this year. There are serious implications for democracy and free speech.

One one of the main planks of this “reform” is expected to be a ban on foreign donations. It is mostly designed to hit environmental groups such as Greenpeace, 350.org, Lock the Gate and the Australian Conservation Foundation but will also affect those charities working with Indigenous people, poor people, sick people and medical research.

If the bill gets up — and this may depend on what deal is dangled in front of Opposition Leader Bill Shorten, given the government is no longer in majority in parliament — it may see off foreign donations and tax deductibility.

Such would leave an unlevel playing field. Membership to corporate peak bodies such as the Business Council of Australia and the Minerals Council of Australia is tax deductible. Like the charities and NFPs, they pay no tax, but their funding is enormous.

Keen to contain the influence of environmental groups whose message flourishes on social media, the Minerals Council has been the chief urger in lobbying for the government crackdown on NFP advocacy.

More pertinently, while the government moves against foreign donations for environmental and other civil society groups, the corporate lobby remains untouched. The question should be asked, is this fair? The Minerals Council, its state affiliates and the oil and gas peak body, Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association (APPEA), have raised more than half a billion dollars for advocacy over the past 11 years …

*Read the rest of this article at michaelwest.com.au

November 17, 2017 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, civil liberties | Leave a comment

Aid Charities Call on Government to Protect Charities’ Right to Advocate

 Lina Caneva  |  Editor |  @ProBonoNews 2 Nov 17, Australia’s international development charities have passed a resolution at the sector’s annual conference in Melbourne calling on the federal government to halt “disturbing developments” which are set to restrict Australian charities’ funding and advocacy.

The Australian Council for International Development (ACFID), the peak-body for Australian non-government organisations involved in international development and humanitarian action, also called on the federal government to “use its position on the UN Human Rights Council to become an international champion for civil society”.

In a preamble, the resolution expressed concern at a “number of disturbing developments in Australia (which) may constrain the role of charities in undertaking advocacy”.

ACFID’s members voted to call on the government not to impose proposals on expenditure-caps advocacy by charities and a ban on international philanthropy to charities who undertake advocacy……..

“Increasingly, fear and division are being used around the world as a precursor for draconian laws and regulations which are crippling democratic freedoms and stifling citizen-led groups. ACFID’s members are all too aware of this trend as they are forced to adjust to severely constrained operating environments, instituted by governments overseas.

“A free and vibrant civil society is crucial in maintaining peace; keeping governments accountable; and protecting people’s rights.

“Backed by Australia’s democratic values and with our membership of the Human Rights Council, the Australian government is well-placed to defend civil society space on the international stage. We are calling on the government to embrace this opportunity.”

ACFID said it was continuing to work with its members and a consortium of charities to support and protect space for civil society overseas and in Australia.

Earlier this year ACFID released a position paper outlining concerns about the ban on foreign donations to political parties which it said may result in charities who advocate being prevented from accepting international philanthropy.

The paper was prepared by a consortium of charities, led by ACFID, Philanthropy Australia and the Community Council for Australia. https://probonoaustralia.com.au/news/2017/11/aid-charities-call-government-protect-charities-right-advocate/

November 3, 2017 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, civil liberties | Leave a comment

Bob Brown: High Court decision ensures free speech against environmentally polluting companies, like Adani

High court proves we have free speech against environmental wreckers https://www.theguardian.com/environment/commentisfree/2017/oct/22/high-court-proves-we-have-free-speech-against-environmental-wreckers, Bob Brown

Adani and the loggers should watch out – we have a right to peaceful protest to protect our environment, The high court has drawn a line in the sand against laws which burden the right of Australians to peaceful protest.

The court made no judgement on Tasmanian premier Will Hodgman’s decision to flatten the Lapoinya state forest in northwest Tasmania against the wishes of the local community. But it struck down his Workplaces (Protection from Protesters) Act 2014 aimed at stopping people from protesting effectively against such forests being logged.

Lapoinya is a huddle of farms southwest of the Bass Strait city of Burnie. Its rolling hills have a patchwork of lush pastures, ploughed fields and copses of trees. At the heart of the district was the Lapoinya forest, a couple of hundred hectares of wildlife-filled rainforest, eucalypts and ferneries with the crystal-clear Maynes Creek, a key nursery for the world’s largest freshwater crayfish, running through it.

