Category Archives: Australia

Nauru files: Cache of 2,000 leaked reports reveal scale of abuse of children in Australian offshore detention

Paul Farrell, Nick Evershedand Helen Davidson report for The Guardian:

The devastating trauma and abuse inflicted on children held by Australia in offshore detention has been laid bare in the largest cache of leaked documents released from inside its immigration regime.

More than 2,000 leaked incident reports from Australia’s detention camp for asylum seekers on the remote Pacific island of Nauru – totalling more than 8,000 pages – are published by the Guardian today. The Nauru files set out as never before the assaults, sexual abuse, self-harm attempts, child abuse and living conditions endured by asylum seekers held by the Australian government, painting a picture of routine dysfunction and cruelty.

The Guardian’s analysis of the files reveal that children are vastly over-represented in the reports. More than half of the 2,116 reports – a total of 1,086 incidents, or 51.3% – involve children, although children made up only about 18% of those in detention on Nauru during the time covered by the reports, May 2013 to October 2015. The findings come just weeks after the brutal treatment of young people in juvenile detention in the Northern Territory was exposed, leading to the Australian prime minister, Malcolm Turnbull, announcing a wide-ranging public inquiry.



Australia Stopped Mass Shootings After 1996 Massacre, So Why Doesn’t the U.S. Follow Suit?

Amy Goodman speaks to Rebecca Peters, an international arms control advocate and part of the International Network on Small Arms, who led the campaign to reform Australia’s gun laws after the Port Arthur massacre in April of 1996 (Democracy Now!).

From Paris to Boston, Terrorists Were Already Known to Authorities

map-3Ryan Gallagher reports for The Intercept:

Whenever a terrorist attack occurs, it never takes long for politicians to begin calling for more surveillance powers. The horrendous attacks in Paris last week, which left more than 120 people dead, are no exception to this rule. In recent days, officials in the United Kingdom and the United States have been among those arguing that more surveillance of Internet communications is necessary to prevent further atrocities.

The case for expanded surveillance of communications, however, is complicated by an analysis of recent terrorist attacks. The Intercept has reviewed 10 high-profile jihadi attacks carried out in Western countries between 2013 and 2015 (see below), and in each case some or all of the perpetrators were already known to the authorities before they executed their plot. In other words, most of the terrorists involved were not ghost operatives who sprang from nowhere to commit their crimes; they were already viewed as a potential threat, yet were not subjected to sufficient scrutiny by authorities under existing counterterrorism powers. Some of those involved in last week’s Paris massacre, for instance, were already known to authorities; at least three of the men appear to have been flagged at different times as having been radicalized, but warning signs were ignored.

In the aftermath of a terrorist atrocity, government officials often seem to talk about surveillance as if it were some sort of panacea, a silver bullet. But what they always fail to explain is how, even with mass surveillance systems already in place in countries like France, the United States, and the United Kingdom, attacks still happen. In reality, it is only possible to watch some of the people some of the time, not all of the people all of the time. Even if you had every single person in the world under constant electronic surveillance, you would still need a human being to analyze the data and assess any threats in a timely fashion. And human resources are limited and fallible.

There is no doubt that we live in a dangerous world and that intelligence agencies and the police have a difficult job to do, particularly in the current geopolitical environment. They know about hundreds or thousands of individuals who sympathize with terrorist groups, any one of whom may be plotting an attack, yet they do not appear to have the means to monitor each of these people closely over sustained periods of time. If any lesson can be learned from studying the perpetrators of recent attacks, it is that there needs to be a greater investment in conducting targeted surveillance of known terror suspects and a move away from the constant knee-jerk expansion of dragnet surveillance, which has simply not proven itself to be effective, regardless of the debate about whether it is legal or ethical in the first place.


