Politics,Climate Change and Sundry issues

Politics,Climate Change and Sundry issues
for website listing my blogs : http://winstonclosepolitics.com

Friday, 24 October 2014

Gough Whitlam and the CIA’s forgotten coup

Gough Whitlam and the CIA’s forgotten coup

Governor-General John
Kerr's private secretary David Smith reads out the letter ending Gough
Whitlam's commission, while Gough looms over his shoulder, 11 November

The political demise of Gough Whitlam man is one of America's dirtiest secrets but don’t expect to hear that from Australia’s political and media elite, writes John Pilger.

ACROSS THE POLITICAL AND MEDIA ELITE in Australia, a silence has
descended on the memory of the great, reforming Prime Minister Gough
Whitlam, who died this week. His achievements are recognised, if
grudgingly, his mistakes noted in false sorrow. But a critical reason
for his extraordinary political demise will, they hope, be buried with

Australia briefly became an independent state during the Whitlam years, 1972-75.

An American commentator wrote that no country had

‘… reversed its posture in international affairs so totally without going through a domestic revolution.’

Whitlam ended his nation’s colonial servility. He abolished royal
patronage, moved Australia towards the Non-Aligned Movement, supported
“zones of peace” and opposed nuclear weapons testing.

Although not regarded as on the left of the Labor Party, Whitlam was a
maverick social democrat of principle, pride and propriety. He believed
that a foreign power should not control his country's resources and
dictate its economic and foreign policies. He proposed to "buy back the

In drafting the first Aboriginal lands rights legislation, his
government raised the ghost of the greatest land grab in human history ‒
Britain’s colonisation of Australia ‒ and the question of who owned the
island-continent’s vast natural wealth.

Latin Americans will recognise the audacity and danger of this
“breaking free” in a country whose establishment was welded to great,
external power.

Australians had served every British imperial adventure since the Boxer Rebellion was crushed in China.

In the 1960s, Australia pleaded to join the U.S. in its invasion of
Vietnam, then provided “black teams” to be run by the CIA. U.S.
diplomatic cables published last year by WikiLeaks disclose the names
of leading figures in both main parties, including a future prime
minister and foreign minister, as Washington’s informants during the
Whitlam years.

Whitlam knew the risk he was taking.

The day after his election, he ordered that his staff should not be
"vetted or harassed" by the Australian security organisation, ASIO —
then, as now, tied to Anglo-American intelligence.

When his ministers publicly condemned the U.S. bombing of Vietnam as "corrupt and barbaric", Frank Snepp, a CIA station officer in Saigon at the time said:

"We were told the Australians might as well be regarded as North Vietnamese collaborators."

Whitlam demanded to know if and why the CIA was running a spy base at Pine Gap near Alice Springs — a giant vacuum cleaner which, as Edward Snowden revealed recently, allows the U.S. to spy on everyone.

"Try to screw us or bounce us," Whitlam warned the U.S. ambassador, "[and Pine Gap] will become a matter of contention".

Victor Marchetti, the CIA officer who had helped set up Pine Gap, later told me:

"This threat to close Pine Gap caused apoplexy in the White House. ... a kind of Chile [coup] was set in motion."

Pine Gap's top-secret messages were de-coded by a CIA contractor, TRW.

One of the de-coders was Christopher Boyce, a young man troubled by the "deception and betrayal of an ally".

Boyce revealed
that the CIA had infiltrated the Australian political and trade union
elite and referred to the Governor-General of Australia, Sir John Kerr,

"… our man Kerr”.

Kerr was not only the Queen’s man, he had longstanding  ties to
Anglo-American intelligence. He was an enthusiastic member of the
Australian Association for Cultural Freedom, described by Jonathan Kwitny of the Wall Street Journal in his book, The Crimes of Patriots, as

‘… an elite, invitation-only group... exposed in Congress as
being founded, funded and generally run by the CIA". The CIA "paid for
Kerr's travel, built his prestige... Kerr continued to go to the CIA for

When Whitlam was re-elected for a second term, in 1974, the White House sent Marshall Green to Canberra to be ambassador.

