Bryan’s Opening Address (as best as Jess could transcribe it)
Hello. I feel like we’re into the second year of the trial, and this is my first time I’ve had to address you. My name is Bryan Law, I'm 53 years old. I'm a husband, a father, and a nonviolent social justice activist, that’s my vocation. For employment, I drive a taxi in Cairns for money.
You already know what's involved in family life, and how rewarding and challenges of that. You probably know less about the theory and practice of nonviolence, and I'll be explaining a fair bit of that during the trial because it's central, absolutely central, to why I did what I did and what I thought I was achieving….And why and how I carried out the entry into Pine Gap for which I'm on trial today.
Many of you are Christians, at least nominally, and you'll be aware of the love and nonviolence of Jesus in the Gospels – love your enemies. You'll have heard of Mohandas Gandhi, and of Martin Luther King Jr as giant practitioners of a new form of spiritual nonviolence in the 20th Century. You’ll be aware of their achievements in the independence of India and the civil rights in America. Fewer of you will have read and heard about Dorothy Day as a founder of the Catholic Worker movement in contemporary USA, and around the world. Who gave rise to a more interventionary form of non-violence called the ploughshares movement. When I get into my evidence, I’ll ex…..my actions weren’t of a desperate or. …
I began conscientiously to adopt the principles and practices of what I call nonviolence in 1981, in Brisbane, while I was studying at Griffith University. For 25 years I've developed and refined my ability to understand and practice nonviolence. The Citizen's Inspection of Pine Gap by Christians Against All Terrorism is in many ways the culmination of all that training and practice. That is the act for which I and my friends are on trial today.
You’ll be pleased to know I got my degree from Griffith University in Modern Asian studies, and went on to do some post-graduate work. My field of interest in the last few years of University was strategic weapons systems and security issues in the Asia/Pacific basin. I was looking for direction in how to bring about disarmament in practical and real ways.
I can't explain why it is so, but since I was 10 years old and US President Kennedy was assassinated, I remember that, it’s a distinct memory in my mind I have had an abiding interest in the politics of peace, of how to achieve international systems of peace. Since I adopted Gandhian nonviolence I can document a consistent and persistent involvement in community-based campaigns to transform the machinery of war into equipment for harmonious society.
The Biblical authority is Isaiah 2:4 : "They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks".
In secular thinking that process is known as Peace Conversion, and in relation to Pine Gap it involves transferring the ownership and mission of that base. To bring it under international control in order for arms control. I don’t have a problem with I’ll bring all information that I am allowed to, to show this.
It's an important point to remember that Christians Against ALL Terrorism does not call for Pine Gap to be dismantled or closed. But to be transformed and to have it changed. We say strip it of its present war-fighting and terror-waging role, and make it a force for world peace. I have to say that I can’t distinguish between a suicide bomber who drops bombs on innocent civilians in a market place, and a jet bomber that drops ….or white phosopherous bombs on a market place. They are the same to me.
I'd like you to understand that our actions are not isolated instances of frustration and despair welling up as merely symbolic protest action.
My action, our action was and is calculated to effectively intervene into the war-fighting operation of Pine Gap, under the public gaze, as part of an effective campaign to limit the damage from war in Iraq in the short term, and bring about global disarmament in the medium term.
There's no denying I experience frustration as we see such violence in our world, but I do not despair. I act. I act with a plan to achieve the prayer of St. Francis of Assisi to transform hate into love, and war into peace. Within ourselves, within myslelf and in the wide world, I seek transformation and peace. I can and will demonstrate to you that nonviolence is the most powerful tool for achieving practical results - and that it wards off despair and brings hope. I would encourage you to try it for yourselves.
I imagine that you'll hear once or twice from the prosecution that none of this is $r$elevant to the case, the prosecution case is based soley on whether I was at a certain place, at a certain time, without a permission or authority from the appropriate bureaucrat. I think that would be pretty clear from the prosecution case, that I don’t deny this…. What Pine Gap does, they will say, is irrelevant to the charges, and is not something which ought be aired in this Court. Pine Gap should be kept secret, because the government says so. The war in Iraq, they will say, is irrelevant to the charges. This is another issue in which government privilege, the government perogative is said to operate. Their decision to go to war. Ours to take it, to accept this decision.
And, I can see why they'd think that. Keep things simple. Strip our act of all context. Shield the government from accountability. Nothing too difficult there to face for those who represent the Commonwealth in this room..
I hope you’re not surprised that I disagree with that.
The war in Iraq, Australia's involvement with the war in Iraq, and Australia's military alliance with the USA are growing imminent catastrophes for all concerned. More than 100 people a day die as a result of the violence in Iraq. I have to say that if we are not able to address this as citizens, then we have failed as a citizen and as a country. I can point to a direct threat to civilians in Australia is the growing likelihood of a terrorist attack in this country. Probably Melbourne or Sydney, maybe in Cairns, maybe here, but it could be anywhere.
While horrible, in itself, that threat pales into insignificance when compared with the slaughter of innocents in Iraq. …………..
Object…………please stop talking about Iraq…opening statements about generalities.
I will give further evidence to this in my testimony. ….I do have an defence, which is under 10.3 of the Criminal Code, So I will be giving evidence about how I informed my thinking and how my actions are reasonable.
When Mr Dembo opened he stated that it is nor the role of the court to input into parliamentary democracy.
We didn’t sneak in at night and hope to get away with that. If that means that you mean that you have to convict me…..
Follow your conscience, act to the Judges instructions, and we’ll have the result that supports our society the best.
What I would like to give evidence about is the illegitimate and I would say…..of the Howard Government. You will remember the enormous amount of lies that have been told by our Government. You’ll remember the children overboard, you’ll remember the comments that there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.
I'm not just saying this as a matter of theory. Since November 2001 I and various friends formed a peace group and used every available method of standard political influence. In February 2003 when activists world-wide collectively achieved a massive display of public majority opposition to the coming invasion, John Howard called us a mob.
Now, speaking just for myself, I'm happy to acknowledge and agree to all the facts as alleged by the prosecution. I was happy to acknowledge them in the interview I gave Northern Territory Police at Alice Springs watch-house some hours after my arrest on 9 December 2005. Indeed, I was happy to predict them at a speech I made at a public meeting at the Arid Lands Environment Centre on 6 December 2005.
I understand clearly that the government wishes to keep information about Pine Gap as secret as it can, from the Australian people. I agree that we were warned by Defence Minister Robert Hill in 2005 that our proposed Act could draw prosecution under that Act. I agree that efforts to reason with Minister Hill proved fruitless, and that I and others entered what is said to be the Pine Gap prohibited area, at various times in the early hours of 9 December 2005. I agree that I cut such fences as were necessary to affect entrance into the Pine Gap terror base.
Where I disagree with the prosecution is that I believe I had a lawful justification for being there, which constitutes a legal excuse to the charges laid against me.
In short I was compelled to take some action out of necessity to avoid or ameliorate the imminent dire consequences, the existing dire circumstances, arising out of the extraordinary emergency created by the war in Iraq. Under all the circumstances, the best action I could organise to take was the Citizen's inspection of Pine Gap on 9 December 2005. I say that action was a rational and reasonable way to achieve withdrawal and disarmament.