The Sydney Morning Herald and other papers carry reports that Resources and Energy Minister Martin Ferguson has been using a private spy agency, the National Open Source Intelligence Centre, to supply information to the Federal Police on environmental protests and protesters, particularly against mining companies.
According to the report, the Federal Police admit they conduct “covert operations” (ie infiltration and spying) in protest groups, but only “on rare occasions”.
It’s bad enough that people well-known to be committed to non-violent protest are being spied on by police, but what is this other, non-government, private-profit organisation up to? How widely is the government using taxpayer dollars to outsource so-called security operations? Will we be told what is being done in our name, with our money?
Are, for example, the Federal Police being used to investigate the many crimes committed by the mining and energy industries in Australia, and by Australian mining companies overseas?
Are the Federal Police investigating the December 24 killing of at least three protesters at the Indonesian port of Sape on the island of Sumbawa? The protest was against the Bima goldmine development carried out by Arc Exploration, an Australian company.
Arc has links to Newcrest Mining, which in 2004 was involved in the shooting of a protester by Indonesian trooops guarding its operation at Buyat Bay on the island of Sulawesi.
At that time, according to Greens Senator Christine Milne, John Carlisle, now managing director of Arc, was involved with Newcrest’s mining operations in Indonesia and spoke publicly for the company on the killing at Buyat Bay.
Senator Milne asked whether Arc had been paying Indonesian police or military forces for security. Does Ferguson know the answer, and if not, are the Federal Police investigating whether there has been a breach of Australian law? Will private spies be contracted to infiltrate Arc’s board to discover whether it has authorised illegal activities?
Freeport-McMoRan, which runs the giant Grasberg gold-copper mine in West Papua, has a member on the board of Newcrest, which as mentioned has links to Arc.
Present-day Grasberg is an extension of an earlier mine, also run by Freeport near which 800 people were killed in 1977 by Indonesian security forces after an attack on the mine by the Free Papua Movement, which opposes Indonesian rule of the former Dutch West New Guinea. The rebels damaged only property, no lives were lost in their attack but 800 were killed in the response. Since that time, according to Senator Milne, another protester has been killed.
Will Ferguson order investigations of any of that, and of Freeport McMoRan’s links and operations in Australia and Indonesia to ensure everything is legal and above board?
The Grasberg mine has been connected with “security” operations in which 800 people were killed. Can Ferguson name one Australian environmental organisation with such a record? Which organisation might be considered the more likely source of danger to human rights, the security of Australian citizens, and of other residents of our region of the world?
In 2004, Anvil Mining, a Canadian-Australian company operating a mine in Katanga province of the Democratic Republic of Congo, became alarmed at a half-baked rebellion in an area near its mine.
The company called in Congolese troops, provided them with Anvil Mining trucks and a helicopter, and the troops proceeded to massacre about 100 people in the nearby village of Kilwa, wiping out pretty well the entire village. Anvil Mining is still operating in Africa, still trading on the Australian Securities Exchange, and claims these days to be committed to higher ethical standards than it was eight years ago. Is Ferguson using his spooks to check whether this is true?
In view of the appalling human rights and environmental records of many Australian mining companies, in Australia and worldwide, it would seem Australian citizens are more in need of protection from these companies than the companies are from protesters trying to get a hearing in media dominated by big business interests, including mining companies.
If Ferguson is concerned with breaches of the law in connection with the mining and energy industries, a good place to start might be the environmental record of uranium mining in the Northern Territory. But don’t hold your breath.
See also: Bob Brown’s comment