News & Current Affairs
30 September 2014
George Brandis has silently swept away your freedoms
Lockdown: An Australian Federal Police officer at the ministerial entrance to Parliament House.
Australia has changed radically since last week though it might not look like it on the surface.
Late Thursday night the Senate passed the National Security Amendment Bill (No.1) 2014 giving unlimited power to spies and secret police.
The laws have been maimed. Unimaginable things can happen now, things that Australians have only read about in books. Not books like Thomas Paine's The Rights of Man. Those principles have been thrown away.
Books like Stasiland, by Anna Funder, where the "puzzlers" of East Germany piece together secret police files shredded when the Berlin Wall fell in 1989.
Strand by strand they find the secret horrors done to missing people. They will never finish. Germany now has a glass cupola over its Reichstag. The symbol was deliberate: the government is transparent and the people walk above them. Sunlight disinfects the debating chamber of the Bundestag below.
Australia has just voted in the opposite direction. Now officials can break the law with immunity from prosecution - and without having to answer to a court. They can act in total secrecy.
They will decide what they do and to whom and when. They do not have to ask permission. They will choose when to interfere in your life and when they won't. They can dip into your most private communications and they don't need a warrant to do so.
Sometimes they will do it because it is necessary to fight crime. Sometimes because they enjoy it. Nobody will be watching them. If they mess up your life and you tell anybody, you will get 10 years' jail – even if it doesn't harm security.
When a Special Intelligence Operation (SIO) is declared then any participant can break the law on you with no consequences, according to Schedule 3 section 35k.
There are broad limits. They cannot kill or torture you, or cause significant physical injury. Minor injury or mental torment is fine. They can't commit a sexual offence or cause significant loss of property either.
WHO ARE THESE PEOPLE?
Anyone involved in an SIO will have these powers – but who are they?
ASIO, with 1778 staff. The Australian Federal Police, with more than 6900 staff. NSW Police with about 16,370 officers and a spy database called COPS which has more than 30 million entries on the people of NSW.
But not just them. Anyone involved in an SIO enjoys legal immunity, including affiliates and subcontractors – whoever they are. Then there are all the other state and territory police forces and the rest of the spy community including the Defence Intelligence Organisation, Australian Secret Intelligence Service, Defence Signals Directorate, Defence Intelligence Organisation, Office of National Assessments, Defence Imagery and Geospatial Organisation. And overseas agencies from Five-Eyes alliance countries (which ones?).
Each year members of ASIO are seconded to the public service bureaucracy and vice versa. So anybody from a dark pool of thousands could be involved in an SIO. There is nothing to stop them abusing their new powers, the protections have been wiped away. You just have to trust they are all "first-class citizens" who wouldn't dream of misusing the law.
The Inspector General of Intelligence and Security (IGIS) is the only independent oversight body that reviews Australia's six intelligence agencies. IGIS has a budget of $4.27 million. ASIO alone has a budget of $642.25 million. It has a staff of 12 and responds to complaints. It is not a watchdog.
LAWS PASSED IN HASTE BY PEOPLE WHO DIDN'T READ THEM
Many Senators clearly hadn't read the 128 pages of major legal changes in the NSA Bill.
Hansard reveals PUP Senator Glenn Lazarus supported the Bill at the second reading, the day before the vote, without referring to any of its sections.
"I love Australia," the former football star chirped. "I love our freedom. I along with all Australians feel that our great country must be protected."
He was not alone. Liberal Senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells used her second-reading speech to blather about how great multiculturalism is. She gave the statistics for how many Muslims live in Australia. Then she said it was not about religion anyway.
Labor was missing in action having already agreed to support the Bill.
Senator George Brandis – who authorised an ASIO raid on lawyer Bernard Collaery - praised the bipartisan support as he introduced the Bill for the third reading on Thursday.
"What Senator Brandis proudly summed up as bipartisanship, I would characterise as an absence of critique and opposition at a time when this country desperately needs it," said Greens Senator Scott Ludlam."I want to thank my crossbench colleagues from across the political spectrum for providing the only opposition that Australia has tonight."
The only Senators to oppose the Bill were the Greens, LDP Senator David Leyonhjelm, DLP Senator John Madigan and Independent Senator Nick Xenophon.
It passed 44 to 12 in a climate of fear.
SECURITY FORCES CREATED CLIMATE OF FEAR
Armed police patrolled the halls of Parliament in the days leading up to the vote so the Senators and MPs could physically see their lives were protected from imminent danger.
A sense of urgency was deliberately created by the media wing of the security forces to get the powers they want.
Media Watch exposed how NSW Police director of public affairs Strath Gordon's office provided professional video footage and photographs of massive Sydney terror raids to the media in the week before the vote.
Mr Gordon's office ensured the raids were given maximum publicity, announcing them on Twitter.
The front page of the Daily Telegraph trumpeted that Parliament was under threat.
"Armed Australian Federal Police officers will take back command and control of Parliament House in Canberra after fresh revelations suspected terrorists were planning a potential attack," wrote Simon Benson.
Politicians who didn't read the Bill had no chance to escape the terror paving its passage to the Senate.
The much-maligned PUP Senator Jacqui Lambie at least noticed the coincidence.
"We would not be in this position, where there are armed guards on high alert patrolling our national Parliament and where we are debating legislation that undermines personal rights and freedoms, if we had cracked down and taken a harder line with the enemy we face today - the sharia law extremists of 10 years ago," she said.
She correctly grasped a nettle avoided by the rest of the world since 2001 - and for which she has been attacked.
The war on "terror" is a euphemism for the war on "Islamist fascism".
The fear of inciting hatred against moderate, secular Muslims – who are themselves the first victims of Islamist fascists – has caused the entire Western polity to avoid the truth for more than a decade with the weasel word "terror".
Politicians have preferred to destroy civil liberties ahead of offending minorities no matter how reasonable or necessary to limit the spread of a theocratic, totalitarian, violent political ideology.
Islamist fascists Hizb-ut-Tahrir, banned across the Middle East, are free to roam Lakemba. Despite openly declaring itself as a political party with an ideology of Islam that is trying to establish a Caliphate under Sharia, Australia has not banned them.
The blind extreme of multiculturalism now means that if you criticise Islamist fascism then you are guilty of offending a minority, tantamount to racism.
This seedbed of intellectual dishonesty has fruited the new laws that have maimed the country without doing anything to fix the root problem.
Islamist fascism was not targeted so everybody's freedom must go. And that suits ASIO just fine.
Unfortunately Ms Lambie – who at least showed some familiarity with the Bill - failed to understand this and voted for the legislation alongside her colleagues.
In 1984, author George Orwell laid bare the lie of authoritarian utopia. It was a warning, not an instruction manual for Senator Brandis.
He wrote that if the citizen gives up freedom and privacy to the state in return for safety, the bargain is fatal.
You end up with neither security nor freedom.
You end up bullied and starved and told you are being well fed and too scared not to love your masters.
The citizen needs protection from the state built into the laws and that is what they smashed on Thursday.
This generation has forgotten. The price is to visit those miserable, dreary lessons learnt by the East Germans.