Showing posts with label people power. Show all posts
Showing posts with label people power. Show all posts

Wednesday, 10 October 2018

Community unhappy about Tweed Shire Council water mining consent at Rowland Creek


Image: Onthehouse

Echo NetDaily
, 6 October 2018:

Around 100 protestors made their point before council ignored them by voting 4–3, to reject Mayor Katie Milne’s rescission motion in regards to the September vote, where the majority of Tweed Shire councillors gave the thumbs up to a water mining operation at Rowlands Creek.

Councillor Katie Milne moved that a DA for a bulk loading/delivery of extracted water and roadworks at Rowlands Creek Road be deferred for several reasons including that NSW Water’s response to the pumping study was a brief email, not a formal review.

She asked that council seek additional consideration and hydrological testing from the applicant as outlined in a report by Professor Peter Cook (Potential Impact of Groundwater Pumping on Rowlands Creek) and that a suitably qualified university review the applicant’s report and subsequent response as well as NSW Water’s response and Professor Cook’s reports.

The motion also argued that the costings of road damage (referred to in the report but not provided) be publicly released; that the Rowlands Creek / Kyogle Roads intersection problem (which has been acknowledged and considered by the applicant’s traffic engineers but remains unresolved) should be referred to an independent expert for an opinion on the best practice approach; that council refer the problem of the Rowlands Creek Road / Mitchell Street intersection to the same independent expert for opinion on a best practice solution; and, that Council staff report whether they have investigated previously claimed discrepancies in the road width on the straight close to Uki – if not, to do so and if the Bitzios report is incorrect propose appropriate corrective measures.

The motion also asked that council seek independent legal advice on whether its public interest assessment meets Council and other legal obligations.

The 4–3 vote went Crs Cherry, Cooper and Milne for the rescission, and Cs Byrne, Polglase, Allsop and Owen against.

Cr Milne told Echonetdaily that this is not the end of the issue as far as she and council are concerned. ‘The developer has to gain final sign-off from councillors that the roadworks required are properly completed before he can commence operations,’ said Ms Milne.

‘There is another application in the system for Dungay, the court judgement for the Urliup expansion, and numerous applications for amendments required to rectify non-compliances of other existing operators as well as whatever else comes in.’
The mayor added that some of her greatest concerns include the safety of local residents, the impact on Rowlands Creek, the viability of the State Significant Farmlands adjacent, and the viability of locals’ stock and domestic water bores as well as the enormous costs expected for residents for these ongoing road repairs.
The Tweed Water Alliance submitted a hydrology report which suggested the water mining should not go ahead yet council still voted to go ahead. Ms Milne says the report was unequivocal and absolutely convincing. ‘It was done by one of the world’s leading groundwater scientists. There are always councillors who put development before the community. Unfortunately the Labor councillor joined them this time.
‘This is an issue that affects the whole community across the Shire. Apart from the water security issues, I’m sure our residents and pensioners would not be keen on subsidising ongoing road damage from these heavy trucks.’

Tweed Water Alliance’s Facebook page suggests that direct community action is now being contemplated.

Friday, 7 September 2018

Yamba community successfully lobbied for the installation of a roundabout instead of traffic lights at intersection of Treelands Drive and Yamba Road


One of a number of signs along Yamba Road protesting the traffic lights

After a protracted debate on 21 August 2018 Clarence Valley Council voted to install traffic lights at an intersection in Yamba by five votes to four, with councillors Richie Williamson, Jason Kingsley, Andrew Baker, Arthur Lysaught and Mayor Jim Simmons voting in favour and Debrah Novak, Peter Ellem, Greg Clancy and Karen Toms against.

It was noticeable that all three Yamba councillors were against the motion, reflecting the sentiments of many local residents.

A formal rescission motion was lodged by Clrs. Toms, Ellem and Clancy which read:

That Council:
1. Rescind Part 2 and 3 of resolution 15.134/18 on Yamba Road/Treelands Drive Intersection Upgrade
And replace with the following points:
2. Adopt Option 4 - Mini Roundabout as the control measure for the Treelands Drive/Yamba Road
Intersection.
3. Complete the detailed design for the Mini Roundabout intersection of Treelands Drive and Yamba Road.

On 4 September this was considered at an extraordinary council meeting.

At this meeting the vote ratio reversed itself and Option 4 – Mini Roundabout was adopted by five votes to four.