Green was an imperious, sinister figure who worked in the shadows of America's "deep state". Known as the "coupmaster", he had played a central role
in the 1965 coup against President Sukarno in Indonesia — which cost up
to a million lives. One of his first speeches in Australia was to the Australian Institute of Company Directors — described by an alarmed member of the audience as

"… an incitement to the country's business leaders to rise against the Government.”

The Americans and British worked together.

In 1975, Whitlam discovered that Britain's MI6 was operating against his government.

He said later:

"The Brits were actually de-coding secret messages coming into my foreign affairs office."

One of his ministers, Clyde Cameron, told me:

“We knew MI6 was bugging Cabinet meetings for the Americans."

In the 1980s, senior CIA officers revealed that the "Whitlam problem" had been discussed "with urgency" by the CIA's director, William Colby, and the head of MI6, Sir Maurice Oldfield.

A deputy director of the CIA said:

"Kerr did what he was told to do."

On 10 November, 1975, Whitlam was shown a top secret telex message sourced to Theodore Shackley, the notorious head of the CIA's East Asia Division, who had helped run the coup against Salvador Allende in Chile two years earlier.

Shackley's message was read to Whitlam.

It said that the prime minister of Australia was a security risk in
his own country. The day before, Kerr had visited the headquarters of
the Defence Signals Directorate, Australia's NSA where he was briefed on the "security crisis".

On 11 November ‒ the day Whitlam was to inform Parliament about the secret CIA presence in Australia ‒ he was summoned by Kerr.

Invoking archaic vice-regal "reserve powers", Kerr sacked the democratically elected prime minister. The “Whitlam problem” was solved, and Australian politics never recovered, nor the nation its true independence.

Read more by John Pilger at johnpilger.com or follow him on Twitter @JohnPilger.

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Whitlam's memory was demonised by conservatives to excuse his dismissal

Whitlam's memory was demonised by conservatives to excuse his dismissal

Whitlam's memory was demonised by conservatives to excuse his dismissal

The constitutional crisis of 1975 is a reminder of the lengths to which politicians on the right will go in the pursuit of power

Gough Whitlam dismissal

Gough Whitlam
addresses reporters outside parliament in Canberra after his dismissal
by the governor general during the constitutional crisis of 1975.

Photograph: Keystone/Hulton Archive

A few great events in the history of this country are known simply
by their year: 1788 means European settlement, 1915 means Gallipoli. And
1975 is the name we give to the ruthless clawing down of Gough Whitlam.

Scarcely any constitutional lawyers left alive applaud Sir John Kerr
for what he did to the Labor prime minister on 11 November that year.
Not all the plotters are dead. From time to time fresh details emerge of
the outrages planned behind closed doors by Kerr and his circle. But
the verdict of both the law and history has been savage: there was no
justification for the sacking of Whitlam.

The many mistakes of his government were not for the governor general
to correct. The electorate would do that in good time. But the
opposition was impatient. A mighty panic was running in Australia. The
fate of the nation was said to be at stake. The newspapers of all the
proprietors were urging vice-regal intervention.

Whitlam’s weakness in the crisis was his deep attachment to
convention. He was not the radical here. Since blocking supply was last
threatened in the UK in the early years of the century, an upper house
cutting off the government’s cash was considered beyond the democratic

But not by the Liberal and Country parties in Australia. Whitlam went
to the polls when the opposition threatened supply in 1974 and stared
down Malcolm Fraser when he threatened again in 1975.

But the lawyer and historian in Whitlam never really believed the
opposition would carry out its threat. From the sidelines, an elderly
Bob Menzies urged the party he created to do the right thing and pass
supply. Liberal senators were on the brink of cracking. Then Kerr

November 11 was a day of no constitutional significance. Whitlam went
to Yarralumla with money to govern for at least another fortnight and
the undisputed support of the House of Representatives. That’s how we
make governments in this country: confidence and supply.

Whitlam wanted to call an election for half the Senate. There were
good prospects this would give him control of the upper house. Instead
of accepting his advice, which every convention dictated, Kerr sacked
him and installed Fraser to take the country to a double dissolution.

