Mr McGregor made a protest against the Attorney-General in the morning session of the 'Symposium on Law & Liberty in the War on Terror' on 5 July 2007. Mr McGregor was removed from the venue by those members of the police providing Mr Ruddock's security. They did not charge him in relation to his protest and left the campus with the Attorney-General. The police prosecution relates to subsequent dealings with police and Mr McGregor elsewhere on campus.
The Centre of Public Law made the decision to deny Mr McGregor further access to the event after he had been removed. This was after attempting to negotiate terms on which Mr McGregor could reasonably continue to attend the Symposium. Essentially, Mr McGregor was not prepared to guarantee that other speakers would not also be disrupted.
The conception of the Symposium was that it would draw in speakers from all sides of the debate about Australia's anti-terrorism laws and provide a means whereby they could engage meaningfully with each other. Regardless of how delegates might feel about the policies and actions of any particular speaker, it would be completely counter to the aims of the event if invited speakers were not given an opportunity to be heard. This would not only interfere with their right to put their case but also those of other participants to challenge it appropriately through the time allocated for questions and comment.
A range of diverse, contrary and critical opinions were aired at the symposium - just as intended. It is inconsistent with intellectual exchange for any individual to assert a personal freedom of speech which prevents the ability of others to deliver their arguments and others again to debate and discuss them.
Your article, "A triumph for the law," which appeared in The Age last week (22.8.07) was extremely interesting.
In pointing out that Kevin Andrews acted precipitately and in error on Mohamed Haneef, did it not occur to you that you could have been applying those words to your own action in relation to the arrest of Peter McGregor at the symposium on Law and Liberty on Terror at the Centre on Thursday, 5th July this year?
When you planned to introduce Federal Attorney-General Philip Ruddock as guest speaker at the symposium you obviously must have realised that his presence would precipitate the kind of reaction you got from someone in the audience, otherwise there would be little if any reason to have the author of the terrorism laws attend the event.
You then used your "executive power" recklessly like Minister Andrews did in the Haneef situation. You deprived McGregor of his right to challenge Philip Ruddock face to face by withdrawing his 'permit to be in attendance' at the symposium. By so doing you allowed the NSW police at the event to charge McGregor with 'unlawful entry on enclosed lands' when there were legitimate alternatives open to you that didn't need to involve police arrest.
You turned a peaceful protest into an unnecessary confrontation. You could so easily have invited Peter McGregor on to the platform to hear Ruddock's speech before offering him time to challenge Ruddock and explain how he intended to effect a citizen's arrest of the politician.
McGregor is due to appear at Waverley Local Court on Wednesday, the 5th September. It could be your opportunity to restore McGregor's right to free speech by your attendance at court to ask for the charge against him to be withdrawn.Signed: Kendall Lovett.
Dr Andrew Lynch in A triumph for the law (Opinion, 22.8.07) stated "It is the role of the courts to ensure that limits on executive power are respected."
Yet Dr Lynch could be accused of using his own executive power without limit as director at the Gilbert+Tobin Centre of Public Law, University of NSW, as recently as 5 July 2007.
On that date, in a blanket of silence by the media, Dr Lynch withdrew a legitimate participant's right to be at a Symposium on Law & Liberty in the War on Terror at the Gilbert+Tobin Centre to enable NSW police to arrest the participant.
That participant was Peter McGregor, a retired academic from Newcastle, who had voiced disapproval of Attorney-General Philip Ruddock's presence at the symposium and proposed to present him with a citizen's arrest warrant for the politician's "abandoning of legal process, habeas corpus" in the rule of terror law.
McGregor is charged with "unlawful entry on enclosed lands" and is due to appear in Waverley Local Court on Wednesday 5 September.
Dr Lynch has removed a fellow academic's right to free speech by preventing him from challenging Philip Ruddock. The Attorney-General is not sacrosanct.
Dr Lynch should withdraw the charge against McGregor as unwarranted.
Signed: Kendall Lovett.
SUBMISSION to the Discussion Paper, “Material that ADVOCATES TERRORIST ACTS” and proposed Amendments to the NATIONAL CLASSIFICATION CODEfrom
Your opening paragraph in this Discussion Paper, 1: Background, raises queries for us because you do not define the community you refer to who have concerns about the public availability of material that advocates people commit terrorists acts. We believe that the existing national classification scheme is more than able to deal with the issue.
Further additions to the means of suppression of publications, films and Computer Games are entirely unnecessary. The Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance Report cites more than 500 laws and regulations which have increased suppression in Australia, often under the guise of the “war on terror.” Adding a new restriction, advocate terrorist acts, to the Refused Classification code will do nothing but increase the workload, for instance, of writers, journalists, distributors, publishers, authorities or agencies for law enforcement purposes and retail traders and leave the general public ignorant of the fact that their right to know has been even further eroded. Governance has become more secretive, more suppressive with preventative detention, prohibited contact orders, control orders and suppression orders proliferating, more trials are held in secret, and companies litigate to prevent reports being made public and governments escape scrutiny. Adding yet another restriction doesn’t augur well for democracy in this country unless, now in Australia, it equates with that being forced on Iraq by the “Coalition of the Willing” or by Israel in Palestine.
