Tagged with "Law"
New national security laws pave way for 'police state', says Andrew Wilkie Tags: Police state security laws whistle blower National security

Matthew Knott and Ben Grubb

 

National security legislation reforms a 'distraction'

Greens MP Adam Bandt, independent MP Andrew Wilkie and Labor MP Melissa Parke react in parliament to the federal government's proposed changes to national security laws.

Former intelligence whistleblower turned federal MP Andrew Wilkie has accused the federal government of exploiting fears about terrorism to rush through new national security laws that push Australia towards a "police state".

The government's first tranche of national security changes passed the House of Representatives on Wednesday with the support of the Labor opposition, although one Labor backbencher broke ranks to speak out against the laws.

Tasmanian independent Mr Wilkie, Victorian independent Cathy McGowan and Greens MP Adam Bandt all voted against the laws, which passed on the voices.

Former long-serving federal bureaucrat turned MP, Andrew Wilkie,  voted against the new laws.

Former long-serving federal bureaucrat turned MP, Andrew Wilkie, voted against the new laws. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

The laws include jail terms of up to 10 years for journalists who disclose details of ASIO "special intelligence operations" and provide immunity from criminal prosecution for intelligence officers who commit a crime in the course of their duties.


ASIO can apply for the computer warrants to be issued and they can only be authorised by the Attorney-General, who is currently George Brandis QC.Under the laws, ASIO officers will also be able to access, modify, disrupt or alter an unlimited number of computers on a computer network with a single warrant, which many have feared could allow the entire internet to be monitored, as it is a "network of networks".

Labor MP Melissa Parke speaks on the National Security Legislation Amendment Bill.

Labor MP Melissa Parke speaks on the National Security Legislation Amendment Bill. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

Mr Wilkie said he was especially concerned the laws would encourage ASIO officers to use force without the "inconvenience" of including trained Australian Federal Police officers in their operations.

"At some point in the future we'll have spies kicking in doors and using force with no police alongside them and that is another step towards a police state," he said.

"Why is the government – with the opposition's support – wanting to overreach like this?

"I can only assume the government is wanting to capitalise on and exploit the current security environment. I can only assume that the security agencies are delighted they have been invited to fill in a blank cheque.

"It is clearly overreach by the security services who have basically been invited to write an open cheque. And the government, which wants to beat its chest and look tough on national security, said, 'We'll sign that'.

"And the opposition, which is desperate to look just as tough on national security, said, 'We'll countersign that cheque too'."

Mr Wilkie said the new penalties for journalists and whistleblowers who disclose details of "special intelligence operations" (SIOs) amounted to the government "bullying" the media into more compliant reporting.

"This is clamping down on free speech; this is clamping down on oversight of what the security agencies are up to," he said.

"This is absolutely disgraceful," Mr Wilkie said, who was a former whistlerblower who warned Australia not to go to the Iraq war as there was no evidence of weapons of mass destruction.

Labor backbencher and member for Fremantle, Melissa Parke, also spoke out against the bill, breaking ranks with her colleagues.

"I do not support a number of key elements in this bill, and I am aware there are further even more controversial bills coming before the Parliament in the near future," she said.

"There has not been convincing evidence of inadequacies in the existing legal framework that warrant the broad extensions of powers we see here," she added.

"I am particularly concerned that this bill entrenches and amplifies the lack of protection for whistleblowers regarding intelligence information and penalises with up to 10 years jail the legitimate actions of journalists and others doing their jobs in holding the government to account in the public interest."

Greens deputy leader Adam Bandt raised concerns that the media would not be able to report on innocent bystanders killed under bungled SIOs.

"If these laws pass, our security agencies could inadvertently kill an innocent bystander and journalists would not be able to report on it," Mr Bandt said.

He also raised concerns about journalists being put behind bars for up to ten years for revealing the existence of an SIOs.

"People could go to jail under this! People could go to jail under this legislation," Bant yelled.

Justice Minister Michael Keenan said the government made "no apologies" for trying to protect the secrecy of covert intelligence operations.

"This is not, as has been wrongly suggested, about preventing the release of information that might simply embarrass the government of the day or expose it to criticism," he said.

