Australian news, and some related international items

Inside the AUKUS machine: scrutinising the political links to defence contracts

there has not been nearly enough scepticism about the AUKUS deal from Australia’s major media players

Led by a prime minister with a penchant for fudging reality, the $368 billion AUKUS submarine deal leaves much unexamined.


This is part one in a series. For the full series, go here.

There is much about the AUKUS deal that is surprising — if not shocking. 

There is the astronomical cost of $368 billion, double the most extravagant guesstimates made by experts before Prime Minister Anthony Albanese’s announcement in San Diego earlier this month.

There are the hurried circumstances in the run-up to the federal election — all done within 24 hours — in which the ALP opposition committed itself to the deal proposed by then prime minister Scott Morrison.

And there is the extreme secrecy that has surrounded AUKUS from its inception, with Morrison having orchestrated events on a need-to-know basis, only ever consulting those who had a direct interest in expanding Australia’s defence budget.

The AUKUS arrangement emerged from the final desperate days of one of Australia’s worst governments. It was led by a prime minister who had a habit of fudging reality and who secretly sought to accumulate the powers of five of his ministerial colleagues, without having a coherent rationale.

At the same time, there has not been nearly enough scepticism about the AUKUS deal from Australia’s major media players. Some have even been offended that former prime minister Paul Keating would raise serious questions, focusing more on the manner than the substance of what he said. 

For these reasons, Crikey will be introducing a bit of sunlight — the best disinfectant — into the fetid corners of the AUKUS machine.

You don’t have to be a China stooge to question AUKUS, yet that is how much of the public debate has been conducted so far.

To begin our coverage, this week we report on the activities of two of the biggest political names from the Coalition’s decade in office. They are former treasurer Joe Hockey and former defence minister (and before that minister for defence industry) Christopher Pyne.

The two have one thing in common: they both leapt from public office directly into the lucrative world of defence industry and investment. In Hockey’s case, he ceased his role as Australia’s ambassador to the US on January 30 2020. ASIC records show that his consultancy, Bondi Partners (which relies on Washington contacts), was registered on January 29 2020. 

In Pyne’s case, he ceased as defence minister and retired from federal Parliament in April 2019. Within a month, the Pyne & Partners business name was registered. The record shows that predecessor entities had been set up by a former Pyne staffer before Pyne retired. These moves are separate from Pyne’s work with consulting firm EY, which he began within weeks of leaving Parliament. Pyne’s work with EY, where the former defence minister advised on defence matters, led to a Senate inquiry into whether or not he had breached ministerial standards.

Pyne and Hockey aren’t the first from the political class to turn to the defence industries after leaving office. The political revolving door is well known. 

Continue reading

March 28, 2023 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics, secrets and lies | Leave a comment

Porky pies and half-truths from our USA- captured Prime Minister Albanese.

Today’s significant AUKUS announcement about Australia’s acquisition of nuclear-powered submarines provides significant, long-term strategic benefits for all three countries……..a transformational moment for our nation [Ed. it sure does!transformed to a colony of USA’s military-industrial-complex]

…. provides significant, long-term strategic benefits [?] for all three countries……… our ability to be sovereign [?] ready.

……creating around 20,000 direct jobs [a very dubious claim – ?jobs for Americans and British military experts]

……… Businesses right across the country in every state and territory will have the opportunity to contribute to and benefit from these opportunities. [ a totally unlikely unrealistic claim, backed by no data]

…….. Importantly, the SSNs will be an Australian sovereign capability [is he joking or is he stupid?] …

March 14, 2023 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics, secrets and lies | Leave a comment

The US Can Secretly Rotate Nuclear Warheads Through Australia

And the clear message coming from Moriarty, with the consensus of foreign affairs minister Penny Wong, is that for all Australia knows, the US could run nuclear warheads through the country, without informing anyone, and that’s what governments going back decades have agreed to.

Washington’s proposed rotating of B-52s through the north is understood to be a threat to Beijing, and coupled with the broad US access to our military sites, as well as the joint facilities at Pine Gap and North West Cape, these arrangements likely hardwire us into any US war on China.

22/02/2023 BY PAUL GREGOIRE,

After a midmorning break on budget estimate proceedings, defence secretary Greg Moriarty delivered a response to a question put by Greens Senator Jordan Steele-John earlier in the day, which has since escalated the current debate over Australia relinquishing sovereignty to the US.

Steele-John quizzed Moriarty, on 15 February, as to whether B-52 bombers that will be “cycling through” the country, following the US Army having built storage space for six such fighters as part of its upgrade of RAAF Base Tindal, “will be solely conventionally capable, not nuclear capable”.

“It’s clear that stationing of nuclear weapons in Australia is prohibited by the South Pacific Nuclear Free Zone Treaty, to which Australia is fully committed,” advised Moriarty, adding that this treaty, nor that of non-proliferation, prevent foreign aircraft visiting or transiting local airfields or airspace.

According to the defence head, “successive Australian governments have understood and respected the longstanding US policy of neither confirming nor denying the presence of nuclear weapons on particular platforms”.

And the clear message coming from Moriarty, with the consensus of foreign affairs minister Penny Wong, is that for all Australia knows, the US could run nuclear warheads through the country, without informing anyone, and that’s what governments going back decades have agreed to.

Unimpeded access

When Steel-John further queried Moriarty as to whether this could see nuclear weapons transiting, Wong intervened stating that the question involves talk of “rotational forces under an agreement with another government”, so she’d like to provide an answer after the “opportunity to consult”.

The pre-prepared response later delivered by Moriarty included the admission that “US bomber aircraft have been visiting Australia since the early 1980s and have conducted training in Australia since 2005”. And over this time, Canberra has respected Washington’s policy of warhead ambiguity.

Moriarty added that this policy is in line with the 2014 Force Posture Agreement between the two nations, which provides the US with unimpeded access to certain local military facilities, of which it gains operational control over when it’s carrying out any construction activity at such a site.

The FPA officially established that US troops rotate through the north of Australia, with their number now having grown to 2,500 marines annually, as well as having improved interoperability between the nations’ air forces. And it’s this agreement that’s led to the construction of a B-52 storage site.

Washington’s proposed rotating of B-52s through the north is understood to be a threat to Beijing, and coupled with the broad US access to our military sites, as well as the joint facilities at Pine Gap and North West Cape, these arrangements likely hardwire us into any US war on China.

Ambiguity abounds

“As I understand from that, secretary, the government’s reading of Australia’s treaty obligations does not prohibit nuclear armed B-52s from being temporarily present in Australia,” Senator David Shoebridge suggested to Moriarty following his explanation of the opaque US stance on warheads.

However, at this point, Wong cut in on what appeared to be a fairly straightforward assessment coming from the Greens senator in regard to what the defence secretary had just explained.

“There’s no suggestion,” the foreign minister countered. “No one at this table has talked about nuclear armed B-52s.”

Wong then reiterated some of the points made by the defence secretary that clearly led to Shoebridge’s assumption: Canberra has long understood and respected “the longstanding US policy of neither confirming nor denying” and this doesn’t impinge on our international obligations.

Shoebridge then framed it in a different way, as he asked whether Defence considers this nation isn’t under any obligation to prevent nuclear armed US bombers from entering if they’re not a “permanent presence”. However, the minister, again, claimed he was “reading more into it”.

Then, after further reasonable prodding from the Greens member, Wong, quite tellingly, explained that she and the defence secretary weren’t in a position to go any further than the answer that was provided, and she then implied it was unfair to the community to posit further “hypotheticals”.

Whilst initial diplomatic moves made by Wong since taking over the foreign affairs portfolio have served a modicum of hope that the mounting tensions between Beijing and Canberra might be allayed, her December visit to the US saw this dashed.

Wong and defence minister Richard Marles were in Washington to meet with US secretary of state Antony Blinken and defence secretary Lloyd Austin late last year, as part of the annual AUSMIN conference, which had a focus on countering China’s “destabilising military activities” this time.

And the conference saw Austin extend an invitation to Japan – which is a part of the QUAD security arrangement, along with this country, the US and India – to join in the US Force Posture Initiatives, which are the operational arrangements established under the FPA, on Australian soil.

