Reacting to antagonized Palestinian snowballing protests to her government’s decision on June 5 to reverse a 47-year old bipartisan consensus on describing eastern Jerusalem as “occupied,” Foreign Minister Julie Bishop on June 13 denied any “change in the Australian government’s position.”
On June 5, Australian Attorney-General George Brandis in a statement said: ”The description of East Jerusalem as ‘Occupied East Jerusalem’ is a term freighted with pejorative implications, which is neither appropriate nor useful.”
The new Australian terminology provoked Jordan, the third largest importer of Australian sheep in the Middle East, to summon Australia’s charge d’affaires, John Feakes, to convey its “concern” because “The Australian government’s decision violates international law and resolutions that consider east Jerusalem as an integral part of all Palestinian territories occupied in 1967.”
Similarly, the Australian Representative in Ramallah, Tom Wilson, was summoned by the Palestinian Ministry of Foreign Affairs to convey “deep concern” because Brandis’ remarks “contradict all international resolutions.” They requested “official clarification.”
Bishop’s “no change” statement came in response. It was followed on June 14 by Prime Minister Tony Abbott who said, while on a trip to North America, that his government had made only a “terminological clarification.”
Australia still “strongly” supports the “two-state solution” and “there has been no change in policy – absolutely no change in policy,” Abbot said, but at the same time confirmed that, “We absolutely refuse to refer to occupied East Jerusalem.”
Abbot two days earlier stated that the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT) are in “truth … disputed territories.”
Canberra is showing no signs of backing down. Australian ambassador to Israel, Dave Sharma, on June 11 said Brandis’ reasoning could lead his government to similar official linguistic change on the West Bank.
“I think we just call the West Bank, ‘the West Bank,’ as a geographical entity without adding any adjectives to it, whether ‘occupied’ [the Palestinian position] or ‘disputed’ [the Israeli position]. We’ll just call it what it is, which is ‘the West Bank.’,” he told the Tablet. However, this is not official yet, he said.
“There has been no change in the Australian government’s position on the legal status of the Palestinian Territories, including East Jerusalem,” Bishop “clarified” in her statement. She was not convincing. The credibility of Bishop’s and Abbot’s denial of “change” could hardly be plausible.
It is a “radical change in the Australian position on Palestine,” Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki said. The head of the Palestinian delegation to Canberra, Izzat Abdulhadi, said Australia’s new stance is “very provocative.”
On June 12, Arab and Islamic ambassadors from 18 countries, including Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Indonesia, protested to Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs in Canberra.
Jerusalem is the permanent headquarters of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC). The organization was founded in response to the burning of Al-Aqsa Mosque, Islam’s third holiest site, by the Australian arsonist Michael Dennis Rohan in 1969.
The Australian on June 10 reported from Jerusalem that the 57-member OIC will hold a joint emergency meeting this month with the 22-member Arab League to decide their response to Australia’s “terminology” declaration.
Secretary General of the Arab League, Nabil al-Arabi sent Bishop a “letter of protest” requesting “official clarification,” his deputy Ahmad bin Hilli said last Monday.
Palestinians are on record to invoke the multi-billion annual Australian agricultural exports to the member states in the discussions. Australian Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss told reporters last Friday that “we will work very hard with them … to maintain the trade,” but so far his government has shown no signs to that effect.
Bishop’s and Abbot’s “no change” statements tried to imply that their country’s policy has not changed and that if there was a change it is a linguistic one only.
Either case the change in “terminology” serves neither Australian nor Palestinian interests. Coming ahead of Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu’s upcoming visit to Australia this summer, to be the first ever sitting Israeli premier to visit Canberra, it serves only as a free of charge welcoming present.
However, coming on the 47th anniversary of the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territory in eastern Jerusalem, West Bank and Gaza Strip and in 2014, which the United Nations proclaimed an International Year of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, the Australian “change of language” was “absolutely disgraceful and shocking,” according to the member of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), Hanan Ashrawi.
“Such inflammatory and irresponsible statements … are not only in blatant violation of international law and global consensus, but are also lethal in any pursuit of peace and toxic to any attempt at enacting a global rule of law,” Ashrawi was quoted as saying by the Times of Israel on June 6.
In fact, describing the Palestinian territories, eastern Jerusalem inclusive, as “occupied” is not only a Palestinian position.
The Israeli annexation of East Jerusalem has not been recognized by the international community and all 193 countries of the UN, including the U.S., refuse to have their embassies in Jerusalem because it would imply their recognition of the city as Israel’s capital.
Published by The Guardian on this June 11, Ben Saul wrote: “Calling east Jerusalem ‘occupied’ simply recognizes the near-universal legal status quo, namely that it is not sovereign Israeli territory.”
“Declaring that east Jerusalem will not be described as ‘occupied’ implies that Australia rejects the application of international humanitarian law … The term “occupation” is therefore not pejorative or judgmental.” Saul said, adding that “Australia’s new view … corrodes the international rule of law and violates Australia’s international law obligations” in accordance with the Geneva conventions to which both Australia and Israel are signatories.
The UN Security Council Resolution 478 on August 20, 1980 censured “in the strongest terms the enactment by Israel of the ‘basic law’ on Jerusalem,” affirmed “that the enactment of the ‘basic law’ by Israel constitutes a violation of international law” and determined “that all legislative and administrative measures and actions taken by Israel, the occupying Power, which have altered or purport to alter the character and status of the Holy City of Jerusalem, and in particular the recent ‘basic law’ on Jerusalem, are null and void and must be rescinded forthwith.”
Ninety UNSC resolutions, let alone 40 others vetoed by the U.S., rule accordingly. Now Australia is the only other nation that joins and supports Israel in its violation of all these resolutions. Aside from Israel, it is also the only nation to change its language on the Palestinian Occupied Territories.
Australian linguistics in context
The Palestinian people are not known for their short memory. They view the Australian government’s “terminological clarification” in the context of the country’s recent pro-Israel changes of policy as well as in Australia’s historical anti-Palestinian policies.
Last month, Ambassador Sharma met in East Jerusalem with the Israeli Minister of Housing Uri Ariel, who is in charge of the illegal construction of the colonial settlements in the OPT.
In January this year, while on an official visit to Israel, Foreign Minister Bishop told the Times of Israel that she isn’t convinced that Israeli construction of illegal settlements in OPT is a violation of international law, and called international boycotts of these settlements “anti-Semitic” and “Hypocritical beyond belief.”
Last November, Australia failed to join 158 nations who supported a UN General Assembly resolution calling for an end to Israeli settlements or to join 160 countries which supported another resolution calling on Israel to “comply scrupulously” with the 1949 Geneva Conventions.
In November 2012, Australia abstained from supporting the UNGA recognition of Palestine as a “non-member observer state” by a vote of 138 to 9, rendering PM Abbot’s latest “clarification” that Australia still “strongly” supports the “two-state solution” a hollow statement.
Quoted by Emeritus Professor Peter Boyce AO, President of the Australia Institute of International Affairs in Tasmania, a 2010 study found that 78% of Australians were opposed to Israel’s settlements policy and only 22% thought Jerusalem should be recognized as Israel’s capital. More recently, at the time of the 2012 General Assembly vote on Palestinian non-member observer State status, 51% of Australians thought their country should vote “Yes” and only 15% “No.”
