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March 2012
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Pine Gap and a dubious Cairns peace activist
March 29th, 2012 by Syd Walker

I wrote this article during the recent Queensland election campaign, intending it for publication on a local blog that covers local issues more fully. Then I decided not to run it at the time. The election camapign was acrimonious enough. To throw one more hot potato into the pot seemed excessive. I also dislike criticising members of my local community – especially people like Bryan Law with whom, in the past, I’ve had some engagement.

But the Pine Gap issue is a matter of more general public concern – especially at this time when the US military is seeking to expand its activities within Australia.

So here’s the article about Bryan Law & Pine Gap that I wrote in late February:

It’s election time, and Bryan Law is once again touting his political opinions to anyone who’ll listen in FNQ. Once again, this “alternative type” is advocating for the right-wing of politics.

Bryan Law, "peace activist"

Bryan Law, "peace activist"

In recent elections, he’s consistently supported the LNP and attacked Labor and The Greens. Back in 2004, he ran as a Mayoral candidate. He didn’t get much support, but helped split the progressive vote. The beneficiary was the reactionary Kevin Bryne, who was returned to office.

So Bryan’s support – sometimes indirect – for right-wing politics goes back a fair way. I’m not his biographer and I won’t try to delve further back into history. But it’s no flash in the pan.

Of course, Bryan is entitled to his opinions. Lots of people in FNQ support the LNP. Lots don’t. Who cares what any one person thinks – except those who think the commentator has something worthwhile to say?

Bryan’s main claim to fame is his status as a “peace activist”. I’ve never paid much attention to what he actually does in this area of his life and its political consequences. I find his self-promotion a turn-off and haven’t wanted to look too closely. Also, as someone deeply interested in peace myself, I didn’t want to be negative about what as I thought was Bryan’s main redeeming feature.

But yesterday I was browsing the Greens website and came across a few articles and media releases written by Greens Senator Scott Ludlam on the subject of Pine Gap. They’ve made me look again at Bryan’s peace antics in a new light. I’ve long been sceptical about what he actually achieves by his “non-violent”, theatrical protests at places like Pine Gap. Now I’m more than sceptical. I’m concerned.

As far as I can see, the one demonstrable consequence of the 2005 Pine Gap protest of which Bryan is so proud (leaving aside the addition to his “peace activism” résumé) was the eventual enactment of the Defence Legislation (Miscellaneous Amendments) Act (2009), under which the Rudd Government strengthened provisions defining Pine Gap as a “prohibited area” required for the defence of Australia. Since this new legislation was passed, unauthorised visitors who enter or photograph the site face imprisonment for up to seven years.

This is how a concerned Senator Ludlam explained the sequence of events:

Under the Defence Legislation (Miscellaneous Amendments) Bill, the Government has strengthened provisions defining Pine Pine Gap as a “prohibited area” required for the defence of Australia. Those who enter or photograph the site face imprisonment for up to seven years.

“The Howard Government tried unsuccessfully to prosecute Christian pacifists for entering Pine Gap. Now it seems Kevin Rudd is following his predecessor’s lead, finishing what Howard started by amending the law to further crack down on peaceful protest,” said Greens Senator Scott Ludlam.

“This is a grossly disproportionate response to peaceful citizen protest. The idea that someone could be thrown in jail for almost a decade, simply for demonstrating against the military role of this CIA-operated facility is appallingly anti-democratic.”

“It’s further evidence of the kind of clandestine approach to Pine Gap we’ve seen from both Liberal and Labor governments. We still don’t know who the facility spies on, or who is targeted. This facility was probably used to coordinate bombing raids during the illegal war on Iraq. The government is now threatening to lock up innocent civilians who seek to peacefully protest at the site.”

There are indeed MANY reasons that Australians should be concerned about Pine Gap. Foremost among these reasons – as Senator Ludlam explains, is that the US-Australia Pine Gap Agreement is completely SECRET. Not only is the public denied access to its content – even Parliamentarians can’t view it! This is what Ludlam has to say in a must-read article he wrote in 2009 entitled Pine Gap, Democracy Gap (emphasis added):

“It most would certainly be good to take a look at this [Pine Gap] agreement, but citizens or parliamentarians are not allowed to see it. In 1999 the government refused to provide information about Pine Gap to the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties – information that is made freely available to members of the US Congress. Nothing has changed since then. Although US Congress officials have visited Pine Gap and received classified briefings about its functions, elected representatives and Senators are entrusted with less information than can be found in a public library.”

Did Bryan go to any effort to publicise that OUTRAGEOUS aspect of the Pine Gap phenomenon? Maybe he did, but I didn’t notice it. Did anyone else?

All I recall from his articles was the heroics of the action. and the convoluted legal victory which resulted in acquittal at the protestors’ subsequent court case. These days we ALSO hear more and more via Bryan about Gavin King‘s attendance – as though it’s a sign of Mr King’s commitment to peace to cover a demonstration as part of his (former) job as a journalist!

Whether intentionally or not, it seems to me the Bryan Law / Gavin King 2005 Pine Gap spectacular actually helped PUT BACK the cause of opening the issue of Pine Gap to greater public scrutiny. The court case led directly to a rather predictable Parliamentary reaction and provided a pretext for “tightening up security” (read secrecy) surrounding Pine Gap. It’s exactly what I’d expect from the likes of Gavin King. But from Bryan Law I’d hope for a positive outcome that advances the cause of greater transparency. Instead, it appears we’ve had the reverse.

In my opinion, Bryan Law’s “peace activism” is at best the work of a naive “useful idiot”.

At worst? Who knows? But the question should be asked.


Watch the video below to see Bryan in action at Rockhamption last year.

Hero? I used to think so…

2 Responses  
  • Paul writes:
    March 31st, 20122:54 pmat

    I’ve watched some of Brian’s cracks at you over at Moore’s place, especially when the mention of the you know who’s pops up, and the word “Gatekeeper” has jumped out at me frequently as I read Brian’s writings.

    • Syd Walker writes:
      April 4th, 20123:25 pmat

      Thanks Paul. I know what you mean. Perhaps Bryan would like to tell us what motivates him? “Comment Is Free” as The Guardian likes to claim :-)

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