Inside the system

US surveillance state strikes back at journalists

The partner of journalist Glenn Greenwald has been detained under anti-terrorism laws by British authorities in a move branded “revenge tactics” by Amnesty International.

Greenwald has been a thorn in the side of the US government, publishing revelations about its controversial surveillance programs. He was given access to US government secrets held by Edward Snowden, the former NSA officer who is now living in Russia, after recently gaining asylum there. Snowden faces espionage charges as a result of leaking the information on US government surveillance should he ever return home.

Greenwald’s partner, David Miranda, was held for a full nine hours at the airport under anti-terrorism powers.

US authorities admitted they were told in advance that Miranda would be detained by Britain, and that they were given access to electronic equipment including his mobile phone and laptop. All these items were “confiscated” by the authorities. The US’s only defence was to claim, “it’s not something we requested”.

Wikileaks and Sex Party preference far right

In the lead up to the Federal election Julian Assange’s Wikileaks party has imploded following deeply unprincipled moves to preference the far right. Mass resignations from the Wikileaks National Council and volunteer ranks followed revelations that for the NSW Senate Wikileaks put the openly racist Australia First Party and the Shooters and Fishers ahead of Labor and the Greens.

The chairman of Australia First, Jim Saleam, was convicted in the 1980s of organising a shotgun attack on an Australian representative of the African National Congress as part of his neo-nazi activism.
In WA Wikileaks are putting the Nationals ahead of The Greens. These preferences were granted against a clear vote on the National Council, which had rejected arguments made by Julian Assange and other senior members to do preference deals with the far right.

The preference fiasco is the result of unprincipled efforts to get elected at any cost. It shows the problems with an obsessive focus on winning parliamentary seats.

The party is blaming an “administrative error” for the preferences in NSW, an excuse disputed by those resigning. Instead of “shining a light on injustice and corruption”, Wikileaks are preferencing it.
Another party with a progressive sheen, The Australian Sex party, has also made some shocking preference deals, including putting the anti-migrant, racist One Nation above Labor, the Greens and the Coalition in NSW.

Sadly, even The Greens have bought into the opportunism around preferences.

They are preferencing Clive Palmer ahead of Labor in the Senate in South Australia in a deal designed to get Senator Sarah Hanson-Young re-elected. They will also preference Palmer’s party in selected lower house seats.

Serco gorges on detention centre misery

Business for private security company Serco is booming thanks to the misery created by the Australian government’s vast immigration detention system.

Four years ago the two contracts the British multinational has to run the immigration detention centres were worth $323 million. Now they have ballooned to $1.86 billion and generated $1.2 billion in revenue in 2012.

The company’s annual report welcomes this “strong organic growth” and says “the level of irregular maritime arrivals has increased in 2012, leading to a growth in the number of people in our care”. Far from “care”, the Australian Medical Association has described holding people in detention as “akin to abuse”. The mental illness, self-harm and oppression built into the detention system show the “business model” that really needs breaking is Serco’s.

Rudd promises tax haven for NT

According to Kevin Rudd, the world just doesn’t have enough tax havens. So he has promised to turn the Northern Territory into a “special economic zone” by lowering the corporate tax rate to 20 per cent. It’s yet another plan that Tony Abbott agrees with. He had already promised lower tax rates for the NT himself.

As ABC economics writer Stephen Long said, “It’s plain weird on so many levels. To start with, why would you want to stimulate a ‘zone’ that is already booming? With major gas projects, infrastructure projects and commercial activity, the NT is doing okay without any special treatment.”

But it turns out there is a reason—Labor is desperate to hold onto its NT seat of Lingiari, held by Warren Snowden by only 3.7 per cent after recent swings.

Australian fashion companies profit from child labour

Ninety-three per cent of fashion companies in Australia don’t know where their cotton is sourced from, implicating them in the widespread practice of using child labour in cotton production, according to a new report.

The Australian Fashion Report, supported by the Labour Rights Forum and Baptist World Aid, says that the bulk of the world’s cotton is sourced from countries where children are used in the harvest. In Uzbekistan, the world’s fourth largest cotton producer, children as young as 10 are taken out of school and put to work for 70-hours per week.

The report’s revelations come hot on the heals of global outrage at horrific conditions in the garment industry, following the collapse of the Rana Plaza factory in Bangladesh, which killed at least 1129 workers producing clothing for Western retailers.

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