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Beware proposed legislation to strengthen state power

Written by: (Contributed) on 24 May 2020


A very brief article in an Australian mainstream media outlet about proposals to extend state power has provided evidence the Morrison coalition government in Canberra is committed to implementing draconian powers with the bare minimum of publicity.
As it seeks to strengthen state powers, the issue of security vetting has received virtually no media coverage. It has, however, potentially far-reaching implications for ordinary Australian working people.
The track record of federal governments when dealing with internal security assessments, historically, has raised serious questions about safeguards for civil liberties and other problems.
The Australian newspaper in mid-May provided four short columns about proposed amendments to present security laws. (1) Using blanket-type terminology intended to deal with threats of terrorism, espionage and political violence, Australian security personnel will not require legal warrants for placing surveillance devices for tracking suspects. Other parts of the same amendment restrict the rights of lawyers to represent clients and lower the age of consent for questioning of minors to 14 years. The amendment, if passed and contained in the wider legislation, will mean security personnel will only require internal approval for what are regarded as official duties at the behest of the highest echelons of the Australian state.
This is serious curtailment to what the bourgeoisie calls its “rule of law”, by which class society is supposedly held together.
At face value the proposed amendment might appear sensible when taking into account the lengthy legal procedures involved in acquiring warrants. That is, until other criteria are studied and considered in detail.
These include the question of accountability of state power.  While official procedures are in place for accountability of government departments, they are, at best, extremely difficult to access. The procedures also often require months, if not years, to reach completion. Most ordinary working people would lack the necessary resources or time.
A further matter for serious consideration is the prevailing political climate.
Hardly a single day passes without reference to China's supposed espionage against Australia. Evidence would appear to have become unnecessary in the shadowy and perverted world of the far-right and their endless conspiracy theories. (2)
The COVID-19 pandemic brought out legions of conspiracy theorists whose main preoccupation was demonising China, its political system and those of Chinese ancestry and their associates in general.
Long history of security vetting
Such behaviour has a long history.
In the immediate aftermath of the Second World War the then Attlee government in Britain introduced security vetting as a standard procedure. It was directed primarily toward anyone who was, or had been, a member of the Communist Party. Operating through the Cabinet Committee on Subversive Activities, the system was extended in 1952 and again on numerous occasions in later years. (3) The committee was involved in scrutinising the backgrounds of those regarded as employed in sensitive positions and looked for evidence of character defects, which included: 'drunkenness, addiction to drugs, homosexuality or any loose living'. (4) 
The timing of the establishment of the Cabinet Committee coincided with moves to re-establish war-time civil defence organisations as a prelude to NATO Secret Armies. (5) The fact those concerned colluded with former fascists and subsequently hid behind walls of official denial for decades has revealed a great deal about military planning during the previous Cold War. And also, who state agencies used as spies for intelligence gathering.
General Reinhard Gehlen, one of Hitler's military officials, escaped war-crimes by turning himself over to US intelligence services after the defeat of fascism in 1945. He subsequently was given the role of organising the West German intelligence services through the previous Cold War. In his later memoirs he showed how his intelligence service, based upon submerged far-right political forces of former Nazis was responsible for having 'agents watching the communist movement in virtually every country of the world'. (6) The Gehlen intelligence organisation was also responsible for widespread profiling of suspects and their associates. (7)
Later amendments to the scope of the Cabinet Committee were to establish whether those under investigation were 'that wider body of those … sympathetic to communism'. (8) Still further amendments included references to 'fellow-travellers' and 'anyone with left-wing or radical views.’ (9)
Later obsessions amongst vetting officers were directed against those who had access to sensitive documents and the ability to leak information to left-wing media outlets through small political groups. (10)
Readers of 'The Spycatcher' by Peter Wright, will no doubt, be aware of the direct implications of the further amendments concerned. Amid the hundreds of pages of scurrilous allegations and innuendo written by a former spy with an axe to grind, numerous examples appear whereby anyone, including Roger Hollis the Head of MI5 itself, were considered threats to national security.
Guilt, in the eyes of those around Peter Wright, was established and signed, sealed and delivered by mere association either knowingly or unknowingly. No further evidence was required.
The role of the Cabinet Committee ushered in a wave of tale-telling within British society, from the very bottom to the top. The fact MI5 was also responsible for establishing an Australian counterpart, ASIO, at the same time would indicate they also exported the whole model to Canberra.
And it exists to the present day.
Studies of the problem in Australia have revealed widespread discrepancies and other problems. Serious shortcomings have not been difficult to establish.
The fact workers can subsequently lose employment by either failing a vetting clearance or being swept up in an investigation of someone attempting to seek clearance has been given credible publicity elsewhere. (11)
Vetting procedures are commonplace in the Australian defence industries with implications for those employed in what are considered vital supply-chains. Just what is the position of a trade-union delegate with an active interest in Asian history and politics in such a supply-chain? Would they, for example, be considered a threat? And in what capacity?
Recent studies in both the US and UK, likewise, have also provided a chilling insight into downright incompetence in the hands of well-placed government officials and employers seeking to compromise workers.
A recent study in the US established a large number of files used by the FBI to monitor US citizens 'suspected of having links with foreign intelligence or terrorism' contained numerous errors. (12) An investigation found an average of at least twenty errors per application, with a total of 65 recorded in one case.
The fact the files were potentially used to justify surveillance raise serious concerns about civil liberties.
In the UK a study conducted by the Trades Union Congress (TUC) established a majority of British workers believed their employers were systematically spying on them. (12) The findings rest upon earlier studies conducted in the early 1980s where it was established US intelligence agencies routinely spied on British trade-unions. (13)
The recent period in Australia has been marked by three highly significant factors, revealing discrepancies and their linkage between state and society:
• an intensification of US hostility toward China has been increasingly played-out in Australia;
• police raids on journalists to specifically suppress information and silence whistle-blowers capable of embarrassing government officials have been deemed incompatible with usual legal processes; 
• a systematic failure by security organisations to correctly identify Brenton Tarrant, an Australian citizen and close associate of far-right political groups, who spent sixty days in the country prior to carrying out the Christchurch terrorist atrocities in New Zealand; why was he never identified?
With developments such as these taking place, we need to remember the Eureka oath and fight to defend our rights and liberties.
For independence and socialism!
1.     Dutton seeks more power for anti-terror spies, Australian, 14 May 2020.
2.     See: None Dare Call it Treason, John A. Stormer, ( Missouri, 1964), distributed in Australia by the Australian League of Rights.
3.     Positive Vetting to be extended, State Research, Independent Research Publications, Volume 26, 1981, pp. 8-10.
4.     Ibid., page 9.
5.     NATO Secret Armies, Daniele Ganser, (2005); and, Dawn of the International Socialist Revolution, Stefan Engel, (Essen, 2011), pp. 219-225.
6.     The Gehlen Memoirs, General Reinhard Gehlen, (Berg, 1971), page 249; and, CIA to reveal Cold War ties, Australian, 8 February 2005.
7.     Gehlen: Germany's Master Spy, Charles Whiting, (New York, 1977), Foreword.
8.     State Research, op.cit., page 9.
9.     Ibid.
10.   Ibid.
11.   Our vexing vetting habits, Canberra Times, 5 March 2019.
12.   FBI files 'sloppy and full of errors', Australian, 2 April 2020.
13.   I'll be watching you, Trades Union Congress, (London, 2018).
14.   CIA Infiltration of the Labour Movement, Lynn Walsh, (London, 1982).


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