Qld Senator Andrew Bartlett supports Pine Gap Peace Pilgrims

We are extremely grateful to Senator Andrew Bartlett for speaking up for us in the Senate.
Here is the transcript –
Senator BARTLETT (Queensland) (18:29): I’d like to speak tonight about something that’s happening right now in Alice Springs involving a number of people from my home state of Queensland. It is a trial that’s occurring about some people who conducted a peaceful protest at Pine Gap quite recently. The Pine Gap spy base has been in operation now for just over 50 years. This original Pine Gap agreement with the US government was signed in 1966. In September last year, several hundred Australians from a range of ages, backgrounds, professions and faiths gathered in Alice Springs to mark the 50th anniversary of the signing of that Pine Gap agreement and protest against it. They have continued part of what has been a very long tradition of protest regarding the Pine Gap spy base. It is worth emphasising that the role of this base, as a part of the global war machine, has increased dramatically in recent times, so those concerns that were expressed by many protesters through the eighties, nineties and early parts of this century are more valid than ever.
If I could quote esteemed academic and one of the foremost experts on this issue in Australia, Professor Richard Tanter has said:
Pine Gap literally hardwires us into the activities of the American military… So whether or not the Australian government thinks that an attack on North Korea is either justified, or a wise and sensible move, we will be part of that… We’ll be culpable in the terms of the consequences.
And, potentially, we will get the blowback of the consequences. Let me emphasise that. That says ‘whether or not the Australian government thinks that it’s a good idea what the US might decide to do in regards to an attack on North Korea on any other nation’, not the Australian people. We don’t get a say in that. The Australian people don’t even get a say when our own government decides to go to war, but at least that’s an open statement. At least we can talk about it and ask questions in parliament, even if the people can’t have a direct say. But on this and what the US government might do, neither the Australian people nor the Australian government have a direct say.
This is relevant not just for any potential attack that the US—under the leadership of President Trump, no less—might decide to do on a whim one day but also for what is happening now. It is a well-established fact now that the Pine Gap spy base is a key part of enabling an extensive number of drone attacks, which have been documented even by the US government themselves—the ones they’ve admitted to—to have been responsible for the death of thousands of civilians under former President Obama, former President Bush before him and the current president as well.
I would like to quote Malala Yousafzai, the esteemed young woman who won the Nobel Peace Prize and inspired people around the world to stand up against terrorism and the Taliban, who shot her in the head and tried to kill her for the crime of going to school. When she got that peace prize and had that audience with President Obama, she asked him directly: ‘Please, stop dropping those bombs from those drones. You’re just making things worse. You’re making the wars worse. You’re making terrorism worse.’ She, unfortunately, was ignored, but that request from her was a request to our government as well—and the Australian people—because we are part of that via our continuing agreement with Pine Gap. That is why I express strong support for those people who have protested throughout the years and decades, including last year.
It is appropriate for me to pay tribute to many parliamentary colleagues of the past who have been part of that—and, perhaps, a reflection on my own not-common situation of being a former representative here with the Democrats and now with the Greens. I note at least a couple of other senators: Senator Jean Jenkins and Senator Janet Powell, who were with the Democrats and who also subsequently joined the Greens and ran as candidates down the track, and Senator Vicki Bourne. And, of course, there have been many Greens, including Senator Scott Ludlam and Senator Jo Valentine—the very first Greens’ senator in this chamber. There are many others who have continued to be part of providing support for the peace movement and who have expressed extreme concern about the role this base plays in continuing and expanding war and death around the globe—and, scandalously, alongside that, the absolute zero information and zero say the Australian people have over it.
We’ve heard in the context of a very different debate this week a lot of talk about freedom of speech and freedom of religion. Last year, as part of those protests there, six Australian citizens entered the grounds of the Pine Gap base to sing songs and pray. That was the extent of their protest. It was very much a faith based protest and clearly a non-violent protest. They were arrested, as occurs in these circumstances, but, unlike in almost every other circumstance where such protesters have been charged with trespass, this government and the current Attorney-General chose, and proactively chose, to prosecute these citizens for unlawful entry under the Defence (Special Undertakings) Act 1952, a Cold War act that was drafted to secure areas for British nuclear testing. That was the purpose of it, but it has since been expanded to enable the protection, and almost ultimate total secrecy, of this spy base in the middle of the country. It was an explicit decision of this Attorney-General to prosecute these people. Right at this minute the trial is happening, and the Commonwealth is explicitly seeking to jail these people. That’s the sole reason the Attorney-General is using this act: to try to get these people jailed, potentially for up to seven years, for praying and singing songs of lament about the death that is enabled by the Pine Gap spy base.
I fully appreciate that some in the chamber and some in the community do not support the intent of these Christians, but no-one could doubt their sincerity. I certainly can’t. I know a number of them: Margaret Pestorius and Andrew Paine, who I know very well, in particular, are very committed and very effective young peaceful activists; Jim Dowling, who has been a peace activist in Brisbane for many years; as well as Tim Webb and Franz Dowling—and also Paul Christie, who was arrested separately. I can vouch and do vouch and will vouch personally for the peaceful intent and the genuine commitment to peace of these people.
I join with over 70 Australians who put their names to an open letter to Senator Brandis, which was published last Saturday in the Saturday Paper, calling for clemency, because right at this minute the Commonwealth is doing the exact opposite: it is seeking to get significant jail time for these peaceful protesters. Since the time of these protests, even more information has come out about the key role that Pine Gap plays in drone warfare and in enabling, increasing and expanding war and, clearly, in exacerbating the fulcrum and the conditions that enable terrorism to develop further. So, I join with those Australians in calling on the Attorney-General to reconsider his action, to call for clemency, to seek to ensure clemency for these peaceful Christian protesters and to respect those calls for freedom of peaceful expression, freedom of peaceful political communication and freedom of peaceful personal expression of religious beliefs. I seek the leave of the chamber for the open letter to Senator Brandis to be incorporated in the Hansard.
Leave granted.

