Testing the thesis . . . Identification of enemies/scapegoats as a unifying cause (continued)
In a Report of the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, prepared by Juan E. Méndez, formerly Professor of Law and Director of the Center for Civil and Human Rights at the University of Notre Dame from October 1999 to 2004, and now of the United Nations Human Rights Council, Australia was criticised for its treatment of refugees. The Report, dated 9 March 2015, voiced particular concern about the detention of immigrants, including children, in the camps located in Papua New Guinea and Nauru.
The Report said that Australia is violating its obligations under the Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment by failing to guarantee sufficient protection for refugees, and that the conditions in which it detains asylum-seekers and recent changes to its maritime laws violate international conventions on immigration. The Abbott Government disputed these conclusions, the Prime Minister abandoning himself to this: “[Australians are] sick and tired of being lectured to by the United Nations”.
Reporters Without Borders had previously documented the existence of favourable discrimination in certain cases. There was clear discrimination in favour of high-positioned persons, as happened in June 2014.
In that case a court placed national interest before public interest to protect certain Asian leaders.
The source of information had been WikiLeaks, which had revealed the existence of a blanket gagging order applying to all citizens and news media throughout Australia.
The order had been issued on 19 June 2014 by the Victorian Supreme Court, and cited the need to protect ‘national security’ and not “[to] damage Australia’s international relations” as grounds for banning any form of coverage of an alleged case of bribery involving several Asian presidents, heads of state, ministers, and high-positioned persons – and most of them Muslim!
The existence of this sweeping ‘suppression order’, posted by WikiLeaks on 9 July 2014, said volumes about the current level of transparency in Australia.
Effective for five years, the order forbade any media coverage of a case involving seven senior executives with banks affiliated to the Reserve Bank of Australia, who had been charged with spending millions of dollars in bribes to obtain contracts with the governments of Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam and other countries to print plastic banknotes.
The Court injunction named seventeen international political figures including Vietnamese President Trương Tấn Sang – currently serving as the President of Vietnam, alongside Prime Minister Nguyễn Tấn Dũng and Party general secretary Nguyễn Phú Trọng, Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyễn Tấn Dũng, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak and former Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.
The injunction is so sweeping that the Australian media and journalists are even forbidden to mention its very existence. As a result, Reporters Without Borders found itself unable to discuss it with its correspondent in Australia.
“The grounds given for this gagging order, which include national security, are unacceptable and cannot justify such complete censorship applying to all news and information providers, including both journalists and ordinary citizens” said Benjamin Ismaïl, the head of the Reporters Without Borders Asia-Pacific desk.
“This disproportionate order, whose aims include protecting the interests of certain Southeast Asian leaders, is tantamount to asking everyone to turn a blind eye to a crucial aspect of this case – the identity of those receiving these ‘financial incentives.’ We urge the authorities to put the public interest above national interest and to restore transparency in this case by rescinding this order at once.”
As it turned out, Victoria’s courts are in the habit of issuing such bans. An average of 200 suppression orders a year were issued from 2008 to 2013 often for unclear reasons and unlimited periods, and were rarely rescinded.
The order follows:
“IN THE SUPREME COURT OF VICTORIA AT MELBOURNE
BARRY THOMAS BRADY & ORS
GENERAL FORM OF ORDER
JUDGE: The Honourable Justice Hollingworth
DATE MADE: 19 June 2014
ORIGINATING PROCESS: Indictment
HOW OBTAINED: Oral application, following the giving of notice under s 10 of the Open Courts Act 2013 (Vic)
Dr. S. Danaghue QC and Mr. J. Forsaith, for the Commonwealth of Australia (instructed by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade);
Mr. J. Forsaith, for the Commissioner of the Australian Federal Police;
Mr. N. Robinson QC and Mr. K. Armstrong, for the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions
Mr. M. Cahill, for Barry Thomas Brady;
Mr. C. Thomson for, John Leckenby;
Mr. P. Tehan QC, for Steven KimWong;
Mr. P. Higham, for Christian Boillot and Clifford John Gerathy;
Ms. M. Fox, for Myles Andrew Curtis.