“Australia has had an important role in the establishment of the Israeli state” and it “stood alone among western governments in its uncritical alignment with Israel,” Professor Boyce wrote.
Certainly Boyce had history in mind. Australia in its capacity as the Chairman of the UN General Assembly’s Ad Hoc Committee on Palestine helped to push through the UN Partition Plan on November 29, 1947. It was the first UN member state to vote in favor of Israeli statehood and the first to grant Israel de-jure recognition when the U.S. recognized it de-facto only. Israel was also the first Middle East country with which Australia established diplomatic relations in 1949.
Australia had defended all Israeli wars on Palestine, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria as “in self defense,” especially the 1967 war in which it occupied more Palestinian territories and the lands of four Arab countries.
Nicola Nasser is a veteran Arab journalist based in Birzeit, West Bank of the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories. email@example.com
In the Orwellian world of post 9/11 hysteria and the Global War On Terror, speaking truth is a revolutionary act. Indeed, such is evidenced by the fact that speaking out against terrorism is now enough to cause you to be labeled as a supporter of terrorism. At least, that is, in certain instances.
This is particularly the case with Mimi Al-Laham, (aka SyrianGirl), a young Syrian woman who has been active on YouTube, social media, and her own website in speaking out about the Western-backed destabilization of Syria.
Laham has consistently denounced the death squads operating inside Syria as terrorists and agents of the West as well as identified the so-called rebellion as being nothing more than a Western – organized, funded, and directed campaign against the Syrian government , all documented fact. For more information on this topic, please see my book, The Road To Damascus, The Anglo-American Assault On Syria.
However, her statements against terrorism, beheadings, rapes, slavery, and wholesale slaughter have caused her to be labelled as a potential “extremist” and purveyor of “extremist rhetoric.” For that reason, Australian security agencies have been closely monitoring Laham’s online statements and, presumably, much more than that.
Australian Institute of Criminology’s Shandon Harris-Hogan said that such statements and online behavior should be watched for “signs of an escalation in rhetoric or calls for violence” and that “When it crosses that line, particularly into encouraging, facilitating or preparing for violence, that’s when it’s going to particularly hit the radar of security services.
Harris-Hogan also categorized Laham’s statements as anti-US and anti-Israel.
Of course, by “anti-US ,” Harris-Hogan means anti-imperialist and anti-terrorist. Anyone familiar with Laham’s work will know that she is not anti-American, although she opposes the United States’ involvement in Syrian affairs, the funding of savage terrorists to overthrow the secular government of Syria, and the numerous attempts at direct invasion.
As for being anti-Israel, such a position is entirely within reason, since Israel itself was never anything more than a false construction with political and geopolitical goals in mind from the very beginning. In 2014, however, being anti-Israel is equated with being anti-semitic, a cynical and inaccurate propaganda technique to prevent criticism of the settler state. Regardless, Laham has repeatedly opposed anti-semitic views in her videos.
Still, Harris-Hogan stated that Laham had been monitored for 18 months.
Although not technically the “West,” Australia is every bit the Orwellian nightmare as the United States, Britain, and the rest of Europe. Indeed, only in the world of doublethink can one be accused of violent extremism by repeatedly denouncing it. The monitoring of Laham’s online work and political activism, while not surprising, is but one more example of the surveillance state and the crackdown on dissent worldwide
We can only hope that, if the Australian authorities continue to monitor Mimi Al-Laham’s work, that they learn something in the process.
By Anthony Lawson · June 1, 2014
Jon Faine, of Radio 774 ABC Melbourne, interviews and insults former Australia Liberal prime minister Malcolm Fraser, in the process attempting to defend the indefensible, Israel.
In his book, Dangerous Allies, Mr Fraser’s suggests that it is time for Australia to formulate its own foreign policy and not, in future—as Captain Kirk might have put it—To blindly go where its current allies seek to lead it (my phrase, not Mr Fraser’s).
Faine is almost as rude and overbearing to this guest as he was towards Kevin Bracken, who was (at the time I made a video about his encounter with Faine), Victorian Branch Secretary of the Maritime Union and the President of the Victorian Trades Hall Council and was attempting to point out some of the many anomalies in the official 9/11 report, but was prevented from doing so by Faine’s obnoxious monologues.
In this video, I show excerpts from the Kevin Bracken video, which was uploaded in October, 2010, as well as from Friends of Israel — Enemies Inside the Gates, from which Jon Faine appears to have learned nothing. He is a gatekeeper for Israel, and has no business being in front of a microphone in the studios of the publicly-funded Australian Broadcast Corporation.
NOTES & LINKS
A recoding of the radio broadcast of May 9th, 2014 featuring Jon Faine, Damien Kingsbury and Malcolm Fraser can be found here: http://tunein.com/topic/?TopicId=7312…
Aussie Trades Unionist Exposes 9/11 Cover up
Friends of Israel — Enemies Inside the Gates http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Untixe…
Jon Snow UK Television cuts the mike on an Israeli spokesman as they debate Gaza
AIPAC: The Voice of America — Part 2 The Treasonous Dollar Drain
Complain to the ABC about Jon Faine here:
A controversy is swirling in Australia involving a former foreign minister and the country’s influential Zionist lobby.
Bob Carr, who served as Australia’s foreign minister in the administration of former Prime Minister Julia Gillard, recently published a memoir detailing his experiences on the job. In the book Carr hones in on the Israeli lobby, which he says has “extraordinary” and “unhealthy” influence in Australian politics and had a “direct line” into the decision-making processes of the Gillard administration. Not only is Organized Zionism’s grip on Australia unhealthy, it is dangerous and corrosive.
In recent media interviews Carr has said that Gillard overruled his suggestion that Australia not block the Palestinian bid to attain upgraded ‘non-member observer state’ status at the United Nations in 2012 and that this was a direct result of the Zionist lobby’s pull on the former prime minister. Carr also revealed that Gillard was so immovable in her pro-Israel partisanship that she impeded him from making routine statements of concern about the growth and expansion of illegal Jewish settlements in the West Bank because it would upset the Zionist lobby.
When asked by ABC (Australia) reporter Sarah Ferguson how such a small group of people could wield so much power, Carr mentioned the significant amount of political campaign donations stemming from Zionist sources as well as the Zionist lobby’s courting of Australian politicians and journalists by sponsoring all-expenses-paid-for trips to Israel. Carr accused Gillard of “subcontracting” Australia’s foreign policy vis-à-vis the Middle East to her wealthy Jewish backers.
In 2013 Gillard received the Jerusalem Prize for her unwavering support of the Zionist apartheid state and its terroristic policies. Members of Australia’s main Zionist groups praised Gillard for her “ongoing support of the aspirations of Israel’s people” and noted that she “empathises with the Jewish people and our connection with the land of Israel.” “[T]he Zionist movement of Australia are honoured to be able to demonstrate our gratitude and respect for Ms Gillard’s many years as an unstinting supporter of the Jewish and Zionist cause,” said Sam Tatarka, president of the Zionist Council of Victoria.
