‘National Security’ And Some Basic Priorities That Aren’t.

Responses to the Liberal’s ‘National Security’ agenda are interesting.

The Conversation has an article today titled ‘Abbotts national security changes are unlikely to make us safer’ and yet the opening sentance is “Prime Minister deserves the benefit of the Doubt that his intentions to further strenghthen Australia’s national security are good, well planned and most importantly justified.” The author, Clarke Jones, continues by going into how the proposed changes have the potential to exacerbate the underlying causes of violent extremism and further damage Australia’s cohesion. You can read the article here yourself. 

Clearly violence in the sense that is committed by the ‘Other’ is hot political tom yum at the moment and like tom yum leaves many people with either fire in their belly or a stomach pain. 

There are two more significant and basic issues I would suggest are more urgent food for the National plate.

  • The level of family violence within our communities

  • The level of youth unemployment

Both warrant significant government input and support rather than platitudes and lip service, cutbacks and ‘corporate buddy funding’.

Two great ABC programs on these topics have touched a nerve for me this week;

Last night’s Q&A on Family Violence, and the most recent 4 Corners report on Work Program rorting. Neither of the issues picked up by the programs are new, and in fact many Australians suffer from compassion fatigue in relation to the plethora of information that is out there on continued concerns around these issues. Both should be core business in any government ‘reform’ agenda. The victims, children, women and men who suffer as the ‘exceptional’ victims, deserve to be protected by our government who blithely make statements about our ‘protection’ being so important to them. ‘Death cults’ as so many tweeters suggested are not the priority.

When Abbott takes the stance of ‘our home is our castle’ in ‘fighting terrorism’ (somewhat of an oxymoron) or ‘shirtfronting Putin’, he embodies everything that sits underneath the endemic problem of male violence, against each other, women, children and community. Let’s face it the guy is a ‘bloke’ and likes ‘bloke speak’ he thinks it makes him ‘one of us’ and fails to see how it sets him apart. He is an embarrassment. Remember he is the ‘Minister for Women’!

Thanks Tony

I have worked extensively in the areas of sexual assault, child protection and family services. These are complex fields that require comprehensive service models and stamina from governments to persist beyond the political photo opportunity. Many of my colleagues are tired, they are angry at the government’s lack of insight and tap turning on the already pitifully low flow of funds that support agencies ongoing work. The liberal and labour shift under a neo-liberal agenda towards provision of social services from corporate enterprise rather than community networks has undermined much good work in this arena and simply depresses those who work in the field, with children, women, men, youth, families and communities.

The result of these policies? – human experience of deep suffering particularly in vulnerable ‘shadow people.’

The outcome of this bi-partisan neo-liberal agenda was painfully clear in the 4 Corners report ‘The Jobs Game’  (here) where the ABC program exposed the extent of taxpayer money stolen by many of the agencies who sit in the service sector now wrapped firmly around the unemployed. The program explored how “agencies have blossomed thanks to the privatisation of the Commonwealth Employment Service in 1998, and are thriving on contracts worth hundreds of millions of dollars.” The program explored how, “unemployment is now big business in Australia with some $1.3 billion spending on its welfare to work scheme.” More poignantly, it exposed the suffering of people forced to undertake useless and soul destroying ‘training’ programs and regularly spend their time and transport money to meet with people who demoralise them and provide little to assist. Clearly Jobs vs jobless is the figure that needs rebalancing, but of course that is not on their agenda, it is in fact a good thing in the world of big business that the pool of unemployed remain a source of potential cheap labour.

(For a thorough look at the economic rationalist fallacies read Bill Mitchell’s blog. His article on the Job Services debacle here)

Job Creation scheme politics-government-jobs-creation-civil-public-cgon748_low-clive-goddard.jpg

Job Creation scheme
politics-government-jobs-creation-civil-public-cgon748_low-clive-goddard.jpg

Again there are so many anecdotal tales of rort and subterfuge in this area, with some ‘providers’ being more honest than others and indeed reputable agencies choosing not to participate because it is contradictory to their values.

