Australian news, and some related international items

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

The Australian government has breached the rights of both black and white people of Kimba in depriving them of access to independent information on nuclear wastes.

Nuclear waste is considered a highly toxic and dangerous material which it is acknowledged requires geological burial for long term storage and disposal which is not the case at Kimba

I wonder how our government so highly regarded overseas as a beacon for justice and democratic principles has not just allowed but actively participated in depriving the Barngarla as well as the general community of their rights to properly ventilate their concerns 

It is quite clear from the settled overseas requirements that the federal government as the proponent of the nuclear waste facility at Kimba must enable the Kimba community including the Barngarla to seek their own independent assessment and advice as to the government’s proposals with the government providing all the necessary funding and access to all information for that purpose 

It should be relatively straightforward for the community generally which includes the Barngarla to establish that the government has failed to assist them in getting the independent assessment and refusing the funds for that purpose when requested on several previous occasions 

In addition to obviously being a major ground for the judicial review the government’s conduct is tantamount to a seemingly serious deprivation of the human rights of the Barngarla and the Kimba community .

While this breach of human rights applies to the whole community the Barngarla can additionally claim that their human rights were breached and that the mandate created to overcome the discriminatory conduct towards them covering

  • implementing international standards concerning the rights of indigenous peoples;
  • making recommendations and proposals on appropriate measures to prevent and remedy violations of the rights of indigenous peoples;
  • reporting on the human rights situations of indigenous peoples around the world; and
  • addressing specific cases of alleged violations of indigenous peoples’ rights.

Francisco Cali Tzay is the current mandate holder as Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples 

The mandate on hazardous substances and wastes 

relates to the exposure of people to a myriad of harmful substances without their prior informed consent which is a human right that can be satisfactorily solved if identified in its early stages

Dr Marcos A. Orellana is the current mandate holder as Special Rapporteur on toxics and wastes as human rights 

Nuclear waste is considered a highly toxic and dangerous material which it is acknowledged requires geological burial for long term storage and disposal which is not the case at Kimba

December 27, 2021 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, civil liberties, Federal nuclear waste dump, politics, secrets and lies | Leave a comment

Australian government and Labor opposition ignore the suffering of Julian Assange. Can they afford to, as election looms?

If he dies, his death will have been caused by, among others, politicians in Australia who have the diplomatic power to bring him home,” Pilger said.“Scott Morrison, in particular, will have Julian’s life and suffering on his hands, along with those in the Labor opposition who have kept a cowardly silence.

Independent MP Andrew Wilkie, among others, has said that Scott Morrison must urge the US and Britain to release Assange and let him return to Australia.

the “noise” in parliament combined with more public awareness of Assange’s dire state may present a headache for the government as polls loom.

Saving Julian Assange,  Last week, the British High Court ruled that Julian Assange can be extradited to face charges in the United States. His fiancée, Stella Moris, vows to continue the fight alongside his network of supporters. By Amy Fallon. This week, Stella Moris said she and Julian Assange still intended to marry in the new year, although they have not set a date. She is currently speaking to the prison about arrangements. Moris hopes it will be a ceremony attended by close family and friends, with their children, Gabriel, 4, and Max, 2, taking part.

“The High Court ruling has made things even more precarious than before,” she tells The Saturday Paper.

“But that has only strengthened our determination to celebrate what is constant and certain in our lives – our love and support for each other.”

Moris is a South-African born lawyer and an activist in her own right. Her family were involved in the anti-apartheid battle. After the British High Court ruled that her fiancé could be extradited to the United States, her response was simple: “We will fight.”

“History will not spare them if we lose a man who is not only innocent of any crime but a genuine hero in the extraordinary public service he has performed for millions of people.”

She sees the case in these terms: “Every generation has an epic fight to fight, and this is ours, because Julian represents the fundamentals of what it means to live in a free society.”Last week’s decision was made after two of Britain’s most senior judges ruled Assange, earlier deemed a suicide risk, had received assurances from the US that he would not face the strictest measures before a trial or once convicted. They found a lower court had erred in offering him protection.

“That risk is in our judgement excluded by the assurances which are offered,” one of the judges, Lord Burnett, said. “It follows that we are satisfied that, if the assurances had been before the judge, she would have answered the relevant question differently.”

British Home Secretary Priti Patel must now approve Assange’s extradition. Lawyers for the 50-year-old are appealing the decision. Subsequent hearings are likely to raise the issue of free speech, which campaigners say is at the heart of the case involving the Walkley Award-winning journalist.Many around the world are now calling on the Australian government to intervene and save Assange’s life before it’s too late.

“There seem to be no limits to the savagery of the Anglosphere – US, UK, Australia – in exacting revenge for the crime of informing the population of what the powerful want to conceal,” the intellectual and activist Noam Chomsky later told The Saturday Paper.