Gillard unveiled her brazen Jewish exceptionalist mentality during a visit to the Jewish Holocaust Centre in Melbourne in 2012, where she stated that the holocaust was “the greatest crime humanity has ever known.” It is unlikely that Gillard is unaware of the more than 60 million non-Jews who perished during the Second World War, or of the millions of Russian and Ukrainian Christians killed by Jewish Bolsheviks throughout the 1920s and 1930s. Revealing her callous and cold-blooded outlook, Gillard ignores those victims because recognizing their suffering would undermine the racist Talmudic myth that Jews are the world’s ultimate and perennial victims.
The reaction of Australia’s Zionist lobby to Bob Carr’s revelations has been predictably lame. The Zionist kingpin Mark Leibler of the Australia Israel & Jewish Affairs Council dismissed Carr’s exposition about “The Lobby” as a “figment of his imagination.” When faced with truths about their undue influence, the Zionists merely sneer at and heap ridicule upon those like Carr who are brave enough to state the obvious.
Former American politicians have expressed similar sentiments to Carr’s. Cynthia McKinney, a former congresswoman from Georgia, said that she was ousted from congress by the Israeli lobby because of her outspoken support of the Palestinians. She once told an interviewer that 99 per cent of members of the US congress are veritable servants of Zionist interests. Former congressman Paul Findley wrote a book about the enormous power of Israel’s lobby in the US entitled They Dare to Speak Out: People and Institutions Confront Israel’s Lobby.
Another former congressman, James Traficant, told Greta van Susteren of Fox News that Israel and its supporters in the US have “a powerful stranglehold” over the American government. “We’re conducting the expansionist policy of Israel and everyone’s too afraid to say it,” remarked Traficant in reference to the disastrous Iraq war.
The Zionists, said Traficant, “control both members of the House… and the Senate. They have us involved in wars in which we have little or no interest.” These Zionist elements “control much of the media [and] control much of the commerce of the country,” Traficant stressed. The late Helen Thomas, a renowned American journalist and White House correspondent, echoed Traficant’s perspective, telling an audience in Detroit that “congress, the White House, Hollywood, and Wall Street are owned by Zionists. No question in my opinion.”
The credible assertions of these Washington insiders have been validated by a number of boastful Jewish writers themselves. One such braggart was Elad Nehorai who penned an op-ed for the Times of Israel wherein he implored his fellow Zionists to be more honest about their influence as a point of pride. “Let’s be honest with ourselves, here, fellow Jews. We do control the media. We’ve got so many dudes up in the executive offices in all the big movie production companies it’s almost obscene,” wrote Nehorai. The pro-Israel lobby group AIPAC, observed Nehorai, “was essentially constructed just to drive agenda in Washington DC. And it succeeds admirably.” That organization is “practically the equivalent of the Elders of Zion” he added. “The truth is,” Nehorai conceded, “the anti-Semites got it right… We own a whole freaking country.”
Nehorai’s supremacist musings seem to have been inspired by a 2008 Los Angeles Times article authored by Joel Stein. In that piece, titled “Who Controls Hollywood? C’mon,” Stein bragged candidly about Jewish power in Hollywood, stating that “Jews totally run Hollywood” and calling Americans “dumb” for not recognizing that fact. “As a proud Jew, I want America to know about our accomplishment. Yes, we control Hollywood,” Stein gloated. “But I don’t care if Americans think we’re running the news media, Hollywood, Wall Street or the government. I just care that we get to keep running them.”
The very fact that discussing Zionist influence is taboo in Western societies is in and of itself an indication of their pervasive power. “To find out where the power lies, ask whom you cannot criticize,” as the wise credo goes. The unusual dichotomy that Zionists like Stein and Nehorai are able to say the things quoted above without any repercussions, while non-Jews who have made comparable assertions are castigated as anti-Semites, haters and conspiracy theorists, underscores the Talmudic double standard that permeates much of public discourse on this important issue.
However, the tide is slowly but surely turning, and it is becoming increasingly apparent that the Zionists cannot keep a lid on their intrigues any longer.
Brandon Martinez can contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Australians have been witness to a remarkable conflict in recent days in which their former Foreign Minister Bob Carr denounced the Jewish Lobby and his former Prime Minister Julia Gillard, over the whole series of questions re Australian policy and the demands of Israel and the local Jewish Lobby.
Nothing quite like it has ever been seen or heard before in Australia.
Carr has just published his dairy as Foreign Minister during 2013.
He came to that office in the last year of a sorely troubled Labor Government inheriting the job from Kevin Rudd,a former Prime Minister who took over the Foreign Minister’s portfolio after he, Rudd, was deposed as P.M, but then resigned after more turmoil in the Labor Party.
Carr was no newcomer. Once Premier for 10 years of NSW, the largest state, and seen as a smooth operator if fairly right-wing in his policies and his views, he was seen by many as a likely winner in the new job, in a Government in deep trouble.
A scholar of note, he has written much on one of his favourite topics, American History, with a very good book on the origins of the American Republic.
He came to the Senate, after several years in retirement, as the Government of Julia Gillard lurched from crisis to crisis. It was a job he craved and he got a seat in the Senate and then joined Gillard’s cabinet, where much was expected of him.
The crisis came in the last months of Gillard’s term when the question of Palestinian membership of UNESCO came up for consideration. Gillard was a notorious Zionist from the very inception of her 3-year term, and she was well know for her great support, without any conditions, for Israel. She had links with the Israeli Embassy in Canberra and the Zionist Lobby which also had a fifth column inside the Labor Party, which too has, like it’s US counterpart the Democrats, always had links with the Jewish Lobby.
When Deputy Prime Minister after 2007 Gillard went with a delegation to Israel as guest of a Melbourne Jewish millionaire who organises such events and who provided a job for her hairdresser partner as a salesman for his property empire.
She made no effort while there to visit or see the conditions of the Palestinian people… and one may surmise that her Israeli hosts would have seen to that aspect of her visit. In 2010 she replaced the disastrous Rudd as PM in a” palace coup”, and narrowly won power in a closely divided Parliament.
Her support for Israel never faltered, but when Carr became Foreign Minister in 2013 he had a wider view of the whole Middle East.
We know now that the conflict between Gillard and Carr arose over Israeli matters and appropriate policies in the UN.
Carr was told not to make any criticism of the Settlements on the West Bank, which he wished to do, and when the UNESCO issue arose, he was told to vote (as always) with the USA and Israel. Carr knew the widespread support of Europeans elsewhere in the Asian region for seating the Palestinians in UNESCO. Gillard insisted that he vote with Israel.
Carr demurred and challenged Gillard and then took the matter to the Labor Party Caucus… all members of the federal parliament were then to vote on the matter. Gillard was angry, and a bitter conflict developed.
Carr won out when a majority of the Labor Caucus voted for an Australian abstention in the UN. Carr would have preferred a YES vote but this was a compromise that Gillard, even as P.M. was forced to except she still wanted a NO vote against Palestinian admission, but failed to carry the party.
The Jewish Lobby was outraged and condemned the decision, and Carr for bringing it on. Carr went ahead and abstained, and the vote admitted the Palestinians with a huge margin anyway. The rift between Gillard and Carr was never healed.
Now after the Labor Government’s defeat, Carr is once again in retirement, and his published diary tells the whole story re UNESCO, and the power of the Zionists over Gillard, albeit she was their willing ally.