The program did not have a chance to explore the fudged numbers that then go to make up the government stats on under and un employed. It did not look at fair wage, it did not examine gender disproportion in wage levels, the ongoing casualisation of labour and the associated insecurities placed on the ‘less fortunate’. (Although QI touched on these power differentials in relation to male violence against women and the increased capacity of middle and upper class women to extricate themselves from situations of Family Violence)

The vulnerable are not only being exploited, but successive governments are continuing to use the people’s taxes to prioritise and implement their ill-thought policies, and worse, transnational pockets. The saddest thing about the failure to sincerely address these issues is the effects of government failure to act with foresight and forethought and to continue kneejerk responses that politicise genuine community concerns.

When government encourages and supports Big Business to spread it tenticles into basic human resources and social interventions like;

  • Our ground water sources.….

http://www.thirdworldtraveler.com/Water/Global_Trade_BG.html

Where there is a demand for the trade of water across borders, it is already well underway. The trade in bottled water is one of the fastest-growing (and least regulated) industries in the world. In the 1970s, the annual volume was 300 million gallons. By 1980, this figure had climbed to 630 million gallons, and by the end of the decade, the world was drinking two billion gallons of bottled water every year. But these numbers pale in comparison to the explosion in bottled water sales in the last five years-over 20 percent annually. In 2000 over 8 billion gallons (24 billion liters) of water was bottled and traded globally, over 90 percent of it in non-reusable plastic containers……………………

Alongside the giants of the industry, such as Perrier, Evian, Naya, Poland Spring, Clearly Canadian, La Croix and Purely Alaskan, there are literally thousands of smaller companies now in the business. As well, the big soft-drink players are entering the market en masse. PepsiCo has its Aquafina line and CocaCola has just launched the North American version of its international label, Bon Aqua, called Dasani. CocaCola predicts that its water line, which is just processed tap water and sells for more than gasoline, will surpass its soft-drink line within a decade.

More on Coke: http://www.abc.net.au/7.30/content/2005/s1463816.htm

  • Our Health and Welfare System

  • Our Energy ‘providers’

We are firmly in the grip of spin and corporate control and have to speak up.

Thank-you Auntie I was disillusioned with you, but you can still throw a curve ball. (Honourable mention to Media Watch!)

During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act.”

George Orwell

David Hicks and the Australian ‘political judgment’ override on legal matters and it’s citizens

The David Hicks story is one that if you read his own book “Guantanamo- My Journey” Heinemann 2010 reads like a ‘wrong guy in the wrong place with the wrong passport’ tale. His ex US Army lawyer, Michael ‘Dan’ Mori who bravely championed the legal rights of Hicks, remains high on my list of people I respect. He now lives in Melbourne.

American lawyer Michael Mori with two of his three sons, Enrico (far left) and Dante. Photo, Simon Schluter (SMH 2012)

American lawyer Michael Mori with two of his three sons, Enrico (far left) and Dante. Photo, Simon Schluter (SMH 2012)

The timeline of events from David Hicks leaving Australia at 24 years old, on a ‘one-way ticket to Pakistan’ in 1999, through his capture by the Northern Alliance Mujahadeen in Afghanistan in December 2001,  ‘sale’ to the US army for $5,000,  ‘Interview’ by Australian intelligence officials aboard the USS Peleliu and transfer to Gitmo on Jan11 2002 for a 5 year period of incarceration and unfathomable torture, legal fight and eventual winning of his legal challenge to his terrorism conviction before a military court on February 19th this year can be seen here http://www.abc.net.au/news/2007-05-18/a-timeline-of-key-events/2552220

The response of our venerable leader extraordinaire?

When Toe Knee Ahh But…was asked if he thought David Hicks’s conviction should be overturned, he was reported by the ABC to have, (full article here)

advised Australians not to “fret” about an old terrorist threat.

“This is a matter for the lawyers. I will leave it for the lawyers,” Mr Abbott said.

“If I may say so, the important thing is not to fret about an old terrorist threat, it’s to focus on the current terrorist threat which is real, which is serious.”…………

Mr Abbott said Australia “did what was needed” to help Mr Hicks.

Let’s not forget whatever the legalities, and this was essentially a matter for an American court dealing with American law, he was up to no good on his own admission,” the Prime Minister said.

“I’m not in the business of apologising for the actions that Australian governments take to protect our country.”

I have read Hick’s book and can see nowhere that Australia “did what was needed” to help Mr Hicks, nor did I see any such thing happen over the years he was in Guantanamo. The struggle of his father Terry was heartwrenching. Even the Brits got their citizen’s home before Hicks was released. But of course we continue to lock up asylum seekers including children in ‘ofshore’ hell holes.