Much to the relief of a crowded visitors’ gallery.

Wednesday, 8 August 2018

Stopping coal expansions in NSW that are bigger than Adani's proposed Carmichael Mine complex


Tuesday, 7 August 2018

Is Sky News Autralia fast becoming national propaganda central for extreme world views?


This is an excerpt from the book Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media (1988) by  Edward S. Herman and Noam Chomsky.


That these observations have a basis in fact can sadly be borne out by mainstream and social media in 2018.

Take this most recent example....



The United Patriots Front (UPF) is a far-right Australian white supremacists group.

In September 2017 admirer of Adolf Hitler, UPF founder & sometime leader Blair Cottrell and two supporters were each convicted under Victoria’s Racial and Religious Tolerance Act 2001 and fined $2,000 plus $79.50 in statutory costs for religious vilification/inciting serious contempt.

This is not the first time Cottrell has been before the courts. In 2013 he was gaoled for a string of offences including stalking, arson, burglary and damaging property.

Despite this dubious history Sky News decided to invite him on as a guest of former Northern Territory Chief Minister & former Country Liberal Party Leader Adam Giles for a one-on-one studio interview on The Adam Giles Show on 5 August 2017.






To describe Cottrell as "an activist" is deliberately misleading as his history is well-known, as are some of his more extreme pronouncements such as this:


The reaction to Sky News was swift and this is just four examples:


Sky News issued an apology:



Then announced a ban on Blair Cottrell and a suspension of the Adam Giles Show, along with an internal  management shakeup, as the general public pushed to the limits continued to fight back against the 'normalising' of violence and racism.

However, as Sky News often employs markedly right-wing personalities and regularly hosts guests with extreme, intolerant and sometimes racist world views, it is not always easy to accept assertions that extremist views are not the news channel's own views. Or at the very least, that these divisive opinions are seen by Sky News management as driving an agenda desired by News Corp and powerful right-wing groups.

In fact Sky News appears to be fast developing into a version of that US right-wing propaganda vehicle, Fox News, in that it seeks to legitimise and monetise for its own corporate profit the most dangerous elements on the far-right political and social spectrum.1


Notes


1. Sky News' liking for yellow press journalism hasn't past unnoticed. 
Junkee, 6 August 2018: Sky News…. was deeply sorry for slut-shaming a (female) federal senator a few weeks ago. In the past, Sky News has been deeply sorry for linking a (female) former state Premier to corruption, deeply sorry for poking fun at a (female) journalist’s disability, and deeply sorry for suggesting a school boy was gay because he’d appeared in a video about feminism.

Wednesday, 25 July 2018

Pacific Highway Upgrade has hit a noticeable bump in the road and the fault lies firmly with NSW Roads and Maritime Services, Pacific Complete, the Minister for Roads and the National Party


In July 2018 the NSW Roads and Maritime Services (RMS) was called to account by the communities of Woombah and Iluka for a lack of transparency and only paying lip service to community consultation with regard to the Iluka to Devil's Pulpit Section 6 stage of the Pacific Highway upgrade and, the plan to site a temporary asphalt batching plant and a foamed bitumen plant on a rural lot adjoining the Pacific Highway-Iluka Road T-intersection.

Iluka Road is the only road in and out of both of these small villages whose local economies are heavily reliant on a clean, green, family friendly image and nature-based tourism.

This is the official response of the Pacific Highway upgrade consortium to date:

Nationals MP For Clarence Chris Gulaptis in another media release characterised the RMS-Pacific Complete response as Back to the drawing board for Clarence Pacific Highway upgrade asphalt plant temporary asphalt batch plant.

It is unfortunate that he did so, as Woombah residents can clearly see that site preparation on the lot is still proceeding for the temporary asphalt plant and foamed bitumen plant.

Which leaves some residents concerned that Chris Gulaptis is primarily focused on commercial needs of the Pacific Complete consortium and, that NSW Roads and Maritime Services having been caught out are now merely going through the motions so that there is a suitable paper trail should the issue become even more contentious and so come to the notice of Minister for Roads Maritime and Freight, Melinda Pavey.

Residents point out that Jackybulbin and the Rest Area approximately five kilometres away are ideal sites. That the Woombah lot is probably the construction consortium's preferred ancillary site simply because they have an existing lease there.