He urged followers of Julian Assange, wanted by the US for breaking espionage laws after publishing hundreds of thousands of Afghanistan and Iraq war logs and diplomatic cables, to “get organised”.

“And act,” added Chomsky, because there was “not much time”.
Another two to three years may drag on before the extradition is resolved. Australian journalist John Pilger, who described Assange as “frail and skeletal” the last time he hugged his friend in 2020, said the fact he was still alive was remarkable.

Last weekend’s revelation, that Assange had suffered a stroke in October, didn’t shock the veteran reporter. A month earlier, a Yahoo News report revealed that the CIA allegedly planned to assassinate Assange.

“If he dies, his death will have been caused by, among others, politicians in Australia who have the diplomatic power to bring him home,” Pilger said.“Scott Morrison, in particular, will have Julian’s life and suffering on his hands, along with those in the Labor opposition who have kept a cowardly silence. History will not spare them if we lose a man who is not only innocent of any crime but a genuine hero in the extraordinary public service he has performed for millions of people.”

To Gabriel Shipton, Assange’s brother, Julian, is a “bad dancer” with a “dorky sense of humour”. But, he says, “he is very sweet with his children, very good with kids, and a very principled man”.

Shipton produced the recent documentary Ithaka, which tells the story of Gabriel and Julian’s father’s struggle to have Assange freed.“Often people lose sight that these are actual real people involved, not just a head on a screen, or a headline, that this is a person’s father, brother, partner,” Shipton says. “Once people find out about how tragic the actual injustice that Julian suffered [is], and through no fault of their own his family are suffering, they’re quite confronted that they’ve allowed it to carry on for as long as it has.”

Shipton concedes the fight is just as much or even more political than legal, and others echo this. “There is no doubt that [this] aggressive and relentless pursuit is driven by the US security and defence state,” said Greg Barns, a barrister and adviser to the Australian Assange campaign.

A bipartisan Australian Parliamentary Friends of the Bring Julian Assange Home group comprises 25 senators and MPs, but was adding “about one member or so monthly”, says Shipton. In the past week, Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce has spoken out against Assange being sent to the US. Independent MP Andrew Wilkie, among others, has said that Scott Morrison must urge the US and Britain to release Assange and let him return to Australia. The opposition has urged the government to encourage the US to close the matter, although it has not elaborated on what it means by this.According to Kellie Tranter, a Maitland-based lawyer, human rights activist, researcher and former WikiLeaks Party candidate, the “noise” in parliament combined with more public awareness of Assange’s dire state may present a headache for the government as polls loom.

“If the level of interest keeps increasing, the government may feel obliged to act as the Howard government did in the case of David Hicks,” she says, referring to the former Guantánamo Bay detainee. “The last thing the government wants is this case soaking up oxygen in place of its policies. It’s public criticism, which is exactly what they wanted to avoid in the case of Hicks.”Tranter points out that progressive campaign group GetUp! played a critical role in Hicks’s repatriation by making his detention by the US an election issue, mobilising public opinion against his mistreatment. They may be the only organisation capable of doing the same in this case, she said. GetUp! said they had no comment on Assange.

In Britain, Assange has admirers from all walks of life. Sadia Kokni, 40, is British-born with African, Indian and Middle Eastern heritage and the managing director of a cosmetics company. Despite having a disability, she attends twice-weekly protest vigils at the Australian high commission with “Team Assange”, comprising about 50 people, including bus drivers, graphic designers, nurses and artists.

“I campaign for nothing, I only campaign for Julian,” Kokni says. “Unlike when people campaign against a war – it’s a nation against a nation – when it comes to Julian it’s the most powerful nation in the world against one man and he’s exposing the atrocities of global governance and things that every living person should be aware of.”

Although Kokni acknowledges Assange’s predicament could be treated with greater urgency by the British parliament, she also feels disbelief over Australia’s inaction.“They could be doing a lot more, Australia. I find it ridiculous,” she said, singling out the high commissioner, George Brandis. “Brandis – what is he actually doing? Has he written any letters?”

The Australian high commission in Britain did not respond to requests for comment.

December 23, 2021 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, civil liberties, media, politics, secrets and lies | Leave a comment

A free press, a free Julian Assange – would be the best gift for the world

Cartoon by Badiucao, in The Age 20 December 21.

December 20, 2021 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, media, personal stories, secrets and lies | Leave a comment

The disgraceful case mounted against Assange by a corrupt U.S. Department of Justice and their hired guns in Britain.

It is this institutional lying and duplicity that Julian Assange brought into the open and in so doing performed perhaps the greatest public service of any journalist in modern times.

JOHN PILGER: U.S. wins extradition appeal against Julian Assange, Independent Australia, By John Pilger | 11 December 2021,  ”…….. Miscarriage of justice is an inadequate term in these circumstances. It took the bewigged courtiers of Britain’s ancien regime just nine minutes on Friday to uphold an American appeal against a District Court judge’s acceptance in January of a cataract of evidence that hell on Earth awaited Assange across the Atlantic: a hell in which, it was expertly predicted, he would find a way to take his own life.

