Australian news, and some related international items

Hard-Wired for Corruption -The arms trade and Australia’s lax monitoring regimes

Chris Douglas concludes that from an anti-bribery/corruption risk perspective, Naval Group should not have been put on the shortlist for the Future Submarines program, let alone selected to partner with Australia to build the submarines. The ‘contract of the century’ was mired in unacceptable risk from the outset due to Defence’s poor risk-management processes and non-existent specific anti-bribery/corruption measures. A formal inquiry is needed both to examine how this deeply flawed decision was reached and to help prevent the situation recurring in future major defence procurement projects.

‘In the arms business, it’s always a time of war’, wrote Roeber. Without war, there is no revenue, no profit, no growth. Countries with established arms manufacturing industries therefore have a perpetual economic driver towards conflict and warfare.

To give just one example, there is no visibility around what or how much weaponry Australia has exported to Saudi Arabia or the United Arab Emirates during the years of the Yemen war. Michelle Fahy 1 Aug 22, The international arms trade, worth around US$200 billion a year, represents less than 1 per cent of world trade yet is said to account for about 40 per cent of its corruption. While estimates vary, there is little dispute amongst long-term arms industry researchers that it is the most corrupt industry on the planet. Indeed, it is said to be hard-wired for corruption.

The World Peace Foundation (WPF), housed at Tufts University in America, produces extensive research on the global arms trade, including a compendium of corrupt arms deals. It says that ‘Corruption within the industry is often treated in terms of isolated incidents, when it is, in fact, representative of the business model for the industry’.

This finding is supported by research for Transparency International’s (TI) Government Defence Integrity (GDI) index, which assesses the quality of controls for managing corruption risk in defence and security institutions. The GDI shows that 86 per cent of global arms exports between 2016 and 2020 originated from countries at moderate to very high risk of corruption in their defence sectors, while 49 per cent of global arms imports went to countries at high to critical risk of defence corruption. Australia is rated as a moderate corruption risk in the GDI, with two key areas of concern being the lack of transparency in defence procurement and weak anti-corruption safeguards on military operations.

The legal trade in arms has long been known for its susceptibility to corruption. This is due to the high value and complexity of arms deals, the close association between the arms industry and political power, and the secrecy claimed necessary for national security, all of which shield arms-related activities from scrutiny. As arms industry expert Joe Roeber pointed out, ‘Defence goods are complex and each contract contains a mix of special requirements. Comparison is remarkably difficult and effective monitoring by public watchdogs is all but impossible. An unknowable price can be manipulated to accommodate any amount of covert payments’. Further, there are very few major arms deals on offer globally each year—usually less than 10 in the range of tens of billions each meaning competition is intense—while only a small number of people make the decision on what to buy…

‘In the arms business, it’s always a time of war’, wrote Roeber. Without war, there is no revenue, no profit, no growth. Countries with established arms manufacturing industries therefore have a perpetual economic driver towards conflict and warfare.

For example, in the month leading up to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and just days after a horrific attack in Yemen by the Saudi-led coalition using a Raytheon missile that killed 90 people and injured 200, Raytheon’s CEO told investors that global tensions represented ‘opportunities for international sales’, and that he expected to ‘see some benefit’ from ‘the tensions in Eastern Europe [and] in the South China Sea’. Meanwhile, Just Security has noted that the ‘well-documented risks of corruption in the arms industry and the potential for profiteering from an arms race in the Ukraine war’ are risk factors embedded in the massive flow of lethal weaponry from the West into Ukraine…

Blanket secrecy

All countries justify secrecy around arms-related activity with claims of protecting ‘national security’. The Australian government, for example, imposes a high level of secrecy over its arms procurement, sustainment and export deals, with politicians and the Department of Defence resisting demands for greater transparency…

Australia also relies on ‘commercial-in-confidence’ justifications to protect arms industry interests. This, in combination with national security claims, has led to almost blanket secrecy around Australia’s arms exports. To give just one example, there is no visibility around what or how much weaponry Australia has exported to Saudi Arabia or the United Arab Emirates during the years of the Yemen war. The government has only released information about the number of export permits it has approved or declined (by March 2021 Australian approvals to these two nations topped 100). However, permit numbers are not useful, as not all permit approvals translate into actual exports, and permits can cover numerous types of equipment, small or large quantities, extend for varying time periods, and even cover multiple destinations.

This is significant because the decades-long UK Campaign Against the Arms Trade has amassed a ‘mountain of evidence of corruption in arms sales to Saudi’ showing that bribery is central to the Saudi government’s approach to arms deals. Andrew Feinstein, author of the exhaustively researched 600-page book The Shadow World: Inside the Global Arms Trade, told ABC radio in 2018 that he had never seen a Saudi arms deal that didn’t involve ‘massive amounts’ of corruption, and that the percentage of a Saudi contract paid in bribes could be up to ‘about 35 per cent of the contract price’. The United Arab Emirates is also known for its secrecy, corruption, and money laundering links.

Australia’s decreasing commitment to anti-corruption measures

Australia’s extraordinary current spending on military capability—$270 billion in a decade, on top of the usual defence budget—means the domestic arms industry is awash with cash. At the same time, the public’s limited ability to scrutinise this spending has been eroded further by a defence minister, Peter Dutton, who has restricted Defence’s engagement with the media. The combination of record sums of money and little scrutiny provides fertile ground for corruption.

Australia’s performance on anti-corruption measures has nose-dived in recent years:

  • It recorded its worst ever score on a global anti-corruption index in 2022, dropping four points (from 77 to 73) and falling to 18th place. Australia has now dropped 12 points in a decade, from a high of 7th (85 points) in 2012.
  • Its membership status at the Open Government Partnership risks being put under review because it has ‘acted contrary to the OGP process’ and failed to submit its latest national action plan.
  • Its negligible attempts to investigate and prosecute cases of foreign bribery have been criticised by the Working Group for the OECD’s Anti-Bribery Convention (it expressed concern over ‘the continued low level of foreign bribery enforcement… given the size of Australia’s economy and the high-risk regions and sectors in which its companies operate’ and ‘its long-standing challenges in attributing wrongdoing to corporate entities’).
  • It has been named an ‘international laggard’ in expanding anti-money-laundering laws in line with recommendations by the G7’s Financial Action Task Force, one of only three countries, alongside Haiti and Madagascar, to have failed to do so. Australia now risks being put on a grey list of countries that don’t meet international money-laundering standards. (Australia has been resisting anti-money-laundering regulation for fifteen years.)
  • A dedicated federal anti-corruption body still has not been established…

Red flags

‘The biggest corruption risk in an arms deal is a company’s decision to pay bribes to secure the deal’, says Sam Perlo-Freeman, former Program Manager for Global Arms and Corruption, World Peace Foundation, Tufts University. Decisions to pay significant bribes are made at a company’s highest levels, and while no amount of technical anti-corruption measures will eliminate high-level corrupt behaviour, strong whistleblower protection mechanisms can increase the probability of exposure. Other anti-corruption measures are also important, particularly at lower levels where zealous company employees might be tempted to cut corners to advance their careers. However, such technical measures do not tackle the underlying political and economic drivers of high-level corruption in the arms industry, where winning large deals is necessary for corporate survival and price is not the primary concern. As Joe Roeber noted incisively, bribery in this context ‘is not just a simple add-on to the procurement process, but distorts the decisions. What would the equilibrium level of trade be without the stimulus of corruption?’ …

No evidence has emerged of…extensive corrupt practices in Australia, but there are regular red flags of possible arms industry corruption. Chris Douglas, a 31-year veteran of financial crime investigation for the Australian Federal Police, who now runs his own consultancy, is an Australian expert in anti-bribery and corruption measures. He says that such compliance programs are a necessary component of good corporate and public governance—essential for preventing corruption in the defence industry. Although he has lodged numerous Freedom of Information requests (FOIs) with the Defence Department about anti-bribery/corruption measures on major procurements, he says, ‘I have not detected an ABC [anti-bribery/corruption] program being used in any of the major defence projects I have examined’.

Douglas says that the Department of Defence ‘has not caught up with modern corporate management practices’ and has no understanding of how to use anti-bribery/corruption risk-based assessments to manage the significant risks posed by bribery and corruption in its projects, particularly major ones. As he puts it: ‘That any department would not undertake an ABC risk assessment when such large sums of money are involved, in an industry that is rated high for corrupt behaviour, speaks volumes about a poor culture within that department’.