The resurrected QUAD has become of increasing importance with its new focus on Beijing. In fact, Anthony Albanese’s first act as prime minister was to fly to Japan for a QUAD meeting, while the following month saw him in Madrid for a NATO conference, which had China on its agenda.

And while the Albanese administration hasn’t repeated the hawkish ravings that former PM Scott Morrison and defence minister Peter Dutton were spouting at the end of their reign, the US presence in Australia, likely guarantees involvement in a war with China prior to any official decision.

Ending at the starting line

Following Wong’s explanation that all that could be said had been, Shoebridge put it to Moriarty that he understands that Australia doesn’t challenge the US on warhead ambiguity, and he then asked whether our treaty obligations aren’t breached by B-52s potentially carrying nuclear arsenal.

In response, the minister became even more ruffled than she had been prior, and she reiterated that the various treaties aren’t being threatened.

Wong then accused Shoebridge of drumming up concerns, to which he countered that he wasn’t “fearmongering” and put the question to the defence secretary one more time.

“I think the minister has outlined Australia’s treaty obligations,” Moriarty told the Greens senator, as he brought the exchange regarding B-52s to a close.

“As I said, under the South Pacific Nuclear Free Zone Treaty, to which we are fully committed, stationing of nuclear weapons is prohibited.”

February 23, 2023 Posted by | secrets and lies, weapons and war | Leave a comment

ASIO spied on Pine Gap military base protesters in the 1980s, declassified documents reveal

ABC Alice Springs / By Lee Robinson, Sat 21 Jan 2023 

Declassified ASIO files have revealed the national security agency planted spies among a group protesting against the Pine Gap military base in Alice Springs during the 1980s. 

The 1987 documents, released last year by the National Archives of Australia, show intelligence about peace activists and their protest plans were being fed to ASIO’s central office by one or more covert operatives who surreptitiously attended the group’s meetings.

The peace movement had gained momentum in the political landscape during the Cold War era, as concerns ran high over the threat posed by the Soviet Union and the possibility of nuclear warfare.

Pine Gap, the top-secret defence facility that had begun operating during the previous decade on the outskirts of town, was feared to be a target due its strategic importance to the United States Department of Defense and the Australian government.

Surveillance of peace group no surprise

Russell Goldflam was a bright-eyed idealist and vocal member of the Alice Springs Peace Group (ASPG) in the late 1980s.

Now a semi-retired lawyer still living in Alice Springs, he was not surprised to learn that ASIO had been surveilling the group’s activities.

“I would have been amazed if there hadn’t been a spy amongst our ranks,” Mr Goldflam said.

“We were campaigning against the largest spy base run by the United States outside the continental US.

“It would have been absolutely extraordinary if [ASIO] — or somebody in the security establishment — didn’t go to some trouble to try and make sure that there was no threat to that base from local people who were publicly saying, ‘We want to get it closed down’.”

Protest meetings documented

There are hundreds of files, with some revealing nothing more than bland meeting minutes, while others contain heavy redactions and delve into the perceived threats posed by peace activists……

Covert operatives remain a mystery

Mr Goldflam, who was arrested several times for trespassing at the military base during demonstrations, said he was never able to confirm the identity of any covert operatives…………………………………………………………..

A ‘great privilege’

Mr Goldflam has provided legal assistance throughout his career to a number of peace activists who had broken the law at Pine Gap and faced serious charges.

“It was a great privilege to be able to work as a lawyer for those people fighting for what are pretty fundamental rights, and that’s the right to be able to express an opposing point of view,” he said.

He believed the documents also painted the national security agency as holding grave concerns about the peace movement having a “malign influence” on local Aboriginal people, which Mr Goldflam said “couldn’t be further from the truth”.

“Our concern is where opinions tip into the promotion of violence, or actual acts of violence.”

January 23, 2023 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, secrets and lies | Leave a comment

The Australian government joined enthusiastically into America’s espionage law attack on whistle blowers and journalists

Key US Allies Collaborate On Espionage Laws Considered Harmful To Whistleblowers And Journalists

 Since the legislation was passed, Australian Federal Police have raided the homes and offices of journalists who reported on war crimes in Afghanistan and the monitoring of Australian citizens’ communications.

Groups, such as Reporters Without Borders and the National Union of Journalists, wrote to lawmakers and warned that the bill conflated journalism with spying, expanded the definition of classified information, and disproportionately increased the penalty of espionage to life imprisonment.

Many of these new elements align existing laws with the United States Espionage Act, an antiquated law that was adopted over a century ago.

Richard Spence, Jan 5, 2023

Ministers and security officials in Australia, Sweden, and the United Kingdom have coordinated with the United States to develop new espionage laws.

Each of the countries have faced criticism from news media and civil society organizations for proposing laws that will harm journalists and whistleblowers’ ability to report on abuse and corruption in their own and each other’s countries.

These states have close intelligence ties to each other and the United States, and they have played some role in the extradition of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, whose prosecution is widely recognized as a threat to global press freedom. In fact, disclosures of the kind that Assange published have been cited as what the laws aim to make illegal.

FBI Director Christopher Wray had several days of meetings with “law enforcement partners in the United Kingdom” during July 2022. After these meetings, MI5 chief Ken McCallum promoted the “National Security Bill,” the first change to UK espionage laws since 1989.

The law would purportedly address the perceived threats Wray and McCallum discussed.

McCallum and other intelligence officials’ warnings and suggestions were frequently referenced by parliament members and government ministers who supported the bill when it was debated in the UK Parliament in November 2022.

Priti Patel, when she was UK Home Secretary, said the bill “was designed in close consultation with security services.”

In Sweden, the 2022 Foreign Espionage Act, which was adopted last November, specifically criminalized disclosures that cause “substantial damage” to Sweden’s relations with other countries or organizations. That led reporters to warn that journalists revealing war crimes committed by the US government could be prosecuted.

The Australian espionage bill also defined information that “harm[s] or prejudice[s] Australia’s international relations” as illegal to disclose.

Australia Security Intelligence Organization (ASIO) Director Duncan Lewis, who advised the country’s premier on their legislation, was asked at a parliamentary committee hearing, “Is there a connection, in your view, between our diplomatic and economic relations and our national security? In other words, if someone causes harm to our diplomatic relations with a foreign country, like the United States, can that harm our national security?”

“Absolutely,” Lewis responded. “You would need [to] go no further than perhaps the case of [Edward] Snowden to think about that—the enormous damage that was done to various diplomatic relations as a result of the leaks that came out of Snowden.”

The Espionage and Foreign Interference Act of 2018 introduced a range of measures the Australia government claimed were meant to combat Chinese interference.

A collection of media outlets, including The Guardian and News Corp, opposed the law, saying that “journalists and their support staff continue to risk jail time for simply doing their jobs” due to the possibility of being prosecuted for dealing with classified information.  

Since the legislation was passed, Australian Federal Police have raided the homes and offices of journalists who reported on war crimes in Afghanistan and the monitoring of Australian citizens’ communications.

The ASIO gave “extensive operational briefings” on foreign interference to Malcolm Turnbull, when he was Australia’s prime minister, and Turnbull noted their input as he introduced the legislation in Parliament.

ASIO Director Duncan Lewis explained what in part motivated the push to expand the country’s espionage law. “Our international allies and partners with whom we share threat information tell us resoundingly that Australia is not alone in confronting a new threat environment, one that’s different from what we’ve seen before. In ASIO’s view, we must now adjust to this harsh reality.”

Lewis pointed to UK Prime Minister Theresa May who had urged allied powers to do more to “clamp down on the hostile activity of foreign agents.”

During parliamentary debate in the UK, Patel referred to these discussions.

“Let me say something about the legislation we want to introduce. We are learning from other countries, such as Australia—indeed, I had a bilateral meeting just last week. This is also part of the work of Five Eyes,” Patel shared. “A lot of work is being done to look at the institutional impacts of hostile state activity, alongside issues such as foreign agent registration. We want to get this right through future legislation, and that is what we are working on.”

Groups, such as Reporters Without Borders and the National Union of Journalists, wrote to lawmakers and warned that the bill conflated journalism with spying, expanded the definition of classified information, and disproportionately increased the penalty of espionage to life imprisonment.