"This is about providing a necessary and proportionate limitation on the communication of information that relates to the core business of intelligence agencies. And I need hardly add that unauthorised disclosures of intelligence-related information, particularly on the scale that is now possible in the online environment, can have devastating consequences for a country's international relationships, a country's intelligence capabilities and very importantly for the lives and safety of intelligence personnel."

Shadow attorney-general Mark Dryfus said the new laws were justified and carefully-targeted, but the government had not explained them well to the community.

"I must say that in the case of the SIO scheme the government has not explained itself well," he said. "It has allowed some misunderstandings of what this legislation enables to gain currency."

Mr Drefus said Labor had demanded amendments so that only journalists who knowingly disclose details about secret counter-terrorism and counter-surveillance operations would face persecution.

"The community should be reassured of the limited scope of the offence provisions," he said.

"Labor would not and will not ever support laws which prevent journalists who report on security and related matters from doing their jobs."

"No-one can inadvertently breach this provision. But where journalists are aware of the possibility of endangering ASIO officers we expect them to act responsibly.

"These laws will not criminalise the good-faith activities of journalists."

Crossbencher Ms McGowan said, "It is not a time to rush through legislation. This is a time for considered approach, this is a time when we should be our best selves as the Prime Minister reminds us."

SOURCE

GMO backlash: Syngenta faces mounting lawsuits over genetically-modified seeds Tags: Agriculture China Commodities Court Food GMO Health Law USA

GMO backlash: Syngenta faces mounting lawsuits over genetically-modified seeds

RT October 21, 2014 short URL


RIA Novosti / Katerina Sovdagari
Agribusiness giant Syngenta AG now faces lawsuits from farmers in 11 US states claiming the seed-and-chemical company’s sale of a genetically-engineered variant of corn yet to receive approval in China depressed market prices for the grain.

At issue is Syngenta’s 2009 release and distribution of its MIR162 genetically-modified corn known as Agrisure Viptera, which is engineered to fend off certain insects known to decimate corn crops. While approved for use in the United States, Chinese regulators have yet to sanction the export of Viptera.

Last November, China began rejecting US corn shipments based on the existence of Viptera leading to more than $1 billion in damages for US farmers, plaintiffs in 11 states have alleged in various lawsuits filed in federal courts in recent weeks. RT reported earlier this month on three of these lawsuits against Switzerland-based Syngenta.

Farmers in Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, and Mississippi joined the fray last week, as plaintiffs aim to reach class-action status with their combined suits, The Wall Street Journal reported.

 

Different varieties of wild or experimental peppers are displayed on a tablein a greenhouse, part of a global center which selects vegetable and fruit seeds, owned by global Swiss agribusiness Syngenta AG, in Sarrians, southeastern France. (AFP Photo / Sandra Laffont)

Different varieties of wild or experimental peppers are displayed on a tablein a greenhouse, part of a global center which selects vegetable and fruit seeds, owned by global Swiss agribusiness Syngenta AG, in Sarrians, southeastern France. (AFP Photo / Sandra Laffont)

 

A lawsuit filed in Iowa alleged that the release of Syngenta’s Viptera caused the US-to-China corn export market to fall by 85 percent. "Syngenta's decision to bring Viptera to the market crippled the 2013-14 corn export market to China," plaintiffs in Nebraska stated in their own suit.

Plaintiffs have accused the company of engaging in willful misrepresentation. Syngenta has claimed that "the vast majority of corn produced in the US is used domestically," plaintiffs have alleged, and that exports are not as important, though the US Department of Agriculture says 20 percent of corn produced in the US is exported.

 

John Ramsay, Chief Financial Officer, of Swiss agrochemicals group Syngenta (AFP Photo / Shaun Curry)

John Ramsay, Chief Financial Officer, of Swiss agrochemicals group Syngenta (AFP Photo / Shaun Curry)

 

Syngenta has maintained that it is not at fault for the plunge in corn prices, that it has always been open about Viptera’s approval status, and that the Chinese government should not be able to tell US farmers what corn they can grow.