Repeated cost blowouts and delays are just two of the red flags for corruption that are regularly found in Australian defence procurement and sustainment projects. The cost of these to the public is substantial.

While there are numerous examples of red flag projects, here are just three.

Naval Group—submarine contract

This contract was abandoned with the arrival of AUKUS, but the original deal with Naval Group requires a public inquiry to examine the full extent of the process by which the internationally lucrative ‘contract of the century’ was awarded. The need for an inquiry has been amplified given the shock shredding of Defence’s largest ever contract, a decision which made international news and may yet cost Australia billions.

Continue reading

August 2, 2022 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, business, reference, secrets and lies, weapons and war | Leave a comment

How social media is censored by algorithms to effectively throttle dissent.

ED note: This article is very personal for me. I’ve had the experience in the last few days of Facebook suppressing my post (posted as Noel Wauchope). The post was a transcript of a Youtube item by prestigious Australian journalist Michael West

It was an important article, showing up the hypocrisy of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation, in this case , shamefully and inaccurately promoting nuclear power as ”cheap”

I can dispute this censorship – but that could take months – even if I succeed, it would be too late to matter.

Censorship By Algorithm Does Far More Damage Than Conventional Censorship, Caitlin’s Newsletter, Caitlin Johnstone Jan 25 2022

”…………………………………………………….’And Silicon Valley did eventually admit that it was in fact actively censoring voices who fall outside the mainstream consensus. In order to disprove the false right-wing narrative that Google only censors rightist voices, the CEO of Google’s parent company Alphabet admitted in 2020 to algorithmically throttling World Socialist Website. Last year the CEO of Google-owned YouTube acknowledged that the platform uses algorithms to elevate “authoritative sources” while suppressing “borderline content” not considered authoritative, which apparently even includes just marginally establishment-critical left-of-center voices like Kyle Kulinski. Facebook spokeswoman Lauren Svensson said in 2018 that if the platform’s fact-checkers (including the state-funded establishment narrative management firm Atlantic Council) rule that a Facebook user has been posting false news, moderators will “dramatically reduce the distribution of all of their Page-level or domain-level content on Facebook.”…………………….

That’s the biggest loophole the so-called free democracies of the western world have found in their quest to regulate online speech. By allowing these monopolistic megacorporations to become the sources everyone goes to for information (and even actively helping them along that path as in for example Google’s research grants from the CIA and NSA), it’s possible to tweak algorithms in such a way that dissident information exists online, but nobody ever sees it.

You’ve probably noticed this if you’ve tried to search YouTube for videos which don’t align with the official narratives of western governments and media lately. That search function used to work like magic; like it was reading your mind. Now it’s almost impossible to find the information you’re looking for unless you’re trying to find out what the US State Department wants you to think. It’s the same with Google searches and Facebook, and because those giant platforms dictate what information gets seen by the general public, that wild information bias toward establishment narratives bleeds into other common areas of interaction like Twitter as well.

The idea is to let most people freely share dissident ideas and information about empire, war, capitalism, authoritarianism and propaganda, but to make it increasingly difficult for them to get their content seen and heard by people, and to make their going viral altogether impossible. To avoid the loud controversies and uncomfortable public scrutiny brought on by acts of overt censorship as much as possible while silently sweeping unauthorized speech behind the curtain. To make noncompliant voices “disappear from view so slowly you won’t even notice,” as Cook put it

The status quo is not working. Our ecosystem is dying, we appear to be rapidly approaching a high risk of direct military confrontation between nuclear-armed nations, and our world is rife with injustice, inequality, oppression and exploitation. None of this is going to change until the public begins awakening to the problems with the current status quo so we can begin organizing a mass-scale push toward healthier systems. And that’s never going to happen as long as information is locked down in the way that it is.

Whoever controls the narrative controls the world. And as more and more people get their information about what’s happening in the world from online sources, Silicon Valley algorithm manipulation has already become one of the most consequential forms of narrative control.

July 16, 2022 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, media, secrets and lies | Leave a comment

Julian Assange and family suffer as unjust detention continues.

Independent Australia By Binoy Kampmark | 16 June 2022,

The documentary Ithaka powerfully depicts the fight Julian Assange’s family is putting up for him, writes Dr Binoy Kampmark

JOHN Shipton, despite his size, glides with insect-like grace across surfaces. He moves with a hovering sense, a holy man with message and meaning. As Julian Assange’s father, he has found himself a bearer of messages and meaning, attempting to convince those in power that good sense and justice should prevail over brute stupidity and callousness. 

His one object: release Julian………………………..

The documentary Ithaka powerfully depicts the fight Julian Assange’s family is putting up for him, writes Dr Binoy Kampmark

JOHN Shipton, despite his size, glides with insect-like grace across surfaces. He moves with a hovering sense, a holy man with message and meaning. As Julian Assange’s father, he has found himself a bearer of messages and meaning, attempting to convince those in power that good sense and justice should prevail over brute stupidity and callousness. 

His one object: release Julian…………………..

The documentary Ithaka powerfully depicts the fight Julian Assange’s family is putting up for him, writes Dr Binoy Kampmark

JOHN Shipton, despite his size, glides with insect-like grace across surfaces. He moves with a hovering sense, a holy man with message and meaning. As Julian Assange’s father, he has found himself a bearer of messages and meaning, attempting to convince those in power that good sense and justice should prevail over brute stupidity and callousness. 

His one object: release Julian……………………………….

Soft, a voice of reed and bird song, Shipton urged activists and citizens to join the fray, to save his son, to battle for a cause imperishably golden and pure. From this summit, power would be held accountable, institutions would function with sublime transparency, and citizens could be assured that their privacy would be protected. 

In the documentary Ithaka, directed by Ben Lawrence, we see Shipton, Assange’s partner, Stella Moris, the two children, the cat and glimpses of brother Gabriel, all pointing to the common cause that rises to the summit of purpose. The central figure, who only ever manifests in spectral form – on-screen via phone or fleeting footage – is one of moral reminder, the purpose that supplies blood for all these figures. 

Assange is being held at Belmarsh, Britain’s most secure and infamous of prisons, denied bail and being crushed by judicial procedure.  But in these supporters, he has some vestigial reminders of a life outside.

The film’s promotion site describes the subject as ‘the world’s most famous political prisoner, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange’ a figure who has ‘become an emblem of an international arm wrestle over freedom of journalism, government corruption and unpunished war crimes’. ………..

 suffer he shall, if the UK Home Secretary Priti Patel decides to agree to the wishes of the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ). 

The DOJ insists that their man face 17 charges framed, disgracefully and archaically, from a U.S. law passed during World War I and inimical to free press protections. The Espionage Act of 1917 has become the crutch and support for prosecutors who see, in Assange, less a journalist than an opportunistic hacker who outed informants and betrayed confidences. ……………………..

Through the film, the exhausting sense of media, that estate ever-present but not always listening, comes through. This point is significant enough; the media – at least in terms of the traditional fourth estate – put huge stock in the release of material from WikiLeaks in 2010, hailing the effort and praising the man behind it. 

But relations soured, and tabloid nastiness set in. The Left found tell-all information and tales of Hillary Clinton too much to handle while the Right, having initially revelled in the revelations of WikiLeaks in 2016, took to demonising the herald. Perversely, in the United States, accord was reached across a good number of political denizens: Assange had to go, and to go, he had to be prosecuted in the United Kingdom and extradited to the United States.

The documentary covers the usual highlights without overly pressing the viewer.  A decent run-up is given to the Ecuadorian stint lasting seven years, with Assange’s bundling out, and the Old Bailey proceedings covering extradition. But Shipton and Moris are the ones who provide the balancing acts in this mission to aid the man they both love……….

The film has faced, as with its subject, the usual problems of distribution and discussion. When Assange is mentioned, the dull-minded exit for fear of reputation, and the hysterical pronounce and pounce. 

In Gabriel Shipton’s words

“All of the negative propaganda and character assassination is so pervasive that many people in the sector and the traditional distribution outlets don’t want to be seen as engaging in advocacy for Julian.”