Many of these new elements align existing laws with the United States Espionage Act, an antiquated law that was adopted over a century ago.

During a Novembr 2021 speech for the right-wing Heritage Foundation on the US-UK alliance, Patel acknowledged this fact.

“We will modernize existing counter-espionage laws to better reflect the contemporary threat; and we will improve our ability to protect official data and strengthen the associated offenses,” Patel declared “Our strategic partnership must continue to address all this activity – which is uninhibited and growing along with all the other threats we see day in, day out.”

The UK’s proposed legislation updates the current espionage laws to now be applicable to non-UK citizens. Press organizations have complained, “The lack of geographic limits and the overly broad definition of the safety and interests of the United Kingdom can extend the reach of the bill across the globe.”

Australia’s new laws also apply outside of the country and like the UK include assisting (or benefiting in the UKs case) foreign entities, leading to criticism that officials are criminalizing those who work with foreign press outlets.

According to the Australian chair of the Five Eyes Law Enforcement Committee, the organization will arrest those who have committed espionage “no matter where those criminals are in the world.”

Swedish military and intelligence officials studied changes to espionage legislation at the behest of the Swedish government and used WikiLeaks’ release of US diplomatic cables in 2010 as an example of a kind of leak that would harm Sweden’s relationship with other countries if it happened today.

Officials also singled out the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the US as powers that were important to protect from damaging leaks.

In June 2022, Conservative Party parliamentary member Sir John Hayes asked Damian Hinds, who was the UK minister of state for prisons, parole, and probation, if “a WikiLeaks-type disclosure dressed up as being by a guardian of liberty or some such other nonsense” would be illegal.

“The defenses in part one of the bill provide law enforcement with several options for prosecuting disclosures, where the person is acting for or on behalf of a foreign power or where the disclosure would materially assist a foreign intelligence service,” Hinds responded. “That can include bulk disclosures.”

“To be clear, with this bill, the maximum sentence for an indiscriminate disclosure—a bulk data dump—will be higher than it is today if that act is done for a foreign power or the disclosure would materially assist a foreign intelligence service, even if not procured by that foreign intelligence service itself,” Hinds further stated.

Canada, which is a Five Eyes country like Australia and the United Kingdom, has also followed their lead.  Canadian security officials briefed the press and politicians, claiming that China aims to influence Canadian democracy.

Security officials in Canada have submitted reports to their government requesting new security laws to prevent Canada from becoming a “weak link” amongst its allies.

January 8, 2023 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, civil liberties, media, secrets and lies | Leave a comment

How Defence chiefs committed Australian special forces to the US drug war in Afghanistan

by Stuart McCarthy | Jan 6, 2023

What is the accountability of Australia’s military top brass in alleged war crimes in Afghanistan? Stuart McCarthy, a veteran of two tours in Afghanistan, looks at the case of former defence minister Stephen Smith who has just been appointed High Commissioner in London.

“The DEA people were having troubles getting their own country to support them, and they had these Australians saying yes. They were very appreciative.”

Special Operations Task Group Plans Officer Greg Barton, quoted in Ben McKelvey, The Commando, 2017.

The Albanese government’s appointment of former foreign affairs and defence minister Stephen Smith back into public office as the next High Commissioner to the UK is merely another example of a political mate landing this plum overseas posting.

Much in the way of Kevin Rudd’s appointment as Australia’s ambassador to the US, or the Liberal government’s appointments of Joe Hockey and Arthur Sinodinos before Rudd. That these are all “jobs for the boys” is no reflection on competence or their expertise. There would be few less qualified than Kevin Rudd or Stephen Smith for their respective positions.

Yet, if Australia’s alleged war crimes in Afghanistan are ever heard at The Hague, or even tested in a bona fide war crimes commission in Australia, there will be political ramifications.

The Wong choice 

Smith’s appointment at the completion of his Defence Strategic Review early next year reflects “the eminence of Australia’s relationship with the UK,” announced foreign affairs minister Penny Wong on 30 September. Not much to see here.

Not much to see at all, until we consider Smith’s connection to the alleged war crimes by Australian special forces in Afghanistan, and the possibility that senior defence officials might have to answer charges of command responsibility in the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Australia’s military commitment to Afghanistan was at its peak in 2010 when Stephen Smith became Minister for Defence. Critical of the lack of a coherent strategy and having derided European troop contributing countries for “organising folk dancing festivals,” in 2009 Prime Minister Kevin Rudd had increased our Afghanistan troop presence from 1100 to 1550.

Part of a NATO “surge,” the intention was to build the country’s fledgling democratic institutions while defeating a growing Taliban insurgency.

The Narco State

One of the wicked problems in dealing with both the insurgency and endemic Afghan government corruption at the time was the country’s decline into a nascent narco-state. So lucrative was the opium trade and so pervasive the corruption that in 2009 the estimated export value of opiates produced in Afghanistan amounted a third of the country’s GDP.

[ABC News YouTube video – Mark Willacy 21 Oct 2020 story on allegations of Afghan detainee murdered during 2 Cdo Regt/DEA counter-narcotics raid in Helmand province, mid-2012]

Coinciding with the NATO surge was a switch in the counter-narcotics component of the nation building strategy from eradicating opium poppy crops to interdicting the financial “nexus” between the drug trade and the insurgency.

Poppy eradication had proven not only unsuccessful but counter-productive. The prerequisite stable security situation, alternative livelihoods, functioning law enforcement and judicial systems, would take a decade or more to establish. Worse, destroying the only viable cash crop in most parts of the country was a surefire way to push impoverished farmers into the ranks of the rural insurgency.

In the minds of its proponents, a “counter-nexus” campaign targeted at the Taliban-aligned drug lords thus came into play as a silver bullet that could win the war. This despite the fact that no such endeavour has ever succeeded, anywhere, in the context of an ongoing war.

While the folly of fighting a drug war amid an escalating insurgency precluded most of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) armies from directly supporting this US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA)-led campaign, the main question was actually one of legality.

How legal was it?

Targeting an active participant in hostilities with lethal force is perfectly legitimate under the internationally accepted laws of armed conflict (LOAC), but extra-judicial killing of crime suspects is questionable at best. Summary execution is certainly illegal under Australian law.

Concerns about rewriting the rules of engagement (ROE) to target Afghan drug producers and facilities under the legal auspices of international armed conflict had been raised at the highest levels in ISAF. In a classified letter to NATO high command leaked to Der Spiegel in 2009, ISAF commander U.S. General David McKiernan wrote that this would:

“… seriously undermine the commitment ISAF has made to the Afghan people and the international community … to restrain our use of force and avoid civilian casualties to the greatest degree predictable.”

Hence in 2010 the DEA mandarins in Kabul had a problem. To prosecute their counter-nexus drug war in the opium heartland of Helmand province they needed a willing contingent of well-trained special operators. When even the US military wouldn’t provide this, they looked further afield and found the commando component of the Australian Special Operations Task Group (SOTG) in nearby Uruzgan province.

[ABC News YouTube video – Mark Willacy 21 Sep 2022 story on allegations seven civilians were killed during 2 Cdo Regt/DEA counter-narcotics raid at Qarabagh, Oct 2012]

On a visit to Uruzgan soon after he was shuffled from Foreign Affairs to Defence in September 2010 – making way for Rudd in the new Gillard cabinet – Smith was approached by officers from the 2nd Commando Regiment. The commandos had developed a counter-nexus joint operating concept with their DEA colleagues, but encountered “every kind of obstacle” in seeking approval through the chain of command.

According to one account, when the commanding officer briefed Smith in person during his visit:

“From the beginning, [the minister] saw the logic in the proposal and was just as keen to get the idea underway as [we] were.”

With Smith’s direct approval, over the next two years the commandos undertook dozens of DEA-led drug raids in southern Afghanistan, principally in Helmand. These were tactically successful, as one of the commandos explains in Ben McKelvey’s 2017 book The Commando:

“They were instant gratification missions. You go in there at night, fuck up a bunch of shit, blow up drugs, ruin some bad dude’s week … you were basically Batman.”