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Next 5 PineGapPilgrims face court for ‘entering’ Pine Gap – Day 1

After three days in court supporting our friend Paul, this morning court began for the five peace pilgrims. Before entering, we did a procession through Alice Springs to the front of the court. Songs were sung, supportive messages from friends were read out, and a few short speeches given about the need to resist violence.
The morning was taken up empanelling the jury, so it wasn’t until after lunch that court proceedings really began. There was a bit of debate about whether we would be able to give an opening statement outlining our defence that our actions were defending others. The prosecution opposed it, and the judge ruled against us.
The first crown witness was a Federal Police officer who talked about spotting us on Pine Gap’s CCTV camera. At this point the proceedings took a dramatic turn with the sudden appearance from the wings of Department Of Defence lawyer Tim Begbie. Like several of our pilgrims, Mr Begbie is a veteran of the 2007 case from the last civilian incursion into Pine Gap. He had come to argue that the CCTV footage should be shown only in front of a closed court, but first he had to argue that he (who is not the lawyer in this case) should be allowed to argue that.
He came with a lot of case law to back him up, but Justice Reeves wasn’t entirely convinced (he also seemed to be somewhat affronted by this sudden interloper giving him very strict advice about what he should rule) so he deferred it to be argued later, not in the presence of the jury. A trial within a trial if you like.
So stay tuned for that I guess. The comedic highlight of the day came in the affidavit from the Dept of Defence as to why the footage should not be viewed by the public. The affidavit says Pine Gap is vital to Australia’s security because it contributes to the goal of nuclear disarmament! It’s not clear whether that’s by gathering signals intelligence that would be used to target bombings by the US in the event of a nuclear war, or by the thermal imaging equipment that allows the US to ensure they maintain a bigger and more powerful arsenal than other countries; but apparently due to provisions in the National Security Act, Ms Skinner who wrote it won’t be required to come and face cross-examination on it.
One would think with all the intelligence floating around at Pine Gap, someone would have suggested that a good way to contribute to disarmament would be for either the Australian or US government to ratify this years United Nations resolution to ban nuclear weapons.
With all that business finally put aside for now, the jury and the witness returned. The defence asked him questions about the protests against Pine Gap last year and whether he could remember which functions of the base the hundreds of protesters had been opposed to. Unfortunately, his memory was a bit hazy on those details.
And that was it! Things move slowly in the Alice Springs Supreme Court, and not just because of the desert heat.
Meanwhile, thousands of km away in Canberra, Greens MLA Andrew Bartlett gave a wonderful speech in the federal senate about our court case, the role of Pine Gap in US wars, and the lack of accountability the base has to the Australian public. He tabled an open letter to his fellow senator and Attorney-General George Brandis signed by over 70 prominent Australians and now over 600 people overall; saying the charges under the Defence (Special Undertakings) Act should be dropped to protect the right of peaceful protest. You can add your name to the letter here  
As for us, we’ll be back in court at 10am tomorrow, continuing to try to put Pine Gap on trial. Thanks everyone for your many messages of support (sorry I’ve been too busy to reply to them all!), we definitely appreciate them and carry you all with us into the cold environs of the court. I’ll be back with another update tomorrow.
Peace, Andy.