Whitlam returned to the Lodge shattered. He might have contested Kerr
in the high court. Instead he chose the traditional ground: parliament.
That afternoon Kerr refused to receive the Speaker bringing news to
Yarralumla that Whitlam had won vote after vote of confidence in the

Whitlam believed his martyrdom would win him re-election. But not for
the last time, Australia showed itself to be a practical nation. The
country was bitterly divided over the sacking but keen to be rid of
Labor. Labor’s mistakes and the climate of fear did their work.

Whitlam never recovered. His political magic deserted him. Defeat in
1975 was followed by a second terrible defeat in 1977. He lived on for
decades, a great presence in Australia, a hero to his people and a prime
minister whose memory had to be demonised all the more extravagantly by
the right to excuse the manner of his downfall.

After the sacking, the constitution was cleaned up to make one key
breach of convention in 1975 impossible. The sacking happened only
because New South Wales and Queensland rorted the Senate by appointing
enemies of Whitlam to Labor vacancies. That can’t happen any more. But
little else has changed.

Malcolm Turnbull once remarked to me that 1975 was “a sui generis
fuck up”. Yet it still hangs like a question mark over politics in this
country, a reminder of Australia’s strange vulnerability to panic and
the lengths to which politicians who call themselves conservative will
go in the pursuit of power.

Kerr has his defenders still among the politicians of the Coalition.
Those who say 1975 is over and done with should pay attention to Tony
Abbott over the next few days as he puts in a good word for Kerr. Since
the prime minister’s university days, Kerr has been one of his
particular heroes. Abbott has an unshakeable belief that 1975 was right.

And vouching for Kerr will remind Australians that this ugly coup
isn’t behind us. One side of politics will still not disown what he did
and oppose any attempt to be rid of the ancient and contested powers of
the governor general which remain, in ruthless hands, ready to wreak
havoc on Australian democracy.

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Australia needs to be fairer if it wants to be richer

Australia needs to be fairer if it wants to be richer

Australia needs to be fairer if it wants to be richer

Richard Denniss

The Australia Institute executive director

Giving back: Of the 7.4 million adult Australians who don't pay tax, almost half are retirees or students.
Giving back: Of the 7.4 million adult Australians who don't pay tax, almost half are retirees or students. Photo: Dominic Lorrimer

Australia's richest seven people have more wealth than the
bottom 1.73 million households combined. Most people think that's a
problem. Amanda Vanstone, on the other hand, seems to think the bottom 1.73 million should be thankful.

"The politics of envy". This is Amanda Vanstone's
condescending dismissal of concerns over Australia's rapidly growing gap
between its richest and poorest citizens.

How often, she asks, have we heard that wealth inequality is
growing and that something is wrong with this?  How often? One fewer
times than necessary, it seems.


Vanstone says that 2 per cent of taxpayers pay more than 25
per cent of all income tax, and suggests this is something we should be
grateful to the wealthiest for. 

But the reason so few pay so much tax is that income
inequality is so great. That is, 2 per cent pay 25 per cent of tax
because 2 per cent earn so much more than the rest of us. The statistics
she quotes is a symptom of income inequality, and the starkness of the
figure reveals the starkness of the problem. 

With a progressive income tax system such as ours, where
those at the top end claim a larger and larger share of total income, it
is inevitable that they will pay a larger share of tax. Is she
suggesting that the wealthy should pay less tax as their share of total
income rises?

"Make no mistake", she continues, "we need Australians to get rich". 

Nobody became a teacher, police officer or nurse to get their
name on the BRW Rich List. They're not in it to "get rich".  Is
Australia really best served by having our daycare centre workers
striving to be the next Gina Rinehart? Do we want teachers and ambulance
drivers ruthlessly chasing wealth?

Vanstone relies on the stale class rhetoric of the 1980s when
she claims that "since only about 45 per cent of the population pay
income tax, it followers that, on average, taxpayers have to pay twice
that amount in tax in order to fund welfare."

Cue the pitchforks. Welfare queenism is alive and well, it
seems.  Or, at least it seems that way, until you consider this
significant addendum, curiously unmentioned by the columnist: almost
half of the 7.4 million adult Australians who don't pay tax are either
retirees – who have worked and paid tax their whole lives – or students,
who are soon to start working and paying tax their whole lives.