A decade later, reports of exactly the civilian casualties McKiernan anticipated in 2009 are emerging in the Australian media. A US Marine Corps helicopter crewman has alleged that an Australian commando executed a detainee during a mid-2012 raid in Helmand.

In another incident in Helmand later that year, local Afghans and “Defence sources” have alleged that seven civilians were killed, including six who were “under the control” of Australian commandos.

At least two of the incidents from the DEA-led counter-nexus raids are now reportedly under criminal investigation by the Office of the Special Investigator, newly established by the federal government amid the national outcry which followed the publication of the Brereton Report in 2020.

One of the Brereton inquiry’s questionable findings was that accountability for the crimes identified in his report does not extend to higher Australian commanders “because they did not have a sufficient degree of command and control” over SOTG.

In reality, the decisions to commit the commandos to the DEA-led counter-nexus campaign, and the national rules of engagement governing the use of force and prevention of civilian casualties during those raids, were made by senior Australian officials.

Like the 2012 SAS raids in Sola and Darwan villages, the paper trail for these counter-nexus raids goes all the way up to Stephen Smith. There is arguably a potential case here for recklessness or negligence, supporting charges of higher command responsibility under Article 28 of the Rome Statute – although his story makes no imputations as to Smith’s culpability.

Nevertheless, these incidents might not have happened without Smith’s personal approval of SOTG’s participation in the DEA’s ill-fated, legally questionable, “instant gratification” campaign to “fuck up a bunch of shit” like Batman in Helmand. 

January 6, 2023 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, secrets and lies, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Undue influence of the arms industry

Michelle Fahy, IPAN National Conference, 23 November 2022

Undue influence of the arms industry in Australia

Most stories I do end up being about two things: transparency and accountability. More accurately, the lack thereof, in this industry.

Today I’ll give you a snapshot of the intersection between the arms industry and the Australian government – the power and influence on one hand, and the secrecy and lack of accountability on the other. It’s hard to do simply and in a short space of time, so I have chosen a particular example from my work so far – as a case study which typifies how it works – to shine a spotlight on the undue influence of this industry. It’s by no means the only example, but it’s a really good one for illustrating how this industry can manipulate and control government decision-making to undermine the public interest to serve its own private interests. We know a fair bit about this one thanks to the Australian National Audit Office and its report.

This undermining of the public interest to serve private interests, when it becomes entrenched, is called state capture. The World Bank describes it like this: “State capture is the exercise of power by private actors — through control over resources, threat of violence, or other forms of influence — to shape policies or implementation in service of their narrow interest.”

First, a bit of context showing how the arms industry here fits in with the global arms industry.

You don’t need to read the chart. The simple point I’m making is the number of names in red – on both sides.

At left is a list of the top 15 global arms manufacturers. At right is a list of the top 15 contractors to Defence in Australia. The names in red are those that appear in both lists – showing a large amount of crossover. This is not surprising, but it’s useful to get a visual sense of the overlap.

The left column shows where those foreign companies rank globally. All of Australia’s 11 foreign-owned top defence contractors are global top 40-ish companies (KBR = 43rd), seven of them are in the global top 15.

I’m making this point, using the top 15 in particular, because the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) did a study in 2017 that found, on average, in the 20 years to 2015, the top 15 contractors in Australia took 91% of the revenue.

Along with this quick look at the extensive presence of the global arms industry here, I’ll mention a 2020 report from SIPRI (the respected Stockholm International Peace Research Institute which tracks global arms sales and military expenditure). The report is called Mapping the international presence of the world’s largest arms companies.

The report took the world’s top 15 arms manufacturers and systematically investigated how many subsidiaries and joint ventures they had dotted around the globe. To be included, the subsidiaries had to be involved in arms production and military services activities and they had to be selling their products or services to military clients. They couldn’t just be sales or marketing shopfronts, or shell companies: those types of entities were excluded.

SIPRI found 400 subsidiaries of these 15 companies spread across at least 49 countries. They are mostly in countries that have two features:

1.    the country is a large arms importer

2.    it’s trying to establish a local arms industry.

Makes sense, right? You can see why a foreign arms-maker would move in.

And – you guessed it – Australia ticks both those boxes. Australia is currently the world’s 4th largest arms importer, and we are one of America’s biggest clients. In the five years from 2016-20 Australia was the United States’ second biggest arms customer, after Saudi Arabia. Even before that, we have been a top 5 US arms industry customer for a long time. It’s worth bearing that in mind when the US calls us its very good friend.

We are also BAE Systems’ (UK) fourth largest market. After the Turnbull government announced its massive planned spend on weaponry, BAE’s director of international markets said in 2017: “We are really in … exciting times in the Australian market. The government procurement plans are hugely ambitious. There aren’t too many countries who have that scale of defence procurement ambition in the next 15 years.”

And that was before AUKUS came along!

This is the Australian summary from SIPRI’s report:

1.    Australia is now the largest military manufacturing hub outside the two major hubs of North America and Western Europe.

2.    Australia ranks second in the world for the number of foreign subsidiaries of the top 15: we have 38 subsidiaries of those 15 companies here. The UK has most with 56, Saudi Arabia is third with 24.

So, that sets the scene. It’s obvious there’s a significant presence in Australia of the topmost echelons of the global arms industry: a lot of power and influence.

The Thales Hawkei vehicle procurement is a strong example of undue influence. How the company came from nowhere to win this $1.3 billion contract is a complex and highly political story that beggars belief, frankly. It contains many elements of undue influence that pop up across other procurements, yet here they are all in one story, so it’s a great example.

It also shows, starkly, how industry bent both sides of politics to its will – that’s state capture……………………………………

The Thales Hawkei vehicle procurement is a strong example of undue influence. How the company came from nowhere to win this $1.3 billion contract is a complex and highly political story that beggars belief, frankly. It contains many elements of undue influence that pop up across other procurements, yet here they are all in one story, so it’s a great example.

It also shows, starkly, how industry bent both sides of politics to its will – that’s state capture.

So – there you have it – it’s a big story and a great example of the undue influence of the arms industry in Australia, bending both political parties to its will, against the public interest, which fits in with the World Bank’s definition of state capture – not as the only example of course. If you Google “Confronting State Capture” you will see the report I contributed to, which includes this story and a lot of other examples, alongside similar material from the fossil fuels industry. It was published earlier this year by the Australian Democracy Network.

Further readingmy November 2020 series (Part 1 and Part 2) contains additional disturbing details about the Thales Hawkei procurement.

December 10, 2022 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, secrets and lies, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Prep work to start next week on Kimba Nuclear Waste dump, despite Government assurances not to pre-empt court case 11 Nov 2022  Australian Greens

In a letter from Minister for Resources, Madeleine King to Greens Senator Barbara Pocock, it is revealed that despite the ongoing court case against the Barngarla Determination Aboriginal Corporation (BDAC), preparatory works will be going ahead starting next week.

In Senate estimates last night, Senator Pocock pushed the Senator representing the Minister for Resources, Tim Ayres, for answers around the future of the Kimba Site.

SA Labor does not support the dump, the SA people do not support the dump and have not been properly consulted, the Traditional Owners have unequivocally opposed it at every opportunity. The Government is continuing to spend $50 000 per week of taxpayer money in legal costs for something with no social license.

Senator Tim Ayres used the ongoing court case to dodge Senator Pocock’s questioning throughout estimates. He stated that the Government would respect and not pre-empt the outcome of the case. Despite this, it’s clear initial works will be proceeding as early as next week as per Minister King’s Letter.

It’s clear the process of site selection was mishandled. The Labor government now has the opportunity to halt works and review the decisions made previously, to show the Kimba community and the Barngarla people that they are committed to proper consultation and respecting first nations voice and rights.

“Minister for Resources, Madeleine King, has today informed me that preparatory works will be starting on the Kimba Site next week. Although it is not construction of the facility yet, this is a significant escalation that goes against reassurance in last nights estimates that court proceedings will be respected.

“Throughout estimates questioning last night, Senator Tim Ayres repeatedly stated that they would respect and not pre-empt the outcome of the court case. The letter I received right before estimates is a direct contradiction to this statement.

“I am deeply concerned that these preparatory works are going ahead.