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First Peace Pilgrims first day in court

We’re gathered outside of the courthouse right now! Paul Christie, the first of the Peace Pilgrims is about to head in, wish him well. “It’s a great day to stand up to the Military Industrial Complex!” ~Paulie
To support him from afar, please sign the letter.

Paul Christie faces court this morning in #AliceSprings, we sang song of peace and prayed outside the court #PineGapPilgrims #ClosePineGap #auspol Pls support https://t.co/gPkY4onKJt pic.twitter.com/F575vzjKHl
— ClosePineGap (@ClosePineGap) November 13, 2017

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The Welcome to country Smoking Ceremony

We all arrived as the sun was setting over the desert.
Graeme had beautifully arranged a number of his flags and lanterns and had created a wonderful space. The fire pot was going and we were all gathering around it.
Arrernte elders gathered us together and began the smoking ceremony. They welcomed us to their lands and asked that the smoke give us clarity, strength and courage.
Chris Tomlins spoke of the healing power of the smoke and the cleansing powers – but most of all he spoke of its protective powers. He told us that the smoke will shield our spirit and protect us as we enter the courtroom.
They welcomed us as family, telling us we are their white spirit family – we are all connected now.
After we had immersed ourselves in the smoke, the peace pilgrims that were facing court, took turns sitting in the healing Emu Tree. We sat in silence, each of us contemplating what was ahead of us, bringing peace to our hearts, we were told this sacred tree held the Emu dreaming song line for them and that it would also help to protect us.
After this we stood in silence for some time finding peace, listening to the winds across the desert.
We began then to talk. About what is going on the area, about issues of land, issues of law, issues of justice.
We shared food and talk and all was good.

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War Criminals Way

by Graeme Dunstan. 10 Nov 2017
Bec and I set up a photo opportunity for the Peace Pilgrims on the road from the Stuart Highway to the gates of Joint Defence Facility Pine Gap.
This was a Peacebus rig of Redtail Cockie flags and cardboard mounted letters which spelled out WAR CRIMINALS WAY set up by the road at 7.30 am – viewing for the shift change of Pine Gap spooks and corporate contractors. Some 800 US and Australian military, security and corporate technicians are employed at Pine Gap.
Last year we peace activists had announced this name change and, even though the local Murdoch media were reluctant to report it, the action had amused locals and had been widely noticed.
Here was a reprise with better art work – 400 mm high letters on cardboard legs held upright and in place by ballast of rocks and gravel. Alas the pernicious wind played tricks and Bec and I spent a lot of time re erecting fallen letters.
As promised Andrea Johnson of the Centralian Advocate came at 10 am with photographer Emma and set about interviewing and getting mug shots and group shots of the Peace Pilgrims, carefully keeping “War Criminals” out of frame.
The heat and the flies were oppressive. Hanging in the air, the smell of carrion from nearby roo road kill. Dragged further away and down wind, a parade of hundreds of displaced and desperate maggots came wriggling by Peacebus. Very strange.
Photography done, we were quick to retreat back to Alice Springs.

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Support the #PineGapPilgrims

We were lamenting war and praying for peace at Pine Gap. We have been found guilty of "being" in a prohibited area, and await sentencing. Now we need your help and support:
  1. To get involved sign up for Wage Peace Newsletter for updates, invitation to actions, call outs. Also to halt the march of the military in our universities and communities. Share this information with your friends and networks.
  2. Donate to help us with the costs of travelling back from Alice Springs and general costs that we incurred fighting this case.
  3. Support us with Actions in Alice Springs, Brisbane and Cairns on December 4th when we will be sentenced in the Brisbane Federal Court