A royal commission remains the only way to establish the facts about the complicity of John Howard’s security committee, the Australian Federal Police, ASIO and ASIS in the arrest the Bali Nine drug smugglers and this week’s execution of Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran.
Senator Nick Xenophon’s well-meaning parliamentary committee inquiry should not become an excuse for abandoning the push for a royal commission.
The committee of MPs does not have the powers of a royal commission to call witnesses and collect official government documents.
An MPs’ report can be buried – and they frequently are – but a royal commission’s report has legal, political, administrative and community standing. Its findings cannot be ignored, even by someone as brutally arrogant as Tony Abbott.
Secret intelligence-sharing with foreign governments has become a conspiracy for law-breaking. Washington uses its secretive intelligence-sharing arrangements to have suspects “rendered” to third countries – Poland, Lithuania, Romania, Egypt, Thailand etc – to be tortured by the CIA.
The publication of Australia’s guidelines is unpostponable. Foreign Minister Julie Bishop has just reached a secret intelligence-sharing agreement with Iran and a week later, not to be upstaged, Abbott announced he had achieved such an agreement with Turkey.
Iran retains the death penalty with 369 people executed in 2013 (unofficially the figure is 704) while Turkey abolished the death penalty in 2002 during its (failed) bid to join the EU.
If Abbott, Bishop and Immigration Minister Peter Dutton, an ex-Queensland cop, deport Iranian or Turkish refugees to their homelands, what guarantee do we have they won’t be executed (Iran) or locked up for life (Turkey)? We have none.
Open Bali Nine files
What happened in the spectacularly sinister case of the Bali drug mules must be made public. The families want the whole saga laid bare and so do their lawyers and well-wishers.
The only people desperate to engage in a cover-up are the Liberals, the AFP and the buffoons running the security services.
On the day of the executions, Bali Nine barrister Bob Myers said: “This is a black day for the AFP, a day they deliberately exposed nine Australians to the death penalty.”
But the Liberals were in full cry, trying to head off a judicial inquiry.
Former immigration minister Philip Ruddock, aka the “death’s head”, said a 2006 “review” by Judge Paul Finn found the AFP had acted lawfully.
“These are difficult issues,” Ruddock said as the shots rang out at the firing range, “and I don’t think there should be recriminations about it.”
Chris Ellison, former justice and customs minister, didn’t want any “recriminations” either. “To say they [the AFP] have blood on their hands is unfair,” he told Rupert Murdoch’s Sky News. Its presenters agreed.
While Abbott and company are prepared to cynically deflect all the blame for this cruel tragedy onto the Indonesian government and repeatedly insult its new president Joko Widodo, the real instigators are Australian politicians, federal police and spies.
The AFP is in furious damage control, leaking false stories to the media. Their aim is to paint the two executed men as major drug dealers when it is well known that their organised crime handlers – who have very good connections in the police – walked free.
Why were they never questioned, arrested or charged? Bring on the royal commission and we’ll see who has blood on their hands.
Her Majesty’s press
If Australians feel bitter about the pro-Liberal bias of the media – for example, during the 2013 Federal Election and State Elections in Victoria, Queensland and NSW – then they should cop some of the lunatic ravings in the UK press.
Editorial writers and commentators have been frothing at the mouth over the perils of a Labour victory in the Federal Election on May 7.
Ed Miliband, Labour’s Opposition leader, isn’t mentioned in the tabloids without being referred to as “Red Ed”.
The media has issued constant warnings that companies and wealthy business executives will flee abroad if the “reds” return to Government. The Tory narrative is simple: the UK will crash and burn under “Red Ed’s socialist dictatorship” and join Greece in a quagmire of debt and bankruptcy.
Their dread is that Labour will raise taxes on super-rich spivs who escape paying their proper share of taxation by registering as “domiciled abroad”.
In a concession to community fury, Tory Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne is promising to increase a couple’s inheritance tax threshold to £1 million ($A1.9m).
No matter which side is elected I don’t expect either to implement taxes on the idle rich, the notorious 1% who own most of the UK’s wealth. Parliament’s purpose is to defend the rich and powerful, not attack them.
It’s anybody’s guess who will win. The Mail Online reported on March 29: “Conservatives move into strongest poll position for five years with a four-point lead over Labour.”
Reuters reported on April 9: “Britain’s Labour takes as much as a 6% poll lead in pre-election poll.”
One of the hilarious highlights of the campaign has been the emphatic claim by David Cameron and his Etonian mates that “we will never form a coalition with one of the minor parties” – a reference aimed at the right-wing United Kingdom Independence Party (Ukip) and the Scottish National Party (SNP).
Oh really? Something appears to be missing here. Isn’t it a fact that Cameron’s Tories have ruled for the past five years in coalition with Nick Clegg’s Liberal Democrats?
No single party will hold enough seats to form a government. The only question appears to be is who is prepared to get into bed with whom? At Westminster that’s never been insurmountable.
Fiery Annie Symonds
Last weekend Ann Symonds, a former MP in the NSW upper house, was lying in John Flynn Hospital at Tugun with a trail of plastic tubes running out of her nose, arms and fingers.
She was struggling to breathe but as feisty as ever. After 30 minutes the nurse advised Judith and me to end our visit because Ann was coughing and her voice had faded to a hoarse whisper.
She is due to receive her AM in Sydney today (Friday, May 1) and being a trenchant left-winger the date couldn’t be more appropriate.
“I’m going to the ceremony in Sydney whether it is on a plane or in a wheelchair or a wheelbarrow,” she declared huskily. “I’ll show the bastards.”
Ann Elizabeth Symonds, nee Burley, was born on 12 July 1939 in Murwillumbah, the daughter of the local butcher.
She trained as a teacher at Armidale Teachers’ College and the University of NSW. In 1965 she married Maurice Symonds, an art teacher and administrator with whom she had five children.
She joined the ALP in 1967, aligned herself with the left-wing faction, and was elected to Waverley Council where she became the first female deputy mayor in 1977.
After he was bashed by thugs, NSW upper house MP Peter Baldwin accepted pre-selection for the safe federal seat of Sydney and moved to Canberra. As part of a factional deal, Ann filled Baldwin’s vacancy in 1982 and resigned in 1998 when Carmel Tebbutt, wife of Anthony Albanese, succeeded her in another cross-factional deal.
She worked tirelessly for drug and prison reform and took up the cudgels for women subjected to domestic violence. She’s remains exuberantly feisty, but now with an AM as a campaign medal for past battles.
Quote of the Month
We select our crews very, very carefully. It’s part of our DNA at Luftshansa.
– Carsten Spohr, Lufthansa CEO