When Forestry Tasmania revealed plans for the forest to be clearfelled for the distant wood-processing factory owned by Malaysian logging company Ta Ann, the people of Lapoinya remained confident that common sense would prevail. They called on the state government to intervene and ran a colourful but respectful public campaign to prevent the logging.

Neither the premier nor his minister for forests visited or intervened. Instead, draconian anti-protest laws were enacted and by early 2016 the logging was imminent.

 I was invited to a dinner by the community and afterwards treated to a concert by talented local youngsters, with songs devoted to forests. The Lapoinyan dilemma was excruciating: these good people would never be violent or attack logging machinery, but would not be silenced as a distant and indifferent administration in Hobart destroyed their iconic forest.

The locals prepared for a peaceful stand. If the public could see how beautiful the Lapoinya forest was then surely, even at this eleventh hour, the resulting political pressure would cause the government to back off.

The bulldozers and chainsaws arrived in January 2016, with a cavalcade of police.

While premier Hodgman assured Tasmanians his new laws were aimed at “radical” environmentalists and not “mums and dads”, the first two people arrested were a grandfather and a mother of two. That mother, also a neurosurgery nurse, was Jessica Hoyt. Her parents, Stewart and Barbara, have a farm adjoining the forest. In her teenage years Jessica, along with her siblings, had enjoyed riding along the forest’s bridle trail. The two were charged and faced first-offence fines of $10,000.

The next day, reeling from the destruction, Jessica took friends back into the doomed forest. She was arrested again while walking through the trees and ferns. This second arrest put her in danger of being jailed for four years.

A few days later, along with several others, I was also arrested after going back to Lapoinya to make video clips, intended for public distribution, about the sheer bloody-mindedness of the government’s operation. I was standing in an adjacent forest reserve. A bulldozer had backed off and the screech of the chainsaws and roaring thud of the trees coming down was close and confronting.

The incongruity of laws stifling such a reasonable protest against the destruction of the public commons, in a democracy with a long history of advancement through peaceful protest, was compelling. This was underscored when, after our arrests, I received a number of messages from experienced legal experts from around Australia suggesting the laws breached the constitution’s implied right to freedom of political expression.

Guided by Hobart solicitor Roland Browne and joined as co-plaintiff by Jessica, I engaged Melbourne barrister Ron Merkel QC to challenge the constitutional validity of the Hodgman laws in the high court. A public appeal by my foundation raised more than $100,000 to affray the costs, especially in case we lost.

On Wednesday the high court ruled that those laws do infringe the freedom to peaceful protest inherent in the Australian constitution.

“It is necessary to keep firmly in mind that the implied freedom is essential to the maintenance of the system of representative and responsible government for which the Constitution provides. The implied freedom protects the free expression of political opinion, including peaceful protest, which is indispensable to the exercise of political sovereignty,” they said. by the people of the commonwealth. It operates as a limit on the exercise of legislative power to impede that freedom of expression.”

The Hodgman government had breached the limit of legislative power. Tasmania already had the usual array of laws to prevent dangerous or damaging behaviour. It also had a Forest Management Act which, besides guaranteeing the public its time-honoured access to the forests, empowers the police to arrest people who interfere with logging operations. The draconian new laws were not necessary for that purpose. They were designed to stymie effective environmental protests, like that at Lapoinya, which could draw public support and be politically embarrassing. The high court found the laws out, noting the deterrent effect on peaceful protest of their provisions: “The combined effect … can bring the protest of an entire group of persons to a halt and its effect will extend over time. Protesters will be deterred from returning to areas around forest operations for days and even months. During this time the operations about which they seek to protest will continue but their voices will not be heard.” It is for premier Hodgman, a lawyer, to say; but just as he did not see the unconstitutionality of these laws, so I doubt he was their origin.

It should be a warning to the other environmental wreckers.

We are in a world of gross, rapid and escalating environmental damage. Corporations profiting from exploiting non-renewable resources face growing public scrutiny and antipathy.