Where Assange goes, the power monopolies recoil. Distribution and the review of a documentary such as Ithaka is bound to face problems in the face of such a compromised, potted media terrain. Assange is a reminder of the plague in the patient of democracy, a pox on the body politic. ………..,16470#.YqqqxM6TP0M.twitter

June 16, 2022 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, civil liberties, media, secrets and lies | Leave a comment

Another episode in the unlawful spying and harassment of Julian Assange and his legal team, by the UK and USA governments

Julian Assange’s Australian lawyer who counts Amal Clooney and Amber Heard as friends says she has reached settlement with government ‘over breach of her human rights after it admitted she was likely put under covert surveillance’

  • Jennifer Robinson has reached settlement with Government over surveillance 
  • She said it accepted covert surveillance of her ‘likely breached her human rights’
  • She was one of the three lead claimants in a complaint against the Government 
  • She said it raises ‘grave concerns’ over interference with ‘journalistic material


One of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange‘s lawyers has reached a settlement with the Government after it accepted it was likely she was the subject of ‘covert surveillance which breached her human rights’, she said.

Jennifer Robinson welcomed a statement by the European Court of Human Rights which she said meant the UK Government has ‘accepted her rights were breached by surveillance’.

She was one of the three lead claimants in a complaint against the UK Government which went to the court.

Ms Robinson said the UK Government has reached a ‘friendly settlement’, admitting there was reasonable cause to believe she was the subject of surveillance.

She said: ‘The UK Government has now admitted that its surveillance and information-sharing arrangements with the US violated my rights. That includes in relation to the protection of confidential journalistic material.

‘This follows a pattern of unlawful spying on Julian Assange and his legal team, and it raises grave concerns about government interference with journalistic material and privilege.

‘It also raises serious questions about what information the UK and US governments have been sharing about Mr Assange’s case against extradition to the US.’

The development came as Mr Assange awaits a decision by Home Secretary Priti Patel on whether he should be extradited to the United States. 

Ms Robinson, who works from the respected Doughty Chambers in London, has represented Assange for some 12 years.

She is the go-to barrister for the rich and famous, and counts the Hollywood elite among her inner circle, travelling to George and Amal Clooney’s wedding on a speedboat with actor Bill Murray.

In 2019, she was named international pro bono barrister of the year and prior to lockdown, was pictured at events with Prince Charles and Cherie Blair.

She has also appeared on BBC Question Time and supported Amber Heard during the Johnny Depp’s libel case against The Sun newspaper in 2020………………….

June 11, 2022 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, legal, secrets and lies | Leave a comment

A Secret Australia Revealed by the WikiLeaks Exposés Edited by Felicity Ruby and Peter Cronau Also available as an ebook from your favourite retailer.

In A Secret Australia, eighteen prominent Australians discuss what Australia has learnt about itself from the WikiLeaks revelations – revelations about a secret Australia of hidden rules and loyalty to hidden agendas. However Australians may perceive their nation’s place in the world – as battling sports stars, dependable ally or good international citizen – WikiLeaks has shown us a startlingly different story.

This is an Australia that officials do not want us to see, where the Australian Defence Force’s ‘information operations’ are deployed to maintain public support for our foreign war contributions, where media-wide super injunctions are issued by the government to keep politicians’ and major corporations’ corruption scandals secret, where the US Embassy prepares profiles of Australian politicians to fine-tune its lobbying and ensure support for the ‘right’ policies.

The revelations flowing from the releases of millions of secret and confidential official documents by WikiLeaks have helped Australians to better understand why the world is not at peace, why corruption continues to flourish, and why democracy is faltering. This greatest ever leaking of hidden government documents in world history yields knowledge that is essential if Australia, and the rest of the world, is to grapple with the consequences of covert, unaccountable and unfettered power.

The contributors include author Scott Ludlam, former defence secretary Paul Barratt, lawyers Julian Burnside and Jennifer Robinson, academics Richard Tanter, Benedetta Brevini, John Keane, Suelette Dreyfus, Gerard Goggin and Clinton Fernandes, as well as writers and journalists Andrew Fowler, Quentin Dempster, Antony Loewenstein, Guy Rundle, George Gittoes, and Helen Razer, and psychologist Lissa Johnsson.

May 5, 2022 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, secrets and lies | Leave a comment

Australia is No1 on Transparency’s list of countries with developing public sector corruption

9 COUNTRIES TO WATCH ON THE 2021 CORRUPTION PERCEPTIONS INDEX , Transparency International  1 May 22

Troubling signs and key opportunities that can make – or break – the fight against corruption

What is a ‘country to watch’ on the CPI?

In this annual watch-list published alongside the CPI, Transparency International flags countries that need closer monitoring and attention in the coming year………


Australia (CPI score: 73) is one of the world’s most significant decliners, having dropped 12 points since 2012 to hit a record low this year. Its deteriorating score indicates systemic failings in tackling public sector corruption. Despite public calls and previous promises, last year Australia missed a landmark opportunity to establish a national anti-corruption agency with broad powers to investigate corruption…………………………………

May 2, 2022 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, secrets and lies | Leave a comment

Australian government will not intervene as Australian citizen Julian Assange is extradited from UK to USA

Australia won’t interfere in Assange case, By Dominic Giannini, April 21, 2022 The Australian government will not make any representations to the British home secretary after a UK court approved the extradition of whistleblower Julian Assange to the US.

A British court has sent Mr Assange’s extradition order to Home Secretary Priti Patel, but the whistleblower can try to challenge the decision by judicial review if signed.

Finance Minister Simon Birmingham said the government maintained confidence in the UK’s justice system.

“We trust the independence and integrity of the UK justice system. Our expectation is that, as always, it operates in the proper and transparent and independent way,” he told the ABC.

“It, of course, has appeal processes built into it as well. This is the legal system upon which our own has been built on and established and we have confidence in the process.”

Labor foreign affairs spokeswoman Penny Wong said it was ultimately a decision for the UK home secretary.

“I do understand why not only Mr Assange’s personal supporters but many Australians more generally are worried about this. It has dragged on a long time,” she told the ABC.

“As an Australian citizen, he is entitled to consular assistance. We also expect the government to keep seeking assurances from both the UK and US that he’s treated fairly and humanely.”

But Senator Wong stopped short of saying a Labor government would make specific representations about the case. 

“Consular matters are regularly raised with counterparts, they are regularly raised and this one would be no different,” she said.

The development comes 10 days after Mr Assange surpassed the three-year anniversary of his arrest.

The 50-year-old Australian was dragged from London’s Ecuador embassy on April 11 in 2019 to face extradition to the United States on espionage charges over WikiLeaks’ release of confidential US military records and diplomatic cables.

Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce has previously called for an end to Mr Assange’s extradition.

Mr Joyce said Mr Assange didn’t steal secret US files but only published them, which did not breach any Australian laws at the time, and he was not in the US when leaks were put online.

The Greens have criticised the extradition of Mr Assange, with senator Peter Whish-Wilson saying the US Espionage Act wasn’t intended to be used against publishers.

“We must support press freedoms and those who hold the powerful to account,” he said.

“Julian Assange’s prosecution has always been political. It needs political intervention of the highest order from our government to get justice for him.”

Assange Australia campaign adviser Greg Barnes says it’s important the matter has moved back into the political realm.

“Previously the Australian government has said we can’t even intervene because the matter is before the courts. It is no longer before the courts in that sense,” he told Sky News.

This is a political decision that will be made by Priti Patel and it’s a decision which the Australian government, and of course in this context the opposition, could influence.”

The Greens, crossbenchers such as Andrew Wilkie, and Liberal and Labor backbenchers had expressed support for Mr Assange, which could potentially influence a hung parliament in May, Mr Barnes said.

“That’s also an interesting factor as to what pressure is going to come on whoever gets elected in May to bring this Australian home.”

with Reuters

April 22, 2022 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics, politics international, secrets and lies, Wikileaks | Leave a comment

The Australian media colludes with USA, UK and Australian governments’ persecution ofJulian Assange -”Crikey journal” typifies this

Australian media must stand up for Assange’s freedom,,15918 By Matilda Duncan | 10 January 2022,  For far too long the Australian media has remained silent in the face of Julian Assange’s persecution and that must change, writes Matilda Duncan.

LAST MONTH, Crikey’s legal correspondent Michael Bradley wrote a bizarre analysis of Julian Assange’s impending extradition to the U.S. without any regard for basic facts.

It’s worth examining, as it typifies the failures and absurdities of Australian press responses to Assange going back a decade — filled with lies, smears and false narratives that prevent the public from understanding the significance and substance of his case.

