Category: Society

The High Court of Australia has unanimously ruled that the federal Marriage Act 1961 overrides the recent passing of the Marriage Equality (Same Sex) Act 2013 in the ACT. Consequently the ACT law has been repealed. The marriages of 30 people who were married under the act no longer have legal standing.

In its judgement the High Court maintained that the federal government’s right to pass law on marriage is protected under the constitution. Section 51 of the Constitution grants power of marriage and divorce to the federal government (s51 xxi and s51 xxii). Since federal Act explicitly forbids the recognition of gay marriage, the state Act has no validity.

The Marriage Amendment Act of 2004 (an amendment of the federal Marriage Act), states that:

“Marriage means the union of a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered into for life. Certain unions are not marriages. A union solemnised in a foreign country between: (a) a man and another man; or (b) a woman and another woman; must not be recognised as a marriage in Australia

The High Court’s summary judgement states:

“The Court held that the object of the ACT Act is to provide for marriage equality for same sex couples and not for some form of legally recognised relationship which is relevantly different from the relationship of marriage which federal law provides for and recognises,”

“Accordingly, the ACT Act cannot operate concurrently with the federal Act.”

The finding puts the onus for marriage reform back onto the federal government. Gay marriage advocates will need to work harder to bring about a federal bill that overturns the common law definition of marriage on which the 2004 amendments were based.

ACT Chief Minister Katy Gallagher has no regrets about pursuing marriage equality in the state. She said the spotlight on Gay Marriage would “continued to push the debate forward”.

Gay Marriage SF

Marriage Ceremony in San Francisco, shortly after Gay Marriage laws were passed in California

1000 motorbikes burbled into Brisbane CBD today to give Premier Newman pause over the recent ‘bikie’ legislation.  Another 4000 or so people joined the riders in front of state parliament to let it be known that Queenslanders do not support the VLAD act and other incursions into rights of association.

Police set aside areas on Alice Street for motorbike parking, but these areas quickly overflowed and police were run ragged ensuring bikers were able to park safely.

The rally was positioned as non-partisan, though this didn’t stop organiser Gabriel Buckley of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) from using the opportunity to remind people of his nomination for the seat of Redcliffe. The former seat of disgraced LNP politician Scott Driscoll, Redcliffe will be contested in a by-election in February.

Gabriel Buckley runs on a Libertarian platform.

Along with the announcement about Buckley’s candidacy, and presence of the flag of the LDP, the rally also drew speaker David Leyonhjelm, NSW Senator-elect.  Leyonhjelm spoke about how the VLAD laws and associated legislation creates a “moral panic” in the public mind about motorbike riders.  Leyonhjelm finished his talk by saying:

“And they wonder why nobody comes to the aid of police when they are in trouble.

“I’m never going to help someone who thinks it’s ok to pull me up, search me and threaten me with jail if I don’t answer their questions merely because  am riding my motorcycle in company with a couple of other people.  If that’s what they think, they can lie on the side of the road and bleed to death.”

While the crowd had generally been positive about the talk, at this point cheering was more subdued as people tried to decide if it was appropriate to applause such a statement.

Other speakers were passionate and rousing but stopped short of wishing death on police.

Speakers included amongst others Queensland Council for Civil Liberties spokesman Michael Cope, and Electrical Trades Union spokesman Peter Simpson, who both spoke about how the legislation was not solely directed at outlaw bike clubs and how the laws will impact on civil rights.  The wife of prisoner Kevin, an ex-bikie and model prisoner now on 23 hour lockdown, spoke about her husband’s situation. Anonymous also fielded a speaker, and were present in force in the crowd.

Being the biggest rally seen at parliament house in recent times, bigger even than the very successful Rally for Rights held on the 19th of November, it is fair to say that Queensland politicians may be starting to wonder if they have woken a sleeping dragon.