7: Scope of Proposal, we note from the Paper, would extend to the Broadcasting Services Act 1999, to Internet Pages hosted in Australia and through amendments to the Customs Regulations to imports and exports. It seems probable that television programmes such as one similar to the BBC’s “Spooks” providing details of some new terrorist method that might be used by some watcher who wants to do the same damage here, would become a problem for an Australian TV series buyer in case it may well be categorised RC? Documentaries could also be severely affected particularly those about historical exploits by the Resistance. Taken to extremes, even television news programmes are likely to suffer cuts because schoolboys with delusions send threatening emails to their schoolmates and teachers (SMH 23/5/07) due to recent reports of shootings in US schools. As far as Internet Pages are concerned, anyone in Australia could still access the restricted items on Internet Pages hosted outside Australia if they wished. Banning access these days is a farcical exercise with the World Wide Web so easy to use to find the information you want.
8. Distinguishing so-called ‘Hate’ material that falls short of actually advocating people commit terrorist acts is certainly not easy to define even using the document’s List of terms and Glossary of terms. As an example, we point to the misinterpretation by many Jewish groups and individuals who equate all criticism of Israel as anti-Semitic. Now many Australians fear to criticise violent Israeli acts against Palestinians in case they are labelled anti-Semitic or don’t speak out or publish such criticism because they are unsure whether or not it is anti-Semitic. In like manner, because of the categorising of advocating in the manner indicated in these amendments, there is likely to be even greater confusion for those trying to work out whether or not hate leading to a terrorist act is being advocated. So they err on the side of agreeing that it must be.
9. Consequential Amendments to Customs Regulations: If the current Customs Regulations do not automatically pick up material such as goods that promote, incite or instruct in matters of crime or violence that is refused classification (RC) under the current classification scheme, why would they be expected to pick up material advocating terrorist acts unless instructed that it is contained in a specific publication (book), film, or computer game?
PROPOSED AMENDMENTS to the national CLASSIFICATION CODE and the CLASSIFICATION GUIDELINES
Film and Computer Games: RC Section and List of Terms
The addition to the RC Section of Terrorist Act: Advocating terrorist acts, and the List of Terms descriptive definition of advocating (b) directly or indirectly provides instruction on doing a terrorist act would have refused classification to the SPOOKS series viewed on ABC Television nationally. Literally every episode in this series could very easily have been banned by the Classification Board if it accepted the proposed definition and probably could have been applied to other similar TV series or Documentaries broadcast on SBS and commercial channels. We think you are tilting at windmills!
Publications and Glossary of Terms: RC Section
The proposed addition of advocate terrorist acts to the Code in the criteria for classifying a publication ‘RC’ (Refused Classification), meaning that the publication is banned from coming into Australia and banned from being sold in Australia, is merely providing editors here and abroad with yet another headache, is it illegal or isn’t it? It could become farcical.
For instance, when the Oxford History of South Africa (1870-1966) was published in 1971, Chapter 9: African Nationalism in South Africa, 1910-1964, by Leo Kuper, legal opinion was to the effect that in many respects it infringed South African Law of that time (the apartheid period), so Oxford Press in England self-censored to avoid possible litigation. Therefore, pages 424 to 475 were left blank in the edition sold in South Africa whereas the rest of world had an edition containing the chapter in full.
Under the Glossary of Terms the added word Advocate is described as meaning (b) Directly or indirectly provides instruction on doing a terrorist act. We think that someone very strongly supportive of say a particular form of energy and with a large pecuniary interest in it, would find reason and power to stop publication of information about a better alternative which he may think would ruin him financially.
Such a scenario is easily envisaged, if you have read Helen Caldicott’s Nuclear Power is not the Answer to Global Warming or anything else (2006), published by Melbourne University Press. On page 92, Caldicott writes: “What would a catastrophe at a nuclear plant in the US look like? Let’s consider the two large Indian Point reactors located in the town of Buchanan in Westchester County, thirty-five miles from midtown Manhattan.”
She continues: “Apart from natural disaster, an Indian Point meltdown caused by a small group of people intent on wreaking disaster could readily be achieved in one of several ways. Terrorists with suicidal tendencies could easily disrupt the external electricity supply of the reactors, or obtain one small speed boat, pack it with Timothy McVeigh fertilizer explosives, and drive it full tilt into the two adjacent intake pipes that suck almost two million gallons of Hudson River cooling water per minute into the reactors.” She said that even though the Coast Guard was supposed to be protecting the reactors from terrorist intrusion, the small boat she travelled in on the Hudson was in view of and opposite the pipes in broad daylight but there was no sign of the Coast Guard.
