Abolish the secret police

March 28, 2009

ASIO: The Enemy Within

Written & published by Michael Tubbs, 2008

275 pages,$25

Available from the Search Foundation, lvl 3, suite 3B, 110 Kippax St, Surry Hills, NSW

Ph 9211 4164, fax 9211 1407

Faced with climate change and the crisis caused by finance capital, does our capitalist plutocracy have the means to deal with its detractors?

Mick Tubbs, would answer in his book ASIO: the Enemy Within in the affirmative, if our secret police agency continues to aggregate more and more powers and is allowed to exercise them without parliamentary supervision.

Born out of illegality, nurtured and empowered by reactionary politicians, contrary to constitutional fiat, ASIO is poised to destroy the last vestiges of civil rights we have all assumed we are entitled to enjoy. Tubbs's book forces us to the conclusion that the Socialist Alliance, and other left-progressive parties and community groups, must place the abolition of ASIO high on their list of priorities as a policy to be implemented by a future people's government.

Qualitatively ASIO is no different to the KGB, Stasi, Mossad, MI5, CIA, or other secret police agencies serving their ruling oligarchs. They are all too dangerous to the civil liberties of their respective citizenry to tolerate their very existence.

Former Labor prime minister Ben Chifley, in true ALP-compliant style, succumbed to US/British Cold War pressure in 1949 to establish ASIO illegally and against ALP policy. It was set up without parliamentary approval, using funds siphoned through the Bank of NSW with the connivance of the federal treasury.

The Australian constitution, as Tubbs points out, doesn't allow a prime minister such powers. Nevertheless, Rudd's great predecessor lumped us with this monstrosity.

It took another seven years to clothe ASIO, belatedly, with a fig leaf of legality when the ASIO Act (1956) was passed. From this political treachery, ASIO has, over the last 60 years, accumulated enormous powers and a vast quantity of files on millions of Australian citizens whose only "crime" was to exercise their civil rights to politically or industrially, challenge the ruling oligarchy and its political agents, the Liberal, National and Labor parties.

Tubbs is well placed to "nail" ASIO. He writes as a seasoned activist. As a former industrial officer of the Communist Party of Australia, union delegate and Sydney Domain spruiker for the CPA, he was targeted by ASIO. His ASIO file attests to this, even though disclosure — heavily censored by thick black pen — is limited by the 30-year rule.

After graduating in law, Tubbs practised for 20 years as a barrister. Among other briefs, he represented public servants before the ASIO Security Appeals Tribunal.

He has personal experience, insight and knowledge of ASIO's methods and standards of performance that give his book solid credibility.

Tubbs writes with commitment and passion about an organisation that is a blight on our society.

You wouldn't be surprised to learn that the political right do not attract the attention of ASIO. For example, fascist Croations were terrorising Australians with their bombing campaigns in our state capitals in opposition to Tito's Yugoslavia and its local supporters during the late '60s and early '70s.

In 1973, the responsible minister, attorney-general Lionel Murphy, raided ASIO when he lost confidence in its effectiveness in combating this terrorism (real, not contemplated).

Conservative Australian oligarchs were aghast at such ministerial assertiveness. With this one exception ASIO has treated attorney-generals, Liberal and Labor alike, as "mushrooms", except that ASIO these days doesn't even bother feeding them bullshit.

The director general of ASIO may choose to "feed" the "responsible" minister zilch "in the interests of national security". ASIO has become an autonomous government within a government with substantial independence from judicial supervision, contrary to the constitution.

Tubbs argues that 60 years of ASIO's supervision of recruitment into, and promotion, within the public service has given us a politically conservative civil service. In addition, ASIO's role in screening migration to this country has played a key role in limiting the entry into Australia of left-progressives.

More recently, ASIO displayed its arrogant abuse of power in the case of Scott Parkin. Green Left Weekly readers will remember Parkin, a US anti-Iraq war activist who was kidnapped by ASIO. This foreign visitor, holding a valid visa, was bundled into a car and whisked off to a secret location in broad daylight and held for days with no reasons given, and was finally deported.

The KGB of old would have been proud of their ASIO "cousin".

Parkin's treatment did not reflect a very democratic process. With the treatment handed out to Dr Mohammed Haneef and many others, this has become part of a familiar pattern of grotesque trashing of the rule of law.

ASIO is out of political or judicial control. Tubbs' excellent analysis explains how this has happened and forcefully demands that this anti-democratic monster be abolished, not "reformed".

As one of the many sources of personal ASIO files that Tubbs has had access to, I, like many others on the left, have always been a political subversive. Our judiciary has recognised this as legitimate. The High Court held, in the Communist Party Dissolution Act case in 1950, that our federal government cannot outlaw political views.

ASIO, supported by blinkered Labor/Liberal governments, has subverted this legal doctrine. The fight to re-establish our political rights must include getting rid of this reactionary organisation. Get a copy of ASIO: The Enemy Within. It's an essential resource for a campaign to rid our society of this dangerous supra-government agency.

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