Cowardly Firing of Australian State-Funded TV Journalist Highlights the West’s Real Religion

Glenn Greenwald writes for The Intercept:

A TV sports commentator in Australia, Scott McIntyre, was summarily fired on Sunday by his public broadcasting employer, Special Broadcasting Services (SBS), due to a series of tweets he posted about the violence committed historically by the Australian military. McIntyre published his tweets on “Anzac Day,” a national holiday – similar to Memorial Day in the U.S. – which the Australian government hails as “one of Australia’s most important national occasions. It marks the anniversary of the first major military action fought by Australian and New Zealand forces during the First World War.”

Rather than dutifully waving the flag and singing mindless paeans to The Troops and The Glories of War, McIntyre took the opportunity on Anzac Day to do what a journalist should do: present uncomfortable facts, question orthodoxies, highlight oft-suppressed views.

Almost instantly, these tweets spawned an intense debate about war, the military and history, with many expressing support for his expressed views and large numbers expressing outrage. In other words, McIntyre committed journalism: triggering discussion and examination of political claims rather than mindless recitation, ritualistic affirmation and compelled acceptance.’


Australia: The secret country again wages war on its own people

John Pilger writes:

Australia has again declared war on its Indigenous people, reminiscent of the brutality that brought universal condemnation on apartheid South Africa. Aboriginal people are to be driven from homelands where their communities have lived for thousands of years. In Western Australia, where mining companies make billion dollar profits exploiting Aboriginal land, the state government says it can no longer afford to “support” the homelands.

Vulnerable populations, already denied the basic services most Australians take for granted, are on notice of dispossession without consultation, and eviction at gunpoint. Yet again, Aboriginal leaders have warned of “a new generation of displaced people” and “cultural genocide”.

Genocide is a word Australians hate to hear. Genocide happens in other countries, not the “lucky” society that per capita is the second richest on earth. When “act of genocide” was used in the 1997 landmark report ‘Bringing Them Home’, which revealed that thousands of Indigenous children had been stolen from their communities by white institutions and systematically abused, a campaign of denial was launched by a far-right clique around the then prime minister John Howard. It included those who called themselves the Galatians Group, then Quadrant, then the Bennelong Society; the Murdoch press was their voice.

The Stolen Generation was exaggerated, they said, if it had happened at all. Colonial Australia was a benign place; there were no massacres. The First Australians were victims of their own cultural inferiority, or they were noble savages. Suitable euphemisms were deployed.’


Rupert Murdoch’s US empire siphons $4.5b from Australian business virtually tax-free

Michael West reports for the Sydney Morning Herald:

Rupert Murdoch’s media empire in the US has siphoned off $4.5 billion of cash and shares from his Australian media businesses in the past two years, virtually tax free.

According to calculations by University of NSW accounting academic, Jeffrey Knapp, over the past 10 years, Mr Murdoch’s companies here have paid income tax equivalent to a rate of 4.8 per cent on $6.8 billion in operating cash flows, or just 10 per cent of operating profits.

News Corp Australia chief executive Julian Clarke is scheduled to appear before the Senate Inquiry into Corporate Tax Avoidance this week along with executives from Google, Apple, Glencore, Rio Tinto, BHP and Fortescue. The inquiry has been called to address rising community concerns that multinational companies are not paying their fair share of tax in Australia.’


Corals face ‘slow starvation’ from ingesting plastics pollution, experts find

Oliver Milman reports for The Guardian:

Corals such as those found on the Great Barrier Reef are at risk from the estimated 5tn pieces of plastic in the world’s oceans because researchers have discovered they digest tiny fragments of plastic at a significant rate.

A study led by the ARC centre of excellence for coral reef studies at James Cook University found that corals consumed “microplastics” – plastics measuring under 5mm – about the same rate as their normal food.

These small plastics were found deep within the gut cavity tissue of analysed corals, showing that they weren’t able to expel the fragments.’