In response to Gulaptis' spin for the consumption of local media, Woombah and Iluka residents opposing the preferred site have stated in an email:

1. Woombah and Iluka stand united in expressing 'no confidence' in the Laing O'Rourke/Brinkerhoff unincorporated consortium known as "Pacific Complete". Laing O'Orurke is the correct identity for publishing as it is the INSURED PARTY (see attached). Laing O'Rourke Australian arm is for sale and Brinkerhoff is the named party in several issues with previous works such as Lane Cove Tunnel.

2. "Pacific Complete" has been negligent in [failing to notify] the affected members of the communities (all road users of these communities including children on buses and visitors and assessing the proposed shared access roads) and the lack of experience by the "Pacific Complete" Project Team has caused serious distress to the residents of Woombah and Iluka due to two failed communications engagements.

3. "Pacific Complete" and the Roads & Maritime Service NSW has pursued it's objectives and shown complete disregard toward the genuine safety and security issues that will be faced by residents using Iluka Rd to the Iluka Road Pacific Highway turn-off.

4. "Pacific Complete" failed in its duty to correctly identify and assess all viable sites for the asphalt plant.

5. At this time "Pacific Complete" and RMS have offered no traffic solution in the event that no other suitable location of the plant can be identified.

6. Should "Pacific Complete" and the RMS pursue the Woombah site for the Asphalt Batch Plant with no dedicated route for construction/plant vehicles, residents of Woombah & Iluka will consider forming a class action lawsuit against the parties for wilful endangerment.

7. Objectives now are to monitor Pacific Complete to take the preferred site as one of other now five options that do not affect traffic, local residents and the environment.

8. January is Pacific Complete peak movement of trucks month for the Asphalt Plant. They did not consider this ….would affect our peak Holiday period?

Research by local residents also suggests that RMS and Pacific Complete may not be fully compliant with guidelines for the establishment of ancillary facilities when it comes to the Woombah site.

Of particular concern is; (i) the south west flow of surface water on the lot and, whether during any high rainfall event over the next two and a half years, contaminated water might escape and flow from the batching plant infrastructure into the 80ha Mororo Creek Nature Reserve and then along the final est. 2.5km length of the creek which empties into the Clarence River estuary and (ii) the proposed shared access road for heavy trucks and residents' cars and school buses now intersects with the proposed ancillary site at a point which is a known koala crossing.


Image contributed

The next NSW state election will be held on 23 March 2019 in just eight months time.

If the Woobah site remains the preferred site, by then the asphalt batching plant (and possibly the foamed bitumen plant) will have been operational for at least five months and up to 500 heavy truck movements a day will have been occurring over that time with peak activity coinciding with the Woombah-Iluka annual summer tourism period 

One wonders what the Berejiklian Government down in Sydney and the NSW National Party were thinking.

Do they really believe the dust, noise, odour and disruptive traffic will endear Chris Gulaptis to voters in these towns on polling day?

Wednesday, 4 July 2018

Liberals, Nationals and Labor all agree they would rather chill political activism to the point of hypothermia


At both state and federal level Australian citizens are finding their right o speak truth to power is being seriously eroded.

This is just the lastest move.....


Bills passed by the Australian Parliament 28 June 2018:




The Guardian, 26 June 2018:

The espionage bill could criminalise protests and communication of opinions harmful to the Australian government, representing a threat to the limited protections on freedom of speech, according to legal advice produced for the activist group GetUp.

The advice comes after deals between the Coalition and Labor on the espionage bill and the foreign transparency register…..

Although the shadow attorney general, Mark Dreyfus, has rejected GetUp’s claims that peaceful protests could be criminalised, his view has been contradicted by both the founder of Australian Lawyers for Human Rights, Kate Eastman SC, and the advice for GetUp by Wentworth Selborne chambers.

The advice to GetUp said that sabotage offences could cover “a wide range of protest activity” because the “damage to public infrastructure” element includes merely limiting or preventing access to it.

“For example, a person who intentionally blockaded the entry to a coalmine ... with the ultimate intention of ending the sale of coal by Australia to another country ... could be charged with an offence of this kind,” it said.

The advice suggested the significant penalties of up to 20 years prison “is likely to have a chilling effect on protest activity” such as blockading a farm to stop the sale of live animals to another country.