Volumes of witness by people of distinction, who examined and studied Julian and diagnosed his autism and his Asperger’s Syndrome and revealed that he had already come within an ace of killing himself at Belmarsh Prison, Britain’s very own hell, were ignored.

The recent confession of a crucial FBI informant and prosecution stooge, a fraudster and serial liar, that he had fabricated his evidence against Julian was ignored. The revelation that the Spanish-run security firm at the Ecuadorean embassy in London, where Julian had been granted political refuge, was a CIA front that spied on Julian’s lawyers and doctors and confidants (myself included) — that, too, was ignored.

The recent journalistic disclosure, repeated graphically by defence counsel before the High Court in October, that the CIA had planned to murder Julian in London — even that was ignored.

Each of these “matters”, as lawyers like to say, was enough on its own for a judge upholding the law to throw out the disgraceful case mounted against Assange by a corrupt U.S. Department of Justice and their hired guns in Britain. Julian’s state of mind, bellowed James Lewis, QC, America’s man at the Old Bailey last year, was no more than malingering — an archaic Victorian term used to deny the very existence of mental illness. 

To Lewis, almost every defence witness, including those who described from the depth of their experience and knowledge the barbaric American prison system, was to be interrupted, abused, discredited. Sitting behind him, passing him notes, was his American conductor: young, short-haired, clearly an Ivy League man on the rise.

In their nine minutes of dismissal of the fate of journalist Assange, two of the most senior judges in Britain, including the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Burnett (a lifelong buddy of Sir Alan Duncan, Boris Johnson’s former Foreign Minister who arranged the brutal police kidnapping of Assange from the Ecuadorean embassy) referred to not one of a litany of truths aired at previous hearings in the District Court.

These were truths that had struggled to be heard in a lower court presided over by a weirdly hostile judge, Vanessa Baraitser. Her insulting behaviour towards a clearly stricken Assange, struggling through a fog of prison-dispensed medication to remember his name, is unforgettable.

What was truly shocking on Friday was that the High Court Judges – Lord Burnett and Lord Justice Timothy Holroyde, who read out their words – showed no hesitation in sending Julian to his death, living or otherwise. They offered no mitigation, no suggestion that they had agonised over legalities or even basic morality.

Their ruling in favour, if not on behalf of the United States, is based squarely on transparently fraudulent “assurances” scrabbled together by the Biden Administration when it looked in January like justice might prevail.

These “assurances” are that once in American custody, Assange will not be subject to the Orwellian SAMs – Special Administrative Measures – which would make him an un-person; that he will not be imprisoned at ADX Florence, a prison in Colorado long condemned by jurists and human rights groups as illegal: “a pit of punishment and disappearance”; that he can be transferred to an Australian prison to finish his sentence there.

The absurdity lies in what the Judges omitted to say. In offering its “assurances”, the U.S. reserves the right not to guarantee anything should Assange do something that displeases his gaolers. In other words, as Amnesty International has pointed out, it reserves the right to break any promise.

There are abundant examples of the U.S. doing just that. As investigative journalist Richard Medhurst revealed last month, David Mendoza Herrarte was extradited from Spain to the U.S. on the “promise” that he would serve his sentence in Spain. The Spanish courts regarded this as a binding condition.

Medhurst wrote:

‘Classified documents reveal the diplomatic assurances given by the U.S. Embassy in Madrid and how the U.S. violated the conditions of the extradition. Mendoza spent over six years in the U.S. trying to return to Spain. Court documents show the United States denied his transfer application multiple times.’

The High Court Judges – who were aware of the Mendoza case and of Washington’s habitual duplicity – describe the “assurances” not to be beastly to Julian Assange as a “solemn undertaking offered by one government to another”. This article would stretch into infinity if I listed the times the rapacious United States has broken “solemn undertakings” to governments, such as treaties that are summarily torn up and civil wars that are fuelled. It is the way Washington has ruled the world, and before it Britain — the way of imperial power, as history teaches us.

It is this institutional lying and duplicity that Julian Assange brought into the open and in so doing performed perhaps the greatest public service of any journalist in modern times.

Julian himself has been a prisoner of lying governments for more than a decade now. During these long years, I have sat in many courts as the United States has sought to manipulate the law to silence him and WikiLeaks…………..,15842

December 16, 2021 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, civil liberties, legal, secrets and lies | Leave a comment

Classified Documents Invalidate United States’ Appeal Against Assange — Richard Medhurst

‘I’m scared that will be Assange. They will make him go nuts.”

“I’m a nobody. If they’re capable of doing this to me, just imagine what they can do to Assange.

