an interesting development in OZ

peter mcgregor (
Sat, 17 Aug 1996 14:46:22 +1000 (EST)

Please circulate/disseminate/publish the following wherever you can.

'One, two, three...many "Bankstown/Blaxland 4"s...'

Just when you thought it wasn't safe any more to go out onto Johnnie
oh-so white, Christian, middle-class streets...

The 'rights' of Australians to free speech, & to express their political
opinions publicly, were reinforced/expanded at Bankstown (Sydney) Local
Court on
22 July when charges against 4 East Timor solidarity activists(aka the
'Bankstown/Blaxland 4'), were dismissed by Magistrate Geoffrey Bradd.
The charges arose from a protest staged at the Bankstown electoral office
former Prime Monster(whoops !) Paul Keating in February this year. About
people had occupied the foyer & balcony of the office, & four were
arrested when
they refused police instructions to leave.

It was a delight to watch Stuart Littlemore (QC) grill Keating's
manager Michael Hatton ( & now the member for that seat: Blaxland) - "Are
uncomfortable talking about human rights, Mr. Hatton ?" - & argue the
case for
free speech & political protest. (Better even than Monday nites from 9.15
Channel 2 !)
Magistrate Bradd found that the four activists had 'lawful excuse' to
with their protest - even though the police had asked them to leave -
that they were exercising their constitutional right to free speech in a
Bradd agreed with Littlemore's argument that the electoral office of a
parliamentarian, while private property, is a public place because people
been invited to visit, with open-to-the-public office hours being displayed.
It would appear that the constitutional right of citizens to free speech
political matters in a public place does not disappear just because they
instructed to leave.

On the one hand, there are the various international covenants (eg. on
Political, Social & Economic Rights), that have been ratified by the
government; on the other hand, there is the recent High Court ruling
(Theophanous v The Herald & Weekly Times), that the Australian
allows free speech on political matters...

As most of us realise, 'rights' aren't natural & universal, they are
constructed, malleable & relative: they can be given or taken away by
those in
authority, but they can also be taken/acted upon by those who want them.
At any
point in time, the 'rights' ordinary people have is an expression of (the
struggle over) the balance of power, within a society, & at that time.
Historically freedom has rarely been given, rather it has had to be taken.
Compare the genocidal trespass/occupation of Indonesia in East Timor with
peaceful trespass/occupation of Keating's office. Compare Australians'
to demonstrate with those of the East Timorese...

Despite increasingly conservative & authoritarian governments here in OZ,
successful direct actions (eg. the occupation of the foyer of the Federal
Government offices in Sydney on 30 May, over cuts to education), &
tactical use
of the political, judicial, media, etc. systems, allow us room to move.
If we
don't use/exercise that room, we may find it is getting harder to move at
if we don't even rock the boat, we sure won't sink it.

This court case is significant in the way it expands our 'rights' - what
we can
get away with. For instance, it has implications for what may constitute
'public place' (eg. shopping malls, parks, government & other offices).
frequented by the public would appear to have a claim to be such. Also,
interprets an occupation/sit in/ protest as an exercise of one's
democratic right to free speech.

So, seize the time, the currently existing - but fluctuating -
leaflet & protest, sit in & occupy - disrupt & sabotage even - wherever
(We're currently looking for people interested in such an occupation of
office over the East Timor issue... Who wants to be one of the
'Benelong 20'

Peter McGregor 31 July 1996
c/o P.O. Box 10, Kingswood, 2747 Ph(02)6787356 F(02)6787399
Thanks Hannah & The Guardian, also Stephen, Joshua, Stuart et al
PS The latest news is that the Ploughshares women have got off !

Copy of leaflet handed out at the court case:-

A statement by four people arrested during a protest
at Paul Keating's electoral office

Whether we are convicted or acquitted of the charge against us, the real
is justice for the people of East Timor. Since Indonesia invaded their
in 1975, over 200,000 East Timorese have died through massacre or
famine & disease. They have suffered a systematic campaign of torture,
extra-judicial killings, forced sterilisation, & a denial of culture &
that amounts to nothing less than a program of genocide.
What should be on trial today is Australia's active support for this
occupation: Australian military aid & training of Indonesian troops,
support for Indonesia in international forums, & recognition of
sovereignty over East Timor all contribute to keeping the violent
oppression of
the East Timorese a viable option for the Indonesian regime.
Meanwhile international support for East Timor is increasing. Today in
four women will appear in court facing possible sentences of up to ten
years for
disarming a Hawk jet which was due to be shipped to Indonesia as part of
a $500
million contract with British Aerospace. Part of their defence wil be
accounts that Hawk jets already supplied to Indonesia have been used to
unarmed civilians.

We demand:
* An end to Australian military cooperation with the Suharto regime.
* A reversal of the Australian Government's recognition of East Timor as
part of
* Pressure from the Australian Government on Indonesia to allow an
internationally suppervised act of self-determination in East Timor.
* Immediate refugee status for the 1,300 East Timorese asylum seekers
in Australia. (The government has the power to grant them the special
visa class
as it did for Chinese refugees of the Tiananmen Square massacre.)

Stephen Langford, Peter McGregor, Dr Hannah Middleton, Joshua Young
(for further info contact, Australia-East Timor Association 3315968)