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John Passant

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January 2012



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My interview Razor Sharp 18 February
Me interviewed by Sharon Firebrace on Razor Sharp on Tuesday 18 February. (0)

My interview Razor Sharp 11 February 2014
Me interviewed by Sharon Firebrace on Razor Sharp this morning. The Royal Commission, car industry and age of entitlement get a lot of the coverage. (0)

Razor Sharp 4 February 2014
Me on 4 February 2014 on Razor Sharp with Sharon Firebrace. (0)

Time for a House Un-Australian Activities Committee?
Tony Abbott thinks the Australian Broadcasting Corporation is Un-Australian. I am looking forward to his government setting up the House Un-Australian Activities Committee. (1)

Make Gina Rinehart work for her dole

Sick kids and paying upfront


Save Medicare

Demonstrate in defence of Medicare at Sydney Town Hall 1 pm Saturday 4 January (0)

Me on Razor Sharp this morning
Me interviewed by Sharon Firebrace this morning for Razor Sharp. It happens every Tuesday. (0)

I am not surprised
I think we are being unfair to this Abbott ‘no surprises’ Government. I am not surprised. (0)

Send Barnaby to Indonesia
It is a pity that Barnaby Joyce, a man of tact, diplomacy, nuance and subtlety, isn’t going to Indonesia to fix things up. I know I am disappointed that Barnaby is missing out on this great opportunity, and I am sure the Indonesians feel the same way. [Sarcasm alert.] (0)



Government surveillance targets activists

Forget about climate change. So writes Jerome Small ironically in Socialist Alternative.

Forget about colossal storms, devastating droughts, and disappearing ice. Forget about the threat that huge swathes of the planet might be made permanently uninhabitable.

Forget, too, about the industrial processes driving this change, and the companies and executives that profit from them.

Forget about all that. Because according to our federal Labor government, there is a much greater threat – one that deserves to be investigated, spied on, infiltrated and prosecuted. The real threat, apparently, is a few dozen activists who are trying to steer society onto a more sustainable path.

According to Fairfax newspapers, resources and energy minister Martin Ferguson wrote to then attorney-general Robert McClelland in 2009 to raise concerns of “issues-motivated activism, and the possibility of disruption to critical energy infrastructure sites” in relation to climate change activism.

Ferguson, a member of the Labor Left, raised these concerns after lobbying from energy industry executives. McClelland, and the Australian Federal Police, which comes under his jurisdiction, agreed to step up ongoing surveillance of environmental groups. Some surveillance is done by the Feds themselves, some by ASIO, and some by the private company National Open Source Intelligence Centre, which monitors social media and websites. Laws targeting protests at power stations have also been tightened.

As Friends of the Earth activist Shaun Murray points out:

We pose no threat to society – unlike the coal industry, which wields massive political influence and holds the greatest responsibility for the hundreds of thousands of deaths, extinction of species, and billions of dollars of damage annually that climate change is causing.

It’s right to be outraged at this. Those most responsible for destroying the planet are at large, free to roam the streets and the boardrooms with impunity, while those among us trying to change things are criminalised.

But we should also remind ourselves, there’s nothing new about any of this. The history of police spying on those pushing for social change extends from colonial times to the present. Events as seemingly harmless as a childcare association’s Teddy Bears’ Picnic, right through to the head of the ACTU, are targets of systematic surveillance. And it is standard police practice to collaborate with private enterprise in the monitoring and suppression of any threats to business as usual.

The fact that this spying is much more than a one-off tells us about the society in which we live. Despite its democratic veneer, the core of any modern state in has been moulded and shaped – over years and generations – into a repressive force. The whole point of it is to contain any threats to the existing set up, to keep rich people rich and the rest of us in our place. While a certain democratic space is allowed and even encouraged, any serious threat to the priorities of the system has to be contained, coopted, or smashed.

While Shaun and his friends “pose no threat to society”, they are obviously a threat – even if a remote one – to the “business as usual” on which industry depends to make its profits while trashing the planet.

The fact that small groups of green activists, or childcare workers organising a Christmas party, are seen as legitimate targets for surveillance is revealing. Obviously one agenda is the self-serving paranoia of the professional spook, who has an interest in magnifying any threat to security.

But our rulers, the 1 percent who own the country, depend on this permanent paranoia. They can’t predict when the next minor conflict will erupt into a serious, organised, challenge to their smoothly functioning profit system – which small group of activists will spark an Occupy movement. So they tolerate and encourage the routine surveillance and disruption of every real, potential or even imagined threat to their priorities.

That Martin Ferguson organises and justifies this activity should surprise no one. Once you commit to running the system, as even a “left” cabinet minister does, you have to follow that system’s logic. So we get a much heralded “carbon reduction” scheme that will see carbon emissions in this country fall by, at most, perhaps 2 percent by mid century. We get a huge hole spewing radioactive poison in the centre of Australia. And we get a radioactive dump forced on Aboriginal people, to store the toxic fruits of the nuclear industry for thousands of years.

When you’re pushing this sort of agenda, you need all the surveillance and repression you can get. Just ask Martin Ferguson. 



Comment from Lisa Vantanen
Time January 16, 2012 at 7:08 pm

I just hope that NOSIC keeps their dossiers safe and secure, because I’d love to know that in future years my children, grand-children and great-grandchildren can gain access to the fact that this matriarch of the clan gave ‘environmental protection’ her best efforts…and that I was indeed involved and not sitting on my hands, like some!

Comment from John
Time January 16, 2012 at 8:28 pm

Brilliant Lisa.

Pingback from » Government surveillance targets activists via En Passant « The Left Hack
Time January 17, 2012 at 11:45 am

[…] Posted by Darin Sullivan on January 17, 2012 · Leave a Comment  via […]

Comment from Ross
Time January 17, 2012 at 8:53 pm

It also makes me wonder why the police cannot round up a few criminials in the West of Sydney who do daily attempt and commit murder.
Why do we need new laws that restrict our freedoms while the criminals please themeslves.

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