The United States Broke Diplomatic Assurances for David Mendoza, It Will Do the Same with Julian Assange Richard Medhurst’s Newsletter 

Richard MedhurstNov 29
Richard Medhurst Nov 29 In 2009, David Mendoza Herrarte was extradited from Spain to the United States, on condition he be allowed to serve his sentence in SpainClassified documents reveal the diplomatic assurances given by the U.S. Embassy in Madrid and how the U.S. violated the conditions of his extraditionMendoza spent over 6 years in the United States trying to return to Spain. Court documents show how the United States denied his transfer application multiple timesWhile in prison, Mendoza sued the United States, and Spain for failing to uphold the conditions of his extradition and violating his human rights. His case was recently taken up by the United Nations
  • Mendoza’s case was raised last month in the English High Court, where the United States is attempting to extradite Julian Assange to the U.S.
  • The United States has offered similar diplomatic assurances that Assange could serve a sentence in Australia
  • Assange’s lawyers cite Mendoza’s case as evidence that these assurances cannot be trusted
  • James Lewis, the lead U.S. prosecutor, said that these assurances are bulletproof. He told the High Court that, “The United States have never broken a diplomatic assurance, ever”. Court documents and diplomatic assurances obtained by Richard Medhurst show this to be untrue

  • David Mendoza Herrarte was born and raised in the United States. His mother being from Spain, he would go there every summer, describing it to me as his second home. He is both an American and Spanish national.

    Mendoza was wanted by the United States for drug trafficking. In the early 2000s, he used helicopters to transport marijuana, known commonly as BC Bud, from Canada across the U.S. border into Seattle. Today, marijuana is legal in Seattle………………………………………………
  • The diplomatic assurance did not specifically state that Mendoza would be sent to Spain to serve his sentence. It only said that the United States “does not object to Mendoza making an application to serve his sentence in Spain”– something the United States cannot object to anyway, as it is every prisoner’s right to apply for a treaty transfer.

Mendoza tells me, “This shows the deviance of these people. They use this ambiguous language on purpose. There’s precedent in federal court that if they don’t specifically agree to the transfer, it’s not valid”.

Recently, the United States offered similar diplomatic assurances to the United Kingdom, namely that Assange could could serve a sentence in his home country of Australia.

Mendoza says for this to be valid, the diplomatic assurances from the U.S. must explicitly state in advance that the U.S. Department of Justice and Australia accept Assange’s transfer— otherwise it’s meaningless.

 “With the Assange thing, I can see it black and white. They [Australia] are not going to do a thing. Under the treaty, all three parties must agree: Julian, Australia, and the United States. But the U.S. can tell Australia behind the scenes: ‘screw this guy, don’t do anything’.”

  • The Convention on the Transfer of Sentenced Persons specifically states under Article 3 (f) that a sentenced person may be transferred “if the sentencing and administering States agree to the transfer.” (The administering state meaning Australia)Being one of the few journalists to cover Assange’s extradition, I can confirm that as of now Australia has not given any indication that it would accept Julian Assange’s request to serve a sentence there, should he apply……….
  • April 2009: David Mendoza Herrarte is extradited to the United States

After signing the Acta de Entrega, Mendoza was officially under U.S. jurisdiction. He recalls being handed over to U.S. authorities: “The first thing they do when they get you, is they strip you naked. The marshals look in your mouth, your ass, your ears, every orifice. They attempt to humiliate you in every fashion: ‘Squat! Now do this…’. They tell you: you’re under US jurisdiction now, and our law is what is going to apply to you.”

June 2009: Once in the United States, Mendoza took part in what is known as an arbitration hearing or settlement conference. This is where plea bargains are hashed out in the presence of the judge, between prosecutors and defendant……………………………………………

  • It now became clear that the United States never intended to send Mendoza back to Spain. They had squeezed him for every last penny, then violated the diplomatic assurances given to Spain………….
  • Mendoza expects the United States government will play the same trick on Assange if they refuse to send him to Australia and he contests it in court.“Within that note, it must specifically state that Julian has a right to contest non-compliance of the United States, even as a non-signatory to the treaty. Because the US will start playing games.”…………….
  • Instead of being sent to Spain immediately to carry out his sentence, Mendoza was told to apply for a treaty transfer. He applied, and the answer from the United States was ‘no’……………

In total, Mendoza applied three times for treaty transfer to Spain. All three applications were denied, violating the conditions of his extradition. Each time he applied, he had to wait 8 months for a decision, and even longer to apply again. The denial states: “There is no administrative appeal from this decision. Unless otherwise noted above, the prisoner may reapply two years after this denial.”
Mendoza told me: “That’s when I realized I’m in the wrong court. I’m going to get nothing here. ……………………..

The other assurance offered by the United States appears to state that Assange would not be jailed at ADX Florence or placed under oppressive prison conditions known as Special Administrative Measures (SAMs).