“Alternatively,” she explains, “a terrorist could drive a truck packed with similar explosives into a strategic area of the plant, triggering a critical situation.” She quotes the following: “A paper written by the Oak Ridge National Laboratory and the Defence Threat Reduction Agency, published in a 2004 technical journal and available on the Internet, indicates that truck bombs of various sizes would have 100% probability of success.” And she goes on to write of other means a terrorist could use, and then on page 95, after explaining the resulting details of any one of these probabilities, she adds: “For those with nefarious motives, the best time for an attack would be the evening, under cover of darkness, and when the prevailing winds blow toward New York City.”
So there you have it. Wouldn’t a nuclear power fanatic want Helen Caldicott’s book banned and if he was in a position of power would do so using the above mentioned amendment (b) provides instruction on doing a terrorist act?
The former chief censor, Des Clark, argues that classification laws are losing relevance in a digital era. In March this year, he told the Australian Financial Review that “we live in an age where national borders are increasingly porous.” We make the point, which is highlighted by the extract above from Helen Caldicott’s book in which she quotes from a paper about truck bombs in a technical journal being available on the Internet, that what you ban today is available on the Internet tomorrow.
In Conclusion, we question the intention of the government to add yet another means of giving weight to the initially fanciful ‘clash of civilisations’ thesis. Twelve months ago, the federal government-appointed Security Legislation Review Committee found that “the interference with human rights is disproportionate to anything that could be achieved by way of protection of the community” –a reference to the anti-terror laws since the 2001 September 11 attacks in New York and the further counter-terrorism amendments following the London transport system attacks in July 2005. In our opinion, this proposed amendment compounds that interference.
Surely, it is reasonable to assume that such an amendment being proposed will not deter those bent on destructive intentions but merely impact on Muslim and Arab Australians and create more fear and discrimination in the wider community than already exists against people of middle-eastern appearance. We believe this amendment would simply make unnecessary work for a lot of overworked people and is not sound economic sense.
SUBMISSION to the Inquiry into the Classification (Publications, Films and Computer Games) Amendment (Terrorist Material) Bill 2007.From Kendall Lovett
The provisions of this Amendment Bill apparently are to enable the Classification Board or Review Board to outlaw any publication, film or computer game it considers advocates, directly or indirectly counsels or urges, or provides instruction on doing a terrorist act or by directly praising the doing of a terrorist act in circumstances where there is a risk that such praise might have the effect of leading a person to engage in a terrorist act.
Our feeling is that despite Schedule 1: Amendment 9A (3) a publication, film or computer game does not advocate the doing of a terrorist act if it depicts or describes a terrorist act, but the depiction could reasonably be considered to be done merely as part of public discussion or debate or as entertainment or satire, it is indeed open to interpretation depending upon who the person is in a public discussion or debate who is heard to be advocating what someone else interprets as a terrorist act.
An obvious example of this can be seen in an interview given by the Attorney-General to the media and published in the Daily Telegraph on Thursday, 21 June 2007. Mr Ruddock is quoted as saying: “The Commonwealth is going to legislate on it anyway. I have worked with the states to find a solution and all they are doing is frustrating it. This needs to be introduced before APEC. It needs to be introduced right away.”
In his Second Reading address to Parliament (21 June 2007), the Attorney-General reiterates that where the treatment of a terrorist act could reasonably be considered to be done as part of public discussion or debate or as entertainment or satire, it is not to be refused classification. Mr Ruddock then goes on to say: “This protects material such as investigative journalists’ work, historical analyses, material that might appear to glorify war or battle (including ‘factional’ or fictional accounts of war, insurgency or resistance), satirical pieces, and popular culture movies.” (Refer to our submission to the Discussion Paper on proposed Amendments to the National Classification Code, available on the Classification Review website at
Lesbian and Gay Solidarity submisssion )
In the same vein in his Second Reading speech, Mr Ruddock explained that the term ‘terrorist act’ is given the same meaning as in section 100.1 of the Criminal Code but, and we quote: “Action which is advocacy, protest, dissent or industrial action, not intended to cause serious harm, death, endangerment of life, or serious risk to health or safety of the public, is expressly excluded from being a ‘terrorist act’.”
So, we have to wonder about Mr Ruddock’s reference to APEC (Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit Meeting in Sydney on Saturday, 8 September 2007) reported in the Daily Telegraph before he made his Second Reading speech. We understand that a peaceful protest on the street outside the Summit Meeting is expected to take place so why should this legislation be applied to it? Unless, of course, his interpretation is as we have suggested above in paragraph 2.