Freedom Ride

Freedom Ride

Freedom Ride

Freedom Ride

Freedom Ride

Freedom Ride

Freedom Ride

Freedom Ride

Freedom Ride

Family and Newborn of Asylum Seeker Latifar

Latifa, her husband Niza, their 7 year-old daughter Habiba, four year-old son, Muddin and baby Ferouz at BITA, Pinkenba

Today Asylum Seeker Latifa and family went to the Federal Circuit Court to seek an injunction against being sent to Nauru.

After being transferred from Nauru to give birth to her son Ferouz, born at Mater Brisbane Hospital on November 6, Latifa and her family now face being sent back to Nauru.   The family are currently being held at the Brisbane Immigration Transit Accommodation (BITA) centre.  She was initially only able to visit her son between 10am and 4pm, but now mother and son are together permanently.

Refugee advocates claim that the facilities at Nauru are inappropriate for providing care to a new born. Advocates from Refugee Action Collective are assisting Latifa launch the legal challenge against being sent back to Nauru.

Protesters gathered today outside the Federal Circuit Court to show support for Latifa and her family.

I spoke to one of the supporters, Bradley, who attended the court hearing:

“I went and sat in the open court and heard the Lawyers for the Government basically trying to say the injunction against removal of Latifa and Ferouz doesn’t apply as there is no set date for removal and it is presumed they will be removed. The argument was that the current court it is held in doesn’t have jurisdiction to make a decision one way or another. They say it should be dealt with in the high court. Latifa’s lawyers I heard out of the courtroom say the case is unique in that Latifa come from a place which is deemed stateless. Since Ferouz was born on Australian soil he should be entitled to a protection visa and not be able to be legally deported. The case was adjourned till Fri at 3pm so the judge could read over several acts that the lawyers for the Government were quoting from. It would seem the most concern is that they will be taken removed from Australia before the case is even heard.”

Other asylum seekers with young children, and disabled asylum seekers, currently detained on mainland Australia who also face being sent to Nauru, may benefit from any decision that may arise out of this action.

Protesters gather outside the federal court to support Latifar, new born son and family's request for an injunction against being returned to Nauru

Protesters gather outside the federal court to support Latifa, new born son and family’s request for an injunction against being returned to Nauru

Gypsy Joker Protest Run SA Anti-Association Laws

Gypsy Joker Protest Run SA Anti-Association Laws
By Roy Lister from Salisbury North, South Australia (Gypsy Joker Protest Run) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Just recently the government passed the The Vicious Lawless Association Disestablishment Act 2013.  There are some misunderstandings relating to the scope of this Act, the primary one being the misperception that the Act targets bikies specifically.  There is a separate piece of legislation, the Criminal Law Amendment Act, that deals with proscribed clubs and the offences of members of proscribed clubs not being allowed to meet in groups larger than three.

(A list of proscribed clubs is available in Schedule 2 of the Criminal Law (Criminal Organisations Disruption) Amendment Act 2013)

You don’t have to be a member of a proscribed club to be prosecuted under the VLAD laws.

Here is a scary example: one of the declared offences is “receive tainted property”. Say you are the member of a camera club and you purchase a camera off another member that turns out to be stolen and the police charge you with receipt of stolen goods. Unless you can prove that it is not a standard practice of the club to deal in stolen property, you are a Vicious Lawless Associate. The burden of proof is on the accused. You are guilty until proven innocent. If you cannot prove the club does not have as one of it’s purposes the trade in stolen items, the magistrate will be required to sentence you to 15 years in jail (25 years if you hold an office bearing position in the club). The magistrate has no choice in this; the prescribed sentences are mandatory.

Your only real hope is that you can prove through a lack of history of offences involving the club that your claim that the club’s purpose does not involve trading stolen goods is accepted, but the potential for abuse of this by police intent on getting “results” is high. When the burden of proof is on the accused, you rely on the good will of the accuser, which is a dangerous thing in the hands of police. It minimises accountability.

Another example: Marijuana is considered a ‘Dangerous Drug’ under the Drugs Misuse Act 1986.  Under the VLAD Act, a Declared Offence includes Possession of a Dangerous Drug.  For the purposes of the VLAD Act, an Association is defined as a corporation, an incorporated association, a club or league, or “any other group of 3 or more persons by whatever name called, whether associated formally or informally and whether the group is legal or illegal.”