“We continue to believe that [we have] complied with all the laws, rules and regulations of the countries in which we’re selling the product,” John Ramsay, Syngenta’s chief financial officer, said Thursday during a conference call, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Viptera has been sold legally to farmers in the US, Argentina, and Brazil since 2011. The GMO strain of corn is said to heighten protection against the likes of black cutworms and corn earworms.

James Pizzirusso, a partner at Hausfeld LLP, a law firm involved in some of the suits against Syngenta, echoed accusations that the company has not been transparent with Viptera and its status in Beijing.

“Syngenta should not have marketed and aggressively promoted Viptera while misrepresenting that Chinese approval was imminent and also downplaying the importance of the Chinese export market,” Pizzirusso said, according to the Wall Street Journal.

In addition to the at least $1 billion in damages, the farmers seek an end of the cultivation and marketing of Viptera.

Though Viptera has been planted on only about three percent of US farm acreage, it is difficult to say for sure "that any shipments of US corn will not be contaminated with trace amounts of MIR162," the Nebraska plaintiffs said in their suit filed earlier this month.

The commingling of corn from various sources at corn distribution centers is “essentially impossible," according to the Iowa complaint, which cited other major grain companies Archer Daniels Midland and Cargill Inc., which do not accept Viptera.

Syngenta has been encouraged by the National Grain and Feed Association (NGFA) to stop selling Viptera, according to the Iowa claim. The NGFA has estimated that actions taken in China against US corn have caused prices to drop by 11 cents per bushel.

In April, the NGFA, a trade organization for grain elevators, reported that China had barred nearly 1.45 million tons of corn shipments since 2013, resulting in about $427 million in lost sales.

 

The US Department of Agriculture building (AFP Photo / Saul Loeb)

The US Department of Agriculture building (AFP Photo / Saul Loeb)

 

The farmers’ lawsuits join cases filed by Cargill and Trans Coastal Supply Co., grain exporters that also blame Syngenta for the loss of tens of millions of dollars based on Chinese rejection of GMO corn.

In 2011, Syngenta requested in federal court that a grain elevator firm, Bunge North America, remove signs that said it would not accept Viptera-variety corn. The request was denied in 2012.

Yet on Monday, a federal appeals court revived a false advertising claim in Syngenta’s lawsuit against Bunge, sending the claim back to a lower court for review.

The US Department of Agriculture expects 10 states to set records for corn production this year, though high productivity will likely lead to lower prices.

 

*Tough on trolls: UK internet abusers may face up to 2 years in jail Tags: trolls shills internet freedom of speech UK new laws

Published time: October 19, 2014 

Reuters / Jose Miguel Gomez

Internet trolls could face two years behind bars if new tough legislation “to combat cruelty” is adopted, according to UK Justice Secretary Chris Grayling.

That’s four times the current six-month prison term and would proove the government’s zeal to “take a stand against a baying cyber-mob,” Grayling told The Daily Mail.

"These internet trolls are cowards who are poisoning our national life. No one would permit such venom in person, so there should be no place for it on social media. That is why we are determined to quadruple the current six-month sentence,” Justice Secretary added.

 

Reuters / Darren Staples

Reuters / Darren Staples

 

It comes days after TV presenter Chloe Madeley was abused online, an action which Grayling described as "crude and degrading."

Madeley received threats on the internet after she defended her mother Judy Finnigan's statement on a rape by footballer Ched Evans, which she said didn’t cause "bodily harm" and was "non-violent."

The presenter’s father spoke out against the trolling, saying that “prosecution awaits” the people who sent “sick rape threats” to his daughter.

Madeley herself said, “it needs to be accepted that physical threats should not fall under the 'freedom of speech' umbrella.”

“It should be seen as online terrorism and it should be illegal,” she added.

READ MORE: UK cyber-bullying surpasses face-to-face bullying for first time, study finds

Currently, magistrate courts deal with online offenses under the Malicious Communications Act, but under the new law, serious cases could be passed on to higher crown courts. It would be an amendment to the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill.

Also, police would have more time to collect evidence for successful prosecution and cases of so-called “revenge porn”, when ex-lovers post compromising material.

In a recent internet abuse case, in September, UK citizen Peter Nunn was jailed for only 18 weeks for retweeting rape threats to MP Stella Creasy.

SOURCE

 

 

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