Australia detains peace activist as threat

Feature story - 14 September, 2005
The Australian government is preparing to deport a dangerous threat to national security: an American peace activist.

Advocating peace: a threat to security?

Texan teacher Scott Parkin was to deliver a workshop on non-violentprotest when he was contacted by the Australian national intelligenceagency  - ASIO  - and detained by Australian Federal Policeon September 10th. His visa was revoked, he was put in solitaryconfinement, and he was asked to sign a waiver of his right to appealhis deportation.

At Scott's request, Greenpeace Australia-Pacific lawyers are workingwith Julian Burnside, QC, and Scott's lawyers to mount anadministrative law challenge to the planned deportation.

The government has since retracted its request for the rights waiverand scaled back its threat of "deportation" to the less serious"removal."   But the government has yet to declare what lawMr. Parkin has broken, and is refusing media access to theactivist. A recent opinion poll conducted by The Age online is currently running 82 percent infavour of Scott's right to speak for peace in Australia.

"If all Mr Parkin has done to be assessed a security risk is topeacefully express his opinions, then we are in serious trouble," saysJulian Burnside, QC.

"At a time when Australians are already deeply concerned about the[Australian Prime Minister] Howard government's attacks on free speech and the right to protest inthe name of fighting terrorism, the silencing of a peace activist forthe 'crime' of satirising US policy will only confirm many people'sworst fears," says Greenpeace campaigns director Danny Kennedy.

"Scott's mission is to end war and violence, whether perpetrated byterrorists or by governments. His weapons are humour and satire and histools exposure and embarrassment."

"Peace is not terrorism. Peace is not a threat to national security. Nodemocratic government should expel a foreign citizen because theyoppose his political opinions," concludes Kennedy.

Scott made a statement via a Greenpeace support team which visited him today.

He said, "To my family and friends, everyone who is supporting me, bothin Australia and in the US, I'd like to thank you for the overwhelmingsupport that I have received."

"I am strongly opposed to any violence and do not believe that violencedelivers any political gain, and in fact detracts from positivepolitical engagement."

"I find this entire experience incomprehensible and am still baffled asto why my visa has been cancelled and I have been detained under thesecircumstances."

"To this date the only information that I have received is that I havebeen assessed as "a direct or indirect risk to Australian nationalsecurity."

Parkin also said, "I am a student of mass social movements in thetradition of Ghandi and King, and I think that these movements haveshown us the way to achieve social change."

"We live in a world where we have seen a globalisation of war andwar profiteering, but also the restriction and criminalisation ofpeoples and dissent in ideas."

"I hope that when Australians visit the US that they are allowed tovoice their critcism of government and corporate policy without fear ofreprisal, and that they are freely allowed to participate in peacefulprotest."


 Update 15 September: Scott Parkin was taken by government authorities to Melbourne airportat 6am this morning and left on a Qantas flight for Los Angeles at10.46am. His plane is expected to land at LA airport at around 7:00am LA time where he is expected to transfer to adomestic flight to Houston, Texas.