Not surprisingly he has infuriated the Jewish Lobby and Carr has been denounced in the harshest terms by the very Zionists who run the Lobby, who have described him as “Gillard’s worst appointment” and as “Australia’s worst Foreign Minister.” Carr is known as a tolerant and outgoing man, but none-the-less a Lobby critic has described him as a “bigot”, all in line with the usual Zionist tactics in such cases.
He has replied in kind, saying the Lobby was virtually contracted by Gillard to run Australia’s Middle East policies.
Carr a robust politician has fired back with a furious blast to the Lobby, saying it’s very right-wing and intrusive, and the battle rages now in the media. The Lobby must regret all this as for the first time a senior Labor politician has let the cat out of the bag, re the Lobby.
It will be difficult to get it in that bag again.
There is no word on all this from ex-PM Gillard. She, at the moment, is in Israel.
Brian McKinlay is an Australian Labor Historian who lives in Melbourne and has written widely on Australian history, notably of the Labor Movement, being the author of a 3- volume documentary history of Australian Labor and trade union and radical groups.
The Australian Security Intelligence Organization (ASIO) is pushing for laws that would make telecommunications companies retain their customers’ web-browsing data, as well as forcing web users to decrypt encrypted messages.
In these post-Snowden times, when people around the world are furious over revelations that their communications’ ‘metadata’ has been scooped up by a vast, US-built surveillance network, Australia’s ASIO is looking to further bolster its phishing powers, as opposed to scaling them back as many people clearly favor.
With no loss of irony, the agency is pointing to the sensational case of Edward Snowden – the former NSA contractor-turned-whistleblower who last year departed from US shores with thousands of files on the American spy program – to expedite the process of creating a data-retention regime that would store users’ data for two years, or possibly longer.
“These changes are becoming far more significant in the security environment following the leaks of former NSA contractor Edward Snowden,” ASIO said in its parliamentary submission to modify the Telecommunications Interception and Access Act.
Although retaining ‘content’ data has been declared off-limits to the surveillance program, several security agencies, including the Northern Territory Police and Victoria Police, want web-browsing histories stored.
Metadata gathered on web-browsing would include an IP address and the IP addresses of web servers visited, or uniform resource locators (URLs) and the time at which they were visited. Email metadata, meanwhile, might include information such as addresses, times and the subject field.
Australia’s intelligence agencies accessed metadata 330,640 times during criminal and financial investigations in 2012-13, according to The Sydney Morning Herald.
Northern Territory Police said in its submission that meta-data found in browser histories were “as important to capture as telephone records”.
Additionally, the agency is calling for enhanced powers to sift intelligence data from emails and social media sites, as well as forcing web users to decrypt encrypted material if requested to do so by the spy agency.
“Under this approach, the person receiving a notice would be required to provide ‘information or assistance’ to place information obtained under the warrant into an intelligible form,” the submission said.
“The person would not be required to hand over copies of the communication in an intelligible form, and a notice would not compel a person to do something which they are not reasonably capable of doing. Failure to comply with a notice would constitute a criminal offense, consistent with the Crimes Act.”
ASIO points to the Snowden leaks, and the increased popularity of encryption technology on the internet, as a reason for resisting changes.
“In direct response to these leaks, the technology industry is driving the development of new internet standards with the goal of having all web activity encrypted, which will make the challenges of traditional telecommunications interception for necessary national security purposes far more complex.”
However, a number of organizations, including the Australian Mobile Telecommunications Association, the communications lobby group, warned against widening surveillance capabilities and what it means for privacy rights.
“The associations also note that a data retention scheme will involve an increased risk to the privacy of Australians and provide an incentive to hackers and criminals. Data retention is at odds with the prevailing policy to maximize and protect privacy and minimize the data held by organizations,” the submission said.
“Industry believes it is generally preferable for consumers that telecommunications service providers retain the least amount of data necessary to provision, maintain and bill for services.”
ASIO is not only fighting back against any restrictions on its work, it is actually calling for more spying powers.
For example, when the Australian Law Reform Commission argued for the creation of a “public interest monitor” to assert some guidelines on intelligence gathering, ASIO said it “has reservations about this, if the effect would be simply to insert yet another approval step into the authorization of a TI warrant.”
Meanwhile, the Australian Federal Police said it wanted to store data “to ensure a national and systematic approach is taken to safeguarding the ongoing availability of telecommunications data for legitimate, investigative purposes.” At the same time, however, it admitted work needed to be done to understand what type of data got retained and for how long.
Electronic Frontiers Australia, the online rights group, is lobbying against the amendments, arguing that storing web meta-data was “an ineffective method to curb terrorism.”
“The ease with which data retention regimes can be evaded is grossly disproportionate to the cost and security concerns of the data retention regime,” it said.
Meanwhile, the Coalition government’s Attorney-General George Brandis said on Monday that the government was “not currently considering any proposal relating to data retention” despite the push from the country’s intelligence agencies.
Shadow Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus said Labor was waiting for the Coalition’s response to an inquiry that had opened in June of last year before it announces its position.
“There was insufficient time while Labor was in office to formulate a considered response to the matters discussed in the Committee’s report, including the merits of a data retention scheme,” Dreyfus said, as quoted by the paper.
“Imperialism after all is an act of geographical violence” Edward Said
Is it just me, or do you also see a thread of colonial superiority and racism binding US, Australia, Canada to Israel?
Think about it. All are ex-British colonies and like Israel, have a shameful history of genocide committed against their respective Indigenous Peoples and all continue to treat their First Peoples as third class citizens.
I can’t speak for the US and Canada, but, apart from realpolitik and arms trade, an underlying colonial arrogance goes a long way to explain why my ‘civilised’ ‘democratic’ Australian government is complicit in granting Israel impunity to daily perpetrate war crimes and crimes against humanity against generations of Palestinian families.
The tragic past and near narratives of the suffering of unspeakable colonial atrocities against Indigenous Palestinians and Indigenous Australians bear close resemblance and are written in blood and great injustice.
Just as Israel’s Independence Day and the Palestinian Nakba Day (in remembrance of deportation and dispossession) have a bloody symbiosis, Australia Day or Invasion Day, on the 26th January, is celebrated or mourned according to the victors or the vanquished.
Both Israeli and British colonists took the ‘terra nullius’ doctrine – empty land’ approach to justify their brutal occupations and wholesale land theft of Palestine and Australia. Israel boasts it made the desert bloom though for centuries Palestine traded in olives, oil, quinces, pinenuts, figs, carob, cotton, dates, indigo, artichokes, citrus fruit, almonds, mint sumach and much more. In Australia the Aborigines maintained their food supply with a sophisticated management of the land with fire.
The island, named Australia by British invaders and colonists, was home to almost a million peoples of, at least, 200 nations that traced their ancestry back 60 millennia along spiritual songlines of the land to the Dreaming – to Creation.
The imperial genocidal wars and massacres (guns vs spears) such as those at Hawksbury, Nepean Richmond Hill, Risdon Cove, Appin, Bathurst, Port Phillip, Swan River (Battle of Pinjarra), Gravesend, Vinegar Hill, Myall Creek, Kinroy, Rufus R, Long lagoon, Dawson River, Kalkadoon, Cape Grim, The Black war, McKinley River, West Kimberely resisted by Aboriginal warriors like Pemulwuy, Winradyne, Multuggerah, Yagan, Jandamarra as well as starvation and western diseases decimated the dispossessed Aboriginal population to about 70,000 by 1920.