In other words, if three people or more are arrested by the police in the process of sharing a ‘joint’, and the police decide to call the group an association, the person in possession of the marijuana will have to prove to a court that possessing or dealing in marijuana was not an activity of the association.  It is clear that if three people were involved in a murder, that they were a Vicious Lawless Association and the maximum jail term of 15 years on top of whatever sentence they receive for the actual murder or attempted murder wouldn’t seem quite so unfair.  But under the VLAD Act there is no differentiation in sentencing.  Even if the normal sentence for possession of marijuana is a stiff fine, the court is required to sentence the possessor of the marijuana to 15 years, UNLESS they can prove the possession of the marijuana was not an intended activity of the ‘association’.

In cases such as “Dangerous Operation of a Motor Vehicle” (a declared offence) some people would be inclined to say “they deserve to go to jail”.  Some might even say that a young car club member at a Show n Shine doing a burnout (“Dangerous Operation of a Motor Vehicle”) deserves to go to jail for 15 years, though I suggest that most would see that as far too harsh.  Likewise, does someone really deserve to go to jail for smoking a joint with friends?

It may not often come to this, but past experience has shown that when police are given such overarching powers, they tend to use them.  Even a few such miscarriages of justice would be too many.

Even in a case where an actual bikie or criminal is being charged with a declared offence, do they really deserve to have 15-25 years tapped on top of the sentence they receive for the actual criminal act? Do we trust over-zealous police to recognise when a bikie has committed an act that is not part of his or her club’s purpose?  Is a bikie acting alone more culpable than any other criminal acting alone?  Or do people at large really believe that organised criminals or no longer entitled to the same due process that the rest of us are entitled to?  And do they sit in their ivory towers (sic) believing that because they don’t smoke dope, don’t do burn outs, are never likely to commit any of the offences on the declared offences list (and many are admittedly horrific offences that committers wouldn’t obtain much sympathy for) that they can sit back self-righteously and ignore the potential abuse of process that this legislation invites?

This kind of “it’s okay, because they are bad people” legislation is a slippery slope.  Once it’s okay to treat ‘associates’ more harshly than individuals, it takes very little for the government to expand the meaning of ‘association’ and ‘declared offences’. The police service will be aching at the bit to use these powers to rein in criminal activity that is not gang related (such as low level drug dealing).  The government will be eager to expand the list of declared offences to deal with activity they deem politically unsavoury.  How soon before protest groups are targeted, or unions?

The legislation is a minefield and is not targeted at bikies alone but any group that the government or police arbitrarily decide is a threat to law and order.

Read the Bill here: The Vicious Lawless Association Disestablishment Act 2013

Guest Lawyers analysis: Are You A Vicious Lawless Associate?

Legal Aid QLD: Drug Offences

Supporting notes for the VLAD Bill

The Wikileaks Party in Australia is officially on the ballot in elections due to be held by November 30 this year. Wikileaks’ founder and its most famous personality, Julian Assange, will run for the Senate in the state of Victoria. On Thursday July 25 2013 they announced their slate of candidates, only to immediately suffer a DDOS attack for which US hacker @th3j35t3r claimed responsibility.

On July 26 the Wikileaks Party website was still down. An error message was provided by Cloudflare , a company which assists websites in surviving attacks by monitoring their traffic, detecting hostile activity and blocking that activity before it stops the original website working:

Wikileaks Party using Cloudflare

Cloudflare is already credited with protecting the main Wikileaks website from a DDOS attack in August last year. However, Cloudflare has a more sinister side, one that should give anyone connected with Wikileaks second thoughts about trusting any private information to it, and that knowledge has been public since 2011 thanks to Yasha Levine writing in The Exiled. Cloudflare founder Matthew Prince has a long history of working directly with US law enforcement, since he managed the anti-spam Project Honey Pot in 2003:

