Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Case Studies

The first chunk is taken from the website maintained by Liberty Victoria. (Their main site. The discussion paper, from which the following. The whole paper is well worth the twenty-odd minutes reading; it provides an overview as well as making an argument.)

“Terrorist acts, such as bombing and hijacking, were already grave crimes before these laws came into effect. So were conspiracies to commit such crimes. These new laws focus on religious and political motivation, and make more serious acts done from such motivation than acts done for reasons of greed or vindictiveness.

“Australia’s terror laws now define as terrorism many things that most people would not understand as terrorist crimes. Recklessly helping an organisation indirectly engage in fostering the doing of a terrorist act is now a crime (publication of views that are favourable to a particular organization may well be enough). Possession of a thing associated with terrorism is a crime – an incredibly vague provision. Reckless collection of documents likely to facilitate terrorist acts is a crime – how would one know if one was breaching this law?

“Deliberate assaults by politically motivated protesters in another country are now a terrorist crime under Australian terror laws. Violent resistance to any foreign government, regardless of the oppressive nature of the regime, is now a crime in Australia. Under our present laws, the Kurds fighting Saddam Hussein would be guilty of terrorism, and so would anyone raising money to help them. The same may be said of Fretilin in East Timor. If resistance to Mugabe becomes violent in Zimbabwe, our law will treat those opposing his regime as terrorists. Perhaps it is unlikely such people would be prosecuted, but it is contrary to the rule of law for enforcement of criminal offences to be dependent on the foreign policy of the government of the day.

“Under our laws, a striking worker who assaults a scab while manning a picket line against a certain government policy would be guilty of terrorism. A person who is believed to have information relating to terrorism may be detained by ASIO for questioning for 7 days, and a further warrant may be obtained for further questioning if new information comes to light. Only Australia has authorized detention of non-suspects in this way. These laws make crimes committed from a religious or political motivation more serious than the same crimes committed for motives of greed or spite. No good reason for this difference has been provided.”


The Scott Parkin Case

Scott Parkin is a US peace activist. He is a member of the Houston Global Awareness Collective, a group that explicitly states its commitment to non-violence. He has been a vocal critic of the American invasion of Iraq, and in particular of alleged ‘war-profiteering’ by the American company Halliburton.

During Parkin’s recent visit to Australia, ASIO requested an interview with him, which he declined after advice that it was not compulsory. On 10 September, 2005, he was detained by federal police, and placed in solitary confinement in a Victorian prison, until being deported on 15 September. This process took place on the grounds that a “competent authority” considered him to be a threat to national security.

His visa was cancelled immediately by the Department of Immigration when that dept. received advice of an adverse security assessment by ASIO. This led to his automatic detainment under the Migration Act, and subsequent deportation. Under the Migration Act, his detention was at his own expense, as was his removal (costing him around $11,700). No further details have since been given by ASIO, neither to Parkin nor to the public.

The Age claimed that techniques Scott Parkin was teaching in workshops while in Australia were what led to his deportation. Unnamed ASIO sources alleged that Scott Parkin may have intended to advocate techniques such as throwing marbles underneath police horses. Parkin has stated that he would never encourage such behaviour, considering it to be animal cruelty. In an interview with the ABC, Philip Ruddock said that the security assessment was made on the basis of “matters relating to politically motivated violence including violent protest activity.” Later, a spokesman for the Attorney-General scaled back the claim, saying that Parkin had encouraged “spirited” protest action. Parkin has not received a criminal charge.

The subsequent appeal process will test the powers of the Attorney-General under the National Security Information Act (this has been suggested [by whom?] as a possible motivation for his deportation). The nature of the claims against Parkin remain unknown.

Scott Parkin’s barrister is Julian Burnside, QC. In an interview on Radio National, Burnside said it may be difficult to appeal the adverse security assessment, and showed concern for the degradation of due process and transparency:

"… the Attorney-General [has] power under the National Security Information Act to certify conclusively that revealing the contents of the report would adversely affect Australia’s national security interests. And if he certifies that, then any court hearing our challenge will have to hold a private hearing in which the court considers whether or not to allow the evidence to be produced in court. And in that process the statute directs the Judge to give primary weight to the conclusive certificate of the Attorney, which looks … as though it gives him the chance to stymie the process of examining the basis for the report."

Around October 31st 2005, ASIO chief, Paul O'Sullivan, acknowledged that Scott Parkin was not involved in any violent activity in Australia. Despite this acknowledgement, the reasons for Scott Parkin's deportation remain unknown.

[cobbled together from http://www.wikipedia.org, “Scott Parkin"; and http://www.sourcewatch.org, “Australia Revokes Scott Parkin’s Visa”]

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