“The site selection process was done without proper community consultation. This is a terrible decision inherited from the previous government. Labor can still turn this around. They must stay true to their word and immediately halt all works.

November 15, 2022 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, Federal nuclear waste dump, secrets and lies | Leave a comment

Government accused of hiding ‘lazy $591 million’ in extra costs from scrapped French submarine program

ABC, By defence correspondent Andrew Greene, 8 Nov 2022

Details of up to $591 million in additional expenses for the cancelled French submarine program have emerged, including asset writedowns on unused infrastructure and re-employment programs in Adelaide.

Key points:

  • The extra costs to taxpayers only came to light in a late-night hearing
  • $470 million has been spent on a South Australian facility which will have to be partially bulldozed
  • A talent pool program costing $28 million has secured 223 jobs

The extra costs to taxpayers were revealed by officials from the government-controlled enterprises Australian Naval Infrastructure (ANI) and Australian Submarine Corporation (ASC) during a late-night Senate estimates hearing on Monday.

Last year the Morrison government cancelled the $90 billion Attack-class submarine program with French company Naval Group, in favour of nuclear-powered boats under the AUKUS partnership.

Earlier this year the Albanese government agreed to an $830 million compensation payment to Naval Group for the scrapped project, but more than half a billion dollars in other costs has now emerged in parliament.

In Senate estimates ANI confirmed a $300 million asset writedown related to the Osborne North Development project, a naval yard constructed for the now scrapped French designed Future Submarine project.

The committee was told $470 million has been spent to date on the Osborne North facility, including some assets which could still be repurposed for the new nuclear submarine program.

However ANI CEO Andrew Seaton told Greens senator David Shoebridge a partly-built “platform land-based test facility” which had been designed for the French submarines would probably now have to be bulldozed.

Separately the head of ASC also revealed that the cost of rehiring workers from the scrapped French submarine program is expected to reach $291 million over three years, but may be extended by the Defence department.

Since beginning six months ago, the Sovereign Shipbuilding Talent Pool (SSTP) has cost $28 million, with 223 workers hired by ASC following the scrapping of the French submarine program………………

Senator Shoebridge said the additional costs had been “ferreted away off the Defence budget”, but the public was paying the price for the scrapped submarine project.

“Only in a bungled multi-billion Defence project would a government even try to hide a lazy $591 million in additional costs,” he said.

“When we pay an extra $591 million for not building submarines we lose those funds for public housing, schools or income relief.

“While there are strategic arguments for retaining skilled staff, the fact that the ASC contract costs $1.3 million for every job is astounding.”

November 10, 2022 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, secrets and lies, weapons and war | Leave a comment

 Australia’s ongoing nuclear submarine debacle – A tangle of overlapping interests’ Michelle Fahy 5 Nov 22

The federal government’s secret hiring from 2015 of numerous former US Navy officials to advise on Australia’s submarine procurement was exposed by The Washington Post a fortnight ago. “Some of the retired admirals have worked for the Australian government while simultaneously consulting for US shipbuilders and the US Navy, including on classified programs,” the Post said. The US officials benefited financially from “a tangle of overlapping interests”. The Post revealed that one former US admiral had been consulting to Australia while also occupying a full time position as chairman of the board of Huntington Ingalls Industries, a US company that builds US nuclear-powered submarines. That arrangement was abandoned in April this year due to conflict of interest concerns.

Australian defence experts Mike Scrafton and Richard Tanter have outlined the implications of these revelations in John Menadue’s public policy journal, Pearls and Irritations.

Mike Scrafton said, “What remains unclear now is the extent to which the abandonment of the French submarine and the decision to pursue a nuclear powered version was influenced by the Americans. The dramatic shift to the AUKUS project casts the role of the ex-US officials in a different light.”

Red flags have been a feature of Australia’s submarine procurement process since the original deal with France’s Naval Group in 2016. Concerns there included the government’s selection of Naval Group despite it being under investigation for corruption in three earlier shipbuilding contracts, with a fourth investigation added after Australia handed Naval Group the deal. Neither this alarming fact, nor other questionable aspects of the deal, triggered a rethink to find a more suitable contractor. The Washington Post revelations now raise even more questions about the backroom dealings in this disastrous extended procurement process.

November 5, 2022 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, secrets and lies, weapons and war | Leave a comment

The Pentagon builds a network in our Australian Department of Defence amidst media silence By John MenadueOct 29, 2022,

It is more than inter-operability and inter-changeability with the US military. Anthony Albanese and Richard Marles need to break up the American network in our Department of Defence that the Washington Post has exposed.

The Washington Post has found that a retired US Admiral is ‘now a Deputy Secretary of Defense for Australia’.

I wonder how the Admiral handles ASTEO documents- for Australian eyes only?

In the last few days in Pearls and Irritations, Mike Scrafton and Richard Tanter have exposed how retired US Admirals have been employed as highly paid consultants to shape our policies on submarines.

At the same time our media has shown no interest or concern. This is more than ‘foreign influence’. It looks more like foreign control.

As Paul Keating recently put it,‘our strategic sovereignty is being outsourced to another country, the US’.

It was the Washington Post, not our Corporate Media that has given us an insight into the abdication of responsibility of our politicians, public officials and journalists who have been on a Washington drip feed for so long. They have been captured by American interests, particularly the US military and industrial complex that former President Eisenhower warned us about.

Following the first Washington Post exposures, the authors then ran a webinar from which the Post has printed a Q and A.

The webinar includes the following:

“In court papers, the Justice Department and Pentagon officials were very clear about this: They argued that disclosing the documents might subject retired generals, admirals and others to embarrassment and/or harassment, and would be an invasion of their privacy.”

“We have more stories we’re working on – stay tuned. Congress has taken some half-steps in recent years to require the Pentagon to disclose more details about retired generals and admirals working for foreign governments. But the Pentagon hasn’t been very forthcoming. Maybe that will change now.”

Q: “What was something which personally shocked you during your investigation?

From Nate Jones:

“I was surprised to learn Admiral Stephen Johnson is now a deputy Secretary of Defense for Australia.”

From Craig Whitlock:

“I was surprised by how many retired U.S. generals went to work as advisors and consultants to the Saudi Crown Prince AFTER he approved the assassination of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018. I mean, hello?”

Q: “Do they have to disclose anything about what they do?

From Nate Jones:

“Here is a sample of former national security advisor James Jones’s application. You can see he discloses some things in a page or two.”

From Craig Whitlock:

“The war in Yemen is a good example of a terrible, unintended consequence. The Pentagon and State Dept have authorized more than 300 retired US military personnel to work as contractors or consultants for Saudi Arabia and UAE since 2015. During that time, KSA and UAE have bombed the heck out of Yemen, turning their civil war into a far worse humanitarian disaster. US has enabled that to a significant degree by allowing so many veterans to build up the KSA and UAE armed forces.”

From Craig Whitlock:

“With one exception, there were no instances of retired US personnel seeking to work for nations that the US govt categories as “foreign adversaries” eg., China, North Korea, Iran, Cuba or Venezuela. The lone exception was a retired US Air Force officer who sought – and received – approval to work for a satellite launch company owned by the government of Russia.”

The Washington Post revealed that one of the American consultants was (probably still is) being paid $6000 a day for his consultancy to Prime Minister Morrison, plus whatever he might have been receiving from Peter Dutton, plus presumably a fee for participating in a  longer running US Defence project. No doubt he was also on some sort of “compensation” from the US Defence Industry. Presumably he was the mystery source when Dutton persisted in claims that he could get a couple of US submarines much earlier.

The inclusion of the UK in AUKUS was only a cover for the US/Australia deal.

But all the $10m of funding to US Admirals is of lesser concern than the peddling of US interference in our national security debate. We have known all along that the need for the submarines stemmed from concerns in the US defence community years ago about the so-called “submarine gap” in the containment ring around China – which they intended Australia to fill. And we would pay for it!

And all of that has been borne out by the relentless pressure applied recently by US service chiefs and Pentagon officials to promote so shamelessly major new Australian defence procurement in advance of the Smith/Houston review.

While Morrison and Dutton created the astonishing network, it appears that Albanese and Marles have not moved to break it up. They should do so quickly.