When Vanstone grumbles that taxpayers are being asked to
"fund welfare" to the tune of "more than a month's work for many", is
she suggesting that pensioners shouldn't be supported in their old age?

Is she suggesting that students shouldn't be supported in
getting an education? It is strange that she forgets to tell us that
university graduates go on to make substantially more income than those
without a degree. And via income tax, they more than pay back into the
system what they've received, as Education Minister Christopher Pyne is
so fond of reminding us.

If we want a prosperous Australia, we want an equal
Australia. Vanstone's defence of the 1 per cent (or is it 2 per cent?)
calls on all of us to focus less on the gap between rich and poor, and
more on social mobility. We don't want to attack the rich, we want to
create more rich!

This ignores the fact that the two are inseparable.
Nobel-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz, Standard & Poor's, and the
IMF have all released research backed by rigorous analysis that
demonstrates inequality hinders economic growth. It is now economic
orthodoxy that too much inequality makes growth volatile and unstable.

But Vanstone is not really concerned about the economics. For
her, this is an ideological issue, shabbily dressed up as an economic

Vanstone asks us to make a choice that doesn't exist. We do
not need to choose between taxing the rich more and having less rich. We
don't have to choose between having less inequality and having less
total income. If anything, the opposite is true.

Shadow Assistant Treasurer Andrew Leigh reminded us in March
that "Australia is a stronger nation when we act together than when we
pull apart". If this is true, Vanstone's derisive and inflammatory
rhetoric is out of step with Australia's sense of the fair go. 

The economic debate is over. If we want Australia to be a richer nation, we must also want it to be a fairer nation. 

Richard Denniss, an economist, is executive director of The Australia Institute.

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Even if LNP holds on, Newman looks like a goner –

Even if LNP holds on, Newman looks like a goner –

Even if LNP holds on, Newman looks like a goner

Queensland Premier Campbell Newman is something of a persona non grata these days — particularly in his own electorate.

Queensland bookmakers are not only taking bets on Premier
Campbell Newman losing his Brisbane seat at the next election — now
they are laying odds on who will replace him as premier.

The latest polling in Newman’s well-heeled Ashgrove
constituency shows that he is still trailing Labor’s Kate Jones, who is
making a comeback after losing the seat in 2012.

She is on 52.2% and the Premier is on 41.1%, with the gap
widening since Newman delivered an apology for his government’s
“mistakes” and began a charm offensive through the Murdoch-owned Courier-Mail, the only daily newspaper publisher in Brisbane, the Gold Coast, Townsville and Cairns.

As an example, the most recent Brisbane Sunday-Mail
trumpeted: “Newman’s plan to slash power bills — EXCLUSIVE” (page 1);
“Zapped — Power prices sliced” (page 2); and “Power cost cut” (page 3).

Driving through the streets of Ashgrove is like entering a
special investment zone where money is no object in delivering goodies
to local residents.

Since it dawned on the former Brisbane lord mayor that his
popularity had imploded, Newman’s government has spent an estimated $80
million in Ashgrove to rebuild his approval rating. More than $65
million on an upgrade of a critical intersection, new classrooms ($3
million), a sports hall ($ 5 million), $8322 for a new kitchen for the
Boy Scouts and $6160 for a local Italian festival — the list goes on.
Local media reports have estimated the spending spree was worth, so far,
about $2500 per voter.

Queenslanders who thought that former premier Sir Joh
Bjelke-Petersen was King of the Pork Barrel are now having second

If the Liberal National Party wins the election but Newman
loses his seat, the favourite to take the premiership is current
Treasurer Tim Nicholls, a silvertail Tory from socially exclusive
Clayfield. The bookies must be reading from an unusual form guide; after
Newman, the most reviled politician in the Banana State would have to
be Nicholls.

His political ineptitude was on display recently when he
announced that privatisation was off the LNP’s agenda. Instead, state
enterprises would be leased to the private sector for up to 99 years.
The cheers from the Murdoch press were drowned out by loud groans and
slow hand-clapping by voters across the state.