The Orwellian Re-Branding of “Mass Surveillance” as Merely “Bulk Collection”

Glenn Greenwald writes for The Intercept:

‘Just as the Bush administration and the U.S. media re-labelled “torture” with the Orwellian euphemism “enhanced interrogation techniques” to make it more palatable, the governments and media of the Five Eyes surveillance alliance are now attempting to re-brand “mass surveillance” as “bulk collection” in order to make it less menacing (and less illegal). In the past several weeks, this is the clearly coordinated theme that has arisen in the U.S., UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand as the last defense against the Snowden revelations, as those governments seek to further enhance their surveillance and detention powers under the guise of terrorism.

This manipulative language distortion can be seen perfectly in yesterday’s white-washing report of GCHQ mass surveillance from the servile rubber-stamp calling itself “The Intelligence and Security Committee of the UK Parliament (ISC)”(see this great Guardian Editorial this morning on what a “slumbering” joke that “oversight” body is). As Committee Member MP Hazel Blears explained yesterday (photo above), the Parliamentary Committee officially invoked this euphemism to justify the collection of billions of electronic communications events every day.

The Committee actually acknowledged for the first time (which Snowden documents log ago proved) that GCHQ maintains what it calls “Bulk Personal Datasets” that contain “millions of records,” and even said about pro-privacy witnesses who testified before it: “we recognise their concerns as to the intrusive nature of bulk collection.” That is the very definition of “mass surveillance,” yet the Committee simply re-labelled it “bulk collection,” purported to distinguish it from “mass surveillance,” and thus insist that it was all perfectly legal.’


Republican Congressman Peter King: Sydney calls for “heavy surveillance”

Ben Kamisar reports for The Hill:

‘Rep. Pete King (R-N.Y.) says the deadly hostage situation in Sydney underscores the need for increased government surveillance, applauding former programs that spied on Muslim communities.

“It shows to me the need for increased surveillance, heavy surveillance, and to get as many sources as we can into these communities where these type of lunatics may come from,” King said on Fox News’ “America’s Newsroom.”

“And not just lunatics — people who are on the edge and who have these Islamist leanings,” the lawmaker added.

King went on to bash the American Civil Liberties Union and The New York Times for what he referred to as “attacking the police.”’


‘DIY Jihad’: U.S. Officials Fear Lone Wolf Attacks

SEE ALSO: If the war on terror fuels terrorism, how does terrorism actually end? and US government agents ‘directly involved’ in most high-profile US terror plots

Deadly Australian Hostage Siege Was Act Of “Desperate Man”

Sydney Gunman Made Hostages Use Social Media

Australia commandos end Sydney cafe siege

BBC News reports:

Map‘Australian commandos have stormed a cafe in Sydney, ending a 16-hour siege by a gunman identified as an Iranian refugee who took dozens of hostages.

Paramedics carrying stretchers raced towards the cafe moments after the commandos entered the building. Several people were injured.

Unconfirmed local reports said two people, including the gunman, died.

The centre of the city has been in lockdown since the gunman seized the hostages early on Monday morning.

Early in the siege, hostages were forced to hold up a black Islamic banner at the window.

The cafe is located in Martin Place, a busy shopping area in Sydney’s financial district.’


Australia Is Locking Up Mentally Impaired Aboriginal Men in Jail Indefinitely

Scott Mitchell writes for VICE News:

‘A government commission found on Tuesday that Australia failed to abide by international human rights treaties by allowing the Northern Territory to indefinitely lock up people who could not be tried in a criminal court because of mental disabilities.

The Australian Human Rights Commission investigated the cases of four aboriginal men — identified only as KA, KB, KC, and KD in the report — but these potentially represent just the tip of the iceberg.

The cases expose a struggle to govern communities spread across vast swathes of central Australia, and the way the country’s crushing wheels of bureaucracy and justice deal with mentally handicapped people.’


The Forgotten Coup: How America and Britain crushed the government of their ‘ally’, Australia

John Pilger writes:

whitlam1.jpg‘Across the political and media elite in Australia, a silence has descended on the memory of the great, reforming prime minister Gough Whitlam, who has died. 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 him.

