Pine Gap legislation passed
March 16, 2009
Dear friends, as some of you may know, the Rudd government has continued to seek maximum punishment for nonviolent resisters to Pine Gap's war crimes.
They finally passed changes to the Defence Special Undertaking's Act, so that they no longer have to prove Pine gap is necessary for the defence of Australia , if they wish to give people 7 years jail for tresspassing there.
Following are news reports on the change in the legislation.
Note Defence Minister Joel Fitzgibbon's reference to anyone trying to interfere with the governemnts devine right to commitment mass murder at will (and in secret), as "mischief - makers". Then again maybe we are the ones with "more sinister intent", as "making mischief" has never been our aim.
SYDNEY MORNING HERALD
Harsh new laws to hit Pine Gap protesters
March 15, 2009
THE Federal Government has quietly beefed up laws protecting the US spy station Pine Gap, ensuring protesters face seven years' jail if they go near or photograph the intelligence-gathering facility.
The new law puts the US-controlled Alice Springs spy station further outside the scrutiny of the Australian Parliament and silences critics from legally arguing whether the base is in Australia's defence interests. The Rudd Government slipped the amendment into a miscellaneous defence bill on Wednesday.
The Pine Gap amendments were drafted by the Howard government after it failed to successfully prosecute four Christian pacifists who protested at Pine Gap in 2005.
For the first time in history, the then attorney-general Philip Ruddock tried to use the Defence (Special Undertakings) Act to prosecute the foursome for entering a "prohibited area".
Jim Dowling, Adele Goldie, Donna Mulhearn and Bryan Law were tried and convicted in the Northern Territory Supreme Court in June 2007. They faced seven years' jail but were acquitted on appeal in February last year.
The Court of Criminal Appeal found that, under the act, any person charged was entitled to challenge at trial whether or not the declaration of a "prohibited area" was necessary for the purposes of the defence of Australia.
The amendment passed last week, which defines the Pine Gap facility as a "special defence undertaking" and a "prohibited area" necessary for the defence of Australia, strips away that legal entitlement.
Greens senator Scott Ludlam said: "It is very unfortunate that Attorney-General Robert McClelland has followed his predecessor's lead, finishing what Ruddock started by amending the law to further crack down on peaceful protest."
He described the amendments as "retrospective revenge" designed to "punish and frighten those thinking about engaging in non-violent resistance against Pine Gap's role in war-making".
Defence Minister Joel Fitzgibbon said the amendment would "deter mischief-makers and those with more sinister intent"
'Draconian legislation' stifling Pine Gap debate
A woman arrested for trespassing at the Pine Gap base says new security legislation is stifling public debate over the facility.
The Government has passed legislation that re-zones the Alice Springs facility as a protected area necessary for Australia's defence.
Protesters will now face lengthy jail terms if they breach the base's security.
Donna Mulhearn had her conviction overturned last year after appeal.
Ms Mulhearn says the new laws should have been discussed in an open forum.
"What we have here at Pine Gap is a foreign base on Australian soil undertaking activity that our members of Parliament aren't allowed to know about," she said.
"That sort of topic should be open for discussion, not closed down, and the fact that has gone through in secret is extremely disturbing."
She says the Federal Government is following US interests by strengthening trespass penalties and people should be concerned about the new laws.
"That ordinary protesters who want to voice their opinions about Pine Gap, which is something they have right to do, should be facing seven years in prison under this draconian legislation, it is something we should be all concerned about," she said.
from http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2009/03/15/2516671. htm?section=australia
And from the Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and
Application of the Defence (Special Undertakings) Act 1952 to Pine Gap
2. Could the department please explain to the committee what prompted the
proposed changes to the legislation?
* To what extent did the decision by the Northern Territory Criminal
Court of Appeal in 2008, acquitting a group of four Christian pacifist
protesters arrested at the facility in December 2005, influence the drafting
of the legislation?
The methods used for collecting intelligence at the Joint Defence Facility
Pine Gap are sensitive. This factor makes the facility a special defence
undertaking which requires special security measures. This factor also
means that it is important for the Commonwealth to be able to successfully
prosecute the offences created by the Defence (Special Undertakings) Act
1952, as applicable to the facility.
The amendments to the Defence (Special Undertakings) Act 1952 were proposed
as part of a broader review conducted in response to the quashing of the
convictions of the four protestors who broke into the Joint Defence Facility
Pine Gap in December 2005. This trial was the first time there had been a
prosecution which tested this legislation.
The convictions were quashed based on errors by the trial judge in relation
to interlocutory decisions on discovery and a direction to the jury during
the trial. These matters did not go to the validity of the Act. While the
underpinnings for the Act were unsuccessfully challenged, the fact that such
a challenge was made highlighted the need to strengthen the Commonwealth's
ability to successfully prosecute the existing offences under the Act in
relation to the Joint Defence Facility Pine Gap, by:
1. establishing the Joint Defence Facility Pine Gap as a special
defence undertaking and prohibited area for the purposes of the Act; and
2. inserting a purposive clause in the Act which will make it clear
that the Parliament's power to legislate with respect to the defence of the
Commonwealth is not the only constitutional basis relied upon for the new
The measure will ensure that there is a clear and express intent for the
provisions of the Defence (Special Undertakings) Act 1952 to cover a joint
work or undertaking between Australia and any friendly nation in a
collaborative effort to the maintenance of global peace. This would make it
clear that the provisions of the Act are not only covered by Parliament's
power to legislate with respect to the defence of the Commonwealth, but may
also fall within some other head of power in section 51 of the Australian
Constitution, such as the Parliament's power to legislate with respect to
external affairs. The measure will therefore reduce the likelihood and
legitimacy of any argument about the scope of Parliament's power to
legislate with respect to the defence of the Commonwealth, which might be
made in a challenge to the validity of the provisions of the Act by persons
accused of the offences under the Act in relation to the facility.