If Newman, a former army major nicknamed “Noddy”, is sacked
by voters in his electorate, the one LNP politician capable of rescuing
the administration is Health Minister Lawrence Springborg, currently
available at the succulent odds of 7-1. He entered Parliament in 1989 at
the age of 21, and at 46, he will soon become the “father of the
house”. Springborg was the key player in bringing together the Nationals
and Liberals to form the LNP.

But among LNP heavyweights in the lounge room of the
Brisbane Club, Springborg is considered “yesterday’s man”, and he
remains in the doghouse for leading the conservatives to two election
defeats in 2004 and 2006.

If the premiership does fall vacant because Newman is tossed
out of his electorate, the LNP will not only be leaderless but
rudderless as well, with no coherent plan for the economy, investment or

With Victoria going to the polls on November 29 this year,
and New South Wales on March 28, 2015, Newman is being squeezed to find a
date to call an election before Queensland’s deadline of June 20 next
year. With all three elections bound to show sharp swings against the
Coalition, Newman doesn’t want to go down the gurgler in an electoral
backlash against the LNP along the eastern seaboard.

He is attempting to change course, present a “softer” image
and buy his way back, a strategy that doesn’t appear to be working.
Indeed, it may be repelling more voters than it is attracting.

John Hewson and Malcolm Fraser blast Liberals over ANU divestment backlash

John Hewson and Malcolm Fraser blast Liberals over ANU divestment backlash

John Hewson and Malcolm Fraser blast Liberals over ANU divestment backlash

  • 10 reading now

Heath Aston, political correspondent


John Hewson has lashed senior government figures, including
Treasurer Joe Hockey and Education Minister Christopher Pyne, for
attempting to "bully and coerce" the Australian National University into
reversing its decision to dump investments in fossil fuel companies.

The former Liberal Party leader and former Liberal prime
minister Malcolm Fraser are among more than 50 prominent Australians and
ethical investors who have signed an open letter urging the Abbott
government to call off its crusade against ANU. 

Mr Hewson also demanded members of the government reveal who
had urged them to take a public stance against ANU's decision to divest
its shareholdings in seven Australian resources companies, including
Santos, Oil Search and Iluka Resources.

"For politicians to try to bully, coerce and influence this university is just outrageous," Mr Hewson said.

"The big story here is what got the politicians so stirred
up? Was it the Minerals Council? It virtually owned the previous
government and appears to have large influence over this one.

"I'm surprised the superannuation industry isn't up in arms
about government trying to tell institutions how they should invest.
What if the big super funds were told they should be investing 25 per
cent of their money into infrastructure, 30 per cent into government

Assistant Infrastructure Minister Jamie Briggs last week
called ANU "reckless" and Mr Hockey claimed the university was "removed
from reality" for deciding to spurn companies that he said help drive
the Australian economy and create jobs.

On Monday, Mr Pyne called the divestment decision "bizarre"
and Prime Minister Tony Abbott accused the ANU of "unnecessary
posturing" and risking the returns to its $1 billion investment
portfolio by selling off resources stocks.

Environment Minister Greg Hunt has spoken against ANU and
novice Liberal senator James McGrath, a former employee of Santos, said
the university had denied the seven companies "natural justice" by
failing to engage them before blacklisting their shares.

"You have a publicly funded organisation that essentially has
chosen to blacklist companies without giving them the right of reply. I
think the university should be condemned," he told Fairfax Media.

On Wednesday, left-leaning think tank the Australia Institute
will publish an open letter that calls on the government to respect
ANU's right to invest in or divest from any investments that it chooses.

"We support the role of choice in the Australian economy and
cannot understand why a government that is committed to deregulating the
university sector would question the ability of a university to make
investment decisions," the letter states.

"It is every investor's right to make their own investment
decisions without bullying from vested interests and government
ministers. It is ANU's obligation to invest responsibly, which includes
thinking about their environmental social standards, how they impacts on
financial returns and how they reflect on the character of the

Among the people who have added their names to the letter are
Wotif founder Graeme Wood, former Greens leader Bob Brown and
philanthropist Rob Purves.

The group said ANU's approach to ethical investing was
consistent  with investors around the world, including the Rockefeller
Brothers Fund and Stanford University.

Mr Hewson said the response had been disproportionate to the
scale of the investment portfolio rejig by ANU. The shareholdings to be
liquidated are worth an estimated $16 million, representing less than 2
per cent of the university's $1.1 billion portfolio.