I have reposted below Binoy Kampmark’s recent article that clearly states Australia’s so-called ‘help’ for our citizen. And below the article Steve Earl’s song “John Walker Blues” from his 2002 album Jerusalem because this (then 20 year old) US citizen still languishes in gaol on a 20year sentence in the US following dubious ‘process’ in the US court system. I must add I don’t know this man’s ‘story’ but insights are there in Earl’s song, and Walker’s father’s story to the Guardian in 2011, here http://www.theguardian.com/world/2011/jul/10/john-walker-lindh-american-taliban-father

 

David Hicks and the Death of a Legal System

Global Research, February 20, 2015
Article in full, below (site here in new tab)

 

In the annals of obscene legal history, that of David Hicks, whose terrorism conviction was just quashed by the United States Court of Military Commission Review, must rank highly.[1]  It is also instructive on various levels: what is says about his treatment by the US legal system; and what it reveals about the attitudes of the Australian government. 

Australians tend to demonise or sanctify their legal villains, casting a social net around them that either protects, or asphyxiates them.  If one is an Irish scribbling horse thief with murderous tendencies and eccentric battle dress sense, then one is bound to get a spot in the hero’s pantheon.  The book collecting, education promoting judge who sentenced him to death receives the opposite treatment: snubbed by the juggernaut of historical folklore.

Hicks, from the start, was not quite that horse thief, Ned Kelly.  But he did engage in the mischief that would earn him demerit points after September 11, 2001.  He travelled to Pakistan. He spent time at al Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan.  He drank of that radicalisation soup that has gotten Europe, Australasia and the United States worried.

In the scheme of grand power politics, he found himself involved with an organisation that did not always have the official designation of terrorism – after all, elements of al Qaeda, and their hosts, the Taliban, had been recipients of US-funding during and in the aftermath of the Cold War.  The Taliban’s opponents, the Northern Alliance, captured Hicks, and surrendered him to the US in late 2001.

In confinement within the Guantánamo camp system, subject to around the clock artificial light, inedible food, forced drugging, beatings and a range of other indignities, Hicks received the brunt of juridical inventiveness.  The US Military Commissions, designed to specifically target non-US citizens, was born.  Being neither courts-martial nor civilian courts, they amputated due process and merged the role of jury and judge.  The rule on hearsay was thrown out.  The commissions restricted the accused’s right to hear all the evidence. Appeals to any other court, foreign or US, would be cut. And the death penalty might well be applied.

In 2006, the US Supreme Court in Hamdan v Rumsfeld held that the Bush administration did not have the power to create such commissions without Congressional authorisation, a feature that ran foul of such instruments as the Geneva Conventions.[2]  Not to be deterred, the then Australian Prime Minister, John Howard kept insisting that “I do not want [Hicks] to come back to Australia without first facing trial in the United States.”  Let the Americans do it, “because if he comes back to Australia he can’t be tried”. Hicks, in other words, was already guilty in the minds of Australia’s top officials.  “Of what?” posed his military defense lawyer Michael Mori. “Howard didn’t know.  How should he be tried?  Howard did not know.”

Hicks became the first, and most dubious scalp, of the reconstituted commission system.  Much of the account of his defence is discussed by Mori, a freshly recruited defence lawyer who was rapidly blooded in the byzantine legal labyrinth being constructed around his client.  His account, discussed in In the Company of Cowards (2014) reflects, not merely on Hicks defence, but the atrophying of a legal system.

Two vital issues came up in Hicks’s attempt to seek his ultimately successful appeal.  The first central legal disfigurement here lay in the pre-trial machinations that placed Hicks on the road to conceding guilt for a lesser sentence.  In accepting this “Alford plea”, the hope was to insulate the entire treatment of his plight, and by implication those in similar cases, from further legal scrutiny.

On March 30, 2007, Hicks pleaded guilty to the dubious charge of providing material support “from in or about December 2000 through in or about December 2001,… to an international terrorist organisation engaged in hostilities against the United States, namely al Qaeda, which the accused knew to be such an organization that engaged, or engages in terrorism”. The rather inventive, and retrospective charges, had been brought in February 2007, with the attempted murder charge subsequently dropped.