The advice to GetUp suggests that espionage offences in the Coalition bill may breach the implied freedom of political communication because of broad definitions in offences that criminalise dealing with information that may harm national security.
It warned that the definition of harm to national security did not distinguish between harm to Australia and to its government, meaning “espionage offences [appear] broad enough to capture reputational damage and loss of confidence in an Australian government.”

The bill could criminalise publication of information, including opinions or reports of conversations, to international organisations “which may pose little or no threat to Australia’s national security or sovereignty,” it said.

That could include information and opinions about food security, energy security, climate security, economic conditions, migration and refugee policies because these may affect Australia’s “political, military or economic relations with another country”.
Eastman told Guardian Australia those concepts “could cover almost anything” that embarrasses Australia in the eyes of another country.

Eastman cited examples of reporting that Australia spied on the Indonesian president and his wifespied on Timor L’Este, criticism of Australia’s human rights record connected to its role on the United Nations Human Rights Council, or its treatment of foreign investment and major projects such as the Adani Carmichael coalmine.
Even dealing with the “substance, effect or description” of certain information is banned, a further bar to reporting.

Friday, 29 June 2018

Apparently NSW Minister for Lands and Forestry Paul Toole thinks voters are gullible fools


When approached by ABC journalists sometime before publication of this online article concerning recent changes to regulations under the NSW Crown Lands Management Act 2016, a spokesperson for NSW Minister for Lands and Forestry, Minister for Racing and Nationals MP for Bathurst Paul Toole stated the new provisions were:

"substantially the same as the provisions in the existing Crown Lands By-law 2006."

Adding words to the effect that the suggestion that new regulations were designed to ban protests was wrong.

It appears that the minister and his staff think that voters across the entire state (and particularly those living in the Northern Rivers region) never learnt to read, write or comprehend simple sentences.

What other reason could there be for such a bald-faced political lie?

This is the by-law referred to in the spokesperson's statement supplied to ABC News.


Current version for 25 June 2018 to date (accessed 28 June 2018 at 00:26)
Part 3  Division 1  Clause 22

22   Conduct prohibited in reserve

(1)  A person must not, without reasonable excuse:

(a)  damage, deface or interfere with any structure, sign, public notice, descriptive plate, label, machinery or equipment in a reserve, or

(b)  obstruct any authorised person or employee of, or contractor to, the reserve trust of a reserve in the performance of the authorised person’s duty or the employee’s or contractor’s work in the reserve, or

(c)  pollute any fresh water, tank, reservoir, pool or stream in a reserve, or

(d)  bring onto a reserve any diseased animal or any noxious animal, or

(e)  walk over, mark, scratch or otherwise mutilate, deface, injure, interfere with, remove or destroy any Aboriginal rock carving, its surrounds or any other Aboriginal object in a reserve, or

(f)    (Repealed)

(g)  remain in a reserve or any part of a reserve or any building, structure or enclosure in the reserve when reasonably requested to leave by an authorised person, or

(h)  bring into or leave in a reserve any refuse, waste material, scrap metal (including any vehicle or vehicle part), rock, soil, sand, stone or other such substance.
Maximum penalty: 5 penalty units.

(2)  A person must not in a reserve for a cemetery:

(a)  interfere with any grave or monument, or

(b)  open any coffin, or

(c)  disturb or interrupt any service, procession, cortege, gathering, meeting or assembly, or

(d)  bury any human remains (whether cremated or not).

Maximum penalty: 5 penalty units.

Now spot the very significant differences in the new regulation.

Excerpts from Crown Land Management Regulation 2018 under the Crown Land Management Act 2016:

9 Conduct prohibited in dedicated or reserved Crown land

(1) A person must not do any of the following on dedicated or reserved Crown land:

(a) damage, deface or interfere with any structure, sign, public notice, descriptive plate, label, machinery or equipment on the land, or

(b) obstruct any authorised person or employee of, or contractor to, a responsible manager of the land in the performance of the authorised person’s duty or the employee’s or contractor’s work on the land, or (c) bring in or on to the land any animal that is diseased or a pest, or

(d) walk over, mark, scratch or otherwise mutilate, deface, injure, interfere with, remove or destroy any Aboriginal object in or on the land, or

(e) remain in or on the land or any part of the land or any structure or enclosure in or on the land when reasonably requested to leave by an authorised person, or

(f) bring into or leave on the land any refuse, waste material, scrap metal (including any vehicle or vehicle part), rock, soil, sand, stone or other similar substance.

