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Issue #1779      May 31, 2017


Towards an authoritarian state

In the aftermath of the indiscriminate attacks in the city of New York in 2001, Australia pledged its support to a global war on terror. At the tip of the spear, we joined military invasions of Afghanistan in 2001 and Iraq in 2003 with the stated objective of obliterating Al-Qaeda and the Taliban and depose Saddam Hussein.

Fire has been met with fire and as a result hundreds of thousands of innocent people have been killed and displaced in Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, Somalia, Pakistan and places far from here.

In Australia, ground stations at places like Pine Gap have supported targeted drone assassinations of suspected terrorist figures, and everyone in their immediate vicinity, in any country in which the US chooses to conduct them. Across the Five Eyes alliance of intelligence agencies, Australia has supported the development of high-resolution, real-time surveillance of the entire population, militarising the entire internet in the process. US bases in Australia have been expanded ceding our sovereignty to the US.

Against this background the powers of police and intelligence agencies are expanded and widened to fight the so called “war on terror”; and every time we surrender some of our hard-fought freedoms, we are told to accept in good faith that these expanded powers are needed to keep us safe such as detention without charge and sedition laws.

ASIO can now copy, delete or modify data held on any computer covered by a warrant. It can use innocent third-party computers to gain access to a computer that is part of a network it has a warrant to monitor. In fact, the definition of “network” is so wide open, ASIO could monitor the entire Australian network – a network of networks – with just one warrant. ASIO can also store the content of communications – going well beyond the storage of metadata by internet providers.

The Senate passed the National Security Legislation Amendment Bill (No 1) 2014 with the full support of the Labor Party. The handling of amendments to the Bill was appalling, there was no debate as expected, the Attorney General remained mute when serious and important questions were asked of him and the Senate was treated with utter contempt.

The legislation built on the coercive, draconian ASIO and other terror laws passed by the Howard government. The legislation is wide open to abuse with reportage of ASIO or police actions on “security” matters illegal and punishable by 10 years in jail. This applies to journalists, anyone taken in for questioning, even if it is because there is a suspicion that the person might know something or might associate with a suspect, as well as be suspects themselves. The Bill criminalises legitimate journalist reporting of matters in the public interest and it overturns the public’s right to know. Whistle blowers will be jailed.

The original bill provided immunity for those carrying out torture; this has been amended but the amendment cannot be taken seriously as anyone reporting torture could be jailed for 10 years.

It strengthens ASIO’s powers, boosts its funding and abolishes the National Security Legislation Monitor, the only semblance of accountability or “independent” review of the application of the laws.

Freedom of the press, already severely limited by the high concentration of media ownership in Australia, is in the process of being outlawed.

Under the new laws if you are arrested for a terrorist offence you will be in jail for a long time with little chance of getting bail. Under these circumstances you want it to be done on more than a whim or a guess.

There is nothing in the legislation that would prevent ASIO and other agencies using these powers against any who might express dissent or question the capitalist system.

The ramping up of fear over terrorism is also happening at the same time that the US military is building up its forces in the north of the country in preparations for war against China.

The assault against workers and their unions has also been ramped up as the struggle of the working class inevitably extends beyond the workplace to fighting for and defending health care, public education, public transport, social security and all the other social and economic gains we tend to take for granted.

Stronger, militant unions are the biggest barrier to employer dreams of life without unions, and the government/big business agenda of destroying the social security system and public sector.

Class war – people versus profits – is being waged by the government, media and employers.

Next article – Save Dave Campaign

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