Thursday, May 2, 2013

The War on Civil Liberties

The following sentence, taken from a Herald feature on those-who-would-be-politicians following this September's federal election, neatly encapsulates the opportunism of young people who see one or other of the two major parties as a vehicle to feather their nests:

"For political hopefuls, budding careerists, and the lamentably rarer policy-motivated, election 2013 spells opportunity." (The game of thrones, Mark Kenny & Jacqueline Maley, Sydney Morning Herald, 27/4/13)

These are the kind for whom, as often as not, you'd need a pair of tweezers and a microscope to tell whether they're Lib or Lab.

Now they may be in it for Number 1, but the system has no problem whatever with that. The system loves these budding political careerists. In fact, they're an integral part of the system.

And we love them too. That's why we elect them, time and time again. They're correctly called the politicians we deserve.

But there's another breed of young people who involve themselves in activism for political change with no regard whatever for personal gain or status. Their only motivation is a simple desire to defend victims of injustice and oppression, whether near or far, and to resist the hell-bent pillaging and plundering of Planet Earth.

Unfortunately, however, the system doesn't in the least approve of such people. No, it abhors, smears, and harasses them. In other places it silences them - permanently. The following experience, described by Green Left Weekly's Patrick Harrison, documents that harassment:

"I received a knock on the door on April 16 from two members of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation, better known as ASIO. The two told me they would like to have a conversation. When I asked what they wanted to speak about, they told me they were doing their job - protecting 'national security' - and had a few questions about my involvement in political campaigns in Sydney. Apparently the latest threat to 'national security' is 'political violence' in the activist community.

"The agents wanted to speak to me, as a Palestine solidarity activist involved in organising the Sydney rally to commemorate Nakba (the catastrophe, when the state of Israel was created and Palestinians dispossessed), about any concerns I might have, or for me to identify any individuals who I was worried might be responsible for acts of political violence.

"I replied that the only fears of violence that I had from my involvement in Palestine solidarity activism were from the far-right groups and individuals who often organise counter-mobilisations or send threatening and intimidatory emails, messages and phone calls to try to stop or derail our protests and other events...

"Other people involved in campaign groups have also been approached by ASIO and asked not to speak about these visits.

"In a context of the 'war on terror' overseas - which has involved Australian troops in wars in Iraq and Afghanistan for the past decade - there is a war on civil liberties at home. Security organisations have had their powers expanded and budgets increased by Labor and Coalition governments, and consequently have increased their monitoring of Australians.

"Last year, Green Left Weekly reported on activists involved in pro-Palestine and pro-Tamil solidarity campaigns in Adelaide who had also been visited by South Australian police working in 'security and intelligence'. These visits are an attempt to intimidate people into ending their involvement in legitimate political organisations.

"Organising and attending demonstrations is not illegal and people involved in these activities should not be monitored by ASIO. There is no law that prevents people from speaking publicly about a visit from ASIO. Shining a light on these practices is important to show that we will not be intimidated against exercising our democratic right to protest. As it is a politicised police force, ASIO should be abolished. Australian troops should also be withdrawn from the costly and unjustifiable occupation of Afghanistan." (ASIO spooks harass activists, 1/5/13)


Patrick Harrison said...

Cheers for the repost - it seems like there have been more than just 1 or 2 incidents of this kind of intimidatory approach by our security forces recently. There's a follow-up video & interview on Green Left right now with legal advice for dealing with ASIO well worth watching.

MERC said...

You're more than welcome, Patrick. Keep up the good work.