In our opinion, with this kind of legislation it becomes easier than ever to declare a street protest to be a ‘terrorist act.’ An instruction to the police to expect violence and to present very visibly in riot gear is enough to ensure that they move in to hassle people for the smallest infringement such as straying on to a roadway. People who protest against unconscionable laws are intimidated when confronted by police wearing riot gear. It really worries us that politicians, public figures and the general public do not recognise how easy it is for police to disrupt a peaceful demonstration of dissent.
As lesbians and gay men, we know only too well from past experience of being arrested in a peaceful procession after trusting the word of police officers “to keep to the footpath.” Then discover there were, parked in side streets along the way, paddy-wagons and busloads of police who descended on us violently breaking up our procession from a Sydney gay conference and actually throwing over 70 of us into waiting paddy-wagons. At that time, they didn’t even have to declare a procession to be a terrorist action. If it is so easy to turn a peaceful protest, public dissent or industrial action into a ‘terrorist act’ the Classification Review Board surely has no need for its 1995 Act to be amended as required by this Bill.
We are mindful of something else the Attorney-General told the Daily Telegraph, 21.6.07, about “screening” technology to block recruiting websites. A software plan, he said, that’s still in its infancy –technology that detects hate publications and removes them. In his Second Reading speech, referring to the provisions of the Amendment Bill, he said: “I would prefer to see these provisions in the National Classification Code and guidelines, not in the classification act, but that requires the states’ and territories’ agreement.” Obviously, if they finally agree to his latest proposals contained in this bill, the bill will be withdrawn. He said as much in his speech. This will mean that his “screening” technology for internet sites is much more likely to be accepted by the states and territories when the technology reaches a more reliable stage. So, the Inquiry should be aware of the implications of such technology to any sites, not just terrorist ones, the government of the day may decide to block.
Furthermore, twelve months ago, the federal government-appointed Security Legislation Review Committee found that “the interference with human rights is disproportionate to anything that could be achieved by way of protection of the community” –a reference to the anti-terror laws since the 2001 September 11 attacks in New York and the further counter-terrorism amendments following the London transport system attacks in July 2005. Now this past weekend, we have the car bombs discovered and disarmed in London and the Glasgow airport fire bomb all of which have probably scared enough of those in power here --especially as there’s a suspect in Brisbane being interrogated over his possible connection with people held in the UK over these latest events-- to want to add this Amendment Bill to compound that interference to human rights here. What a tangled web gets woven and so helpful in confusing an issue for some and very advantageous to others!Signed: Kendall Lovett,
The following three articles appeared in the Saturday Age newspaper:
A FEDERAL government minister has pushed for increased police surveillance of environmental activists peacefully protesting at coal-fired power stations and coal export facilities.
Documents released to The Saturday Age under freedom-of-information laws reveal that federal police are continually monitoring anti-coal mining groups, and other environmental bodies.
They also show that Resources and Energy Minister Martin Ferguson, who requested the additional surveillance, has been prompted by energy company lobbying to urge stronger criminal penalties against protests that disrupt critical energy infrastructure.
Much of the intelligence collection is carried out for the Australian Federal Police by a Melbourne-based private contractor, the National Open Source Intelligence Centre, which monitors activist websites, blogs, Facebook and Twitter.
Australian Greens leader Bob Brown yesterday condemned the surveillance, saying it was ''intolerable that the federal Labor government was spying on conservation groups'' and wanted to criminalise political protest. ''This is clearly Labor being leaned upon by largely foreign-owned coal corporations,'' Senator Brown said. ''It involves wasting public money on police efforts directed against peaceful protests, an essential element of a functioning democracy.''
Documents released by the Resources, Energy and Tourism Department show that a surge in environmental demonstrations prompted Mr Ferguson to write to then attorney-general Robert McClelland in September 2009 to raise concerns of ''issues-motivated activism, and the possibility of disruptions to critical energy infrastructure sites''.
The document say Mr Ferguson sought advice on whether the resources of the attorney-general's portfolio, and in particular the intelligence-gathering services of the Australian Federal Police, could be further utilised to ''assist the energy sector and jurisdictional police to manage the increasing risk of disruptions''.
Mr McClelland replied in November 2009 that ''whilst I recognise the right to protest, when actions jeopardise energy security and the delivery of essential services, it is important that measures be taken to prevent and deter unlawful activity''.
Mr McClelland confirmed that the AFP ''continually monitors the activities of issues-motivated groups and individuals who may target establishments through direct action, or action designed to disrupt or interfere with essential services. Information is gained through a number of sources, including open source, and state and territory law enforcement agencies.''
In addition to AFP intelligence collection, Mr McClelland also highlighted the role of ASIO ''in intelligence-gathering, analysis and advice in relation to protest activity [that] focuses on actual, or the potential for, violence … Where warranted, ASIO advice may take the form of security intelligence reports, notification of protest action or threat assessments.''