Similiar to those offered for Mendoza, the assurances for Assange are ambiguous and vaguely-worded. The United States says he will not be subject to SAMs or imprisoned at ADX unless “in the event that, after entry of this assurance, he was to commit any future act that met the test for the imposition of a SAM pursuant to 28 C.F.R. § 501.2 or § 501.3”

Once in U.S. custody, the United States could simply allege that Assange did something that “met the test for the imposition of a SAM”, place him in isolation, and then claim that it never violated its assurances, because it already gave itself a backdoor to do so.

This is why Mendoza told me that assurances must be explicitly spelled out, with no room for derogation.

Assange’s extradition was blocked by a UK judge in January 2021, on grounds that U.S. prison conditions would be too oppressive, leading him to commit suicide.

While in the U.S., Mendoza was imprisoned at a medium-high security facility in Englewood, Colorado. This is near ADX Florence, where Assange is likely to be sent.

“Believe me, European prisons aren’t nice. But U.S. prisons are much worse. I was in Colorado, one of the biggest s–tholes I’ve ever been to. It was dirty; they let you out of your cell one hour a day– when they decided, not when I wanted.”…….. It’s 3am, for example, they would buzz you and say: do you want your hour of recreation?”. Prisoners who declined would not be able to leave their cell until the next day.

Mendoza explained to me the process of dehumanization and sleep deprivation in prison: “You don’t have a name; you have a number, and you have to repeat it during every count. Counts are every three hours in higher security federal prisons. Another thing guards would do is instead of pointing their flashlight up to the ceiling, they would flash it right in your face.”

“I’m scared that will be Assange. They will make him go nuts. The only thing that kept me sane is this legal work; writing to the judges and the press, going after the United States in civil court.”

What Mendoza went through is a step down from what Assange would be in. Not only is ADX Florence a federal super-maximum prison, but Assange would also be placed under Special Administrative Measures (SAMs), in extreme isolation.

Mendoza tells me that visitation had to be approved by specific people. ……………………

Mendoza’s case is an incredible story on its own merits.

Nevertheless, it must be examined in the context of Assange’s extradition. When James Lewis told High Court judges that “the United States have never broken a diplomatic assurance, ever”— this is simply untrue.

The above documents [on original] make it clear that the United States violated its agreement and broke diplomatic assurances to Spain. Mendoza was to be returned to Spain to carry out his sentence, instead he spent six years and nine months in various U.S. prisons. Only after suing both the United States and Spain— his own countries— for failing to enforce the conditions of his extradition, was he allowed to return. Only after the Spanish Supreme Court ruled in his favor, threatening the U.S.-Spain Extradition Treaty itself, could he compel the United States to enforce the conditions of his extradition and return him to Spain.

Mendoza was fortunate enough to have the Spanish Supreme Court, senior judges and public on his side. Were the United States to violate the assurances of Assange’s extradition, it is extremely unlikely given the “Special Relationship” between the U.K. and U.S., that Assange would be able to successfully lobby the British government into compelling the U.S. to uphold the conditions of his extradition.

James Lewis told the English High Court that diplomatic assurances are “solemn undertakings, given out at the highest order; they are not dished out like smarties”. He is correct. It is therefore incumbent on the Court to consider what happened to Mendoza, for whom the United States did offer diplomatic assurances, and assess whether those offered for Assange are adequate, but more importantly, whether they can be enforced once he is no longer under British jurisdiction.

Mendoza’s experience shows that for Assange, any diplomatic assurances or agreements must be written in explicit language and signed by all parties, including Assange, so that in the eventuality of non-compliance, he may be afforded the opportunity to contest this in court, despite his status as a non-signatory of the United Kingdom-United States Extradition Treaty.

Mendoza’s case offers the Court extraordinary insight into the innerworkings of American diplomacy, legal proceedings, and extradition to the United States. It is a serious warning which High Court Justices should heed, who at their discretion, have the power to prevent gross miscarriages of justice which gravely imperil the respondent, before they arise.

“I’m a nobody. If they’re capable of doing this to me, just imagine what they can do to Assange.”

December 15, 2021 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, legal, secrets and lies | Leave a comment

Julian Assange trial is political hypocrisy

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange attended the conference. Assange has become one of the main targets. Many of the themes discussed at the conference are what Assange has come to represent.

Freedom of information rather than freedom from information. The prosecution of wrongdoers, not the prosecution of whistleblowers. An open society, not a closed society. 

“Freedom to think as you will and speak as you think are indispensable to the discovery and spread of political truth; the greatest menace to freedom is an inert people.”

The Australian Government must speak up for Julian Assange. 

Julian Assange trial is political hypocrisy, Independent Australia, By Kim Sawyer | 13 December 2021 Given that governments in the past have encouraged whistleblowing, the punishment of Julian Assange is a great hypocrisy, writes Dr Kim Sawyer.