Maximum penalty: 50 penalty units.

The list under the heading Activities that can be prohibited on Crown land by direction or notice under Part 9 of Act (1) contains 36 banned activities, including sitting on a picnic table.

However four in particular are activities often associated with community meetings, gatherings expressing local concerns and public information events.

Each of the activities specified in the following Table is prescribed for the purposes of sections 9.4 (1) (b), 9.5 (1) (b) and 9.5 (2) of the Act:

3 Holding a meeting or performance or conducting entertainment for money or consideration of any kind, or in a manner likely to cause a nuisance to any person

4 Taking part in any gathering, meeting or assembly (except, in the case of a cemetery, for the purpose of a religious or other ceremony of burial or commemoration)

6 Displaying or causing any sign or notice to be displayed

7 Distributing any circular, advertisement, paper or other printed, drawn, written or photographic matter


 Note.
Clause 6 of Schedule 7 provides for certain land under Acts repealed by Schedule 8 to become Crown land under this Act. Section 1.10 then provides for this land to be vested in the Crown.
Land that will become Crown land under this Act includes land vested in the Crown that is dedicated for a public purpose. This land was previously excluded from the definition of Crown land in the Crown Lands Act 1989. See also section 1.8 (2).

So there you have it - very clearly set out.  

An extension of government power and, a wide delegation of that power given the extended definition of Crown land, which will see community gatherings challenged, shut down and people moved on if local police, council officers or representatives of government departments/reserve trusts decide either the message or the visuals are considered politically unpalatable by government.

Oh, and I hope North Coast Voices readers have noticed that the maximum fine which can be imposed on an individual has been increased from 5 penalty points ($550) to 50 penalty points ($5,500).

ABC News - ABC North Coast, 26 June 2018:

The new regulations will apply to all crown-owned land, which amounts to about half of all land in New South Wales.

The 35,000 crown reserve sites include parks, heritage sites, community halls, nature reserves, coastal lands, sporting grounds, government infrastructure and showgrounds.

Mr Ricketts said the new regulations were bigger and broader than those imposed under the Bjelke-Petersen era in Queensland in the 1970s.

In September 1977, then Queensland Premier Johannes Bjelke-Petersen proclaimed the day of the political street march was over.

"Anybody who holds a street march, spontaneous or otherwise, will know they're acting illegally," he said.

The statement was echoed by the acting police commissioner and was police policy until April 1978.

During the two-year ban, 1,972 people were arrested.

Mr Ricketts said he expected a similar reaction in New South Wales, if the new regulations were enforced.

"They banned street marches for the right to march — which led to violent policing," he said.

The Knitting Nannas protest group joined the chorus of concern.

Spokeswoman Judi Summers said she was shocked to learn about the new rules.

She said the group's strategy of holding weekly knit-ins outside the offices of local politicians might not be possible under the new regulations.

"Well it would have shut us down basically," Ms Summers said.

"We've been knitting outside of Thomas George and Kevin Hogan's [parliamentary] offices for the last sort of six years.

"Every Thursday without a miss, and if these laws had been introduced way back then, we would have been moved on right from the start."

Lawyer and NSW Greens candidate for Lismore, Sue Higginson, said over the years, she had represented hundreds of protestors in court, through her work with the Environmental Defenders Office.

"I see time and time again, the courts — generally speaking — have a real concern about having to penalise people who have found that they are in a position of having to break laws to stand up for an issue or to protect the environment or to protect a civil right," she said.

"So where we are criminalising really benign behaviour, and behaviour that people have a right to do, it becomes a real problem for the courts."

Ms Higginson said a good example was the role of town halls played during the coal seam gas protests on the Northern Rivers.

"If you look back to how the community in the Northern Rivers mobilised to protect the land and water here from coal seam gas, a lot of that organisation and the information and the those meetings — they were held in those town halls."

Ms Higginson said under the new regulations, meetings could be banned or dispersed from town halls.

"People should definitely be alarmed and the biggest problem about this kind of thing is it's difficult to understand the application these laws will have until you're impacted," she said.

Monday, 11 June 2018

The Turnbull Government is about to decide what is in the "public interest" and what is "fair and accurate reporting"...


And how the Turnbull Government couches these definitions in relation to national security and classified information may decide if a whistleblower or journalist ends up spending two years in an Australian gaol.