“Mr. Prince has…focused effort on providing enforcement officials with the necessary information and tools to prosecute violators of the federal CAN-SPAM Act and other anti-spam laws. To that end, Mr. Prince managed the development of Project Honey Pot, an Unspam community-service project that consists of a distributed system of decoy e-mail addresses that website administrators can include on their sites in order to gather information about the robots and spiders that spammers use”

So Prince happily says he has already started one company to work directly with US Federal law enforcement. His current project, Cloudflare is potentially even closer to the national security apparatus:

“We ran [Project Honey Pot] as a hobby and didn’t think much about it until, in 2008, the Department of Homeland Security called and said, “Do you have any idea how valuable the data you have is?” That started us thinking about how we could effectively deploy the data from Project Honey Pot, as well as other sources, in order to protect websites online. That turned into the initial impetus for CloudFlare”.

So, while the Wikileaks Party says it will be “fearless in its opposition to the creeping surveillance state, driven by globalised data collection and spying agencies”, and says it supports protection for whistleblowers, the Party is funnelling all traffic to its website through computers belonging to a company with close and friendly links to that very same surveillance state. This could give the US government very easy access to the IP address of all visitors to the Wikileaks Party website. How could this hurt Wikileaks supporters?

Well for example, one day Wikileaks may well release official Australian information that is embarrassing to the the US government. If the US Government had already issued a National Security Letter to Cloudflare telling it to retain details of which IP addresses visited the Wikileaks Party site, they could look at those records and see if anyone had visited the Wikileaks Party website from a government computer, or if an unusual or new pattern of visits had been logged in the time before the leak. If anything looked promising, for instance if many visits were logged from an Internet cafe that had never accessed the website before, that may well narrow the search for the leaker down a lot. Comparing records of visitors to both the Wikileaks’ Party website and the main Wikileaks website could make it yet easier to track down a would-be-anonymous leaker. These sort of techniques are how General David Petraeus’ lover was tracked down last year after she sent threatening emails from anonymous addresses connected to hotel Wi-Fi networks last year.

If we take Cloudflare’s assurances at face value, however, we have nothing to worry about. They tell us “If the NSA is listening in on any transactions traversing our network, they are not doing so with our blessing, consent, or knowledge“, and in the same post on the company blog they go into some detail about how SSL is used to encrypt traffic on Cloudflare, and why they think it is unlikely that the NSA is able to break Cloudflare’s 2048-bit encryption. Which is a lovely story to tell children at bedtime, but utterly irrelevant to your online privacy. What SSL does is encrypts your messages. So if you sent me an email saying “Let’s go to the pub tonight”, and I sent you an email back saying “Great!”, then an online snooper wouldn’t be able to read the contents of our messages. But what they could know is that you had sent me a short email, and that I had sent you a short email in reply. If that snooper already knew that the two of us often go to the pub, and that we usually arrange our drinking by email, it’s pretty easy to work out, without breaking any encryption, where she could snoop on us that evening. This is described in much more detail in a paper by Shuo Chen, Rui Wang, Xiao Feng Wang and Kehuan Zhang (pdf file):

“Specifically, we found that surprisingly detailed sensitive information is being leaked out from a number of high-profile, top-of-the-line web applications in healthcare, taxation, investment and web search: an eavesdropper can infer the illnesses/medications/surgeries of the user, her family income and investment secrets, despite HTTPS protection; a stranger on the street can glean enterprise employees’ web search queries, despite WPA/WPA2 Wi-Fi encryption”.

So the NSA may not be “listening in”. But they don’t have to listen in, as such, to find out a lot about you.

What has Cloudflare already provided the US government? We can get some idea by looking at another part of that Cloudflare blog post:

“To date, CloudFlare has never received an order from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court…As a policy, we challenge any orders that have not been reviewed and approved by a court. As part of these challenges, we always request the right to disclose at least the fact that we received such an order but we are not always granted that request…CloudFlare fully supports the calls for transparency today by other web companies like Google, Microsoft, and Facebook. At a minimum, we request the law be updated to allow companies to disclose the number of FISA orders and National Security Letters (NSLs) they have received”.