He was then sentenced to confinement for seven years, with the question on what would count to time already served. (The latter point is important: the prosecutors were reluctant to budge on the issue, but conceded to the balance of nine months.)   On May 20, 2007, Hicks returned to Australia, serving time at Adelaide’s Yatala prison, and was out by December.

What was significant in this case was that Hicks, his defense counsel and the convening authority had signed a pre-trial agreement indicating that the appellant had offered to plead guilty to the first charge provided he “voluntarily and expressly waive all rights to appeal or collaterally attack my conviction, sentence, or any other matter relating to this prosecution whether such a right to appeal or collateral attack arises under the Military Commission Act of 2006, or any other provision of the United States or Australian law.”

Then comes a good deal of legal stumbling.  The review commission, after accepting it had jurisdiction over the appeal, attacked the verdict in a very specific way.  The first waiver was deemed to have been made knowingly, intelligently and voluntarily.  Hicks’s pre-trial agreement was deemed favourable.  He was granted concessions.  But failure to resubmit “his appellate waiver within 10 days after the convening authority provide notice of action invalidated his appellate waiver.”

“There is insufficient indication… that the appellant reiterated his desire to not appeal within 10 days.”  In other words, Hicks had not given sufficient grounds to show that he had waived his right of appeal. “Thus we hold the waiver is invalid and unenforceable.”  The result: “The findings of guilty are set aside and dismissed and the appellant’s sentence is vacated.”

The second point noted by the review commission, citing the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit case of Al Bahlul (2014) was that “it was a plain ex post facto violation” to try a person for the offense of providing material support to terrorism after the fact.  It was a “prejudicial error” that required a vacation of the conviction.  While Al Bahlul’s plea was different from Hicks, “those differences do not dictate a different result.”  Hicks, in other words, had been bludgeoned by unlawful retrospective punishment.

In a most conspicuous way, the treatment offered to Hicks did not merely violate every sacred canon of presumed innocence, it suggested a new legal order, one stacked with ghastly, Kafka-like qualifications.  In the sinister legal purgatory of Guantánamo, Hicks could suffer Washington’s own version of a disappearance, with connivance from a subservient Canberra.

Australia’s political authorities continue that line, trumpeting a view that validates outsourcing torture, detention and confinement of its own citizens.  (They can’t even be patriotically indecent enough to inflict cruelties on their own people.)  Showing a continuing tendency to ignore evidence placed before him, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott was resolute about the quashed sentence.  “David Hicks was up to no good and I’m not in the business of apologising for the actions the Australian government takes to protect our country.”  (The statement would better read “inaction” in the name of Australian security.)

Others have preferred to ignore the procedure as a trifle.  Commercial radio stations such as Sydney’s 2UE suggested that the quashing of terrorism convictions did not imply he was a “saint”.[3]  “He may be legally innocent, but not absolved of the guilt he did [sic].”  Guilt has many shades, and such arguments fittingly ignore the one critical issue in all of this: that of the law.  In the realms of such debate, a sober middle ground is nigh impossible.

The opposition leader, Bill Shorten, proved surprisingly qualified in his statements.  “There is no doubt on one hand David  Hicks was probably foolish to get caught up in that Afghanistan conflict, but clearly there has been an injustice done to him” (The Daily Telegraph, Feb 19).

The troubling feature of the findings by the review commission is that, at its heart, little is made of the plea bargain system itself.  Nor is the entire military commission process examined in its crude corrosion of judicial protections.  The conviction was quashed because it violated a procedural requirement, and a judicial requirement.  Invalidating a badly understood waiver is one thing; invalidating the entire process of how he was dealt with, quite another.  We can at least take heart from the fact that the judges were aware of ex-post facto nastiness.

For that reason, the fate of Hicks remains the greatest affirmation of fiendish legal inventiveness, the sort of cleverness that threw the law book out in favour of gossip, arbitrariness and political judgment. It is one the US legal system has, and continues, to pay dearly for.  The Australian citizen, on the other hand, can always rely on his or her own government to surrender liberties at the drop of the judicial hat, an anaemic form of patriotism if ever there was one.  Washington, right or wrong, will have its day.

Dr. Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge.  He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne.  Email: bkampmark@gmail.com