Excerpts from National Security Legislation Amendment (Espionage and Foreign Interference) Bill 2017 currently before the Parliament of Australia:

122.4 Unauthorised disclosure of information by Commonwealth officers and former Commonwealth officers
 (1) A person commits an offence if:
(a) the person communicates information; and
(b) the person made or obtained the information by reason of his or her being, or having been, a Commonwealth officer or otherwise engaged to perform work for a Commonwealth  entity; and
(c) the person is under a duty not to disclose the information; and
(d) the duty arises under a law of the Commonwealth.
           Penalty: Imprisonment for 2 years.
(2) Absolute liability applies in relation to paragraph (1)(d)
Note: A defendant bears an evidential burden in relation to the matters in 10 this subsection (see subsection 13.3(3)).

122.5 Defences
Powers, functions and duties in a person’s capacity as a 4 Commonwealth officer etc. or under arrangement……
Information communicated in accordance with the Public Interest Disclosure Act 2013
(4) It is a defence to a prosecution for an offence by a person against this Division relating to the communication of information that the person communicated the information in accordance with the Public Interest Disclosure Act 2013.
Note: A defendant bears an evidential burden in relation to the matters in 24 this subsection (see subsection 13.3(3)).
Information communicated to a court or tribunal
(5) It is a defence to a prosecution for an offence by a person against this Division relating to the communication of information that the person communicated the information to a court or tribunal (whether or not as a result of a requirement).
Note: A defendant bears an evidential burden in relation to the matters in this subsection (see subsection 13.3(3))......

Information dealt with or held for the purposes of fair and accurate reporting…
(6) It is a defence to a prosecution for an offence by a person against this Division relating to the dealing with or holding of information that the person dealt with or held the information:
(a) in the public interest (see subsection (7)); and
(b) in the person’s capacity as a journalist engaged in fair and accurate reporting. Note: A defendant bears an evidential burden in relation to the matters in this subsection (see subsection 13.3(3))......


SECRECY OFFENCES - DEFENCES AND OTHER MATTERS

Recommendation 26
5.87 The Committee recommends that the following proposed defences be broadened to cover all dealings with information, rather than being limited to communication of information:
§ proposed section 122.5(3) – relating to the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security, the Commonwealth Ombudsman and the Law Enforcement Integrity Commissioner,
§ proposed section 122.5(4) – relating to the Public Interest Disclosure Act 2013,
§ proposed section 122.5(5) – relating information provided to a court or tribunal, and
§ proposed section 122.5(8) – relating to information that has been previously communicated. 

Recommendation 27
5.90 The Committee recommends that the Attorney-General’s proposed amendments to the defence for journalists at proposed section 122.5(6), and the associated amendments at 122.5(7), be implemented. This includes expanding the defence to all persons engaged in reporting news, presenting current affairs or expressing editorial content in news media where the person reasonably believed that dealing with or holding the information was in the public interest.
The Committee also recommends that the Government consider further refinements to the proposed defence in order to
§ make explicit that editorial support staff are covered by the defence, including legal advisors and administrative staff,
§ ensure editorial staff and lawyers, who are engaging with the substance of the information, be required to hold a reasonable belief that their conduct is in the public interest, and
§ allow administrative support staff working at the direction of a journalist, editor or lawyer who holds the reasonable belief, to benefit from the defence.

The Australian Attorney-General and Liberal MP for Pearce Christian Porter sent out this media release on 7 June 2018:

Attorney-General, Christian Porter, welcomed the release today of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security on the Government’s National Security Legislation Amendment (Espionage and Foreign Interference) Bill 2017.

"This is a major step forward in securing passage of this critical legislation and protecting Australia’s democratic systems from Foreign Interference, and it is my expectation that the Bill will be considered and passed during the next sitting period later this month," the Attorney-General said.

"The Committee has made 60 recommendations, the large majority of which are minor changes to definitions and drafting clarifications. The most substantive changes are those that adopt the Government’s proposed amendments which I submitted to the Committee as part of its deliberations earlier this year.

"Those Government amendments expanded the public interest defence for journalists and created separate graduated offences for commonwealth officers and non-commonwealth officers. The amendments were designed to strike the best possible balance between keeping Australia safe and not impeding the ordinary and important work of journalists and media organisations.