So Cloudflare mentions orders from the secret FISA court, and National Security Letters. They deny that they’ve ever received FISA orders, but don’t deny receiving any National Security Letters. So we can infer that they have received NSLs, and that they have complied with them. In their security policy they say:

“It is possible that CloudFlare may be required by court order to provide information about our customers. CloudFlare may also be required to provide information pursuant to law, applicable regulation, subpoena or other legal process”.

Which once again implies that while they may challenge orders that are not issued by a court, in the end they are willing to comply with US Government orders for information.

When I asked the Wikileaks Party on Twitter why they were using Cloudflare, I was answered by their Chief Technology Officer who apparently chooses to be known online only as @karwalski. Karwalski said that Cloudflare was keeping the site online despite the attack. When I asked why Wikileaks was funnelling information through servers of an organisation closely linked to the national security state, karwalksi asked if I had an alternative suggestion. I responded that it wasn’t my job to help Wikileaks do it’s job of protecting the privacy of visitors to its site (19), and was told:

“Ok, you had better not ever be a passenger or driver of a car, they are dangerous. Cool logic dude“.

So that’s what the Wikileaks Party in Australia thinks of your privacy. If you’re ever thinking of leaking anything to anyone, don’t let it be to Wikileaks – you can’t trust them with your online security.

—-

UPDATE:

After a week of me calling out the Wikileaks Party by name on Twitter about the privacy risks with their website, Assange’s running-mate in Victoria, Leslie Cannold, finally decided to respond tonight (Monday August 12 2013), when Twitter user @BenHarkin asked her about it:

It’s not my area of control or expertise. If tone were different I would have referred it. But rude irks me. @benharkin @djackmanson

So, there’s some handy information. If you want to hold the Wikileaks Party accountable for anything bad they might be doing, remember that you have to ask nicely, or they don’t have to worry about it.

UPDATE TWO:

Cannold thinks my rude, aggressive, presumptious tone should insulate the WikiLeaks Party from answering questions about the security risk its website poses to visitors:

U r outrageously rude & entitled. I wouldn’t dream of following yr barked orders in real life & won’t online. @djackmanson @benharkin

I thought Wikileaks was all about aggressive journalists demanding answers and accountability from the powerful?

Media Release from Department of Immigration and Citizenship:

Sri Lankans face return to Colombo or transfer to PNG
30-07-2013

A group of 68 Sri Lankans who recently arrived at Cocos (Keeling) Islands is now on Christmas Island about to begin enhanced screening processes.

They face the same assessment process that unauthorised maritime arrivals (UMAs) of Sri Lankan background have since last year when the Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) took steps to stem a significant upsurge in boat arrivals from Sri Lanka.

“Those who are screened out will be returned to Colombo as soon as possible, often within days,” a DIAC spokesman said today. “If any of the group is screened in, they will not come to Australia for assessment; they will be among the first Sri Lankan boat arrivals sent to Papua New Guinea for processing.

“If they are entitled to asylum, they will not be able to settle in Australia; they will be settled in PNG.”

The Sri Lankans began their enhanced screening as arrangements were finalised for the first transfer of people affected by the post-July 19 regional settlement arrangement to Manus Island in Papua New Guinea.

Under new rules announced on July 19, anyone – including a person from Sri Lanka – who arrives in Australia by boat without a visa no longer has the chance to settle in Australia.

“If they are not quickly returned to Colombo, they will be taken to Papua New Guinea where their claims will be assessed,” the spokesman said.

The prime ministers of Australia and Papua New Guinea signed the new agreement, meaning all people arriving by boat without a visa from July 19 will be sent to Papua New Guinea, where their claims will be assessed.

If people are found to be refugees, they will be permanently settled in Papua New Guinea – not Australia.

“The message this agreement sends is clear: the dangerous boat journey is not worth it and you will never settle in Australia,” the spokesman said. “Accommodation is being expanded on Manus Island and there is no cap on the number of people who can be transferred there.”