They cannot win the argument for wrecking ecosystems, so their alternative is to wreck environmentalists. Elsewhere in the world, scores of environmentalists are being killed each year by rampaging profiteers. But Australia is a peaceful democracy and the effective option is to lobby weak governments to clamp down on protests.

The high court’s decision does not directly affect laws in states or territories other than Tasmania. But it draws that line in the sand and will be a benchmark for more challenges if other governments pass laws to protect environmental destruction from peaceful public reaction. More widely, it bolsters that right for people standing up for any good cause.

There are growing calls for governments, already falling over themselves to grant concessions to the coral-killing Adani coalmine proposal in Queensland, to enact more draconian anti-protest laws than those already in place. The extreme right voices making those calls had better go read this judgment for democracy.

The Lapoinya forest was razed, but it has proved to be a pyrrhic victory for the destroyers. Out of the peaceful but heartfelt stand of the handful of people in Lapoinya has come a high court ruling upholding the right to peaceful protest for every Australian

October 23, 2017 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, civil liberties, climate change - global warming, politics | Leave a comment

Digging into Adani:  The dubious dealings of India’s corporate colossus.

28 Sept 17, ‘When Four Corners travelled to India to investigate the activities of the giant Adani group, they soon discovered the power of the company.

‘While attempting to film and gather information about Adani’s operations, the Four Corners team had their cameras shut down,  their footage deleted and were questioned for hours by police.

‘The team were left in no doubt that their investigations into the Indian company triggered the police action.

‘For months, Four Corners has been digging into the business practices of the Adani Group.
This is the corporate colossus that plans to build Australia’s biggest mine site. … ‘
http://www.abc.net.au/4corners/digging-into-adani/8997202

October 2, 2017 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, civil liberties | Leave a comment

Australian public servants face disciplinary action if they criticise govt, or “like” such criticisms on social media

US Government department tells staff to not use term ‘climate change, A PUBLIC sector department has told employees to cease using the term ‘climate change’ and opt for other more benign words insteadBenedict Brook@BenedictBrook, news.com.au , 8 Aug 17, ….

While Australian public sector staff have not been told what to say, they have been warned what they’re allowed to like or say on social media.

On Monday, it emerged that public servants who criticised the government on Facebook or Twitter could face disciplinary action.

If they “like” or share a Facebook post critical of the government, they could find themselves in hot water — even if they select the “angry face” reaction.

Government employees could also be in breach of the public service code of conduct for material they send in a private email, or for failing to remove “nasty comments” posted by other people to their social media pages.

The new social media guidelines, published on Monday by the Australian Public Service Commission, reinforce that while APS employees “have the right to participate in public and political debate”, it is “not an unlimited right”.

“If you ‘like’ something on a social media platform, it will generally be taken to be an endorsement of that material as though you’d created that material yourself,” the guidelines read.

Nadine Flood, national secretary of the Community and Public Sector Union, described the new policy as “overreach”, saying it “clearly does not strike the right balance between giving our community faith in the Commonwealth public service and allowing people who work in public services to undertake normal, everyday activity in a democracy”.http://www.news.com.au/technology/environment/climate-change/us-government-department-tells-staff-to-not-use-term-climate-change/news-story/27acd486093634ad3db49ab5ebcb0b9d

August 9, 2017 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, civil liberties | Leave a comment

Who will guard Peter Dutton’s guardians?

Peter Dutton’s home affairs ministry will investigate itself for corruption, The Age,  Nick McKenzie, Richard Baker 22 July 17  In his almost four years as Justice Minister, Michael Keenan has not once requested that the commission hold public hearings to examine corruption – a move guaranteeing the agency’s virtually non-existent public profile.

Fairfax Media is aware of several major investigations under way into the integrity of people or operations within agencies set to form part of Mr Dutton’s new super-ministry. These investigations are being conducted behind closed doors by the integrity commission and the federal police.

The creation of Home Affairs means that the Australian Federal Police will now come under the same departmental umbrella as the people and agencies they are investigating in partnership with the integrity commission.

 Experts warn the arrangement risks putting such integrity probes even further out of the public eye.

“Institutionally it is a weakness. The arrangements should be such that this is not an option,” says Australian National University security expert John Blaxland.  Professor Blaxland has been critical of the proposed Home Affairs ministry because it may reduce the “high degree of healthy contestability” between agencies, which sees the AFP eager to scrutinise Border Force, and vice versa, when necessary. This is disputed by senior officials.