Past and current government security sources confirmed to The Saturday Age that monitoring of environmental protests had increased in recent years.
One senior police officer acknowledged the political sensitivity of gathering intelligence on ''groups that are part of the Greens' activist base'', but emphasised the potential for Greenpeace and other environmental groups to go ''beyond trespass''. Security sources emphasised that intelligence on protest activity came largely from publicly available sources. But federal police have also confirmed that ''on very rare occasions, the AFP conducts covert operations targeting individuals who may be members of [protest] groups where specific intelligence exists relating to criminal activities by those individuals''.
FOI documents show the Energy Security Branch of Mr Ferguson's department was proactive in ensuring the Australian Energy Market Operator, Macquarie Generation and TransGrid were warned of a ''peaceful mass action'' at the Bayswater power station in NSW in 2010. Seventy-three protesters were arrested and fined $250. Most convictions were overturned on appeal. The documents show that only four protests briefly interfered with electricity generation, though disruption of coal export activities have been more frequent.
Moves to criminalise protest actions arose after Brian Spalding, then head of National Electricity Market Management Company, complained to the Ministerial Council on Energy in July 2008 that existing penalties did not deter activists at energy infrastructure sites. Mr Ferguson referred the issue to the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General (SCAG), which reviewed legislation. In July 2009, Mr Ferguson further stressed ''the importance of this work program in light of the continuing trend of incidents that have threatened to disrupt the energy supply chain''.
His department has refused to release the SCAG review of penalties, completed in November 2009, because revealing ''gaps and inadequacies'' in current laws would lead to further protest activities.
In late 2009, in the wake of protests at the Hazelwood power station in the Latrobe Valley, the then Labor state government sharply increased criminal penalties for protest-related disruption of critical energy infrastructure.
The federal Attorney-General's Department is now undertaking a study to determine whether new offences targeting the disruption of services provided by critical infrastructure are required.
A spokesperson for Mr Ferguson said yesterday that governments at all levels were concerned to maintain energy security and economic activity. ''This includes maintaining the rule of law and energy supply where issues-motivated groups actively seek to engage in unlawful activity.''
AN INCONSPICUOUS Melbourne apartment block is home to a monitoring service that keeps watch on environment groups at the request of the federal government.
The National Open Source Intelligence Centre, a private intelligence company, works under contract for the Australian Federal Police and Federal Attorney-General's Department to monitor activist websites, blogs, Facebook and Twitter to provide warning and analysis of protest activity.
Owned jointly by Croydon couple Jody and Amanda Lambden, NOSIC has been operating since 1999.
It aims to provide law enforcement agencies and other private clients with internet monitoring and analysis directed at groups engaged in ''radical activism, criminal (terrorist) activity or unlawful behaviour''.
Services provided by NOSIC include ''issue monitoring'', ''tactical intelligence'', ''threat analysis'' and ''trend analysis and forecasting focus on emerging patterns and trends in activism''.
NOSIC has been engaged on contract by the AFP and the Attorney-General's Department since at least 2003. From 2006 to 2008, it was paid $184,800.
In addition to its ongoing work for the federal agencies and state police, NOSIC also provides services relating to specific events. These include a $15,400 contract with the AFP for "information services" between October 24 and November 17 last year - the period coinciding with the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting and US President Barack Obama's visit to Australia.
NOSIC's website does not identify its director, Mr Lambden, and provides no phone number or business address.
However, corporate records list the company's principal place of business as a residential apartment block on Hewish Road, Croydon.
In an emailed response to questions from The Saturday Age, Mr Lambden, who has ''a law enforcement background'', declined to discuss specific work undertaken by his company because breaching client confidentiality could ''result in contracts being discontinued and with that loss of income''.
However Mr Lambden emphasised that ''no information is collected unlawfully or obtained at its source by clandestine or covert means''.
''Our analysts essentially perform a role no different to any researcher employed at a library … that is, exploring the internet for specific information or general interest items,'' he said. ''It is only the skill and focus of that research that differentiates us.''
Federal security sources told The Saturday Age that NOSIC provided a ''cost-effective service'' that ''frees AFP analysts from spending time chasing publicly available information''.
ASIO has officially changed its response to a parliamentary inquiry after being accused of potentially misleading politicians about its dealings with child asylum seekers.
In a letter to the joint select committee on immigration detention sent on Thursday, ASIO now admits it issued an adverse security clearance to a 17-year-old.
The Age revealed this week that Kuwaiti teenager Ali Abbas, a recognised refugee who has been detained for more than a year, was told on December 15 that ASIO had in effect blocked his protection visa application - and his lawyers' request to move him into the community on medical grounds - by labelling him a security risk.