In writing about one of the gravest threats to press freedom in years, Bradley went as far as to include a cringeworthy – if not downright pernicious, given Assange recently suffered a stroke and is in precarious health – reference to a Monty Python quote being inscribed on Assange’s tombstone that ‘he’s not the Messiah, he’s a very naughty boy’. 

You couldn’t make this stuff up.

In allowing his thoughts to remain mired in diversionary debates and myths about WikiLeaks and Assange, Bradley completely misses the point of the U.S. extradition case and fails to mention the dire threat to investigative journalism around the world it presents.

He does not confront or condemn the alarming legal precedent of the United States charging a foreign national, one of our citizens, with espionage under U.S domestic law — despite Assange not being a U.S. citizen and WikiLeaks not being a U.S.-based publication.

Bradley writes:

‘WikiLeaks broke new ground but mainly in volume and approach, not content.’

In 2010, Assange and WikiLeaks – in partnership with numerous mainstream media outlets, including The New York TimesThe Guardian and Der Spiegel – published a curated cache of 250,000 diplomatic cables revealing the corruption and destruction of the Bush-era and early Obama-era wars, into which Australia so subserviently followed.

Without Assange’s work, numerous war crimes, mass surveillance schemes and unreported civilian casualties would have gone uncovered. In one year, he generated more consequential journalistic scoops confronting Western centres of power than the rest of the world’s news organisations combined.

Some of the information published by Assange has since become the subject of criminal investigations into the CIA and U.S. authorities before the International Criminal Court, which, as lawyers for Assange testified during his extradition hearing, is further evidence that the U.S. case against him is politically motivated.

Further, irrefutable illustrations of the significance of the “content” of Assange’s work can be found in comparisons between it and the lies and deceptions fed to the Australian population by this country’s press in the Iraq War years. Consider, as just one example of many, WikiLeaks’ publishing of the detainee assessment briefs and manual for Guantanamo Bay, where children as young as 15 were held, in contrast with the vapid first-hand account of the illegal prison presented by one of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s top foreign correspondents, Leigh Sales.  

In 2007, Sales wrote of her second visit to Gitmo:

‘At the same time, my own eyes and ears led me to believe that Guantanamo wasn’t as barbaric as it was made out to be either. None of the detainees came running to the wire, begging for help to get out.’

One Guantanamo Bay prisoner has recently waived his right to appear in court on numerous occasions because he suffered “rectal damage” while in custody of the CIA that makes it too painful for him to sit.

According to Bradley, it’s Assange that’s the “problem”, not the CIA spying on Assange and planning to kidnap or assassinate him with the help of UC Global as he held political asylum inside the Ecuadorian Embassy. After UC Global installed microphones in 2017, all of Assange’s conversations were recorded, including those he had with his lawyers outlining his defence strategy for the current case against him.

This is likely a violation of attorney-client privilege in itself and might be reason enough to throw out the U.S. case against him.

Bradley wasted his words on puerile arguments about Assange being a “tarnished hero” instead of communicating the most pressing things to know about Assange: six of the 18 counts against him are Espionage Act charges that criminalise the obtaining of ‘national defense information’, something journalists that report on their governments do every day.

Ten other counts relate to  the disclosure of national defense information. Again, a regular task for many journalists. One further ‘conspiracy to commit computer intrusion’ count relates to Assange allegedly offering to help Chelsea Manning crack a security code to help her avoid detection while she was obtaining U.S. Government documents.

This is a charge that amounts to an attempt to criminalise a journalist assisting a source to protect themselves, yet another activity that responsible journalists regularly engage in.

Even more terrifyingly, the case against Assange centres around “national defence information”, a nebulous term that might be applied to whatever information the U.S. Government so chooses. It doesn’t even have to be classified or top-secret information — much of the information leaked by Manning was unclassified and widely accessible to others in government.

It has been recognised with press awards around the world for over a decade now, including a Walkley, and exposed human rights abuses globally. It is plain wrong to say that Assange did not redact the information he released — the compelling eyewitness testimony from Mark Davis can directly attest to that.

Further, there is no evidence of anyone becoming endangered by his reporting. In fact a 2013 investigation by McClatchy found officials couldn’t point to any examples of lives being endangered by WikiLeaks and in 2010, Obama officials privately admitted that any damage from the leaks was “limited” and that their public comments about the leaks having “seriously damaged American interests” were intended “to bolster legal efforts to shut down the WikiLeaks website and bring charges against the leakers”.

‘Like anyone who attains the status of iconic mystery, Assange  not actually seen freely moving in public in a decade  has become less person and more mirror reflecting the meanings we choose to attach to him and his experiences. What he actually thinks is known only to him, and his lawyers presumably.’

Bradley was correct on one thing: using the word “mirror” in connection with Assange. This citizen of ours bravely risked his life and liberty to tell us ugly truths about U.S. imperial power and military machinery, which this country so strongly enables and supports.

He reflected right back at this country snippets of the destruction and mass civilian deaths we willingly participated in. His brave journalism exposed the bulk of our country’s media as the petty, unserious talking heads they are: journalists that don’t actually serve the public, but parrot the lies they are told by governments.

Contrary to what Bradley says, what Assange “actually thinks” has been well-documented for years now.

After seven years of arbitrary detention followed by three years of solitary confinement and other tortures in London’s Belmarsh Prison, Assange thinks of suicide constantly. That the U.S. is slowly killing this Australian journalist, partner and father before our eyes for exposing war crimes while the Australian Government does nothing and the majority of our press either remains silent or – when they say anything at all – write flippant and inaccurate stories about him demonstrates just how broken this country’s media is.

It shows how unaware we are of the press freedom we are about to lose and how deeply needed the work of Julian Assange and others of his ilk is.

April 21, 2022 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, media, secrets and lies, Wikileaks | Leave a comment

Pine Gap’s role in China–US arms race makes Australia a target

Rakesh, April 15, 2022

Developments at the U.S.-Australian satellite intelligence base at Pine Gap near Alice Springs give the United States an unprecedented ability to detect Chinese spacecraft from space and potentially destroy them.

Previously, detection was mainly based on ground-based radars, which are no longer seen as suitable for identifying these spacecraft if they were weapons. China has said it has only tested new space vehicles.

As shown below, two different versions of the latest Pine Gap satellites can do this job together. The difficulty is how to further destabilize the nuclear balance between China and the United States in order to help maintain peace.

Last October, it was reported that China had tested a nuclear-capable highly maneuverable hypersonic glider after it was lifted into space by a missile. The nuclear warheads released from US intercontinental ballistic missiles are also manoeuvrable and independently targeted. But the United States sees a serious threat from these hypersonic vehicles that can drive at more than five times the speed of sound.

This development makes Australia more closely integrated with any American offensive in space, as well as with defensive capabilities. Yet there has been no political debate in Australia about the consequences of avoiding war. No senior politician is trying to create momentum to support a new arms control deal, as Presidents Richard Nixon and Leonid Brezhnev did in 1971, when the number of nuclear weapons escalated alarmingly, to more than 30,000 each.

The latest arms build-up is highlighted by a meeting in late March between Australian intelligence and military officials and senior US military officers at Pine Gap. Although the United States clearly considers Pine Gap to be crucial in fighting war in space, these military officers did not speak to the Australian media. Instead, they choose to talk to a London-based journalist Financial Times.

It is unclear whether the government intends to inform the Australian public about developments at Pine Gap. These have implications for Australia’s own security and its potential obligations under the outer space treaty, which limits the militarization of space without completely banning it. If Pine Gap was not already a Chinese nuclear target, it probably will be now.

That Financial Times reported the head of the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, Admiral John Aquilino, said the United States wanted to integrate all elements of the U.S. military power with its allies. In this context, Aquilino said Australia has capabilities that make it an “extremely advanced partner”. He said increased visibility in space would help counter Chinese hypersonic weapons. “The ability to identify and track and defend against these hypersonics is really key.”

The head of the U.S. Space Command, General James Dickinson, was also interviewed for the play, saying Australia was a “critical partner” in efforts to improve space domain awareness and monitor Chinese space operations. He said, “This is the perfect place for many things to do.”

The deputy head of the U.S. Cyber Command, Lieutenant General Charles Moore, said digital convergence between the United States and Australia gives the Unit

Pine Gap’s own satellites also pick up signals from radars and weapon systems, such as ground-to-air missiles, anti-aircraft artillery, fighter jets, drones and spacecraft, along with other military and civilian communications. From Pine Gap, a huge amount of military data is fed into the American war machine in real time.ed States “the potential to conduct offensive operations.” He added that cooperation with allies created an “asymmetric advantage” over China, which lacks similar partnerships. One consequence is that China cannot gather near as much electronic intelligence from across the globe as the United States.