Almost 1300 Sri Lankans have been sent home since August 2012 – nearly 1100 of them involuntarily.

“These arrangements will continue and if they do not have proper asylum claims, people will be quickly returned to Sri Lanka,” the spokesman said. “This is making it clear that those who pay smugglers are throwing their money away and risking their lives in the process.”

Media Enquiries: National Communications 02 6264 2244

The nuclear powered USS George Washington is docked at Patrick’s wharves for the week after participating in the Talisman Sabre 2013 war games.  The George Washington is a Nimitz class nuclear powered aircraft carrier, with a complement of roughly 5000 crew and 90 aircraft.

Environmental and peace groups protesting Talisman Sabre are calling for an end to the exercises. Robin Taubenfeld of Peace Convergence 2013:  “USS George Washington is in Brisbane port – taking part in some of the world’s largest war rehearsals – Talisman Saber. Stop the exercises, close the bases, end the wars”

(more stories to follow on the environmental impacts of Talisman Sabre)

(Full photoset here)

USS George Washington

USS George Washington

USS George Washington

USS George Washington

USS George Washington

USS George Washington

Media release (Via BASE)

 28 July 2013

 Brisbane Aboriginal Embassy to host Freedom Flotilla to West Papua

The Brisbane Aboriginal Sovereign Embassy will be hosting travellers in the Freedom Flotilla from Lake Eyre to West Papua at our meeting place. The Freedom Flotilla will be welcomed to Jagera country at the sacred fire on Tuesday evening from 4pm on the 30th of July. The flotilla is expected to stay in Brisbane for a few days.

 The flotilla’s purpose is to bring attention to ongoing genocide in West Papua since the Indonesian invasion in 1971. A media blackout prevents foreign journalists from entering the country.

Jacob Rumbiak, Foreign Affairs Minister of the Federated Republic of West Papua, as well as Uncle Kevin Buzzacot of Arabunna country, a long time leading elder in the fight against uranium mining, are the forefront of the campaign and will be among the inspirational speakers at the ceremony on Tuesday.

 “We have a responsibility to care for our brothers and sisters from across the water. We must bring the water and the fire, the love and the music to heal the country and move in solidarity,” said Buzzacott.

Water ceremonially gathered from the sacred mound springs in Arabunna country south of Lake Eyre is travelling with the flotilla to be united with its head waters.

“We work for world peace and justice, we start from our region, the Pacific,” said Rumbiak.

The Flotilla departs from Cairns in a few weeks, making its way up to the Torres Strait and across to West Papua.

Supporters in Brisbane are encouraged to come and pitch a tent with the convoy during its stay at the embassy. There will be music (courtesy of the travellers’ mobile PA), food via Food Not Bombs, and Chai, during their time in Brisbane.

For more info contact:

Uncle Kevin Buzzacot 0417 838 906 (Freedom Flotilla)

Boe Spearim 0424 610 492 (Brisbane Aboriginal Sovereign Embassy)

For more details about the plight of West Papua and updates on the progress of the Flotilla goto:
http://freedomflotillawestpapua.org/

Close to 400 people expressed anger at Rudd’s PNG solution yesterday as another protest swept through Brisbane CBD.  The march was preceded by speeches and entertainment.

See below for some selected photos of the protest.  For the full set of photos, see here.

Audio track of speeches available here (credit: David Jackmanson).

Rally Protesting Rudd PNG Refugee Policy

Rally Protesting Rudd PNG Refugee Policy

Rally Protesting Rudd PNG Refugee Policy

Rally Protesting Rudd PNG Refugee Policy

Rally Protesting Rudd PNG Refugee Policy

Rally Protesting Rudd PNG Refugee Policy

Rally Protesting Rudd PNG Refugee Policy

Rally Protesting Rudd PNG Refugee Policy

Rally Protesting Rudd PNG Refugee Policy

Rally Protesting Rudd PNG Refugee Policy

Rally Protesting Rudd PNG Refugee Policy

Rally Protesting Rudd PNG Refugee Policy