Testing the thesis . . . Obsession with national security (continued)
The Abbott Government invented a ‘national security crisis’ in order to allow draconian spying legislation through parliament. One should worry on how a large proportion of Australians rolled over and accepted this particular demonising of yet another ‘some groups’ of ‘strangers in their midst’.
The reality is that such legislation is aimed squarely at everybody. It became inevitable that, fairly soon, anybody who opposes such legislation publicly would be branded as un-Australian – not a member of Team Australia. It would pay Australians all well to re-read Orwell’s 1984 and Animal Farm, because the warnings contained therein apply acutely to the Australia of today. Brandis is not an enlightened man. (‘Australian Fascism: we are not there yet – but the signs are becoming increasingly obvious’, 7 October 2014, an article on Fascism Australia via Facebook).
In the wake of the 2 October 2015 shooting death of a civilian police employee, the New South Wales government requested legal changes to allow control orders on people aged 14 and over. Attorney-General George Brandis agreed to the changes. The N.S.W. Council for Civil Liberties criticised the proposal, the Council’s president Stephen Blanks strongly objecting that: “The proposed laws are undoubtedly going to be in breach of human rights standards.”
In November 2015 it was disclosed that New South Wales police were being retrained to “… shoot terrorists on sight rather than try to contain them and negotiate. …”
As at 24 March 2016 there were twenty organisations designated and banned, by a court or a government department, for active involvement in terrorism. All but one of those organisations are Islamic. Identification of terrorist organisations may result from a prosecution for a terrorist offence, or from a listing determined by the Attorney-General of Australia.
Australia as a country has no direct interest in Central Asia Gas Pipeline, Ltd., CentGas or its successors. Prime Minister Gillard confirmed as early as March 2011 that Australia’s ‘mission’ in Afghanistan would have been that of training the troops which will guard the pipeline as it passes through in the province of Uruzgan. The training was then to be completed in one-two years. The ‘mission’ was likely to continue indefinitely, its purpose to be redefined as necessary. No one seems to have thought that such training is designed to have cousins kill cousins, as soon as the ‘liberators’ will have departed, if ever – and the futility of it all.
Australia has suffered several acts of terrorism, mainly overseas, the siege of a coffee shop in Sydney on 15-16 December 2014 having been more a hostage crisis caused by a publicity-seeking mad man. The connection between al-Qaeda and such overseas acts has never been established with certainty. As a result, some egregious outrages have been committed in the name of ‘national security’ and in the pursuit of anti-terrorism legislation.
Any government would be embarrassed just on hearing the name of Dr. Haneef – but not the Australian.
Dr. Muhamed Haneef was a thirty-two year old Indian doctor who was wrongly accused of aiding terrorists, and left Australia upon cancellation of his visa amid great political controversy. Haneef was arrested early in July 2007 at Brisbane Airport on suspicion of terror-related activities. He is the second cousin once removed of Kafeel Ahmed and Sabeel Ahmed, the operatives in the 2007 Glasgow International Airport attack. Haneef’s ensuing detention became the longest-without-charge in recent Australian history, and caused great controversy in Australia and India. Public outcry over the incident was further increased when the Australian Government denied Haneef the presumption of innocence. In December 2010, Haneef returned to Australia to seek damages for loss of income, interruption of his professional work, and emotional distress. He was awarded compensation from the Australian government. The amount of compensation awarded was not disclosed, but was described by reliable sources as “substantial”. At the end of December 2010 the Gillard Government issued a ‘quiet apology’. The Abbott led Liberal-National Opposition, responsible for that gross violation of civil liberties while in government, displayed an aggressive refusal to apologise.
There have been other cases, not as glamorous, of victimisation of persons in Australia – and not all so visibly foreign.
Around lofty proclaimed intentions on ‘national security’ there has developed a veritable industry. In February 2013 IIR’s National Security Australia Conference convened in Melbourne for its Eleventh Anniversary. This is how the event was advertised: “Now in its 11th year National Security Australia is the nation’s leading National Security Forum. It provides a highly dynamic opportunity to market your products and services in front of the most senior Australian and international security experts. This year, the event boasts a larger exhibition area and the commercial opportunity available for organisations is exceptional. Your presence is a critical move toward positioning yourself as a key player in the industry.” The Conference was organised by IIR Conferences, which offers high quality business information for the Australian and New Zealand market. The Thirteenth National Security Annual Summit – new name, Conference not being sufficient! – was held on 11-12 May this year. The designated theme was: Safeguarding Australia 2016: Protecting The Homefront. And the keynote speaker was The Hon. Peter Dutton MP. Mr. Dutton was appointed by Prime Minister Abbott as Minister for Immigration and Border Protection in December 2014, having served as Minister for Health and Minister for Sport from September 2013 after the election of the Coalition Government. In Opposition he served as Shadow Minister for Finance, Competition Policy and Deregulation before being appointed as Shadow Minister for Health and Ageing in 2008. Incompetence all around of a man without knowledge, morals or shame!