An idea of the growing importance of Pine Gaps for the United States is given by its extraordinary growth. Originally, it was a ground station for a single satellite to collect what is called signal intelligence as it orbited 36,000 kilometers above the Earth. There are now at least four much more powerful satellites connected to the base. Their antennas automatically intercept everything that is transmitted within their frequency range. This includes a large selection of electronic signals for intelligence analysis, including text messages, emails, phone calls and more. In addition, terrestrial antennas at Pine Gap and other Australian locations pick up a large amount of information transmitted via commercial satellites.

Pine Gap’s own satellites also pick up signals from radars and weapon systems, such as ground-to-air missiles, anti-aircraft artillery, fighter jets, drones and spacecraft, along with other military and civilian communications. From Pine Gap, a huge amount of military data is fed into the American war machine in real time.

Pine Gap operates in connection with similar interception satellites attached to a base at Menwith Hill in England. Their use to lead counterfeit drone strikes that have killed a large number of civilians has been much debated in England. The combined coverage of the two bases includes the former Soviet Union, China, Southeast Asia, East Asia, the Middle East, Eastern Europe, and the Atlantic landmass.

Pine Gap is also linked to infrared satellites, which are of great interest to Americans. Their original function, which is still important, is to provide early warning of the firing of nuclear-armed Russian or Chinese ballistic missiles. Added options now allow them to use their infrared telescopes to detect and track heat from spacecraft as well as from large and small missiles and military jets. Some satellites have very elliptical orbits that can go close to Earth instead of being 36,000 kilometers above Earth.

These satellites now provide highly coveted information about Chinese spacecraft, amplified by the data from the signal intelligence satellites. Taken together, this gives access to signals and infrared intelligence, and its location relative to China, Pine Gap plays a crucial role in the United States’ plans to fight wars in space. This capability will be enhanced by a new space-based detection and tracking system called Next Generation Overhead Persistent Infrared (Next-Gen OPIR).

On April 6, the leaders of the AUKUS pact – Boris Johnson, Scott Morrison and Joe Biden – announced that they would develop hypersonic missiles and subterranean robots after previously promising to supply Australia with nuclear submarines from around 2040.

These new missiles will also travel at more than five times the speed of sound, but are air-breathing unlike those designed for use in space. The United States and Australia had already developed hypersonic cruise missiles using ramjet engines.

No figures are available, but the cost of developing, building and testing very long-range missiles will be high. A large part of the test is expected to take place in Australia. The new missiles are also intended for use against Chinese targets.

Again, China can be expected to build more missiles with the ability to target Australian and US forces in the region. Separately, Secretary of Defense Peter Dutton announced that the Australian government will spend $ 3.5 billion on new missiles with a longer range of 900 kilometers for Australian ships and fighter jets.

The background to what is happening at Pine Gap illustrates how much more important the base is to the United States than any contribution Australia may have made by a pair of fighter jets or frigates to the United States’ integrated international force that was at a distance from China. At this stage, neither side of Australian policy seems willing to refuse participation in yet another US-led war that violates Australia’s obligations under both the UN Charter and Article 1 of the ANZUS Treaty. Both documents oblige Australia to reject the use of force in international relations, other than defensively.

Although rarely mentioned, Pine Gaps’ growing importance to the United States increases Australia’s leverage with the United States to refuse to contribute ships, aircraft and troops to an integrated military force should it violate international rules. It may be harder to dismiss some aspects of Pine Gap’s operations. But there are provisions in the ground rules that Australia only acts with “full knowledge and agreement” with what is happening. Australia does not have to agree.

A further question is how to revive arms control negotiations between Russia and the United States and include China. The two large ones have 1550 intercontinental warheads, but they also have smaller ones. According to the Pentagon, China had only about 100 intercontinental ballistic missiles by 2021 and about 200 smaller warheads. This gives China reasonable cause for concern that it does not have enough strategic warheads to be able to retaliate against a US first attack and thus perpetuate deterrence.

To overcome this, the Pentagon projects that China will have around 1,000 intercontinental warheads by 2030. All sides must reach a new agreement to make major cuts in the number of warheads if the chances of nuclear war are to be reduced.

Whether or not China develops hypersonic spacecraft, it is already committed to getting more traditional intercontinental ballistic missiles that can disperse maneuverable warheads. Restraint on all sides is necessary.

I asked the Secretary of State, Marise Payne, and her Labor counterpart, Penny Wong, if Australia could refuse to integrate with the United States and other forces if they considered a proposed deployment in violation of Article 1 of the ANZUS Treaty or the UN Charter. I also asked if Australia could withdraw its military assets from integrated US operations if there was a more urgent need for Australia to confront a local threat that was not of interest to the US. None of them responded before the print deadline.

This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on April 16, 2022 as “Mind Pine Gap”.

April 18, 2022 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics international, religion and ethics, secrets and lies, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Strong security measures for secret transport of nuclear waste from Port Kembla to Lucas Heights

There was a large land, air and sea police presence at the port including PolAIr, maritime police officers on jet ski and in large and inflatable vessels, as well as officers on the ground

Police jet skis, helicopter and boats accompanied the ship into the Port. Police officers lined the port banks.

Roads were closed on Saturday night and into the early hours of Sunday morning

Roads closed for nuclear waste transportation from Port Kembla to Lucas Heights, Illawarra Mercury, Ashleigh Tullis,  13Mar 22 A container of nuclear waste has been safely transported to Lucas Heights, a spokesperson for ANSTO has confirmed.

The container, which was transported from Port Kembla overnight, will be stored at ANSTO until a National Radioactive Waste Management Facility is operational.

ANSTO’s group executive for nuclear operations and nuclear medicine, Pamela Naidoo-Ameglio, said as part of international treaties, countries are required to take responsibility for the disposal of any nuclear waste they produce.

Ms Naidoo-Ameglio was tight-lipped about what might happen if the waste were to get into the environment.

“There is no credible risk of that happening,” she told the media.

EARLIER: Bystanders looked on as a nuclear waste ship docked in Port Kembla on Saturday, carry reprocessed radioactive waste.

The bright blue ship was an unusual sight in the Port as full scale police operation was carried out to make sure it was safely docked.

Police jet skis, helicopter and boats accompanied the ship into the Port. Police officers lined the port banks.

Roads were closed on Saturday night and into the early hours of Sunday morning.

The waste was unloaded and transported during a police operation overnight to the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO)’s interim waste storage facility in Lucas Heights.

The waste – encased in molten glass, canisters and steel casks – left the United Kingdom on January 20 on a specialist nuclear vessel, bound for Port Kembla.

A shipment of the waste, which stems from Australia’s production of nuclear medicine and other products, docked at the port about 11.30am on Saturday.

There was a large land, air and sea police presence at the port including PolAIr, maritime police officers on jet ski and in large and inflatable vessels, as well as officers on the ground, ensuring the safe entry of the ship.

A small crowd of people gathered to watch the ship dock, with some fisherman surprised at police presence.

Live Traffic reports the police operation will see major roads closed between Port Kembla and Lucas Heights for an “oversize vehicle movement”.

Closures will be in place on the northbound lanes of the M1 Princes Motorway between West Wollongong and Waterfall, up Mount Ousley from 11:30pm and 4am.

Southbound traffic on the M1 will remain unaffected.

Motorists are being diverted northbound along Memorial Drive through to Bulli Pass, then Princes Highway to Waterfall.

This detour is not suitable for B-doubles which should travel before the closure commences or delay their journey.

Heathcote Road from Heathcote to Lucas Heights, and New Illawarra Road between Lucas Heights and Menai will also be closed between 1am and 4am on Sunday.

Diversion for Heathcote Road require drivers to travel on the Princes Hwy, River Rd, Menai Rd, Alfords Point Rd, Davies Rd, Fairford Rd, Canterbury Rd, Milperra Rd, Newbridge Rd and Nuwarra Rd.

Heavy vehicle detours including B-Doubles up to 25m will be in place along Princes Hwy, King Georges Rd, Canterbury Rd, Milperra Rd, Newbridge Rd, Nuwarra Rd.

Local residents will be allowed access to Voyager Point, Pleasure Point and Sandy Point only.

