According to the SMH, an American peace activist, Scott Parkin, who was in town to teach peace activism workshops in Melbourne, has been arrested by the Australian Federal Police and locked up in an Immigration Detention Centre, after having his visitor's visa cancelled. All he has been told is that he is considered to be a "threat to national security", but not why this is the case.
Green's Senator, Bob Brown, has stated that he has "serious concerns about the reasons for Mr Parkin's arrest given his history of activism against US military contractor Halliburton, which has close ties to US Vice President Dick Cheney."
"I think the big question here is whether it's a political arrest and deportation," Senator Brown said.
Senator Brown said he doubted the order for Mr Parkin's arrest had come from Australia's security services, given that he was cleared for a visa months ago.
He said the government had been "very secretive" about Mr Parkin's detention and would not say under what law he had been arrested and held, nor why.
Ms Dias [Mr Parkin's lawyer] said Mr Parkin had been involved in one non-violent protest against Halliburton in Sydney, but no arrests were made at that rally.
National Anti-Deportation Alliance spokeswoman Liz Thompson said Mr Parkin had done nothing wrong.
"He's a hippy giving workshops on peace, non-violent direct action," she told the ABC.
Greenpeace spokesman Dan Cass confirmed Mr Parkin had been arrested in America as part of a Greenpeace action, but said his treatment in Australia was unwarranted.
He described Mr Parkin as Australia's first political prisoner, telling the ABC: "This only encourages us to think that when the Howard-controlled Senate looks at review of the ASIO laws, Australia will be facing potentially police state powers."
This is actually quite frightening really, considering the direction in which it seems to be taking Australia. In the decade after our High Court decides that our Constitution gives us a protected freedom of political communication, we are starting to see why this right is so important.
This whole 'war on terror' facade has really opened my eyes in relation to constitutionally entrenched rights. I used to feel that they were, by and large, unnecessary, and even dangerous - in that they focused far too much on protecting individuals (often including corporations) from government intervention, rather than protecting individuals from private power. I thought that as long as the political process itself was protected (including a limited range of political communication), the rest would take care of itself - since people would use the political process to defend or claim their other rights (rather than using the legal process, which is inherently elitist).
However, rights seem to have little political traction without legal back up and sometimes (OK, frequently) government and corporation are on the same side, so I have had to revise my opinions on this subject. Still not sure what the solution is though - it is not as though the US has come out of this 'War on Terror' with their civil liberties any more intact...
[SMH Article seen first at Barista]