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 farm”. 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 US in its invasion of Vietnam, then provided “black teams” to be run by the CIA. US 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.’


Government review: Every road in Australia should have tolls reports:

Bad news ... the most controversial proposal in the report is “cost-reflective pricing fo‘Every road in the nation would be tolled with costs tied to what, where and when you drive, under a recommendation from a powerful review commissioned by the Federal Government.

The review of competition policy also argues for opening up industries such as taxis and pharmacies, removing restrictions on trading hours and deregulating power prices, as well as closing the gap between what Australians and the rest of the world pay for books, music and software.

But of all the recommendations in the 313-page report, the most controversial is the proposal for “cost-reflective pricing for roads”.’


Australia’s anti-terror laws propose data retention and ‘no-knock warrant’ powers

Claire Reilly reports for CNET:

‘[…] The Bill introduces the concept of a “delayed notification search warrant” — often referred to in the United States as a ‘no-knock warrant’ — which would allow Australian Federal Police to search premises without prior warning and “without having to produce the warrant at the time of entry and search”.

In addition to defining these new search powers, the Counter-Terrorism Bill sets out measures for accessing digital data held by potential terror suspects. Specifically, it stipulates that this may include “data not held at the premises” which can be accessed by police executing a warrant.’


Australian PM: ‘Security may come before some freedoms’

BBC News reports:

Tony Abbott‘Australian PM Tony Abbott says certain freedoms may have to be forfeited in the name of security, after major anti-terror raids last week. His government would seek broad powers to fight the rising threat of militant Islamists, he told parliament.

[…] Laws to create new terrorism offences and to extend powers to monitor or detain suspects would be introduced to parliament this week, he said. Legislation that would require telecommunication companies to provide data to police and security agencies would also be introduced soon.

“Regrettably for some time to come, the delicate balance between freedom and security may have to shift,” he said. “There may be more restrictions on some, so that there can be more protection for others.”‘


China Declares Australia a Military Threat Over US Pact

Joshua Philipp reports for The Epoch Times:

empire-in-asia‘China’s state-run media have declared Australia a threat to its national security, after Australia finalized a 25-year military pact with the United States. The United States currently has 1,200 troops from the Marine Corps and Air Force training with Australian troops for humanitarian and disaster relief. The defense agreement will increase the number of U.S. troops at Darwin in northern Australia to 2,500.

The Chinese regime is none too pleased about the agreement, however. Li Jie, rear admiral of China’s People’s Liberation Army Navy, told Want China Times that Australia could pressure China’s supply lines in the Strait of Malacca in a conflict over the South China Sea. “Australia is therefore likely to become a threat to China’s national security,” it states. Global Times reported that if a war broke out between China and Vietnam or the Philippines, the United States could deploy submarines and aircraft from Australia.’


Australia Great Barrier Reef outlook ‘poor and deteriorating’

BBC News reports:

Picture of the Great Barrier Reef, which can be seen from space.‘The outlook for Australia’s Great Barrier Reef is poor despite conservation efforts, with further deterioration expected in coming years, a report says. The bleak forecast came in a five-yearly report released by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority.

Climate change remained the biggest threat to the site, the report said. But poor water quality from land-based run-off, coastal development and fishing also posed challenges, it said.

“Even with the recent management initiatives to reduce threats and improve resilience, the overall outlook for the Great Barrier Reef is poor, has worsened since 2009 and is expected to further deteriorate,” the report released on Tuesday said. Greater reduction of all threats at local and regional levels was needed to stop the decline and improve the reef’s ability to recover, it said.’


Australia to sign 25-year US Marine agreement

Madeleine Coorey reports for AFP:

‘Australia and the United States will sign a 25-year deal allowing 2,500 US Marines and air force personnel to train Down Under, Defence Minister David Johnston said Monday, describing it as a “win-win situation”. The agreement will be inked Tuesday when US Secretary of State John Kerry and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel meet with their Australian counterparts Julie Bishop and Johnston in Sydney.