By then violent genocide was replaced by the more covert cultural genocide, or the genocide of indigeneity, through the government policy of assimilation intended to eradicate indigenous identity by cruelly and systematically destroying connections to family, the tribe and ancestral lands.
Australia’s First Peoples were marginalised onto reservations and missions, restricted entry into white towns, exploited as unpaid slave labour, their indigenous languages and sacred rituals forbidden, and mixed blood children (The Stolen Generations) were forcibly kidnapped from their parents for resocialisation – ie to be made ‘white’.
Assimilation is where Australia, USA and Canada differ with Israel. The assimilation of Palestinians for Israel is an anathema. The Zionist goal is a pure Jewish state, rid of all Palestinians from the river to the sea. The whole of historic Palestine, home to the Chosen People is a goal pursued with, ironically, an ideological fervour akin to Hitler’s Herrenrasse and Germanisation aspirations. Ergo, Israel perpetrates a slow motion brutal genocide and a relentless push of Palestinians over the exile cliff.
Until the 1967 Referendum, Aborigines were government property: “The right to choose a marriage partner, to be legally responsible for one’s own children, to move about the state and to socialise with non-Aboriginal Australians, were just some of the rights which Aboriginal people did not have.”
Sound familiar? Israel’s apartheid policies similarly impact on Palestinians. Israel has passed racist laws that impose severe movement restrictions dividing families, preventing family reunification and obstructing the marriage of couples who come from different zones. At least a third of Gazans have relatives in Israel and the West Bank. The personal pain of such enforced separations which deny Palestinians the shared and cherished moments we enjoy freely is immeasurable…grandparents have never seen their grandchildren who may live 5 kilometres away… adult children are denied the right to be with a dying parent…births…weddings…funerals ..are overshadowed by painful absences.
The Native Title Act, 1993, finally acknowledged that some Indigenous Australians ‘have rights and interests to their land that come from their traditional laws and customs.’ But, as mining boomed on resource rich indigenous lands, corporate colonialism reared its greedy head undermining this landmark act with the Northern Territory Intervention.
It was initiated by the Howard government in 2007 and maintained by successive governments including that of Kevin Rudd who made the historic apology to the Stolen Generations even though indigenous communities were suffering the humiliation of quarantined welfare payments and struggled to survive in third world conditions.
The Intervention was imposed “on the pretext that paedophile gangs were operating in Indigenous settlements. Troops were sent in; townships were compulsorily acquired and native title legislation ignored. Yet no prosecution for child abuse resulted, and studies concluded that there was no evidence of any systematic child abuse.” Marcus Waters, Review: Pilger’s Utopia shows us Aboriginal Australia in 2014
As the Prawer Plan was debated in the Israeli Knesset, the sound of the Australian government salivating with envy must have been deafening while imagining the power to evict, from their ancestral lands, 40,000 pesky Bedouins hindering Israel’s land expansion or the power to simply bulldoze Palestinian villages to build settlements for Zionist colonists.
Notorious for her death stare, Julie ‘Medusa’ Bishop, the Australian Foreign Minister, on January 15, speaking for her government, with colonial panache dismissed Israeli settlements as war crimes with this vacuous statement,
“I would like to see which international law has declared them illegal.”
Not a good look coming from the FM of a nation privileged to have a seat on the UN Security Council, when even the gardener at Parliament House has heard of the Geneva Conventions.
Like its mate, the rogue state of Israel, Australia doesn’t give a toss for honouring its obligations under international law.
It tossed aside its obligations to the Refugee Conventions with its inhumane offshore asylum seeker policy, forcing asylum seeker boats back to Indonesia, refusal to compensate people who have been held for prolonged periods in mandatory detention, ‘breached its international anti-race discrimination obligations by continuing for almost three years it’s intervention policies with indigenous communities of the Northern Territory.’ the high instance of Aboriginal deaths in custody, the breaching of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights in the matter of Guantanamo inmate, David Hicks, the unresolved allegations that Australian intelligence officers were complicit in the torture of Mamdouh Habib when he was held in Pakistan Egypt and Guantanamo Bay, the Queensland bikie laws that fail to meet international fair trial standards.
Then there is the present case in the International Court of Justice against Australia spying on Timor Leste during the oil and gas treaty negotiations in an alleged attempt to rip off the poorest nation in Asia.
Colonial terrorism, disguised as civilised democracy, is not only perpetrated by the hollow men and women in authority. They are the monsters for whom you and I vote and without us they are powerless.Until our moral conscience, intelligence and compassion determines how we vote, we too are their accomplices.
- Dr. Vacy Vlazna is Coordinator of Justice for Palestine Matters. She was Human Rights Advisor to the GAM team in the second round of the Acheh peace talks, Helsinki, February 2005 then withdrew on principle. Vacy was coordinator of the East Timor Justice Lobby as well as serving in East Timor with UNAMET and UNTAET from 1999-2001.
Indonesia is recalling its ambassador to Australia over allegations that Canberra listened in on phone conversations of the Indonesian president.
Indonesia said the ambassador was being called to Jakarta for “consultations”.
The move by Jakarta comes as the Australian Department of Defence and the Defence Signals Directorate, or DSD, (now known as the Australian Signals Directorate), has been accused of monitoring the phone calls of Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, his wife Kristiani Herawati, as well as eight other high-ranking officials, including the vice president, Boediono.
The latest leak, provided in May 2013 by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, was released jointly by The Guardian newspaper and the Australian Broadcasting Corporation on Monday, and will likely aggravate another diplomatic firestorm between Canberra and Jakarta.
The top secret material from the DSD is in the form of a slide presentation, dated November 2009, and divulges information on the monitoring of mobile phones just as 3G technology was being introduced in Asia.
In one of the presentations, entitled Indonesian President Voice Events, a graphic of calls is given on Yudhoyono’s Nokia handset over a 15-day period in August 2009. The data provides CDRs – call data records – which record the numbers called, the duration of communications, and whether the transmission was a voice call or SMS.
The Australian spy agency “appears to have expanded its operations to include the calls of those who had been in touch with the president,” the report indicated. Another slide, entitled Way Forward, gives the simple command: “Must have content,” perhaps a reference to encrypted material.
Attached to the bottom of each slide in the 2009 presentation is the DSD slogan: “Reveal their secrets – protect our own.”
Also named in the surveillance slides are Dino Patti Djalal, then-foreign affairs spokesman for the president, who recently resigned as Indonesia’s ambassador to the US and is seeking the candidacy in next year’s presidential election for Yudhoyono’s Democratic party, and Hatta Rajasa, current minister for economic affairs and potential presidential candidate for the National Mandate party. Hatta served at the time of the surveillance as minister for transport; his daughter is the wife of the president’s youngest son.
Other high-level officials on the list of “IA Leadership Targets” are: Jusuf Kalla, the former vice-president who ran as the Golkar party presidential candidate in 2009; Sri Mulyani Indrawati, then a reforming finance minister and since 2010 one of the managing directors of the World Bank Group; Andi Mallarangeng, who was at the time the president’s spokesman, and later minister for youth and sports; Sofyan Djalil, who served until October 2009 as minister for state-owned enterprises; Widodo Adi Sucipto, a former head of the Indonesian military who served until October 2009 as security minister.