"In addition to minor drafting amendments and the adoption of the substantive Government amendments that I provided earlier this year, the additional substantive changes now recommended include that:

*There be a reduction to the maximum penalties for the proposed new secrecy offences, and to require the consent of the Attorney-General to any prosecution under these proposed new secrecy offences;
* That all secrecy offences in other Commonwealth legislation are reviewed; and
* Clarification that the journalism defence extends to all editorial, legal and administrative staff within the news organisation.

"Even in the time that it has taken to consider the Espionage and Foreign Interference Bill, the threat environment has changed and become more acute. As senior ASIO officials have said repeatedly in recent months, we now live in a time of unprecedented foreign intelligence activity against Australia with more foreign agents, from more foreign powers, using more tradecraft to engage in espionage and foreign interference than at any time since the Cold War."

"Given the rapid change in the threat environment it is the Government’s intention to consider the report and recommendations for amendments very quickly and my expectation is that the Bill, in essentially the form now recommend by the Committee, should be passed through Parliament during the next sitting period later this month; noting of course the primary and most significant recommendation of the report is that the Bill be passed."

The Attorney-General said this Bill and the Foreign Influence Transparency Scheme Bill were both critical to modernising our national security laws as part of the Turnbull Government’s commitment to keep Australians safe and the Attorney-General wanted to make particular note of the hard work of the Committee in the last two weeks to produce this most recent Report.

"Safeguarding Australia’s national security will always remain the Turnbull Government’s number one priority and the Committee’s role in considering and making amendments to national security legislation is at the centre of a process that has seen ten tranches of national security laws passed since 2014, with the Government accepting 128 recommendations of the Committee, resulting in 293 Government amendments," the Attorney-General said.

"This process was conducted squarely in the national interest and represented a real fulfilment of Australians expectations for cooperative bipartisan conduct when serious national security issues are at stake. On this point I would like to personally thank the Chair Andrew Hastie MP, the Shadow Attorney–General, the Hon Mark Dreyfus QC MP, and Deputy Chair, the Hon Anthony Byrne MP, for their skilled and good faith dealings with my office to deliver recommendations which ultimately improve the Bill."

It goes without saying that incorporated community organisations, grassroots activists and social media bloggers/commentators are not afforded the protection of any detailed set of defences set out in the bill or in report recommendations.

On 8 June 2018 this was how the Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) and World Wildlife Fund - Australia saw their position under the provisions of this bill and review recommendations:

WWF-Australia and the Australian Conservation Foundation say charities who hold the Australian Government to account on its environmental record, could be charged under proposed foreign interference and espionage laws.

Both groups say changes recommended by a bipartisan committee, to address “overreach” concerns with the Bill, don’t go far enough.

“We could still be charged with espionage just for doing our job, which is a ridiculous situation,” said WWF-Australia CEO Dermot O’Gorman.

Charities such as WWF-Australia and ACF are often sought out by international bodies to provide independent analysis and a scientific assessment on the Australian Government’s environmental performance.

If either organisation briefed the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) on failings to address threats to endangered species they could be charged with espionage. 

Or if they gave evidence to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) on shortfalls in Australia’s record on the environment they could face espionage charges. 

“Providing independent analysis is core business for environmental organisations trying to save Australia’s forests and threatened species,” Mr O’Gorman said.
“Would the 2050 Plan to save the Great Barrier Reef have happened without attention from UNESCO?”

ACF Acting Chief Executive Officer, Dr Paul Sinclair said: “Protests and advocacy may make some politicians uncomfortable, but they are essential ingredients of a vibrant democracy and healthy environment.

“Our security is of course important. But restricting civil society advocacy in its name is dangerous and would limit the community’s ability to hold the powerful to account for any damage they cause to our clean air, clean water and safe climate.

“All parties must work to rewrite this bill to strengthen protections for the public oversight, free expression and peaceful protest that makes our democracy strong.”

These conservation organisations have some reason to be concerned as committal for trial for an espionage or foreign interference offence is essentially a political decision taken by the Attorney-General, given s93.1 of National Security Legislation Amendment (Espionage and Foreign Interference) Bill 2017 requires consent from the Attorney-General to proceed.

Given the antipathy displayed by the Abbott and Turnbull Coalition Governments towards any form of organised political, social or environmental activism, it is not hard to imagine a scenario in which a federal government would act maliciously against those opposing its policy positions or actions and use the provisions in this bill to effect such an act.