Motorists needing to use New Illawarra Road should travel via the alternative route of the Princes Hwy, River Rd and Bangor Bypass.

ANSTO’s group executive of nuclear operations and nuclear medicine, Pamela Naidoo-Ameglio this week said significant expertise would be involved in the transportation of the waste………..

Australia does not have the ability to reprocess spent fuel rods from nuclear operations, so they are sent to facilities overseas where any uranium is stripped and recycled, and the remaining waste is processed…..

Following treatment and reprocessing in the United Kingdom, the material will be temporarily held at ANSTO’s Lucas Heights campus until a National Radioactive Waste Management Facility is built.

“International best practice is that radioactive waste should be stored in a single facility, and we welcome the Federal Government’s recent strong steps to site and build that facility,” Ms Naidoo-Ameglio said.

ANSTO’s last repatriation effort in 2015 saw the waste safely brought into Port Kembla and transported to Lucas Heights.

March 14, 2022 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, secrets and lies, wastes | Leave a comment

Huge cask of nuclear waste to be quietly transported to Sydney

Nuclear waste shipment bound for Sydney, Tracey Ferrier March 11, 2022,

Police are preparing to escort a monolithic steel cask of nuclear waste to Sydney this weekend, reigniting debate about Australia’s plans for the toxic material.

The hulking capsule resembling something from NASA’s space program contains two tonnes of intermediate-level radioactive waste that will need to be isolated from the environment for thousands of years.

But for the time being it will be stored at the Lucas Heights nuclear reactor compound in southern Sydney.

The waste is being returned under the international principle that countries must take back their nuclear leftovers after reprocessing. In Australia’s case that’s been done offshore.

Kimba will be a near-surface facility and a permanent solution for low-level waste only. The intermediate material will once more be in storage.

The federal government has committed to developing a separate end solution for the more toxic stuff. It will involve deep burial but so far there’s no firm plan, and no site has been identified to take it.

Australian Conservation Foundation campaigner Dave Sweeney says the nation’s most potent nuclear waste should not be moved to Kimba.

He says the problem is being kicked down the road, for some future government to sort out.

We believe there’s a very real risk that this material gets stranded in sub-optimal conditions at Kimba. Move it once, move it well, and move it permanently,” he says.

“Our position is that the Lucas Heights facility is the best place for Australia’s most serious waste. It has the highest security, the highest emergency monitoring and response capacity. It is staffed 24/7, and 95 per cent of the stuff is already there.”

The Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation operates the Lucas Heights reactor, which supports nuclear medicine and science.

Resources and Water Minister Keith Pitt said it was international best practice to consolidate radioactive waste at a single, safe, purpose-built facility.

“That is what the government is delivering,” he said, while noting it would take several decades to find an end solution for intermediate waste.

He said ANSTO had warned it would need to build three additional waste storage buildings at Lucas Heights if the national facility wasn’t built.

For security reasons, ANSTO won’t confirm when the cask will be moved from Port Kembla to Lucas Heights.

It said the cask is so well shielded that someone could stand next to it for 25 hours and get the same radiation dose as a nine-hour flight to Singapore.

Police have told AAP an operation is planned for Saturday to aid the transportation of cargo to ANSTO’s Lucas Heights campus. It said no further details would be provided.

March 12, 2022 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, safety, secrets and lies, wastes | Leave a comment

Lies leave the Assange case exposed – this is a political persecution

Lies leave the Assange case exposed – this is a political persecution,

John Rees on how a false testimony has further confirmed that the Assange case is a political attack against critical journalists

Watching the US government’s case against Julian Assange is like watching a levitation act at the music hall. You can see that the object floats, but you’ve no idea how. If normal gravitational laws applied, the Assange case would have crashed to the ground already.

After all, a leading prosecution witness has admitted lying in his evidence to the court and the defendant and his lawyers have been spied on by the intelligence agency of the government attempting to extradite him. In any other case, the mere facts of these revelations would be enough to halt court proceedings, but the detail makes the case for abandonment of the extradition even more compelling.

The most recent bombshell is that Sigurdur ‘Siggi’ Thordarson has admitted to Icelandic journalists at Stundin that he lied when he gave evidence alleging that Julian Assange had instructed him to hack US government accounts. Thordarson’s evidence is not marginal to the US case: it’s woven all through the prosecution’s argument, and it is specifically referred to by the judge in the Westminster Magistrates’ Court in those parts of her judgement which are hostile to Assange.

Indeed, when the Trump administration realised that their case was weak, they specifically sought out Thordarson in Iceland and reissued their charges against Assange so that it would be, they imagined, strengthened by his evidence. They should have known better.

To say that Thordarson is an unreliable witness is a very considerable understatement. His allegations had been reviewed by the Obama administration and found too problematic to be taken seriously. Trump’s administration re-animated Thordarson in an attempt to breathe life into their flagging case.

Thordason had been a volunteer for WikiLeaks, working to raise funds. He stole some $50,000 from WikiLeaks and he misrepresented himself to the outside world in order to embezzle money. He was also convicted of sexual abuse of children. On both counts, Julian Assange helped put him in jail. His motive for lying once again for the Trump administration is plain: revenge. And his false evidence is meant to bolster a central contention of the US case: that Julian Assange is a hacker, not a journalist.

Quite what has now convinced this serial liar to admit that he invented the material on which the US case so heavily relies we cannot know. But his decision to do so blows a hole through the centre of the case for extradition.

Thordarson admitted to the Stundin investigative team that Assange never asked him to hack anything. In fact, he now says that his previous claim that Assange had instructed or asked him to access computers is false.

Yet this is precisely the evidence on which the US prosecution relies. Indeed, it was so important to them that they tore up their original indictment of Assange on the very eve of the extradition hearing so that they could reissue a second indictment specifically including Thordarson’s evidence – evidence now admitted to be a total fiction.

At this point most cases which had been exposed as relying on perjured testimony would collapse. Not so the Assange case, which is now heading to the Appeal Court where the US will try to overturn the decision of the Magistrates’ Court at the start of this year, which found that the US prison system is so ‘oppressive’ that Assange would be a suicide risk were he committed to it.

It’s not even as if the Thordarson revelations are the first time that evidence has emerged which would normally halt court proceedings in their tracks. It is already a matter of record that Assange and his legal team were spied on by a Spanish security firm reporting to the CIA. The firm, UC Global, were employed by the Ecuadorean embassy to protect Assange when he was granted asylum. They were suborned by the CIA and then supplied them with both audio and video recordings of Assange and his legal team in the embassy. All this has been revealed in an ongoing court case in Spain.

Again, in any normal trial, the revelation that attorney-client privilege had been abused in this way would have been grounds for dismissal. But not in the Assange case. The court seems content to accept the US government’s argument that the CIA would respect departmental boundaries and never tell the Department of Justice any information obtained from the spying operation on Assange. This excuse beggars belief, since the exact function of the CIA is to tell the US government about the threats to national security, as they see it.

And there is the whole core of the problem: the US government under Trump allowed the fiction to develop that the fundamental business of investigative journalism is a threat to national security. Accordingly, Julian Assange became reclassified as a ‘cyber-terrorist’, not a journalist.

In pursuit of this dangerous fantasy, the US government is keeping a multiple award-winning journalist banged-up in a high security jail specifically used for terrorists, in spite of the Magistrates’ Court decision against them.

It’s time that both the US government and the British government brought this embarrassing farce to an end. Every major human rights organisation on the planet has said it is wrong. Journalists’ unions across the globe say its wrong. Parliamentarians in Italy are protesting in their legislature to says its wrong. German MPs are demanding Angela Merkel tells Joe Biden its wrong. Australian MPs are campaigning for Assange’s release in unprecedented numbers. British MPs have been protesting outside Belmarsh because they are not even being allowed a briefing with Assange.

As the Assange case goes to the High Court, we are reaching a critical moment. This is the crucial freedom of the press case of the twenty-first century. If it is lost, the shadow of authoritarian government will be cast longer and darker over the body politic. We should not allow that to happen.

March 10, 2022 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, civil liberties, legal, secrets and lies | Leave a comment

Australian Security Policy Institute – funded by weapons corporations, and federal govt – drumming up the frenzy for war with China

Guns still point to China: Ukraine a backdrop for national security panic merchants, Michael West Media, By Marcus Reubenstein, March 4, 2022   

After a two-decade wait, Australia’s ”defence and strategic policy think tank” ASPI finally has a new war, one that will be a financial boon for its murky weapons maker backers. Backed also by Scott Morrison and Peter Dutton, this “independent” think tank is a key player in drumming up a pre-election China threat, writes Marcus Reubenstein.

The Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) is busy not so much with a conflict on the other side of the globe but finding a way to spin the misery of the people of Ukraine into anti-China propaganda. It’s just the kind of propaganda Scott Morrison wants, and the prime minister clearly thinks he needs, in the run up to a likely May federal election.

For years ASPI has suckled at the teat of the weapons industry; but far and away the most generous of ASPI’s benefactors is the Morrison government.

That makes sense because ASPI is not an independent research group. It is an Australian Commonwealth company, which reports directly to Defence Minister Peter Dutton and the appointment of its executive director must be ratified by cabinet.

When Morrison replaced Malcolm Turnbull as prime minister in 2018, ASPI was receiving around $1.6 million in annual government contracts over and above its core Defence Department funding of $3.5 million.

Faced with the real prospect of losing the 2019 election, Morrison and then defence minister Christopher Pyne changed the funding agreement to lock in $4 million of Defence funding for each year over five years.

What both ASPI and the government failed to mention was the Morrison government was about to embark on a gargantuan funding top-up strategy through the awarding of numerous government contracts.

Department of Finance figures show ASPI was awarded $9,497,783.88 in Commonwealth contracts in the 2020-2021 financial y

The 500 per cent increase in Commonwealth contracts awarded to a group parroting, and amplifying, the key national security message of the Morrison government suggests ASPI has been politically shifted from strategists to propagandists.

Prior to a detailed examination of ASPI’s funding sources published by Michael West Media in 2020, there had been zero disclosure as to the level of funding ASPI received from its benefactors.

These amounts are not insubstantial; in total ASPI has generated more than $100 million in revenue.

With a light shining on its finances ASPI now discloses the payments it gets from its funders. Outside Australia, that is principally a handful of foreign governments, weapons makers, and tech companies with a vested interest in crippling China’s rise as a global technology provider.

Buried on page 152 of the latest ASPI annual report is the claim that it received $2,620,978.73 in funding from government contracts. This does not reconcile with the Department of Finance’s figure of almost $9.5 million.

According to the Department of Finance, ASPI racked up 25 Commonwealth contracts while ASPI claims the figure is 21 contracts. ASPI’s accounts are audited by the Australian National Audit Office and there is no suggestion of impropriety in its reporting of income.

Three substantial contracts, two from Defence and one from the Department of Foreign Affairs, were multi-year agreements totalling $8,969,783.80. For reporting purposes, it appears there’s no requirement for disclosure of these specific payments in that reporting period.

One oddity is a contract of $1.5 million (CN3757203) awarded to ASPI in March 2021. Outside Defence, it is far and away the biggest single Commonwealth contract ever awarded to ASPI, yet there is not a single mention of it in the 2020-2021 annual report.

Transparency has never been ASPI’s strong suit.

Putin, payments and propaganda

No sooner had Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced Australian taxpayers were doling out $70 million to NATO for weapons to be sent to Ukraine, the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) jumped in with its comprehensive analysis.

n line with its constant drone of “independence” from Canberra policy thought, ASPI challenged the wisdom of Defence Department policy. However, the main tenet of its criticism was that the Australian government has not bought enough missiles.

And who makes the shoulder-launched anti-tank Javelin missilesen “kangaroo” route to Kyiv? Long-time ASPI sponsors Lockheed Martin and Raytheon.

The latter for years was the world’s biggest manufacturer of child-killing cluster munitions. Though they stopped making them in 2016, Raytheon cluster bombs have been stockpiled and reportedly are still being launched on civilian targets in the forgotten war in Yemen. 

Raytheon is no longer an ASPI sponsor but there was zero disclosure in the ASPI missile piece that it took money from Raytheon between 2013 and 2019. Annual reports reveal Lockheed Martin – which makes the dud F-35 Strike Fighters which have soaked up billions in Defence spending – has been pouring money into ASPI’s coffers for the past 18 years.

ASPI presumably justified its non-disclosure of these sponsors because it had not identified they manufactured the Javelin missile in the report.

In late January, independent US website In These Times reported the CEO’s of Raytheon and Lockheed Martin both “boasted” on conference calls with Wall Street analyst that conflict between Russia and Ukraine was a “boom for business.”

One analyst reported Raytheon CEO Greg Hayes had said, in reply to a question about arming US allies: “Obviously we have some defensive weapons systems that we could supply which could be helpful, like the patriot missile system”. While commenting on rising geopolitical tensions, including both Ukraine and China, he said: “I fully expect we’re going to see some [financial] benefit from it.”

Spike in spruiking

When ASPI criticises Australia’s armed forces for the purchase of one type of weapons system it usually suggests an alternative — often the alternative just happens to be made by an ASPI sponsor.

In this case, ASPI’s Marcus Hellyer argued Australia’s shoulder-launched Javelin missile largesse had missed the mark. According to Hellyer, Australia has the wrong missile; instead we should be armed with Israeli-built Spike missiles, which were ordered two years ago by the ADF. There’s no sign of them yet.

And who makes the Spike? Another ASPI sponsor, Rafael. ASPI did disclose this at the end its article, in rather meek terms, that Rafael had hosted a workshop for the think tank in the previous year.

One thing ASPI has consistently never publicly discussed is the money its weapons industry sponsors get from the Australian government. In its 2018-19 annual report, ASPI boasted that it facilitates access to highly placed government officials for its sponsors. Between ASPI’s establishment and 2020, its sponsors collected more than $80 billion in Defence Department contracts.  

ASPI’s China syndrome

ASPI’s analysts have been all over this latest conflict running two familiar lines: Western nations need more weapons and China is the real threat.

On  February 24, ASPI executive director Peter Jennings, who is a columnist at Murdoch’s The Australianwrote an opinion piece in which he asserts “China wins from this conflict.” Clearly there are geopolitical ramifications for China that will concern Australia, but to effectively put China front and centre in an eastern European conflict is straight out of the ASPI playbook.

In that same article Jennings argued that the failure of the Afghan military forces against the Taliban boiled down to one crucial factor — a lack of military hardware.

Imagine the price tag on hardware needed to fight a war with China that some of our politicians and security establishment as apparently salivating for.

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

Australia’s Defence Department silent about its slippery dealings using tax-payers’ money, involving Russian contractors

With very little disclosure, the contract was awarded to Vertical Australia, a company newly minted as the local agent for a Russian company, Air Company Vertical-T. The services would include the use of a Russian Mil Mi-26, the largest and most powerful helicopter ever produced.

And now the Australian partners, Michael West Media and CrikeyINQ have found a disturbing story about the Australian Defence Force and a web of intrigue involving contracts that include Russian contractors and what appears to be money laundering using Australian taxpayers money…………………

Operation Slippery: Russian aviation magnate diverts Australian Defence profits to tax havens,  Michael West Media  By Michael West|, December 4, 2019   Australia’s Department of Defence is keeping silent. Yet it has serious questions to answer over its dealings with an elusive Russian aviation tycoon, an American mercenary outfit and a money trail which winds from Canberra to the Seychelles via Cyprus. Thanks to the #29Leaks data leak unveiled today in a global collaboration of investigative journalists by the Organised Crime and Corruption Reporting ProjectMichael West Media and Crikey INQ raise serious questions about how the Government is spending our taxes. Kim Prince, Suzanne Smith and Michael West report.

In late 2010, a Department of Defence tender was issued for cargo helicopters to support Australia’s war effort in Afghanistan. At the time, Operation Slipper was in full swing, an operation notable for the first deaths of Australian soldiers in battle since the Vietnam War: 41 soldiers died and 261 were wounded fighting jihadist groups during the operation which began in October 2001 and ended in 2014. 

With very little disclosure, the contract was awarded to Vertical Australia, a company newly minted as the local agent for a Russian company, Air Company Vertical-T. The services would include the use of a Russian Mil Mi-26, the largest and most powerful helicopter ever produced.

The businessman behind Vertical Australia was a Russian aviation entrepreneur, Vladimir Skurikhin, who is connected to a slew of companies and partnerships around the world, from Cyprus to the Seychelles to the City of London. His deal with Australia’s Defence Department appears to involve leasing high-tech helicopters replete with pilots and crew.