The Greens were angered that ASIO's written evidence to the inquiry a day later, on December 16, failed to mention the Ali Abbas decision, and instead gave the impression ASIO had never refused a child security clearance.
ASIO said its director-general, David Irvine, had signed the classified written response to the inquiry on December 14, the day prior to Ali Abbas being formally told of the ASIO decision, although the document wasn't sent to the inquiry until December 16.
ASIO's new response reads: ''As previously stated, as at 22 November 2011, ASIO had not issued any adverse security assessments in relation to minors. In the period since ASIO's appearance at the public hearing, ASIO issued one adverse security assessment in relation to an irregular maritime arrival who, according to DIAC [Department of Immigration and Citizenship] and determination, was aged 17 at the time of the assessment.''
Refugee advocate Pamela Curr, who met the teenager in Melbourne and is concerned by his suicide attempts, said in an affidavit provided to the Federal Court she was verbally told by immigration officials several months earlier Ali Abbas had failed his security check.
Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young called for the immediate suspension of ASIO checks on child asylum seekers.
ASIO said it has issued 304 ''non-adverse security assessments'' to unaccompanied teenagers aged 16 to 18 since January 2010.
Letters in The Age 090112:
AS A resident and Greens campaigner in Martin Ferguson's seat, two ironies strike me about his calls for increased police surveillance of environmentalists ("Spies eye green protesters", The Saturday Age, 7/1). The first is that Mr Ferguson's dealings as Minister for Energy and Resources are often hidden from scrutiny. Even people directly affected by Mr Ferguson's decisions are unable to access information about their lands and properties, due to his "commercial in confidence" claims.
The second arises from my experience. Last year, I helped a local GP organise a World Environment Day vigil outside Mr Ferguson's electoral office. Churchgoing and unaffiliated with political or activist organisations, she is highly concerned about climate change. We were met by a phalanx of intelligence officers and local police.
According to Robert McClelland, surveillance is necessary to prevent "unlawful activity". What's actually happening is the wasting of public funds, the diversion of police resources and, most disturbing of all, the attempt to criminalise the legitimate, lawful activities of those who disagree with the government's approach to climate change.Alex Bhathal, Preston
SO THE green activists who demonstrate against energy projects, like the world's most polluting power station at Hazelwood, or against those corporations who poison aquifers and cause multiple small earthquakes with fracking, are being monitored using taxpayers' money by the federal police, private security firms and ASIO, in case they cause some damage?
Meanwhile, the coal and gas industry is destroying swaths of the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area and poisoning fish through dredging yet is asking our government to redraw heritage boundaries so the damage no longer "counts".
We are expected to accept that the situations so counterpoised are not incontestable evidence of the profound corruption of our political and legal system, and of its occupants of office? This stinks to high heaven of tactics employed by the old Soviet empire, and the massive environmental pollution it produced "legally".Brian Lennon, Mount Dandenong
I STRONGLY object to my taxes being misspent by Mr Ferguson, on behalf of the polluting coal industry, for increased police surveillance of environmental activists. If, as Mr Ferguson claims, a peaceful protest is an "unlawful activity", does he include peacefully sending letters of protest to The Age? Will "thinking unlawful thoughts" soon be classified as an offence? Will the thought police soon be knocking on my door?Jean Jordan, Eltham
THE Age calls the threat to civil liberties embodied in the monitoring "disturbing" (Editorial, 7/12). I'd call it outrageous and unacceptable. The practice should cease immediately. The Prime Minister should also have a word with Mr Ferguson about his apparendy too-cosy relationship with the resources lobby. Such a conversation would do no harm to the government's primary vote.Raymond Brooks, Carlton North
IN LATE November I was part of a research/protest group that visited Gladstone, Queensland. We were concerned about the environmental impacts of the extensive growth of coal and coal seam gas mining and specifically the dredging of Gladstone Harbour and its impact on the Great Barrier Reef. When I read your article ''Spies eye green protesters'' (The Saturday Age, 7/1), I experienced a ''wow'' moment of understanding our experiences of police harassment and surveillance.
Our experiences included: continual phone calls requesting our whereabouts and intentions - our phone numbers apparently were found on Facebook; being met by a carload of police as we arrived in Rockhampton to do some media appearances; and being continuously monitored by police cars, special taskforce police and security, including being photographed several times. I am now on their files, even though I've been told it is legal for photos to be taken only if you are arrested.
Who needs to be investigated? Is it me who stood up to environmental abuse? Or is it Martin Ferguson? He uses taxpayers' money to investigate the innocent public while protecting the profits of his rich and environmentally dangerous mates.
