New bill threatens the rights of peace campaigners
Following yesterday's announcement of the introduction of a Bill to make Australian military bases more secure (Defence Legislation Amendment [Security of Defence Premises] Bill 2010), the Australian Anti-Bases Campaign has called on Senator Faulkner to give a public assurance that the Bill, in its final form, will not in any way impede the rights of people to peacefully protest against military installations.
"Many of the military bases in Australia, including 30 to 40 US bases, are outside parliamentary scrutiny, support the war in Afghanistan, spy on the populations of Australia and neighbouring countries, offend against Indigenous people's land rights and are part of the militarisation of space," said Denis Doherty, spokesperson for the Australian Anti-Bases Campaign.
"In fact, they increase the risks to Australia of terrorism." " We suspect this Bill is aimed at peace protesters who have penetrated the bases to highlight the pointlessness of Australia's involvement in US wars.
This Bill will deter protest, criminalise and increase penalties for civil disobedience, and make dissent more dangerous. It will increase the civil power of the military. Most worryingly, the authority it gives Defence security officers to defend themselves is so broad that members of the public may well be injured or killed under its provisions." Mr Doherty pointed out that civilian police, military police and the Australian protective services are all engaged in protecting military bases - these bases are already overprotected. "
Senator Faulkner already acknowledges that there is the right to defend yourself under common law. Why isn't that right enough? Police power against demonstrators has grown alarmingly over the past decade (eg NSW's Major Events Act 2009); it certainly doesn't need to be augmented by military power.
"Excessively punitive legislation already exists to stop people from coming to within 2kms of the gates of some bases! At Pine Gap, the actual base is 7 kms beyond the gates as well as has having a 2 km exclusion zone - 9 kms in total!"
Mr Doherty emphasised that the best way to make military-base personnel safer against terrorism is for the government to withdraw our troops from Afghanistan, and to spend less on the military (now at $71 million a day) and more on reducing world poverty.
"We are calling on the Senator Faulkner - indeed on the new PM - to obtain, at the very least, the approval of the Commonwealth ombudsman and human rights lawyers before proceeding with this legislation," Mr Doherty concluded.
25 June 2010