[…] The centrepiece will be the agreement allowing the Marine rotational deployment in the northern city of Darwin, which was first announced by US President Barack Obama in 2011 as part of his “pivot” towards Asia. […] Hagel said the deal emphasised Washington’s “rebalance” towards the Asia-Pacific, saying the United States was a Pacific power holding about 200 ships and more than 360,000 personnel in the region.”We are not going anywhere,” Hagel said. “Our partnerships are here, our treaty obligations are here and are important to us.’


Australia’s constitution to recognise Aborigines

Editor’s Note: John Pilger’s latest documentary on the history of Australia’s Aborigines is well worth a watch if you haven’t already seen it. You can view the trailer to ‘Utopia’ here.

Australian court’s gagging order condemned as ‘abuse of legal process’

Robert Booth and Rob Evans report for The Guardian:

WikiLeaks screensaver‘A sweeping gagging order issued by an Australian court to block reporting of bribery allegations involving several international political leaders has been attacked by journalists and lawyers as “unacceptable” and “an abuse of legal process”.

The extraordinary prohibition emerged from a criminal case in the Australian courts and relates to part of an ongoing investigation by prosecutors across three continents into allegations of multimillion-pound bribes paid in the banknote-printing industry.

Business executives at a company called Securency are alleged to have conspired to win lucrative contracts to print plastic notes in several south-east Asian countries allegedly by paying bribes to high-ranking politicians and officials between 1999 and 2005.’


Australian journalists will face jail over spy leaks under new security laws

Paul Farrell and Daniel Hurst:

NSA headquarters‘Australian journalists could face prosecution and jail for reporting Snowden-style revelations about certain spy operations, in an “outrageous” expansion of the government’s national security powers, leading criminal lawyers have warned. A bill presented to parliament on Wednesday by the attorney general, George Brandis, would expand the powers of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (Asio), including creation of a new offence punishable by five years in jail for “any person” who disclosed information relating to “special intelligence operations”.

The person would be liable for a 10-year term if the disclosure would “endanger the health or safety of any person or prejudice the effective conduct of a special intelligence operation”. Special intelligence operations are a new type of operation in which intelligence officers receive immunity from liability or prosecution where they may need to engage in conduct that would be otherwise unlawful.’


Australian woman denied disability pension because she was “not disabled enough”

U.S. and Australia to Cooperate on Asian Missile-Defense Plans

Rob Taylor reports for The Wall Street Journal:

‘Talks between the U.S. and Australia have given fresh momentum to Washington’s plans to create a larger ballistic-missile defense shield for its allies in Asia. According to a U.S. statement overnight, discussions between President Barack Obama and visiting Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott resulted in a commitment from Canberra for help in pushing forward with expanded missile-defense plans as a counter to North Korea. The talks also firmed up U.S. intentions to position more warships and aircraft in Australia, as regional concerns mount over instability in the South China Sea.

Disputes between China and several of its neighbors have escalated in recent months, and the U.S. has worked to shore up its defense ties with its regional allies. China has its own ballistic-missile capability, and Beijing has long been skeptical of the growing U.S. missile-defense plans in Asia. The U.S. has for years been working toward setting up a regional defense shield capable of thwarting potential missile threats from countries such as North Korea. The U.S. and Australia have been critical of missile tests and other actions by North Korea seen as provocative. Japan and the U.S. have had a joint ballistic-missile defense system in place since 2010. Washington is also studying plans to deploy a missile shield in South Korea—a move that China has warned would unnecessarily raise regional tensions.’


Australia asked Americans for more help to spy on Australian citizens

Paul Farrell reports for The Guardian:

nsa docs‘Australia’s intelligence agency asked for more help from its US counterparts to increase surveillance on Australians suspected of involvement in international extremist activities. Documents from the US National Security Agency, published by Glenn Greenwald on Tuesday in his book No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA and the Surveillance State, reveal new details of Australia’s close relationship with the US spy agency.