What is incontestable is that since its inception in 2006, the integrity commission has not held a single public hearing into any of the agencies it oversees: the AFP, the Criminal Intelligence Commission, Border Force and the Immigration Department.

Due to a lack of resources, Australia’s least-known corruption fighting body relies on one of the agencies it oversees, the AFP, to actually carry out its major investigations.  …….http://www.theage.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/peter-duttons-home-affairs-ministry-will-investigate-itself-for-corruption-20170721-gxfwov.html

July 22, 2017 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, civil liberties | Leave a comment

Militarisation of Australia’s police?

If Turnbull’s plan becomes law – and the prospects of the Opposition stopping anything to do with ‘fighting terrorism’ are remote – we can expect a terrorist attack to trigger an emergency response from the Special Operations Command, whose officers will have to be trained to shoot to kill other Australians.  

As Australia becomes increasingly militarised, it is possible that the Tactical Assault Group could be called out for an anti-war demonstration, anti-mining protest, or industrial strike, and may be told that the people it confronts are enemies of the state and therefore terrorists. It makes me think of those signs you see on American suburban lawns: ‘Beware, Armed Response.’

ALISON BROINOWSKI. Beware, armed response. http://johnmenadue.com/alison-broinowski-beware-armed-response/ 19 July 2017  

 

Now that we have concrete bollards in Martin Place and Swanston Street and on Capital Hill, as well as fences to stop citizens strolling or rolling over the Parliament House grass, you’d think that in exchange for the aesthetic damage inflicted on us we must be safe. After all, Australia has had only five fatal terrorist attacks since the mysterious Hilton Hotel bombing in 1978. The risks we face from lightning strikes, sharks and crocodiles, or indeed bee-stings and falling furniture, are incomparably greater.

But terrorism is serious political business and once the threat of an attack is officially listed as ‘probable’, no government is brave enough to reduce it. Politicians have to be seen to be responding robustly to the danger. Continue reading

July 21, 2017 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, civil liberties, safety | Leave a comment

Maralinga nuclear compensation cases blocked by Bob Hawke when PM

text-from-the-archivesHawke government schemed to stymie Maralinga nuclear test compensation, cabinet documents reveal  http://www.adelaidenow.com.au/news/south-australia/hawke-government-schemed-to-stymie-maralinga-nuclear-test-compensation-cabinet-documents-reveal/story-fni6uo1m-1227171284110  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

December 9, 2016 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, civil liberties, history, weapons and war | Leave a comment

UN human rights expert finds that Australian government has lost trust of civil society

flag-UN.highly-recommendedAustralian Government must re-build trust of civil society – UN human rights expert, CANBERRA / GENEVA (18 October 2016) – United Nations independent expert Michel Forst today called on the Government of Australia to urgently dispel civil society’s growing concerns about the combined ‘chilling effect’ of its recent laws, policies and actions constraining the rights of  human rights defenders.

“I was astonished to observe mounting evidence of a range of cumulative measures that have concurrently levied enormous pressure on Australian civil society,” said the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders at the end of his first fact-finding visit* to the country.

Recognizing Australia’s traditional safeguards of constitutional democracy, rule of law and free media, Mr Forst noted that his initial expectation from his official visit was to “encounter only laudable implementation of the State’s obligations under international human rights laws, aimed at ensuring a safe and enabling environment for human rights defenders.”

Instead, the expert found a number of detrimental measures which include a growing body of statutory laws, both at the federal and state levels, constraining the rights of defenders. “They have ranged from intensifying secrecy laws to proliferating anti-protest laws, from the stifling Border Force Act to the ‘Standing’ bill shrinking environmental access to courts,” Mr. Forst specified.

“Those laws have not only accentuated the disparity between Government’s declared commitments at the international forums and their implementation within the country,” he noted. “They have also aggravated the situation following the drastic defunding of peak bodies by the Government, following their advocacy or litigation on such topical issues as immigration, security, environment and land rights protection.” Continue reading

October 19, 2016 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, civil liberties | Leave a comment