ANU vice-chancellor Professor Ian Young said it was worrying
that certain groups felt they had the right to "tell an investor how to

Tim Buckley, a former head of equity research at Citigroup
who now works at the Institute of Energy Economics and Financial
Analysis, also accused the Coalition of attempting to bully ANU.

"I find it absolutely bizarre because, the last time I
checked, investment managers have the right to change their portfolios,"
he told Guardian Australia.

Santos vice-president for LNG markets and Eastern Australia
Commercial, Peter Cleary, questioned the sense of the divestment
movement's view that fossil fuels have no place in the future economy. 

"Our industry respects the challenge of minimising the impact
of our activities on the environment but we don't agree with the
extreme agenda that denies the continuing importance that energy plays
in supporting the everyday lives of Australia and Asia," he said.

"We face misleading and scaremongering campaigns. As an
industry, we must do all to inform our communities and to make sure the
debate is based on the strong science around the risks and about robust
economics when we look at the positive impacts on communities."

ANU is the first Australian university to divest from fossil
fuels, although it has retained shares in BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto. In
the US, 19 universities have sold out of fossil fuels investments,
including Stanford University, which has cleaned out its $US19 billion
($22 billion) investment fund.

Monday, 13 October 2014

Daily Telegraph 30s ExtraExtra TVC


Excerpt from an article by WIXXYLEAKS
I know what you may be thinking, it was not the sight of Andrew Bolt and Miranda Devine that made me uncomfortable, although I normally do find them and their far-right views quite disturbing, it was the guy sitting opposite them that really disturbed me.
It would seem that while the taxpayer pays his wage the Premier is off filming commercials for News Ltd, I would question whether that is a good use of taxpayer funds. Then again, Baird is a guy that as Treasurer managed to misplace a cool Billion dollars, so I guess he considers donating his taxpayer billed time as a political favour as small change.
For years there have been theories about how News Ltd is biased towards the Coalition, now News Ltd have embarked on an advertising campaign that seems to be calling Premier Baird one of their own team. If anyone ever needed confirmation of News Ltd’s bias this is it.
TO READ MORE = http://wixxyleaks.com/hitchin-a-ride-public-transport-and-premiers-used-to-promote-news-ltd/

Albo finally weighs into press freedom — but it’s more complicated than you think –

Albo finally weighs into press freedom — but it’s more complicated than you think –

Albo finally weighs into press freedom — but it’s more complicated than you think

The debate over jailing journalists who reveal ASIO’s covert
operations is welcome but missing some context — and it’s not the
biggest threat to media freedom on the agenda.

After weeks of marching in lockstep with the Coalition on
matters of “national security” (including provisions that would jail
journalists — or anyone else — for up to 10 years for revealing secret
ASIO operations), a senior Labor politician has suggested it might be
useful to debate the proposals rather than passing them with a minimum
of scrutiny.

Anthony Albanese said on Sky News Sunday morning:

I believe that the media laws,
much of them, are draconian.  When we talk about potential penalties of
five to 10 years’ jail for exposing what might be an error made by the
security agencies then I think when people like [Australian scribe] Greg
Sheridan, as you say, are drawing it into question, as well as, I’ve
had approaches from the media alliance, you know, we are all concerned
as Australians about the jailing of Peter Greste in Egypt.  Why has he
been jailed?  Because he was reporting, and therefore seen to be somehow
supportive of, these actions.”
But when it comes to the Australian Security Intelligence
Organisation’s special intelligence operations” (or covert ops)
provisions of the government’s now-legislated first round of national
security reforms, things are a little more complicated than they appear.