On the face of it, the defence contract proceeded unremarkably; with the exception of a minor dispute that found its way to the NSW Supreme Court. The dispute was not between the Australian Defence Force (ADF) and its supplier Vertical Australia, but within the supplier’s own payment chain, which included a mysterious entity in Cyprus, a banking haven for Russian oligarchs. 

Vladimir Skurikhin, the General Director of Vertical-T, would later attest that the complex chain was in place due to a mistaken belief that Australian companies were forbidden from making payments directly to Russia.

The upshot of the dispute was twofold. Firstly, Vertical Australia paid more than $2.3 million into the Supreme Court of NSW, leaving the court to decide to whom it should be remitted. Should it be paid directly to the Russian supplier Vertical-T, or to its erstwhile intermediary, Wellman Limited of Cyprus? On this score, the court would ultimately rule in favour of Vladimir Skurikhin’s military contracting company Vertical-T.

The second effect was that DynCorp Australia was appointed as Vertical-T’s new agent, and Vertical Australia folded. DynCorp, part of the controversial US defence contractor DynCorp International, had been trying to get a foothold in Australia for eight years. Its parent, DynCorp International, which is owned by a New York private equity firm Cerberus Capital, has been embroiled in a suite of scandals including corruption allegations over US military contracts in Iraq and sex-trafficking in Bosnia. It has been labelled a “mini-Blackwater”, a reference to its history of providing mercenary services.

All of this was water under the bridge until October this year, when Michael West Media and Crikey INQ were invited to participate in a cross-border investigation. The Sarajevo-based Organised Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) had received a massive leak of data from UK-based Formations House. It would require an international team of investigative journalists to extract maximum advantage from it.

Formations House

Formations House is a company formation agent, sometimes referred to as a shell company factory. They offer a range of services for creating and operating corporate entities in a number of countries including offshore secrecy jurisdictions, aka tax havens, such as the British Virgin Isles and the Seychelles. 

Although legitimate companies use the services of Formations House too, many others enlist  it to hide their murky deals, to avoid tax and inspection from financial regulators. Part of the lure for business people keen to hide things is the prestigious address, — number 29 Harley Street in London. Besides the offer of an upmarket address, Formations House provides a local phone number, a bank account, and preparation of annual accounts and company filings. For those seeking a business façade and a degree of anonymity, this is a one-stop-shop.

Although legitimate companies use the services of Formations House too, many others enlist  it to hide their murky deals, to avoid tax and inspection from financial regulators. Part of the lure for business people keen to hide things is the prestigious address, — number 29 Harley Street in London. Besides the offer of an upmarket address, Formations House provides a local phone number, a bank account, and preparation of annual accounts and company filings. For those seeking a business façade and a degree of anonymity, this is a one-stop-shop……………..

And now the Australian partners, Michael West Media and CrikeyINQ have found a disturbing story about the Australian Defence Force and a web of intrigue involving contracts that include Russian contractors and what appears to be money laundering using Australian taxpayers money…………………

STS Corporation and the MH17 disaster

Deep in the Formations House leak is a UK-based company, STS Corporation. Its bank statements show tranches of cash arriving from various countries including Afghanistan, Russia and Australia.  There are also frequent outbound transfers from STS to entities in tax havens where, in many cases, the real beneficiaries of the money are simply unknowable……………

Defence Department refuses to respond

Questions were put to the Department of Defence about its knowledge of the beneficiaries of the Vertical Australia contract payments and the money trail through tax havens. No answer has been forthcoming, including answers to questions about money-laundering and the flow of Australian taxpayer dollars to Russian interests in tax havens. …………………….

Contacted for this story, Centre Alliance senator Rex Patrick said the intrigue surrounding the Skurikhin transactions reflected the urgent need for greater transparency in Defence and in the way the Federal Government went about its procurement…………….

“I will be making further inquiries in the Parliament in relation to this procurement. Part of the solution to this is my ‘Tax Transparency in Procurement and Grants” bill which requires companies to disclose their structure, particularly in respect of related entities domiciled in tax havens, as they tender for work.”

The Seychelles Connection……………..

The rise of DynCorp 

On the Australian front, the Formations House leak includes an agreement, signed by a former director of DynCorp Australia, in which STS is to act as agent for DynCorp Australia, representing the company in business dealings in Europe and the Middle East. 

On its website, DynCorp says it “…sustains and improves the ADF’s operational capabilities through logistic support, facilities maintenance, and project management services”. So what products or services would this defence contractor, who is presumably entirely dependent on the public purse, have to export via its agent? We attempted to contact the Dyncorp director, and later put this question to an associate, but at the time of publication there had been no response. …………………….

Spectre of money-laundering through Australian courts

So, what are two companies controlled by a Russian tycoon doing soaking up the resources of Australia’s court system in a dispute and why would the payments be described as refunds on legal fees?

Around the time in question, sham litigation had become a popular tool for money launderers. ………………………

March 3, 2022 Posted by | secrets and lies, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Australia’s collapsing reputation – way way down on Transparency International Corruption Index

The way ahead

This report from an influential global agency adds weight to increasingly urgent calls for an investigative commission with similar powers at the federal level to Victoria’s Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission and the Independent Commission Against Corruption in NSW.

Australia should be able to do at least as well as Estonia

Australia hits new low on Transparency International Corruption Index

MICHAEL WEST MEDIA, |By Alan Austin, January 27, 2022  The decline of political and corporate standards in Australia over recent years is not just in the imagination of some critics. Transparency International released its annual corruption report yesterday which gives Australia the lowest score and global ranking since the series began in 1995.

The Corruption Perceptions Index is widely regarded as the leading global measure of public sector corruption. It offers an annual snapshot of the relative extent of corruption by ranking 180 countries and territories. Its methodology allows for comparison of scores across nations and from one year to the next.

Australia’s severe decline

Australia ranked seventh in the world in 1995 with a creditable score equivalent to 88 out of 100. Only New Zealand, Denmark, Singapore, Finland, Canada and Sweden scored better, but not by much.

Through the late 1990s and early 2000s, Australia slipped significantly in both scores and ranking, falling as low as 13th in 2000. But by 2007, Australia had recovered to 11th, and thereafter advanced further. Australia ranked eighth from 2009 to 2011 and resumed seventh slot in 2012. For the seven years from 2014 to 2020, Australia ranked between 11th and 13th.

Then suddenly last year, in just the one year, Australia tumbled from 11th to 18th in the global ranking. Its score fell from 77 where it has stayed for the last four years to a lowly 73. 

The seven countries which overtook Australia in combating corruption last year were the United Kingdom, Hong Kong, Austria, Canada, Estonia, Ireland and Iceland.

Worst decade collapse in the developed world

Over the last ten years, the deterioration in Australia’s standing is the deepest of all advanced nations. From a 2011 score of 88, Australia tumbled 15 points to just 73 in 2021.

No other developed member of the Organisation for Economic Development and Cooperation (OECD) has fallen that far in that period. Of those 38 countries, 15 increased their scores over that time, 21 saw a decline and two remained unchanged……………..

Corruption on the public record

The specific reasons for Australia’s decline are not spelled out in Transparency’s report. Regular readers of MWM will, however, be familiar with the likely causes. They include the “sports rorts” affair, the highly problematic sale of floodwater rights, international money launderingpork barreling selected electorates, corrupt allocation of grant funds, allowing criminals to hide money in Australia’s property market, political fundraising, influence peddling, the East Timor electronic surveillance scandal and the outcomes of inquiries by state investigative commissions.

Some of these were identified in Transparency’s annual report last year, which reported:

“Australia faces several corruption challenges, including anonymous company ownership and money laundering. Following the FinCEN files, where thousands of leaked financial documents exposed a vast paper trail of money laundering across the globe, more than US$150 million were traced back to Australian banks.

“The country also shows severe deficiencies when it comes to corruption in international real estate. As a result of a 2006 law, properties can be bought and sold without due diligence and real estate agents, lawyers and accountants are not required to report suspicious activities. …………………………

“Despite multiple commitments, 131 countries have made no significant progress against corruption in the last decade. Two-thirds of countries score below 50, indicating that they have serious corruption problems, while 27 countries are at their lowest score ever.”

These include Australia.

The way ahead

This report from an influential global agency adds weight to increasingly urgent calls for an investigative commission with similar powers at the federal level to Victoria’s Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission and the Independent Commission Against Corruption in NSW.

Australia should be able to do at least as well as Estonia.

January 29, 2022 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, secrets and lies | Leave a comment