Continue reading

December 14, 2021 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, civil liberties, politics, secrets and lies | Leave a comment

How the military-industrial complex has captured Australia’s top strategic advisory body

AUSTRALIA CAPTUREDHow the military-industrial complex has captured Australia’s top strategic advisory body, MICHELLE FAHY, DECLASSIFIED AUSTRALIA 9 DECEMBER 2021

The Australian Strategic Policy Institute has veered away from its founding vision of providing an array of independent diverse views, to now promote an aggressive militaristic solution to the heightened tensions in Australia’s region.

The Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) in Canberra is the government’s primary source of outside-government advice, research and analysis on military and strategic affairs. Since its establishment in mid-2001, it has veered away from its founding vision.

There is a jarring disconnect between the lofty goals of independence expressed in ASPI’s charter, and the infiltration of ASPI by tentacles of the military-industrial complex. This has been barely mentioned in Australia’s mainstream media.

Declassified Australia investigation has uncovered a casebook example of ‘state-capture’, with the development of deep connections between ASPI, and the world’s largest and most powerful military weapons manufacturers.

Australia is a significant participant in the global arms trade at present. Its $270-billion decade-long spending spree upgrading weapons and war machines is large by international standards, and Australia is increasingly becoming an arms seller too. As Australia moves militarily ever closer to the US, even defence insiders say the defence industry is ‘awash with money’.

The wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria and Yemen have made the world’s biggest weapons manufacturers richer, larger, and more influential. At the lesser-known end of the spectrum, the Yemen war is notable for its extensive human rights abuses and war crimes: it has created the world’s largest humanitarian crisis. Despite pleas from the UN, the arms still flow and the war continues. The weaponry for this war has been supplied by the world’s top arms manufacturers, including Lockheed Martin, BAE Systems, Boeing, and missile-maker Raytheon.

ASPI and the Weapons Lobby

The Australian subsidiaries of these and other global weapon-makers have been regular ASPI sponsors for years. Some of them have successfully used the back door to gain access to ASPI’s top table, its governing council. ASPI council members have included former senior military officers, defence ministers, and federal MPs who are also on arms and cyber company boards. It has also included former and current arms industry executives. The challenge to ASPI’s independence is large and real.

ASPI’s founding charter, since it was established in 2001 by then prime minister John Howard with bipartisan support from Labor leader Kim Beazley, declares it must ‘operate independently of Government and of the Defence Organisation’.

Further, it states that ‘the perception, as well as the reality, of that independence would need to be carefully maintained’. Thus, from the outset, the government was acknowledging how such an important think tank would be vulnerable to capture by vested interests, both ideological and commercial………..

Our investigation shows that the ASPI council has numerous members who represent or have close links to the military-industrial complex. Of the 11 non-executive directors on ASPI’s governing council, five sit on the boards or advisory boards of weapons or cybersecurity corporations, while numerous past council members have had similar connections.

The current council includes former Howard defence minister Robert Hill. He’s on the supervisory board of German weapon-maker Rheinmetall’s Australian subsidiary, which is supplying Defence’s $5 billion of Boxer combat reconnaissance vehicles, and will soon also produce and export ammunition for the US Joint Strike Fighter program. Hill is also chair of Viva Energy Group, a major supplier of fuel to the Australian Defence Force (ADF)…………………….

Declassified Australia put questions to ASPI and the current council members. Dr Nelson declined to comment. No other council member responded by deadline. ASPI replied saying it manages conflict of interest matters in line with other Australian proprietary limited companies, and that ‘Council members will recuse themselves from discussions which may give rise to the perception of a conflict of interest matter’.

ASPI has a history of council members with interests in the defence industry. Jim McDowell was chief executive of BAE Systems in Australia for a decade, and then ran BAE in Saudi Arabia, where the Saudi military has since used BAE arms in the catastrophic war in Yemen. Returning to Australia, he was engaged by Liberal defence industry minister Christopher Pyne, and Defence, on numerous sensitive defence projects while also on ASPI’s Council. BAE Systems is in the running to provide Australia’s planned nuclear-powered submarines under the AUKUS pact.

Former Labor senator Stephen Loosley’s Council membership, including seven years as chair, coincided with board roles at French arms multinational Thales Australia, manufacturer of the Austeyr, the service rifle for all the Australian military, as well as armoured vehicles, submarine sonars and munitions. The Thales group has been accused of selling weapons to the Indonesian military who are running a war in West Papua against the independence movement.

Former Labor defence minister Kim Beazley was an ASPI distinguished fellow for two years in 2016-2018. For the majority of that time he was on the board of Lockheed Martin Australia while writing regularly for ASPI, without ASPI disclosing his board position at Lockheed.