This has all the makings of a major can of worms which both major parties will be keen to keep the lid on.

This is not just a national disgrace. It is positively dangerous.

Malcolm Fraser called the US a dangerous ally.

I have written many times about how we are joined at the hip to an ally that is almost always at war. And we keep tagging along in one US defeat after another. The US is now goading China.

Our future is not to be a spear carrier for the US in our region. Our future is learning to live securely in our own region.

China is not going away but the US ultimately will.

Our captured corporate media will not examine the offence to our national dignity that the Washington Post has exposed. Our media has abandoned all pretence of independence and professionalism.

Can our Parliament rouse itself and help restore some trust in our institutions and expose what is going on?

John Menadue is the Founder and Editor in Chief of Pearls and Irritations. He was formerly Secretary of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet under Gough Whitlam and Malcolm Fraser, Ambassador to Japan, Secretary of the Department of Immigration and CEO of Qantas.

October 31, 2022 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, secrets and lies, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Scandalous conflicts of interest in Australia’s advice from USA on nuclear submarines.

To an extraordinary degree in recent years, Australia has relied on high-priced American consultants to decide which ships and submarines to buy and how to manage strategic acquisition projects. In addition to the six retired U.S. admirals, the government of Australia has hired three former civilian U.S. Navy leaders and three U.S. shipbuilding executives.


Washington Post, By Craig Whitlock and Nate Jones 19 Oct 22, Since 2015, Australia has hired the admirals and other former Navy officials as high-dollar consultants on shipbuilding,

Two retired U.S. admirals and three former U.S. Navy civilian leaders are playing critical but secretive roles as paid advisers to the government of Australia during its negotiations to acquire top-secret nuclear submarine technology from the United States and Britain.

The Americans are among a group of former U.S. Navy officials whom the Australian government has hired as high-dollar consultants to help transform its fleet of ships and submarines, receiving contracts worth as much as $800,000 a person, documents show.

All told, six retired U.S. admirals have worked for the Australian government since 2015, including one who served for two years as Australia’s deputy secretary of defense. In addition, a former U.S. secretary of the Navy has been a paid adviser to three successive Australian prime ministers.

A Washington Post investigation found that the former U.S. Navy officials have benefited financially from a tangle of overlapping interests in their work for a longtime ally of the United States. Some of the retired admirals have worked for the Australian government while simultaneously consulting for U.S. shipbuilders and the U.S. Navy, including on classified programs.

One of the six retired U.S. admirals had to resign this year as a part-time submarine consultant to the Australian government because of a potential conflict of interest over his full-time job as board chairman of a U.S. company that builds nuclear-powered subs.

Australia has leaned heavily on former U.S. Navy leaders for advice during its years-long push to upgrade its submarine fleet, a seesaw effort that has rattled long-standing alliances and remains beset by uncertainty. After abruptly canceling a pact with France last year, Australia is now trying to finalize a deal with the United States and Britain to build a fleet of nuclear-powered submarines that could cost an estimated $72 billion to $106 billion, when adjusted for inflation over the length of the program.1

The outcome will have global ramifications and could alter the military balance of power among the United States, its allies and China. Helping the Australians build nuclear-powered submarines would enhance U.S. national security in Asia overall but could strain U.S. shipyards and delay the Pentagon’s own plans to add more subs to its fleet, according to U.S. military officials and defense analysts.

The Australian government has kept details of the Americans’ advice confidential. The Post was forced to sue the U.S. Navy and State Department under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to obtain documents that shed light on the admirals’ involvement.

Under federal law, retired U.S. military personnel as well as reservists must obtain approval from the Pentagon and the State Department before they can accept money or jobs from foreign powers. The law applies to retirees — generally those who served at least 20 years in uniform — because they can be recalled to active duty. Records show that each of the six retired admirals followed the rules and received U.S. authorization to work for the government of Australia.

Between 2015 and 2021, the Navy received 95 applications from retirees to work for foreign governments — and approved every one, according to the documents that The Post obtained under FOIA. Government lawyers fought the release of the records, arguing that they were of little public interest and that disclosing basic details would violate the retirees’ privacy

For three of the retired admirals on Australia’s payroll, the U.S. Navy spent less than a week reviewing their paperwork before granting permission, the documents show. Two of the admirals applied to work for the Australians within one month of their retirement from the military.

Officials at the White House and the U.S. Navy declined to comment for this article.

Compared with the U.S. Navy, which has about 290 deployable ships and submarines, Australia’s fleet is small, with only 43 vessels. But Australia’s strategic importance looms large because of its proximity to the Indian and Pacific oceans, as well as the world’s busiest shipping lanes, near the contested waters of the South China Sea.

If Australia acquires nuclear subs, it will become the seventh country to do so. With only 26 million people, Australia would be by far the least populous member of the club.

To an extraordinary degree in recent years, Australia has relied on high-priced American consultants to decide which ships and submarines to buy and how to manage strategic acquisition projects. In addition to the six retired U.S. admirals, the government of Australia has hired three former civilian U.S. Navy leaders and three U.S. shipbuilding executives.

Since 2015, those Americans have received consulting deals worth about $10 million combined, according to Australian contracting records posted online.

The six retired U.S. admirals who have worked for the Australian government declined to be interviewed or did not respond to requests for comment.

Some Australian lawmakers and defense analysts have expressed doubts about whether the U.S. consultants have been worth the expense. The Americans’ recommendations have influenced a series of ill-fated decisions by Australian officials that could delay the arrival of any new submarines until 2040, almost a decade later than planned.

“We were paying a lot of money [for advice] and it wasn’t obvious to me that we were getting value for money,” said Rex Patrick, a former member of the Australian Senate who has criticized the government’s submarine acquisition plans.

$6.8 million for advice on an aging fleet

In September 2021, after years of futile attempts to replace its aging fleet of six submarines, the government of Australia announced two decisions that surprised the world.

First, it abruptly canceled a long-standing $66 billion agreement to buy a dozen French diesel-powered subs. Then it revealed it had reached a historic accord instead to acquire nuclear propulsion technology for submarines from the United States and Britain……………………………………………….

As Australia negotiates with the United States, it is paying for expert advice from two people who once served in American uniforms: retired U.S. admirals William Hilarides and Thomas Eccles……………………………………….

The influx of American shipbuilding consultants in Australia began eight years ago…………………………………………………………………………………..

The Australian government created additional naval advisory committees — and stocked them with Americans.

In October 2016, Australian officials announced a new Naval Shipbuilding Advisory Board with Winter, the former Navy secretary, serving as the chairman. He was joined by three retired admirals: Eccles, Hilarides and Sullivan.13………………………………………

Marcus Hellyer, a senior defense analyst with the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, a nonpartisan think tank based in Canberra, said the advisory panels could have used more European perspectives to balance out those of the Americans. Unlike the U.S. Navy, he noted, the Australian navy does not design its own ships from scratch and is accustomed to relying on foreign models.

“It’s a very different kettle of fish to the U.S. system,” he said.

A carousel of consultants

By 2019, Australia’s landmark submarine deal with France appeared to be in jeopardy. Delays plagued the design phase. Projected costs rose. Doubts spread about whether the Shortfin Barracudas, which the Australians dubbed their Attack class of subs, would be capable of deterring China’s more imposing undersea fleet.

The American carousel of hired help continued to spin. Sullivan, the retired vice admiral, left the shipbuilding advisory board in 2019. That same year, Johnson resigned as Australia’s deputy defense secretary. But the Australian government added three more U.S. civilian consultants to its advisory panels.

Australian lawmakers grew impatient with the submarine program’s delays and irritated by the Australian government’s unwillingness to let its highly paid U.S. advisers answer questions.

The American carousel of hired help continued to spin. Sullivan, the retired vice admiral, left the shipbuilding advisory board in 2019. That same year, Johnson resigned as Australia’s deputy defense secretary. But the Australian government added three more U.S. civilian consultants to its advisory panels.

Australian lawmakers grew impatient with the submarine program’s delays and irritated by the Australian government’s unwillingness to let its highly paid U.S. advisers answer questions.