The SIO provisions have been in the public domain since
mid-2012, when then-attorney-general Nicola Roxon initiated an inquiry
by the Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security into a range of
national security reform proposals. Current Attorney-General George
Brandis is thus quite right to note that these laws haven’t exactly been
rushed through Parliament. But the focus at the time was not on the
implications of revealing covert operations, but on the fact that ASIO
wanted an exemption from prosecution for its officers for any criminal
activities they might be involved in while undercover. I made a lengthy
submission to the JCIS inquiry in a private capacity, but I confess the
issue of revealing information about such operations never occurred to
me; I’m not aware of anyone else raising that issue either, although I
certainly didn’t read all of the hundreds of submissions made to that
inquiry. The JCIS had a better grasp of the issue, however, and
understood that ASIO was asking for a similar scheme to the Australian
Federal Police’s “controlled operations”. JCIS recommended that any such
scheme for ASIO be modelled on controlled operations.

also need to understand the threat data retention poses to them: the
AFP can go and get their metadata just as easily …”
This is significant, because when journalists raise the
possibility of being jailed in relation to SIOs, and when Albanese
suggests they need to be wound back, that raises a question of whether
the controlled operations laws, too, should be wound back, because a
journalist — or whistleblower, or politician — can be jailed for
revealing information about a controlled operation, although the penalty
for revealing AFP operations is two years, rather than five for SIOs
(both have 10-year jail terms for revealing information that harms or is
intended to harm an individual or operation). So far, there has been
virtually no discussion of whether the existing AFP laws chill free
speech or are a threat to journalists in the same way as the ASIO laws
do, even though exactly the same concerns could be raised about the
abuse of those laws.

As we’ve repeatedly explained, however, there is a signal
difference between the ASIO and AFP laws in that — contrary to the
original JCIS committee report — there are external oversight
requirements for the AFP that don’t apply to ASIO, unless you believe
the fiction that the Australian Intelligence Community’s tame, in-house
watchdog, the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security, seriously
represents external oversight.

It was the oversight issue that Labor members pursued in
relation to SIOs during the recent JCIS inquiry into the draft
legislation, unsuccessfully.
Labor’s Penny Wong, with some support from South Australian Liberal
David Fawcett, also pushed, with more success, for the element of
“recklessness” in the relevant offence to be clarified in a way that
lifted the threshold for prosecution. But there’s no public interest
defence available to journalists in relation to revealing information
about an SIO, just as there’s no public interest defence in relation to
AFP-controlled operations. The plausible and consistent options to
ameliorate the SIO provisions would thus either be to provide
like-for-like independent oversight safeguards in relation to SIOs, in
line with the original JCIS recommendations — thereby reducing the
possibility of SIOs being abused — or inserting a public interest
defence in relation to revealing information about both SIOs and
controlled operations. The latter would induce a paroxysm of rage from
ASIO and the AFP, where there is a very strict demarcation between leaks
that serve the interests of the agency and the government — which are
never investigated — and leaks that tell people something the agencies
don’t want them to know, which are aggressively pursued.

And yet again, it’s important to note that the SIO
provisions aren’t the main event when it comes to a threat to media
freedom. That belongs to data retention, which is a direct threat to
journalists and their sources. It’s also a direct threat to any
politician who has relied on whistleblowers to tell them what’s really
happening within an organisation. Hopefully those journalists who have
criticised the SIO provisions will muster the same energy when the data
retention bill emerges from the incompetent clutches of the
Attorney-General’s Department in coming weeks — indeed, Laurie Oakes has already done so.
And politicians also need to understand the threat data retention poses
to them: the AFP can go and get their metadata just as easily as it can
a journalist’s, or public servant’s. We look forward to seeing them
join the fight.

Sunday, 12 October 2014

Politicians and media let us down in fight to curb rising Islamophobia

Politicians and media let us down in fight to curb rising Islamophobia

Politicians and media let us down in fight to curb rising Islamophobia

Many incidents of violence and harassment directed at
Australian Muslims have been reported recently. These are visible
confirmation of fears expressed by their community, that support for the

Religious leaders have come together to promote community
harmony, but some political and media agendas have encouraged
AAP/Tracey Nearmy

Many incidents of violence and harassment directed at Australian Muslims have been reported recently. These are visible confirmation of fears expressed by their community,
that support for the government’s new security laws and military action
in Iraq would be rallied with “racist caricatures of Muslims as
backwards, prone to violence and inherently problematic”.

Policing and intelligence operations have focused exclusively on members of the Muslim community. This has contributed to a public backlash against Muslims and supposed Muslims. The immediacy and scale of this outbreak of Islamophobia is alarming.