………..ASPI’s independence is drawn into question not just by its board appointees but also by some research fellows. One recent example is the former director of cyber, intelligence and security at BAE Systems Applied Intelligence, Rajiv Shah, who cowrote a report on collaboration within the intelligence community that was sponsored by BAE Systems. Shah is now an ASPI fellow and a consultant to government and industry. ASPI does not disclose either in the report nor in his website bio Shah’s previous employment with BAE Systems, one of the world’s top 10 arms companies. Dr Shah did not respond to questions.

Declassified Australia does not imply any illegality by any past or present ASPI council members, fellows, or staff. The issue is the deep involvement of people associated with global weapons manufacturers, and the potential for, and perception of, conflicts with ASPI’s charter of independence.

The Reshaping of ASPI

At its foundation, the ASPI Council was instructed by the government to ensure its independence. As set down by the defence minister, it is required not only to be ‘politically non-partisan’ but also, most crucially, to ‘reflect the priority given to both the perception and substance of the Institute’s independence’.

The Howard government had envisaged that ASPI would do this by maintaining a ‘very small’ permanent staff while relying mostly on short-term contracts, secondments and similar arrangements for its research work. It would not publish views in its own name but would provide a forum for the views of a wide variety of outside experts.

20 years on, ASPI has morphed into a very different organisation.

A decision by Labor prime minister Kevin Rudd to make Stephen Loosley the ASPI Council chair in 2009, while Loosley was on the Thales Australia board, tested perceptions of independence. Then, in 2012, the Gillard Labor government appointed the current executive director directly from the senior position of Deputy Secretary of Strategy in the Defence Department. In the late 90s, Peter Jennings had been chief of staff to Liberal defence minister Ian McLachlan when the Howard Government first mooted the idea of creating ASPI.

Under this new leadership, ASPI set about expanding. Staff numbers have quadrupled in nine years from 14 to 60, plus there are now 29 research fellows and nine interns.

ASPI receives its core funding via a grant from the Defence Department. In 2018, the Morrison government approved a $20 million grant to cover five years’ of ASPI operations. In May 2021, this grant was increased by $5 million to cover two years of operations of a new Washington DC office.

Since 2012, ASPI has vigorously pursued additional funding. Within two years, annual income from commissioned research jumped from $37,000 to $1.1 million, and sponsorships were up 235% to $746,000. ASPI’s own-sourced revenue has continued to grow dramatically. In 2011-12, ASPI received less than $500,000 above its base funding, by 2020-21 it had exploded to $6.7 million.

The single largest source of ASPI’s funding in 2020-21, beyond its core funding, was from the US Government’s Departments of Defense and State ($1.58m), followed by additional funding from Defence ($1.44m) and other federal government agencies ($1.18m). The NSW and Northern Territory governments provided $445,000. In the private sector, the largest source was social media, tech and cybersecurity companies ($737,362), with Facebook ($269,574), Amazon ($100,000) and Microsoft ($89,500) being the largest. From the arms industry, ASPI received $316,636, with more than two-thirds of that coming from two of Australia’s largest defence contractors, Thales ($130,000) and BAE Systems ($90,000).

In 2019-20, Twitter gave ASPI $147,319 for its cyber research. Significantly, Twitter last week announced a partnership with ASPI said to be dealing with misinformation from the Chinese communist party that was seeking to counter evidence of human rights abuses in Xinjiang. As a result of ASPI’s research, thousands of “state-linked accounts” were shut down by Twitter.

While the cash from the arms industry may not appear substantial, as we have seen, the arms industry wields its major influence via its representatives finding their way on to seats at the top table.

The substantial extra funding from the US government, Defence and other Australian government departments, as well as corporate interests, provides a real challenge to ASPI’s responsibility to remain independent. It raises serious questions about undue influence, including foreign influence, at ASPI.

ASPI responded to our questions about protecting the perception of its independence by saying it retains ‘complete editorial independence on the material we choose to research’. It said it would not accept funding from parties attempting to constrain its editorial independence.

But just what does the US government get in return for its $1.57 million funding of ASPI, beyond its research projects on human rights violations, disinformation, and cybersecurity in China?

And what might BAE Systems get for its $90,000 grant to ASPI, other than a new report on the need for a ‘collaborative and agile’ intelligence community?

And what about Thales Australia, in return for its $130,000 grant to ASPI, beyond just being lead sponsor of the 2020 ASPI Conference?

The answer for them all, is ‘influence’.

ASPI’s role in advising the Australian government on defence strategy and procurements and cybersecurity would better serve the Australian people if it was to return to its original charter of researching and publishing a diversity of views from a position of uncompromised independence.

MICHELLE FAHY is an independent writer and researcher, specialising in the examination of connections between the weapons industry and government, and has written in various independent publications. She is on twitter @FahyMichelle, and on Substack at

December 11, 2021 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics international, reference, secrets and lies, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Appeal to UK’s Supreme Court will just lengthen Julian Assange’s legal torment – of course Australia doesn’t care.

Edward Fitzgerald QC, for Assange, previously told the High Court that Australia had not indicated whether it would accept Assange, who “will most likely be dead before it can have any purchase, if it ever could”……..