THE COURT ORDERS THAT:
- Subject to further order, there be no disclosure, by publication or otherwise, of any information (whether in electronic or paper form) derived from or prepared for the purposes of these proceedings (including the terms of these orders, and the affidavit of Gillian Elizabeth Bird affirmed on 12 June 2014) that reveals, implies, suggests or alleges that any person to whom this order applies:
(a) received or attempted to receive a bribe or improper payment;
(b) acquiesced in or was wilfully blind as to any person receiving or attempting to receive a bribe or improper payment; or
(c) was the intended or proposed recipient of a bribe or improper payment.
- Subject to further order, order 1 applies to the following persons:
(a) any current or former Prime Minister of Malaysia (including references to ‘PM’);
(b) any current or former Deputy Prime Minister of Malaysia (including references to ‘DPM’);
(c) any current or former Finance Minister of Malaysia (including references to ‘FM’);
(d) Mohammad Najib Abdul Razak, currently Prime Minister (since 2009) and Finance Minister (since 2008) of Malaysia;
(e) Abdullah Ahmad Badawi (also known as Pak Lah), a former Prime Minister (2003 – 2009) and Finance Minister (2003 – 2008) of Malaysia;
(f) Puan Noni (also knows as Ms/Madame Noni, or Nonni), a sister-in-law of Abdullah Ahmad Badawi;
(g) Mahathir Mohamed, a former Prime Minister (1981 – 2003) and Finance Minister (2001 – 2003) of Malaysia;
(h) Daim Zainuddin, a former Finance Minister of Malaysia (1984 – 1991; 1999 – 2001);
(i) Rafidah Aziz, a former Trade Minister of Malaysia (1987 – 2008);
(j) Hamid Albar, a former Minister for Foreign Affairs (1999 – 2008) and Minister of Home Affairs (2008 – 2009) of Malaysia;
(k) Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (also known as SBY), currently President of Indonesia (since 2004);
(l) Megawati Sukarnoputri (also known as Mega), a former President of Indonesia (2001 – 2004) and current leader of the PDI-P political party;
(m) Laksamana Sukardi, a former Indonesian minister (2001 – 2004; in Megawati Sukarnoputri’s goverment);
(n) Truong Tan San, currently President of Vietnam (since 2011);
(o) Nguyen Tan Dung, currently Prime Minister of Vietnam (since 2006);
(p) Le Duc Thuy, a Former Chairman of the National Financial Supervisory Committee (2007 – 2011) and a former Governor of the State Bank of Vietnam (1999 – 2007); and
(q) Nong Duc Manh, a former General Secretary of the Communist Party of Vietnam (2001 – 2011).
- Subject to further order, order 1 does not prevent:
(a) disclosures to and among Commonwealth officers (as defined by s 3 of Crimes Act 1914 (Cth)) or international investigators, international prosecuting authorities, and other like international entities;
(b) provision by the Court to registered media organisations, under cover of a notice referring to the existence of these orders, of transcript and exhibits (which, for the avoidance of doubt, must then be treated in accordance with order 1 above);
(c) provision of material by the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions to Note Printing Australia Pty Ltd and its legal representatives, provided any such material is provided together with a copy of these orders.
- The prohibition on publication in order 1 applies throughout Australia.
- The purpose of these orders is to prevent damage to Australia’s international relations that may be caused by the publication of material that may damage the reputations of specified individuals who are not the subject of charges in these proceedings.
- These orders are made on the grounds that they are:
(a) necessary to prevent a real and substantial risk of prejudice to the proper administration of justice that cannot be prevented by other reasonably available means; and
(b) necessary to prevent prejudice to the interests of the Commonwealth in relation to national security.
- These orders operate for a period of 5 years from the date of these orders, unless sooner revoked.
- The affidavit of Gillian Elizabeth Bird affirmed on 12 June 2014 be sealed in an envelope marked “Not to be opened without an order of the Court”, and not be opened without order of the Court.
- There be liberty to apply.
DATE AUTHENTICATED: 19 June 2014.” (‘Australian court imposes generalized news blackout on bribery case’, 30 July 2014, in appendix to Reporters without borders, ‘Australia suppresses coverage of refugees on national security grounds’).
Tomorrow: Testing the thesis (continued) . . . The supremacy of the military/avid militarism
* In memory of my friends, Professor Bertram Gross and Justice Lionel Murphy.
Dr. Venturino Giorgio Venturini devoted some sixty years to study, practice, teach, write and administer law at different places in four continents. In 1975 he left a law chair in Chicago to join the Trade Practices Commission in Canberra. He may be reached at George.Venturini@bigpond.com.au.