Another slide, entitled DSD Way Forward, acknowledges that the Australian spy agency’s must “capitalise on UKUSA and industry capability”, apparently a reference to assistance from telecom and internet companies, the same method that the NSA used to collect data on millions of individuals around the planet.
News of Australia’s high-level snooping on the Indonesian president and his top aides is certain to provoke a harsh response from Jakarta, especially considering this is not Australia’s first breach of trust between the Pacific Rim countries.
Tensions between Canberra and Jakarta began in October when top secret files revealed by the German newspaper Der Spiegel and published by Fairfax newspapers showed that Australian diplomatic posts across Asia were being used to intercept communications.
Marty Natalegawa, the Indonesian foreign minister, issued a harsh response and threatened to review bilateral initiatives on issues important to Australia, including people smuggling and terrorism.
During a visit last week to the Australian city of Perth, Vice president Boediono – not yet privy to information that his own Blackberry device had been compromised by Australian spy agencies – briefly mentioned the long-standing spying controversy.
“I think we must look forward to come to some arrangement which guarantees that intelligence information from each side is not used against the other,” he said. “There must be a system.”
Yudhoyono is the latest in a growing list of global leaders who have had their personal communications listened to by the American intelligence service.
It has recently been reported that the leaders of Germany, Brazil and Mexico have been listened to by the so-called Five Eyes, the collective name for the intelligence agencies of the United States, Britain, Australia, Canada and New Zealand, who share information.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel in late October demanded a personal explanation from US President Barack Obama as to why the NSA had tapped her mobile phone. The White House attempted to reassure the chancellor that her phone was “not currently being tapped and will not be in the future”.
It will be interesting at this point to see if the diplomatic backlash in wake of the recent wave of revelations will curb the Five Eyes’ surveillance program, or if it will just go deeper underground.
The Guardian then reported that the DSD worked together with the NSA to stage a massive surveillance operation in Indonesia during a UN climate change conference in Bali in 2007.
On Monday a spokesman for Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said: “Consistent with the long-standing practice of Australian governments, and in the interest of national security, we do not comment on intelligence matters.”
The Australian security state is collecting intelligence on a scale never seen before
Through rapid technology advances the Australian security apparatus has grown to an Orwellian scale. This has not necessarily been at the design of any elected government but something the Australian bureaucracy was forthright in promoting.
The executive government has only superficial control over the Australian surveillance system. It is fully integrated with the NSA apparatus which immediately brings up an issue about sovereignty. This is not about a country’s sovereignty over land, but knowledge. The international exchange of security information is a challenge to human rights of Australian citizens that has to be grappled with.
Consequently, it is not in the interests of the Australian or US intelligence community for any public or even parliamentary discussion. The idea that the parliament and executive are in total control of government is a myth.
Through technology and its innovative applications, the concept of privacy has been reframed to the point of anything a person does outside of the home or on a computer is public domain, captured through any of the large array of assets that can be utilized for surveillance.
This has allowed the creation of a new premise that has grown up through the administrative arm of the Australian Government, one of compliance. Australia seems to have adopted an almost fanatical compliance culture where the administrators believe that they are the natural custodians of Australia’s security interests, over the temporarily elected politicians of the day.
Some of the methods the Australian security state utilizes for intelligence gathering, storing, and collation are well documented and summarized below:
- The Australian Government database is a highly sophisticated group of electronic document and records management system(s) (EDRMS) for collating, storing, and matching data between various agencies and levels of governments. Consequently data collected by the Australian Taxation Office (ATO), social security (Centrelink), Medicare, immigration, customs, and police enforcement agencies are integrated with relational databases and query systems. This is supplemented by individual agency databases with extremely detailed information on citizens. They carry an almost complete personal history of residential details going back decades, income, occupation, spouses, children, social security benefits, medical, and travel information, etc. These systems can be accessed by almost anybody within the public service. Every agency within the government has become part of the intelligence collection network. According to academics Paul Henman and Greg Marston of the University of Queensland, these systems that enable agencies to determine client eligibility for services are highly intrusive and used with a prevailing deep suspicion of citizens in regards to their continuing eligibility for services.
- The most recent revelations in the news about the ‘five eye’ countries eavesdropping on their citizens phone conversations, emails, and other electronic communications has been astounding. Through meta-data collection systems like PRISM and ECHELON are highly likely to be also operating within Australia due to the close relationship between the NSA and Australian intelligence community. According to AFP assistant commissioner Neil Gaughan, Australian intelligence has a much better relationship with the telecommunications companies than the US intelligence agencies. However, this doesn’t appear to be a new occurrence. A reliable source working within one of the Australian telephone companies when manual exchanges were operating confirmed that ASIO and state special branches had secret rooms within the exchanges to run phone tapping operations.
- The NSW police are using an Automated Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) system which takes continuous snapshots of car number plates. This is supplemented by tracking cars when they go through tolls.
- Law enforcement agencies have announced that they are preparing to utilize drones for crime surveillance in the not too distant future.
- State and Federal Governments have been encouraging citizens to inform on other citizens they suspect of breaking the law. Government campaigns have been very successful in achieving all-time high numbers of informants in crime, social security, and taxation related matters.
The incredible power of the above described databases are exponentially enhanced when coupled with recent developments in cellular, RFID, internet, and other computer technologies. When private data in retail, banking, travel, health and insurance, etc., is linked to Intelligence collected by government, the value of data becomes massively enriched. Data collected by private organizations and utilized by security services include:
- The internet domain is under constant surveillance. Companies like Google, Yahoo, Facebook, and Twitter utilize tracking cookies to gather data on users. Australian security agencies employ private contractors like the National Open Source Intelligence Centre (NOSIC) to monitor, collate, and report on publically accessible information about individuals and organizations.
- Many business organizations such as shopping centres and banks now utilize CCTV. These assets can be utilized by security organizations to track and monitor individuals. This is now being supplemented with media access control (MAC) systems which can track smartphones. This technology is already being used in three Westfield shopping centres.
- Numerous private databases like electronic tenancy database which has detailed information. These include tenancy history, insurance company records that detail individuals insured assets, bank records, and university records. These can all be accessed by security agencies.
- Mobile phones can be used as a means to track people through inbuilt GPS on smartphones, triangulation, or through electronic data-collectors designed to identify individual mobile phones in public places.
- People’s purchase history and movements can be tracked through the use of credit, debit, and loyalty card purchases.
Emails, phones calls, places people go, and purchase history, in the context of other data collected has the latent potential to build up a profile on anybody. Data from social media like Facebook can enhance these profiles greatly by adding thought and behavior information. It’s the collection of small bits of information that can be collated into big pictures. Australian intelligence can retro-actively analyse anybody with the data they have access to.
Since 2007, when amendments to the Telecommunications (Interception & Access) Act 1974 were made during the last days of the Howard Government, government agencies have the power to search meta-data without the individual’s knowledge or any warrant.
CCTV cameras have been installed in many communities without the development of privacy policies on how they should be used. The law has yet to catch up with the ability to collect data.