In an extract on 21 February 2011 from the acting deputy director of Australia’s Defence Signals Directorate, which has since been re-named the Australian Signals Directorate (ASD), the director pleads for additional surveillance on Australians. “We would very much welcome the opportunity to extend that partnership with NSA to cover the increasing number of Australians involved in international extremist activities – in particular Australians involved with AQAP,” the extract said.’


An Unlikely Radical: Interview with Former Australian PM Malcolm Fraser

Robert Manne writes for the Sydney Morning Herald:

Prime time: Fraser in 1979.‘Fraser is appalled by the trajectory of Australian foreign policy since the end of the Cold War, beginning under Howard but extended under Labor. “The policy of dependence has got worse since the breakup of the Soviet Union,” he tells me. “We’re more dependent on America today than we ever were on Britain, and more dependent on America today than we ever were during the Cold War.” Why so? He believes the answer lies in the intimacy of our contemporary military relations.

Fraser cites four examples. In 2012, a serving Australian officer, Major General Rick Burr, was appointed as Deputy Commander of the 60,000 strong US Pacific Army. Few Australians even know. At present, HMAS Sydney spends several months each year sailing with the US Navy’s Seventh Fleet, including in the waters of north-east Asia. In 2011, President Obama announced that Darwin would become a US Army base; Fraser tells me that it was “an absolute disgrace” that this momentous decision was scarcely debated in Australia. He also thinks it disgraceful that we allowed President Obama to announce the US decision for its pivot into the western Pacific while on Australian soil. This symbolises for him the willing abdication not only of our independence but, more deeply, of our sovereignty.

Most important for Fraser, however, is the US communications base at Pine Gap. During his time as prime minister, Pine Gap was used exclusively for surveillance. As a result of technological change, it is now an integral part of the US “offensive war machine”. Pine Gap would be used, he believes, to target China’s nuclear arsenal in case of war. It presently provides information for the drone strikes killing Islamist fighters (and unlucky bystanders) in the “war on terror”.

This leads Fraser to his conclusion that, given the current US-Australian military relationship, we will inevitably become part of any military action in our region that involves the US, no matter what our government might think or wish to do. According to Fraser, we have arrived at a fundamental paradox. Traditionally, we looked to great and powerful friends for protection. At present, the only national security threat we face arises from the nature of our military relations with one of these great and powerful friends, relations that have developed as a consequence of an unthinking policy based on instinct and drift.’


Australian government may ban environmental boycotts

Lenore Taylor writes for The Guardian:

Photograph: GetUp!Coalition MPs and industry groups are using a review of competition laws to push for a ban on campaigns against companies on the grounds that they are selling products that damage the environment, for example by using old-growth timber or overfished seafood. The parliamentary secretary for agriculture, Richard Colbeck, said the backbench rural committee and “quite a number in the ministry” want to use the review to remove an exemption for environmental groups from the consumer law ban on so-called “secondary boycotts”.

“I do think there is an appetite in the government for changing these laws,” Colbeck said. The exemption also applies to campaigns related to “consumer protection” but Colbeck said he would not be seeking to change that provision. The government announced last week a “root and branch review” of competition policy headed by the economist Professor Ian Harper.


Japan accepts UN court ban on Antarctic whaling

From BBC News:

The UN’s International Court of Justice (ICJ) has ruled that the Japanese government must halt its whaling programme in the Antarctic. It agreed with Australia, which brought the case in May 2010, that the programme was not for scientific research as claimed by Tokyo.

Japan said it would abide by the decision but added it “regrets and is deeply disappointed by the decision”. Australia argued that the programme was commercial whaling in disguise.

The court’s decision is considered legally binding. Japan had argued that the suit brought by Australia was an attempt to impose its cultural norms on Japan.