‘It’s confidential’

In June 2021, worried about the fate of the submarine agreement with France, the Australian Senate insisted on hearing directly from Hilarides and senior Australian defense officials.

Lawmakers wanted answers: Had the American consultants urged the Australian government to consider modifying, or even killing, the Attack-class submarine deal?

Testifying remotely from the United States, Hilarides was as tight-lipped as Winter had been.

“Because that advice is used to support government decision-making, it’s confidential,” Hilarides said.

Three months later, the Australian government canceled the submarine contract with the French. It also announced a new three-way defense alliance with the United States and Britain, including an agreement to admit Australia to the exclusive club of nations with nuclear-powered submarines.

Only four other countries — China, Russia, France and India — operate nuclear subs. Brazil is trying to develop nuclear reactors for submarines, but its progress has been slow.

Left undecided was whether Australia would buy U.S. or British nuclear subs, and where they would be built. But defense analysts predicted the United States would probably win out.

Australian lawmakers soon began to raise questions about the American consultants and their connections to the U.S. submarine industry.

Donald, the retired four-star admiral on Australia’s Submarine Advisory Committee, has also served as chairman of the board of Huntington Ingalls Industries since 2020. The defense contractor, based in Newport News, Va., is the maker of Virginia-class submarines, the same model that the government of Australia was now thinking about buying.

At a parliamentary hearing in October 2021, a senior Australian defense official acknowledged that Donald’s role with Huntington presented a potential conflict of interest. But the official said the Australian government and Donald hadn’t yet decided if it was necessary for him to resign as a consultant.

Donald remained on the committee for six more months. In his written response to questions, Donald said he resigned in April to avoid any conflicts after “it became evident” his committee “would need to become involved in providing independent critical assessment” on acquiring nuclear-powered subs.

But Australia is still paying other Americans for advice on how to negotiate with the U.S. government.

Winter, the former U.S. Navy secretary, registered with the U.S. Justice Department in September 2021 as a foreign lobbyist working for the Australian prime minister’s office. In his disclosure form, Winter said he would be paid $6,000 a day, plus expenses, to support Australia during its nuclear submarine talks with Washington.15………………………………………………………

 Australia will almost certainly have to buy its first nuclear subs off American or British production lines.

U.S. Navy and British Royal Navy officials, however, say their shipyards are booked solid making their own submarines. The only way to squeeze in orders from Australia would be to spend billions expanding U.S. or British shipyards.

Hellyer, the Australian defense analyst, said it is hard to envision a scenario under which Australia would receive its first nuclear submarine before 2040. With the Collins-class vessels scheduled for retirement a decade from now, that could leave Australia without submarines for eight years.

“I can’t really see what the way forward is at the moment,” he said. “The whole thing has been completely disastrous.”

About this story

Photos used in the card illustrations from Department of Defense.

Editing by David Fallis and Sarah Childress. Research by Alice Crites. Copy editing by Martha Murdock and Christopher Rickett. Photo editing by Robert Miller and Wendy Galietta. Video editing by Jason Aldag. Design and development by Frank Hulley-JonesStephanie Hays and Talia Trackim. Design editing by Christian Font and Matt Callahan. Project management by Wendy Galietta.

October 20, 2022 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, secrets and lies, weapons and war | Leave a comment

AI Group Unveiled: a propaganda service for Defence, big business and the Coalition

Michael West Media, by Michael West | Jul 22, 2020 ,

Is AI Group just a front for big business and foreign weapons manufacturers? Michael West reports on the rise of government and business propaganda outfits who are suddenly mute when the subject turns to the delicate matter of who funds them.

“Given the tone of the questions and misspelling of Willox you can list it as “no response”,” sniffed Tony the PR man for AI Group.

“Dang!” we muttered … “Willox, Willox, Willox. No “c”!”

And two “ns” in Innes too! This was indeed a grave error, a double-banger, getting the name of a PR guy wrong in an email to a PR guy. Unforgivable!

Albeit unsurprising. Lobbyists are famously taciturn when it comes to the subject of their own affairs, even as their views are plastered weekly across national media.

Our questions were about who funded them and how much of their hefty $72 million in annual revenue comes from big business, multinational weapons makers and the Government itself.

These questions are important because AI Group and other lobbyists such as the Australia Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) are sermonising constantly about the way governments and everybody else should be conducting their affairs.

ASPI too is largely funded by foreign defence contractors and the Federal Government. It was little surprise therefore that, hard of the heels of Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s urgent yet vague warning earlier this month that Australia was the victim of menacing cyber attacks, it was ASPI which promptly named China as the culprit and affirmed the urgent nature of the unnamed threats.

Looking at the 2019 financial statements for AI Group, which you will not find on its website, the “peak employer organisation” made $14.3 million from Federal Government contracts last year, which rather helps explain why it is rare to see any criticism of government policy, other than a spot of whining at decisions which do not favour big business enough.

It is by no means alone in this. The Big Four consulting firms Deloitte, EY, PwC and KPMG are in the same boat, reeling in some $700 million in fees annually by consulting to the Government.

On top of its taxpayer take, AI made $38 million from “consulting, management services and training businesses”. So, not only is AI a lobby group but it is also is running businesses for profit, even a law firm while it pays no income tax.

This self-appointed not-for-profit (NFP) is sitting on cash and liquid assets of $76 million and it notched up income of $72 million last year. What did it spend it all this money on?

Some $55 million went on employees. The next biggest item was “Communications” at $5.6 million. They do do a lot of communicating and when it comes to having their voice heard in mainstream media, AI – and particularly its chief executive – Willox are slick operators, perhaps the best in the business lobby.

But unlike the Business Council of Australia, the Minerals Council, and think tanks such as the Sydney Institute and the Institute for Public Affairs (IPA), they actually get large government consulting deals as well as running profitable businesses.

In this, they are similar to the NSW Business Chamber, which boasts revenues of $237 million a year, also runs a law firm and vocation businesses and is even a registered charity…………………………………………..

September 1, 2022 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics, secrets and lies, weapons and war | Leave a comment

CIA spying on Assange “illegally” swept up US lawyers, journalists: Lawsuit

 Newsweek SHAUN WATERMAN ON 8/15/22 CIA surveillance of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange while he was sheltering in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London included recording his conversations with American lawyers, journalists and doctors, and copying private data from visitors’ phones and other devices, violating constitutional protections, according to a lawsuit filed Monday.

The suit – filed on behalf of four Americans who visited Assange – seeks damages personally from then-CIA Director Mike Pompeo for violating the plaintiffs’ Fourth Amendment rights against unreasonable search and seizure. The suit also seeks damages against a Spanish security firm contracted to protect the embassy, and its CEO, alleging that they abused their position to illegally spy on visitors and passed on the surveillance data they collected to the CIA, which is also named a defendant in the suit.

Legal experts, including a former senior intelligence official, told Newsweek that the allegations in the lawsuit, if proven, show the CIA crossed lines drawn to protect American citizens from surveillance by overzealous intelligence agencies………………………………………………..

The suit cites evidence gathered in a preliminary criminal inquiry by the Spanish High Court, launched after whistleblowers came forward from the Spanish firm hired to provide physical security for the embassy. The firm and its CEO are under investigation for alleged violations of Assange’s privacy and the confidentiality of communications with his lawyers – both of which are guaranteed by EU law.

The plaintiffs in the U.S. suit – filed in federal District Court in New York – are two New York attorneys on the Assange international legal team and two American journalists who interviewed him. A U.S. doctor who conducted medical interviews with Assange about his mental state chose not to join the lawsuit but told Newsweek he was subjected to the same surveillance. The surveillance also swept up visits from a U.S congressman and celebrities such as model and activist Pamela Anderson.

“As a criminal attorney, I don’t think that there’s anything worse than your opposition listening in on what your plans are, what you intend to do, on your conversations. It’s a terrible thing,” said the lead plaintiff, attorney Margaret Kunstler, a member of Assange’s U.S. legal team. “It’s gross misconduct,” she added, “I don’t understand how the CIA … could think that they could do this. It’s so outrageous that it’s beyond my comprehension.”

New York-based attorney Richard Roth, who filed the suit, said, “This was outrageous and inappropriate conduct by the government. It violated the most profound privacy rights” of the plaintiffs and others who visited Assange in the embassy.