Business operators, academics, government representatives, police representatives, and anyone properly ‘screened’ by IIR were able to attend. Presumably, persons regarded as un-patriotic, un-Australian – even treasonous – would not be accepted.
Surveillance, interception of communications – in all forms, ‘profiling’ – particularly of foreign and ‘Muslims’ – even those who are in fact Australian, are the tools to establish ‘loyalty’.
As Hassan noted: “In the current case of WikiLeaks, a number of U.S. Congressmen and journalists have called for the prosecution of Julian Assange under the 1917 Espionage Act for breaching U.S. security. This is not something out of the blue, but has been used in the past to prosecute American citizens. It is reminiscent of Nazi Germany’s prosecution of people – labelled ‘traitors’ – who criticised the Nazi Party or made jokes about the Führer.” Is that the behaviour of a Great-And-Powerful-Friend? The Australian Government said not a helpful word.
According to civil rights groups and privacy advocates, the growing ‘culture of surveillance’ poses great threat to civil liberties and personal freedom. The aim is to have total control of society by whatever means, and to force people to submit to draconian laws. Furthermore, the obsession with ‘national security’ is also a corporate business which benefits the manufacturers of surveillance cameras, scanners, et cetera, and their lobbyists. ‘National security’ is simply a pretext for no personal security.
On 9 September 2015 Mr. Andrew Damien Wilkie, the Independent Member of the House of Representatives from Denison, Tasmania delivered a 15-minute speech; he warned Parliament that Australia, because of legislation passed – albeit not exclusively – under the Abbott Government, is becoming a police state.
Now, Mr. Wilkie is no ill-informed, timorous character. He holds a Bachelor of Arts, a Graduate Diploma of Management and a Graduate Diploma of Defence Studies. When it comes to national security is knows what he is talking about.
Before being elected, he was in the Army, where he rose to the rank of lieutenant colonel, and an intelligence analyst. In 2003 Wilkie resigned from his position in the Office of National Assessments, over concerns that intelligence was being exaggerated for political purposes in making the case for Australia’s contribution to the 2003 invasion of Iraq under the Howard government. He was the only serving intelligence officer in Australia, the U.K. and U.S. to resign publicly before the invasion. He subsequently wrote a successful account of his experience, Axis of deceit (Melbourne 2004).
He was originally elected in 2010, and re-elected with ampler margin in 2013.
Before an almost empty House, the Member for Denison cited the following ten characteristics which – he believes – determine a pre police state:
- Surveillance of all electronic devices including phone calls SMS Email, SM and metadata would be stored and accessed without warrant from October .
- Media manipulation [of the] A.B.C. and S.B.S. cuts, bullying techniques used by ministers against media.
- Manipulation of the judiciary; example: a Royal Commissioner agrees to go to a party political event.
- Ludicrous level of secrecy especially in regard to irregular immigration or asylum seekers and ‘on water operations’.
- Arrests on suspicion of thinking you may do something in the future.
- People in [Australia] can be incarcerated indefinitely without trial.
- Disregard to international agreements and international laws that Australian Governments including ignoring their own statutes have signed off on – e.g. The Rights of the Child and The Refugee Convention.
- Parliament are forbidden to debate upon important decisions such as the government secretly deciding to declare war on Syria. No debate, no vote by [Australian] representatives.
- Government safeguard mechanisms bullied and disregarded if they get in the governments way – e.g. the mistreatment on the Human Rights Commission [President] recently.
- Security agencies acting beyond their legal power. Border Patrol going beyond legal powers, [yet] no-one lost her/his jobs, no-one was held to account.
(‘Andrew Wilkie warns Parliament that Australia is becoming a police state’, 9 September 2015).
Unfortunately, Mr. Wilkie has remained vox clamantis in deserto, and the desert, the moral desert is the Parliament, bound by ‘the Westminster System’ as applied in Australia.
Tomorrow: Testing the thesis (continued) . . . Religion and ruling élite tied together
* 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.