Stereotypes do terrible damage

Australia has emerged as a fertile environment for Islamophobia.
Stereotypical representations of Muslims in the early years of the “War
on Terror” – which linked terrorism, violence and Islam – gained wide
currency by the mid-2000s.

Sections of the news media, politicians and social media
have re-activated these stereotypes. Muslim Australians are made to
feel they are targets - for everything from the everyday racism
encountered in schools and on the streets, to draconian
counter-terrorism legislation that restricts civil liberties, to war and
the preparations for war.

Social psychological research
has shown that when public figures and media endorse negative
stereotypes this legitimises prejudicial attitudes. This can influence
the translation of such attitudes into discriminatory actions, as we
have seen in the recent spate of attacks.

Australia now has several openly Islamophobic far-right social
movements and political parties. Until recently these were generally
small and operated largely in isolation. However, such groups have begun
to collaborate on campaigns.

These groups also appear to be attracting more support
from the wider community. The re-emergence of anti-Muslim rhetoric in
public discourse has provided legitimisation for their views.

Australians who are openly hostile to Muslims and their institutions
feel emboldened by anti-Islamic rhetoric in public discourse.

AAP/Tertius Pickard

Muslims suffer when Coalition dons khaki

The government also appears to be a political beneficiary of the
resurgence in Islamophobia. As national security concerns top the news
agenda, pressures on the government on a range of other fronts,
particularly the deeply unpopular May budget, have faded into the

The increased “terror threat” was followed by rises in the approval rating of Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Coalition voting intentions.

The amplification of threats to national security has worked for
struggling conservative governments before. In 2001, the Howard
government was polling poorly, yet managed to snatch victory later that
year. The Coalition election campaign played on racial anxieties and
national security fears following the “children overboard” affair and
the September 11 terrorist attacks.

In 2010, with the Coalition again languishing in the polls, then
opposition immigration spokesman Scott Morrison sought to replicate this
strategy. He urged the shadow cabinet to “capitalise on the electorate’s growing concerns about “Muslim immigration” and Muslims’ “inability to integrate”.

Tony Abbott’s each-way bet in his remarks on Muslim women’s dress sent a terrible message.
AAP/Alan Porritt

The Prime Minister has not been nearly as forthright in condemning
acts of Islamophobia as he has been in denouncing Islamic extremists. He
even weighed into the debate to dismiss Muslim community concerns. And Abbott failed to condemn the inflammatory push from within his party for a “burqa ban”.

This is in contrast to the firm and admirable stance taken by Western Australian Premier Colin Barnett.
He emphasised that “Australia as a country has a history of respecting
different cultures and faiths”. The reported taunting and terrorising of
Muslim women and children in Perth was “unacceptable”.

Media reports that marginalise harm us all

The media is not blameless either, as some journalists have acknowledged. Australian Muslims have consistently identified the media as a central social institution that contributes to their marginalisation and exclusion.

Media reporting has frequently perpetuated stereotypes. It has also
failed to reflect the diversity of origins, outlooks and aspirations of
Muslim Australians. Journalism of this sort negatively affects other
Australians' perceptions of Islam and the Muslim community.

My research has shown that articles with lower levels of Islamophobia
feature the voices of “ordinary” Muslim men and women. They humanise
them. Such articles contextualise conflicts and avoid simplistic
frameworks such as “good versus evil” or “War on Terror”.

The media can do more to highlight positive efforts by individuals
and groups to resist and respond to oppression and conflict. More
balanced perspectives can reduce the reinforcing and perpetuation of

The “newsworthiness” of stories related to Islam and conflict, and
the concentration of negative reporting patterns, suggest that adoption
of conflict reporting standards could be another key way to curb

The mass media and our politicians will be central to either
exacerbating or stemming Islamophobia. Gestures of support and
solidarity from the non-Muslim community, and standing up to racism, are also important.

Combating Islamophobia is vital to the wellbeing of the Muslim
community, to wider community cohesion and to limiting recruitment for
groups such as Islamic State (ISIS)/Da’ish. To curb Islamophobia, we
must contest the political spectacle that gives rise to discriminatory
and violent treatment against Muslims by the state and some non-Muslim