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Issue #1544      25 April 2012

Files and spies

The Sydney Central branch of the Communist Party of Australia organised a successful excursion to the Police and Justice Museum in Sydney last week. Fifteen persons, certainly of interest to ASIO, enjoyed an interesting talk by one of the curators of the exhibition. They saw samples of ASIO files, details of some of the information collected by ASIO on over 500,000 Australians. Communists, peace activists, writers, trade unionists, anyone who visited the Soviet Union, supported land rights or any other worthwhile progressive cause was (and no doubt still is) a “person of interest” to ASIO. Justice Sir Michael Kirby and film critic David Stratton were amongst those who were stunned when they learnt they were subjects of ASIO’s scrutiny.

The exhibition gives the impression that ASIO came into existence because of communist spies passing on information to the Soviet Union during the Second World War when we were allies. Communists were clearly one of the main but not the only focus of ASIO. The quotes selected from some of ASIO’s targets tend to write off ASIO as just incompetent and irrational in their pursuit for example of land rights activists. It does not bring out the politics behind their pursuit, such as information that might assist mining corporations. Nor does it bring out the use of ASIO against trade union activists. Has ASIO ever achieved anything worthwhile? Has it caught a spy? It would like us to think so, but secrecy provisions prevent it from telling us!

There are a couple of computers where visitors can check whether ASIO has a file on them and information is available on how to obtain your own file.  

 

Next article – Climate change workshop

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