Assange lawyers eye UK Supreme Court, The North West Star.Jess Glass and Tom Pilgrim, PA  

11 Dec 21, Julian Assange’s lawyers intend to take his case to the Supreme Court, his fiancee says, after the High Court allowed the WikiLeaks founder’s extradition to the United States.

Assange, 50, is wanted in the US over an alleged conspiracy to obtain and disclose classified information following WikiLeaks’ publication of hundreds of thousands of leaked documents relating to the Afghanistan and Iraq wars

US authorities brought a High Court challenge against a January ruling by then-district judge Vanessa Baraitser that Assange should not be sent to the US, in which she cited a real and “oppressive” risk of suicide.

After a two-day hearing in October, the Lord Chief Justice Lord Burnett, sitting with Lord Justice Holroyde, ruled in favour of the US on Friday………..

The judges ordered that the case must return to Westminster Magistrates’ Court for a district judge to formally send it to UK Home Secretary Priti Patel.

Assange’s fiancee Stella Moris called the ruling “dangerous and misguided” and said his lawyers intended to seek an appeal at the Supreme Court……..

The legal wrangling will go to the Supreme Court, the United Kingdom’s final court of appeal.

“It is highly disturbing that a UK court has overturned a decision not to extradite Julian Assange, accepting vague assurances by the United States government,” Assange’s lawyer Barry Pollack said.

“Mr Assange will seek review of this decision by the UK Supreme Court.”

Supporters of Assange gathered outside of the court after the ruling, chanting “free Julian Assange” and “no extradition”.

They tied hundreds of yellow ribbons to the court’s gates and held up placards saying “journalism is not a crime”.

If Assange’s lawyers do take his case to the Supreme Court, justices will first decide whether to hear the case before any appeal is heard.

During October’s hearing, James Lewis QC for the US said that the “binding” diplomatic assurances made were a “solemn matter” and “are not dished out like Smarties”.

The assurances included that Assange would not be held in a so-called “ADX” maximum security prison in Colorado or submitted to special administrative measures (SAMs) and that he could be transferred to Australia to serve his sentence if convicted.

But lawyers representing Assange had argued that the assurances over the WikiLeaks founder’s potential treatment were “meaningless” and “vague”.

Edward Fitzgerald QC, for Assange, previously told the High Court that Australia had not indicated whether it would accept Assange, who “will most likely be dead before it can have any purchase, if it ever could”……..

The United Nations’ special rapporteur on torture Nils Melzer sharply criticised the verdict.

“This is a shortcoming for the British judiciary,” Melzer told the DPA news agency on Friday.

“You can think what you want about Assange but he is not in a condition to be extradited,” he said, referring to a “politically motivated verdict”.

with reporting from Reuters and DPA

December 11, 2021 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, civil liberties, legal, politics international, secrets and lies | Leave a comment

The latest court case for Australian Julian Assange – and the death of democracy

Assange is too important to the establishment to let get away. No matter that the C.I.A. wanted to kill him; no matter that the C.I.A. spied on his privileged conversations with his lawyers; no matter that the chief witness in the computer conspiracy charge admitted he made it all up.

The Old Boy Network of trust between the rulers of the Anglo-Saxon powers was enough.

To save their hides from more exposure about how they try to violently and deceptively dominate the world, they are willing to sacrifice the last vestiges of their pretend democracy.

Julian Assange is that important to them.

Democracy Dying in the Darkness of the Assange Case December 10, 2021  The establishment figures on the bench took American promises as “solemn undertakings from one government to another” because Assange is too important to let go,   By Joe Lauria.

  It is a very dark day indeed for the future of press freedom. If Julian Assange does not find relief at the U.K. Supreme Court, it won’t be an exaggeration to say that democracy, already on life support, is done for. The U.S., and its best ally Britain, have behaved in this affair no better than any tinpot dictator tossing a critical reporter into a dungeon.

This judgement by the High Court today to allow Assange’s extradition to the U.S. comes on U.N. Human Rights Day; the day that Washington concluded its so-called Democracy Summit and the day when the Nobel Prize was awarded to two journalists, one of whom dismissed Julian Assange and said the purpose of journalism is to support national security.

That’s exactly what the national security state wants from its journalists. And they reward them with the highest honors. Assange did the opposite. He fulfilled journalism’s supreme purpose and he may be about to pay for it with his life. 

The Choices Available

The High Court could have denied extradition to a country whose intelligence service plotted to kill or kidnap him. It could have sent the case back to magistrate’s court to be reheard.

Instead Lord Chief Justice Ian Burnett and Lord Justice Timothy Holroyde found an extremely narrow way to overturn the lower court’s decision not to extradite Assange.

Continue reading

December 11, 2021 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, civil liberties, legal, politics international, secrets and lies | Leave a comment