Thank you, The Age. I hope you've opened a can of worms.Laraine Acfield, Tuntable Falls, NSW
SOMEONE as wise as Martin Ferguson knows you don't need those dwindling true believers when the parliamentary ALP can do it much easier as lobbyists for the energy sector.John Hayward, Weegena, Tasmania
THE government spies on us and WikiLeaks spies on the government. Julian Assange for Australian of the Year.Karin Geradts, Hurstbridge
LED by head Keystone Cop Martin Ferguson the government wastes our money spying on community groups just in case they threaten the profits of foreign energy and mining interests? Is this a government or a comedy act?Doug Evans, Clifton Hill
WHO does the government work for again?Pablo Brait, Richmond
REMEMBER when our government actually worked for the betterment of the general populace rather than for its re-election and to support the powerful lobbyists who keep them in power? Neither do I.Gary Sayer, Warrnambool
Letters in The Age:
THE insightful article ''Spies eye green protesters'' (The Saturday Age, 7/1) draws into immediate focus the real question of who exactly is selling out Australia's energy and, for that matter, water security? Recent premiers have been champing at the bit to sell off energy and water infrastructure and build desalination plants. The evolution of combined energy/water companies such as Macquarie Energy, and the entry of Vivendi (Veolia) and KBR (Halliburton) into the local water and utilities sector with the co-operation of local, state and federal politicians, proves it is a global agenda; it also represents the new wealth.
The numerous attempts to sell/lease/refinance the Snowy Hydro scheme are just part of the picture of dismantling public energy ownership and security and passing on the profits to private hands. We pay through higher bills. The real security threat is that more than just a handful of politicians and their private industry collaborators seem all too keen to reduce energy security.
It is time for a full inquiry into the sale of public energy and water assets paid for (and once owned) by us, the people, and a full audit of attempts to sell the Snowy Scheme.
Thank goodness The Age has had the guts to source the file that put activists under the intelligence spotlight. Now the light should be turned inwards and onto the political milieu intent on selling out our energy and water security.Acacia Rose, Thredbo, NSW
I ALSO hope that The Age has ''opened a can of worms'' in exposing the publicly funded government surveillance of green activists (Letters, 9/1).
Last year, as a local Greens member campaigning hard for a price on pollution, I attended a peaceful rally organised by our local environment and sustainability community group on the steps of one of Bendigo's historic civic buildings. The rally consisted, in large part, of children holding windmills. We numbered about 100 people. Alongside the local press, I counted three uniformed police officers photographing us.
Alarmingly, it now transpires that our government has engaged a private intelligence contractor - an organisation unaccountable to Parliament - to spy on its citizens. I, too, wonder who exactly needs investigating. Do mums, dads, grandparents and children photographed for private pecuniary profit now qualify, in perpetuity, as subversives, akin to terrorists?Michelle Goldsmith, Eaglehawk
FOLLOWING Saturday's excellent reports by Philip Dorling, it is heartening to see such a united voice opposing the Minister for Resources and Energy Martin Ferguson's undemocratic ''spy-on-the-protesters'' campaign.
Accounts by protesters are emerging across Australia, but notably also in Mr Ferguson's Victorian federal electorate of Batman - a focal point for public interest campaigns to achieve a safer climate. Mr Ferguson has shown that his local constituents don't count - it's his ''carbon constituents'' from the resources companies he really represents. Sadly, he's willing to engage the government's intelligence-gathering machinery to ensure the companies get their way. He must, and will, be resisted.Darren Lewin-Hill, Northcote
MAYBE Martin Ferguson should do what the Indonesians do in West Papua - bring in the army to protect helpless miners and power companies from the ravages of protesting greenies.John Walsh, Watsonia
THE fact that Martin Ferguson wants increased surveillance on conservation and environmental groups protesting peacefully at coal-fired power stations and coal export facilities, demonstrates his deep concern for the past. It's over for coal; his energies should be expended in exploring and installing renewable generation of electricity.Walter Grahame, Mordialloc
WANNA be noticed? Go to a peaceful protest site.Merle Stewart, Blackburn
Article in The Age:
Anti-coal activists pose a political threat. That's why we're being spied on.
I'd like to know how the government can justify employing a private company to spy on me.
As an anti-coal activist, and member of one of three main community groups in Australia campaigning against the coal industry, I was alarmed by revelations in The Saturday Age that the Australian Federal Police has singled us out as a potential threat and is employing a private company to spy on us.
As peaceful community activists, we collectively have no history of or motivation to disrupt energy supply. We pose no threat to society - unlike the coal industry, which wields massive political influence and holds the greatest responsibility for the hundreds of thousands of deaths, extinction of species, and billions of dollars of damage annually that climate change is causing.
So on what basis are we deemed a threat to critical infrastructure and energy security? In Victoria, the only thing anti-coal activists have ever done to affect energy supply was a protest in 2009 that for a few hours shut down one of Hazelwood Power Station's eight coal loaders, temporarily removing 0.5 per cent generation capacity from the national grid on a day of relatively low electricity demand.