Up until the 1980s most intelligence gathering was targeted monitoring of specific groups where ‘persons of interest’ were identified for intensive surveillance. ASIO and state special branches were videotaping activists primarily from the ‘left’. Surveillance was undertaken by ASIO and state special branches, where operatives used electronic means for eavesdropping, keeping index cards and files on ‘persons of interest’, recording mainly hearsay information.
Even then, red flags emerged. Peter Grabosky of the Australian Bureau of Criminology pointed out that ‘thought and discussion of public issues may be suppressed……and….excess use of (surveillance) may inhibit democratic and political freedom more subtly’. In addition, he believed that malicious accusations made from erroneous records produce false information which made innocent people suffer at the hands of the security agencies.
This problem can’t be corrected as these records are not assessable to be corrected for errors. The Mohamed Haneef arrest by the AFP in July 2007 where it was alleged he was connected with a terrorist cell in the UK, but later exonerated, hints at the security services being very territorial and ‘out of control’, where ASIO knew of Dr. Haneef’s innocence but didn’t advise the APF.
Faceless bureaucrats are the ones defining who were the enemies of the state. There appears to be a general inability to discriminate between healthy dissent in a political democracy and subversion.
Where no tangible threats existed to national security, lesser ones were perceived to be grave threats or even invented – remember “weapons of mass destruction” in Iraq.
The rise of surveillance should not be understood as purely a technological development. It should be seen as a broader economic, social, and political paradigm shift within society where the balance of power has shifted away from the people and towards the state. There also appears to be a shift of power away from executive government towards an unelected bureaucracy. What makes this even more perplexing is that we don’t even know who these people really are.
The Sydney Morning Herald just ran a story that intelligence data was passed on to assist the mining giant BHP. Moreover, the human rights website WEBMOBILIZE alleges in a recent article that the Australian security apparatus is being used to steal intellectual property from companies and passing it over illegally to competitors. Some of the organizations that have been alleged to receive unlawfully gained IP include the University of Melbourne, Ageis Media, Telstra, Sensis, Deakin University, Belgravia Health and Business Group, Channel Nine, Nine Entertainment, Nine MSN, Corporate health management, Fairfax media, the Herald Sun, The Guardian, Nintendo, and the Australian Labor Party (ALP)and Liberal National Party (LNP).
There has been little in the way of public debate, nor much concern shown by the major political parties.
The powers to detain anyone under section 34D of the Australian Security Intelligence Organization Act 1979 for up to seven days without the right to reveal their detention, resembles the mechanisms of a police state.
With an annual growth rate of more than 20% and budget of over $4 Billion p.a., ASIO has a new $500 Million building in Canberra and a secret data storage facility is being built at the HMAS Harman Naval Base, near Canberra, where details are except from public account committees. When other government programs are being cut, the deep philosophical question of why there is a need to continue the increase of funding for surveillance of the nation’s citizens requires national discussion.
Mass surveillance doesn’t seem to have much to do with terrorism as it has to do with keeping check on what people are doing. It seems to be more of an intimidating compliance mechanism, aimed at protecting public revenue, preventing and detecting crime, tax evasion, and fraud.
The rapid increase in staff within ASIO from 618 in 2000 to 1860 in 2010 has meant that the organization now primarily relies upon young and inexperienced analysts in their 20s and 30s. This means that Australia is at the mercy of a “Gen Y” culture that has grown up connected to the cyber world where a sense of privacy is very different to generations before them. Newly uncovered evidence suggests that ASIO has gone to great lengths to spy on people who have broken no laws.
Through Australia’s history Australian Security Agencies have blundered in the assessments they have made on many issues. The 2004 Flood report commenting on the “failure of intelligence” on Iraq stated that these weaknesses included “a failure to rigorously challenge preconceptions”, and the absence of a “consistent and rigorous culture of challenge to and engagement with intelligence reports”. Flood found an inconsistency in assessments and very shallow analytical abilities within the security agencies he examined. On many occasions, particularly during the Howard years, intelligence analysis was ‘bastardized” by political agenda. Those who criticized the political agenda ran the risk of being reframed from dissidents and classed as deviants who come under security surveillance.
The question here, can government with a long history of cover-ups be trusted?
The dream of a fair, just, and equitable Australian society where sovereignty is in the hands of its citizens may be one of the greatest myths. Australia’s surveillance on its own has eaten into and taken away many of the rights and liberties of Australians, turning society into one of mistrust.
This cannot be really satisfactorily answered relying only on public domain knowledge. We can only make guesses. However one undeniable fact is that there is presently a hidden and totally unaccountable part of government that is changing the nature of society. It is here where no media organizations are asking any questions.
We have entered into a new period of governance. We are now in an age of governance by surveillance of the masses by a few unknown elite and unaccountable people. Communist totalitarianism may have collapsed in Europe in 1991 with the fall of the Soviet Union, but the “free world’s” version of surveillance and intelligence would have made Stalin, Honecker, and Ceauşescu very jealous.
The lack of transparency is becoming indefensible. Without scrutiny the Australian security apparatus is the loose cannon of the Bureaucracy which will cause many reverberations like the destruction of peoples’ livelihoods through IP theft, or the ruining of peoples’ reputations through persecution.
There has never been a public mandate for the development of such an extensive surveillance program. Is the money being spent justified?
As more information comes to light about the global snooping being conducted by the NSA and GCHQ, it is becoming clearer that much of it had little to do with combating terrorism, as a recent EFF article makes plain. But most damaging to the idea that massive surveillance was justified, because it was to protect people from extreme threats, is the revelation that commercial espionage was also being conducted. So far, the chief example of that is in Brazil, but The Sydney Morning Herald (SMH) now has information about large-scale industrial spying on Japanese companies carried out by Australian secret services:
BHP [BHP Billton -- the world's largest mining company] was among the companies helped by Australian spy agencies as they negotiated trade deals with Japan, a former Australian Secret Intelligence Service officer says.
A former diplomat has also confirmed Australian intelligence agencies have long targeted Japanese companies. Writing in The Japan Times, Professor Gregory Clark said Australian companies were beneficiaries of intelligence operations.
“In Australia, favoured firms getting spy material on Japanese contract policies and other business negotiations used to joke how [it had] ‘fallen off the back of a truck’,” Professor Clark wrote.
The article has more details, but doesn’t reveal how the materials were obtained. However, since Australia is part of the “Five Eyes” inner circle of snooping countries that also includes the US, UK, Canada and New Zealand, it seems likely that information of interest from those partners also found its way to Australian companies. SMH quotes Clark as saying:
Business information is a main target for [intelligence] agencies
It will be interesting to see if later releases from Snowden’s hoard of documents show any evidence of this Australian use of NSA materials for industrial espionage.Follow me @glynmoody on Twitter or identi.ca, and +glynmoody on Google+
The corridors of the Australian parliament are so white you squint. The sound is hushed; the smell is floor polish. The wooden floors shine so virtuously they reflect the cartoon portraits of prime ministers and rows of Aboriginal paintings, suspended on white walls, their blood and tears invisible.
The parliament stands in Barton, a suburb of Canberra named after the first prime minister of Australia, Edmund Barton, who drew up the White Australia Policy in 1901. “The doctrine of the equality of man,” said Barton, “was never intended to apply” to those not British and white-skinned.