And the violation is worse, Roth added, because it included “conversations of an absolutely privileged and confidential nature,” such as those with his lawyers, and the “theft of data” from devices owned by people such as journalists and doctors who rely on confidential relationships with their sources and patients.

“All my conversations with Julian Assange were covered by doctor-patient confidentiality,” said Sean Love, a physician and faculty member at Johns Hopkins, who visited Assange twice in 2017 to conduct a study of the effects of his confinement on his physical and mental health………………………………

The privacy of other American visitors not party to the lawsuit was also violated, according to copies of surveillance material turned over to the Spanish court and reviewed by Newsweek. Every visitor had their passport photocopied and most seem to have their phones photographed. Among the visitors subject to surveillance was then-California GOP Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, who was trying to negotiate a deal for a presidential pardon for Assange. .Washington Post reporter Ellen Nakashima’s phone was photographed and a detailed written account of her visit (revealing that she removed the battery from her phone before handing it over) was prepared by embassy security guards. Anderson’s passwords for her email and other accounts were included in surveillance photographs allegedly sent to the CIA, according to disclosures by Spanish whistleblowers.

Email messages sent to Anderson’s foundation requesting comment were not returned.

Apart from the constitutional violations against Americans swept up in the surveillance, the sheer magnitude and sensitivity of the material obtained by U.S. authorities may make it impossible for Assange to get a fair trial, Roth said. In addition to the surveillance, after the Ecuadorian government allowed British police to enter the embassy and arrest Assange, it publicly turned over all his legal papers and computer equipment to the U.S. Department of Justice.

“When a federal prosecutor comes after a lawyer with a search warrant and seizes their devices, there are multiple layers of review and protection for privileged lawyer-client communications,” Roth said. The court might appoint a special master – typically a retired judge or a senior attorney independent of the government – to oversee the process and ensure that privileged communications were segregated from those collected for the prosecution.

“None of that happened here. They just grabbed everything.”

…………………………………………………………………………………. Anyone who visited was required to leave their phones and other electronic devices with security guards at the embassy, according to the lawsuit.

“Julian’s visitors weren’t allowed to bring their devices into the embassy, nothing that could photograph or record or connect to the Internet,” WikiLeaks media attorney Deborah Hrbek, the other attorney suing, told Newsweek. “We turned them over to the security guards. We thought they were embassy personnel. We believed it was a measure to protect Julian.”

In fact, the guards were contractors, working for the Spanish private security firm UnderCover Global. Engaged by the Ecuadorian government to provide security for the embassy and its long term houseguest, UC Global in 2017 began secretly also working for U.S. intelligence, according to the lawsuit, citing evidence compiled by the Audiencia National, the Spanish High Court.

UC Global CEO David Morales returned from a Las Vegas security convention in early 2017, telling colleagues they were now working “in the big leagues,” “for the dark side,” and with “our American friends,” according to whistleblower testimony from former UC Global employees. The testimony says it became clear over the subsequent weeks and months that he was being paid substantial sums of money to share surveillance data with the CIA…………………………………………………………………………………….

The suit is directed against Pompeo personally because U.S. law and the Constitution make it difficult to sue executive branch agencies for damages, said Robert Boyle, a constitutional law attorney who consulted with Roth on the suit.

A 1971 Supreme Court judgment “made it possible to personally sue government officials for violations of certain constitutional rights,” he said……………………………………………

The surveillance revealed by the Spanish courts was likely “the tip of the iceberg,” said lead plaintiff Kunstler. “We happen to have discovered that. Who knows what else they were up to?”

August 18, 2022 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, legal, secrets and lies | Leave a comment

Nuclear bomb tests at Maralinga triggered Hedley Marston to study fallout over Australia

ABC Radio Adelaide / By Daniel Keane 10 Aug 22,

Hedley Marston could be charming, genial and witty but he was not above fulmination, especially where fulminations of a different kind were concerned.

In the mid-1950s, the CSIRO biochemist emerged as arguably the most significant contemporary critic of Britain’s nuclear weapons testing program, which was launched on Australia’s Montebello Islands almost 70 years ago in October 1952.

Despite the imminent anniversary Marston remains an obscure figure, but his biographer Roger Cross believes that should change.

“He appears to be totally unknown to the Australian public and, of course, to South Australians — he was a South Australian after all,” Dr Cross said.

Marston’s reservations about the nuclear program were far from spontaneous; indeed, his strongest concerns weren’t voiced until several years after the first test, when he recorded a radioactive plume passing over Adelaide.

The source of that plume was Operation Buffalo, a series of four nuclear blasts in 1956, and Marston was especially outraged by the fact that the general population was not warned.

“Sooner or later the public will demand a commission of enquiry on the ‘fall out’ in Australia,” he wrote to nuclear physicist and weapons advocate Sir Mark Oliphant.

“When this happens some of the boys will qualify for the hangman’s noose.”

What made Marston’s fury difficult to dismiss, especially for those inclined to deride opposition to nuclear testing as the exclusive preserve of ‘commies’ and ‘conchies’, was the fact that he was no peacenik.

Detractors might have damned him as an arriviste, but never as an activist: his cordial relations with Oliphant and other scientific grandees demonstrate that Marston was, in many respects, an establishment man.

Dr Cross has described Marston’s elegant prose as “Churchillian”, and the adjective is apposite in other ways.

While the roguish Marston might not have gone as far as the British wartime leader’s assertion that, during conflict, truth is so precious “that she should always be attended by a bodyguard of lies”, he had, in a 1947 letter to the editor, publicly defended scientific secrecy:

Under present conditions of fear and mistrust among nations it is obvious that military technology must be kept secret; and to achieve this end it should be conducted in special military laboratories where strictest security measures may be observed.”

But by late 1956, Marston’s alarm at radioactive fallout across parts of Australia was such that he was privately demanding greater disclosures to the general public.

Much of his ire was aimed at the Atomic Weapons Tests Safety Committee — a body established before the Maralinga tests, but after blasts had already occurred at Emu Fields* and the Montebello Islands.

“He was the only senior Australian scientist to express concerns and, because of his character, the concerns that he expressed were very forthright,” said Dr Cross, whose biography of Marston, aptly entitled Fallout, inspired the documentary Silent Storm.

“When the safety committee after each explosion said there was absolutely no effect on Australians, he believed that they were lying.”

‘If the wind changes, we need to go’

The experiments that led Marston, whose reputation largely rested on his expertise in sheep nutrition, to reach this conclusion were two-fold.

In the more protracted one, he analysed the presence of radioactive iodine-131 — a common component of nuclear fallout — in the thyroids of sheep.

“One group he kept penned up under cover eating dried hay, which had been cut some time before. The other group, he put outside eating the grass,” Dr Cross said.

“He tested the thyroids in each group – the ones on the hay only had background amounts of iodine-131.

“But the ones in the fields had a tremendously high concentration of this radioactive isotope, both north and south of the city.”

A fallout map from the 1985 royal commission, which stated that while fallout at Maralinga Village from the October 11, 1956,  test was “considered to be ‘negligible from a biological point of view’ it does suggest difficulties with the forecast prior to the test”.(Royal Commission into British Nuclear Tests in Australia)

For the other experiment, Marston conducted air monitoring in Adelaide.

He was especially alarmed by what he found for the period following the Maralinga test of October 11, 1956.

“There was a wind shear and at least part, maybe the major part, of that cloud, blew in a south-easterly direction and that took it towards Adelaide and the country towns in between,” Dr Cross said.

“The safety committee — who must have known of the wind shear — had done nothing about warning Adelaide people perhaps to stay indoors.”……………………………………………………

Despite Marston’s reservations, the nuclear program carried on regardless.

Less than a year after the Operation Buffalo tests, Maralinga was hosting Operation Antler.

In September 1957, newspapers around Australia reported on an upcoming “second test” that would, weather permitting, proceed as part of a “spring series”.

If it hadn’t been for the presence of the words “atomic” and “radioactive”, a reader might easily have inferred that what was being described was as commonplace as a game of cricket.

August 11, 2022 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, history, media, politics, reference, secrets and lies, weapons and war | Leave a comment