Even if we were able to seriously disrupt electricity supply on a high-demand day, I fail to see how triggering blackouts could further our cause. As such, we clearly pose no threat to society and do not warrant being spied on, or having special legislation enacted to curtail our advocacy.
Yet a lack of evidence doesn't seem to have stopped the federal Minister for Resources and Energy, Martin Ferguson, from successfully advocating for heavy-handed laws framed in the language of anti-terrorism, but designed to repress political advocacy.
Indeed, the real threat that anti-coal activists pose is a political one - mass protests at Hazelwood Power Station in 2009 and 2010 helped to withdraw the social licence of this dangerous, polluting industry.
This in turn led to the current federal government legislation to buy out and close 2000 megawatts of brown-coal generation, and no doubt caused political fallout for the coal industry and its political allies. It is unsurprising that the coal industry would flex its political muscle in response, demanding tougher laws to deter such effective advocacy.
The real threat to our energy security in recent times has been the massive use of airconditioners on very hot days, exacerbated by lack of policy to institute more efficient building codes, or to build more solar power to match these demand spikes.
So not only does the coal industry appear to be manipulating our political and legislative processes, it continues to pollute, expand, and cause death and massive damage with impunity. For years, it has successfully curtailed government action to combat climate change. Now the crisis looms: leading scientific experts tell us that the world is on track for 4 degrees of global warming, potentially by as early as 2060, resulting in mass extinction and a reduction of Earth's carrying capacity to less than 1 billion people. As burning coal is the single greatest contributor to the climate crisis, it therefore "poses the single greatest threat to civilisation and life on this planet'' (in the words of Professor James Hansen, NASA's top climatologist).
So given that airconditioning poses a greater threat to energy security than anti-coal activists do, and that burning coal poses an existential threat to life on this planet, perhaps public resources could be better spent on something other than interfering with community advocacy aimed at trying to stop the coal industry from destroying the biosphere.Shaun Murray is the spokesman on coal for Friends of the Earth Australia, and an activist with the Quit Coal campaign.
Article in The Age:
A BID to release a teenage refugee labelled a ''security risk'' by ASIO from indefinite detention will go to trial in the Federal Court on January 23, but the Commonwealth is refusing to divulge to the court the nature of the findings against Ali Abbas.
ASIO is not subject to judicial review, and Abbas has been issued a letter stating he has no appeal rights because he has been deemed an ''adverse security risk'' by the intelligence agency.
At a directions hearing this week, Commonwealth lawyers said they had no intention of releasing any information about the ASIO security assessment of the 18-year-old during the trial. His lawyers, Slater & Gordon, have not been told why ASIO has refused Abbas, a Bedouin from Kuwait who arrived by boat in Australia aged 16, a permanent visa, despite his refugee status.
The judge in December issued orders urging the Immigration Department to move Abbas from a detention centre in Melbourne and into ''a supportive residential or family-based environment'' after hearing medical evidence of his repeated suicide attempts.
But Abbas, who has been in detention for more than a year, hasn't been moved by the department, and the Commonwealth has instead questioned whether the Federal Court has the power to make such orders.
Slater & Gordon is pursuing the case despite the ASIO Act's exemptions, arguing that the Commonwealth, not ASIO, has control of the conditions of Abbas' detention. A verdict will have implications for the 54 recognised refugees being held in indefinite immigration detention because of ASIO security blocks.
The federal government has been unable to find a third country to accept the mostly Sri Lankan and Burmese refugees, and cannot return them to the country from which they fled because this breaches the United Nations Refugee Convention.
Letter in The Age:
THERE are 54 recognised refugees, including an 18-year-old Bedouin, being held in indefinite immigration detention because of ASIO security blocks (The Saturday Age, 14/1).
This young man has no idea why he is described as a security risk. Locking him up for an indefinite period is accelerating his mental illness.
The last man left in detention on Nauru endured the effects of this for years, suffering loneliness, mental illness and suicide attempts. Fortunately, because of the skill of Australian lawyers, he is finally free, but he still does not know why he was judged a risk.
ASIO must be accountable to the government, and people deemed to be a security risk have the right to know why so they can defend themselves.Rosemary McKenry, Castlemaine
Gay, Lesbian, Transgender, HIV (GLTH) Asylum Seekers - Part 1
Gay, Lesbian, Transgender, HIV (GLTH) Asylum Seekers - Part 2
Gay, Lesbian, Transgender, HIV (GLTH) Asylum Seekers - Part 3
LESBIAN & GAY SOLIDARITY PAGE
RED JOS: HUMAN RIGHTS ACTIVISM
Mannie and Kendall Present: LESBIAN AND GAY SOLIDARITY ACTIVISMS
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Activist Kicks Backs - Blognow archive re-housed - 2005-2009
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This page updated on 29 JANUARY 2012 and again on 9 NOVEMBER 2016