Barton’s concern was the Chinese, known as the Yellow Peril; he made no mention of the oldest, most enduring human presence on earth: the first Australians. They did not exist. Their sophisticated care of a harsh land was of no interest. Their epic resistance did not happen. Of those who fought the British invaders of Australia, the Sydney Monitor reported in 1838: “It was resolved to exterminate the whole race of blacks in that quarter.” Today, the survivors are a shaming national secret.
The town of Wilcannia, in New South Wales, is twice distinguished. It is a winner of a national Tidy Town award and its indigenous people have one of the lowest recorded life expectancies. They are usually dead by the age of 35. The Cuban government runs a literacy programme for them, as they do among the poorest of Africa. According to the Credit Suisse Global Wealth report, Australia is the richest place on earth.
Politicians in Canberra are among the wealthiest citizens. Their self-endowment is legendary. Last year, the then minister for indigenous affairs, Jenny Macklin, refurbished her office at a cost to the taxpayer of $331,144.
Macklin recently claimed that, in government, she had made a “huge difference”. This is true. During her tenure, the number of Aboriginal people living in slums increased by almost a third, and more than half the money spent on indigenous housing was pocketed by white contractors and a bureaucracy for which she was largely responsible. A typical, dilapidated house in an outback indigenous community must accommodate as many as 25 people. Families, the elderly and the disabled wait years for sanitation that works.
In 2009, Professor James Anaya, the respected UN Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous people, described as racist a “state of emergency” that stripped indigenous communities of their tenuous rights and services on the pretext that pedophile gangs were present in “unthinkable” numbers – a claim dismissed as false by police and the Australian Crime Commission.
The then opposition spokesman on indigenous affairs, Tony Abbott, told Anaya to “get a life” and not “just listen to the old victim brigade.” Abbott is now the prime minister of Australia.
I drove into the red heart of central Australia and asked Dr. Janelle Trees about the “old victim brigade”. A GP whose indigenous patients live within a few miles of $1,000-a-night resorts serving Uluru (Ayers Rock), she said, “There is asbestos in Aboriginal homes, and when somebody gets a fibre of asbestos in their lungs and develops mesothelioma, [the government] doesn’t care. When the kids have chronic infections and end up adding to these incredible statistics of indigenous people dying of renal disease, and vulnerable to world record rates of rheumatic heart disease, nothing is done. I ask myself: why not? Malnutrition is common. I wanted to give a patient an anti-inflammatory for an infection that would have been preventable if living conditions were better, but I couldn’t treat her because she didn’t have enough food to eat and couldn’t ingest the tablets. I feel sometimes as if I’m dealing with similar conditions as the English working class at the beginning of the industrial revolution.”
In Canberra, in ministerial offices displaying yet more first-nation art, I was told repeatedly how “proud” politicians were of what “we have done for indigenous Australians”. When I asked Warren Snowdon — the minister for indigenous health in the Labor government recently replaced by Abbott’s conservative coalition — why after almost a quarter of a century representing the poorest, sickest Australians, he had not come up with a solution, he said, “What a stupid question. What a puerile question.”
At the end of Anzac Parade in Canberra rises the Australian National War Memorial, which historian Henry Reynolds calls “the sacred centre of white nationalism”. I was refused permission to film in this great public place. I had made the mistake of expressing an interest in the frontier wars in which black Australians fought the British invasion without guns but with ingenuity and courage – the epitome of the “Anzac tradition”. Yet, in a country littered with cenotaphs not one officially commemorates those who fell resisting “one of the greatest appropriations of land in world history”, wrote Reynolds in his landmark book Forgotten War. More first Australians were killed than Native Americans on the American frontier and Maoris in New Zealand. The state of Queensland was a slaughterhouse. An entire people became prisoners of war in their own country, with settlers calling for their extinction. The cattle industry prospered using indigenous men virtually as slave labour. The mining industry today makes profits of a billion dollars a week on indigenous land.
Suppressing these truths, while venerating Australia’s servile role in the colonial wars of Britain and the US, has almost cult status in Canberra today. Reynolds and the few who question it have been smeared with abuse. Australia’s unique first people are its Intermenschen. As you enter the National War Memorial, indigenous faces are depicted as stone gargoyles alongside kangaroos, reptiles, birds and other “native wildlife”.
When I began filming this secret Australia 30 years ago, a global campaign was under way to end apartheid in South Africa. Having reported from South Africa, I was struck by the similarity of white supremacy and the compliance and defensiveness of liberals. Yet no international opprobrium, no boycotts, disturbed the surface of “lucky” Australia. Watch security guards expel Aboriginal people from shopping malls in Alice Springs; drive the short distance from the suburban barbies of Cromwell Terrace to Whitegate camp, where the tin shacks have no reliable power and water. This is apartheid, or what Reynolds calls, “the whispering in our hearts”.
John Pilger’s film, Utopia, about Australia, is released in cinemas on 15 November and broadcast on ITV in December. It is released in Australia in January.
US intelligence agencies are using Australian embassies throughout Asia to intercept data and gather information across the continent, according to the latest report based on documents leaked by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden.
Data collection facilities operate out of the embassies in Jakarta, Bangkok, Hanoi, Bejing, and Dili, according to Fairfax media. There are also units in the Australian High Commission in Kuala Lumpur, the most populated city in Malaysia, and Port Moresby, the capital of Papua New Guinea.
More intelligence collection occurs at US embassies and consulates, as well as at the diplomatic outposts of other ‘Five Eye’ nations, particularly Britain and Canada. The Defence Signals Directorate, which falls under the Australian Defence Agency, conducts the surveillance missions, and most Australian diplomatic officers are completely unaware of such activity, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.
The ‘Five Eyes’ is an alliance for intelligence cooperation that includes the United States, Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
The document released by Der Spiegel, codenamed ‘STATEROOM,’ indicates the outfits “are small in size and in number of personnel staffing them… They are covert, and their true mission is not known by the majority of the diplomatic staff at the facility where they are assigned.”
The Australian Department of Foreign Affairs refused comment on the story, saying it is against government policy to speak on intelligence activity.
The NSA document viewed by Der Spiegel also proves that the intelligence missions are hidden: “For example antennas are sometimes hidden in false architectural features or roof maintenance sheds.”
The Jakarta unit, in particular, is a hotbed of information. “The huge growth of mobile phone networks has been a great boon and Jakarta’s political elite are a loquacious bunch; even when they think their own intelligence services are listening they just keep talking,” a source said.
The disclosure comes as US President Barack Obama is reportedly considering suspending all surveillance efforts against American allies. He is facing growing pressure from the international community after reports questioned whether the NSA monitored the personal cell phone of German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Another leak this week revealed that the US swept up more than 60 million phone calls from Spain in one month alone.
European leaders, once reluctant to demonize the surveillance, now openly wonder if the surveillance was ever employed to stop terrorism, as US leaders have maintained all along. German leaders have suggested renegotiating a deal known as the SWIFT pact, which allows the US to track the flow of what it suspects are terrorist finances.
“It really isn’t enough to be outraged,” German Justice Minister Sabine Leutheusser-Schanarrenberger told rbb-Inforadio this week. “This would be a signal that something can happen and make clear to the Americans that the [EU’s] policy is changing.”
Yet intelligence officers speaking to Fairfax Media now say that it is good to stop terrorism and international crime, “but the main focus is political, diplomatic and economic intelligence.”