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Dems Senator airs concerns after Attorney-General invokes Cold War era legislation – for first time ever – to charge “non-violent protesters” at Pine Gap demo

Posted by gasweek on 9 October, 2007

Democrats Senator Andrew Bartlett (Queensland) told the Senate that the Attorney-General use of the Defence (Special Undertakings) Act to charge protesters represented an unecessary “sledgehammer approach”, after Liberal MP Richard Colbeck, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance and Administration, tabled a statement on the Joint Defence Facility Pine Gap, on behalf of the Minister for Defence, Brendan Nelson.

Dems call for “sufficient independence” from US: Bartlett said: “There is a new political correctness abroad in the land: any time one expresses concern about Australia’s military policies being intertwined with the current military agenda of the US administration, you are told that you are anti-American or anti the US alliance. I have been on the record a number of times, going back many years, as not being against having a cooperative relationship with the United States, but I do think we need to retain sufficient independence so that we are not so intertwined with the US that, when they embark on unwise acts of military aggression, we are fundamentally linked with those acts and their ongoing operation. That is where we are at at the moment”.

Attorney-General in “sledgehammer approach” against Pine Gap demos: “There is not much doubt that Pine Gap is used in part for that role, and that is a very valid reason why people continue to express concern about it. I am particularly concerned about the continuing actions of the Attorney-General in targeting some non-violent protesters who sought to make their views known via entering the Pine Gap facility as a way of conducting a non-violent protest. Regardless of whether or not you agree with the views of the protesters, or even whether or not you agree with their methods, the sledgehammer approach of the Attorney-General in response to their clearly non-violent action is beyond dispute”.

Govt resorts to Cold War-era legislation to charge protesters: “The history and record of those protesters over many years has been of the sorts of clearly non-violent protests that lots of people do not particularly like but which are clearly not violent security threats. The Attorney-General made the decision to use the Defence (Special Undertakings) Act for the first time ever — a Cold War piece of legislation that had never been used even during the Cold War — to charge these protesters. All of the other times people had trespassed at Pine Gap they had been charged under trespassing offences and gone through the courts that way. I do not have a problem with that. People almost always go into these actions with their eyes open, and there is no doubt that the people on this occasion acted with their eyes open, including being aware that there is always the potential for a government to try to use them as a political example”.

Reference: Andrew Bartlett, Democrat Senator from Queensland, Deputy Leader of the Australian Democrats, Australian Democrats Whip, Australian Democrats Party, Senate Hansard, Commonwealth of Australia, 20 September 2007.

Erisk Net, 7/10/2007

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