The rubber hit the road today, with a full afternoon of prosecution evidence. Throughout the serious evidence presented, there were plenty of light-hearted moments through the day.
So since there is lots that happened, it’s a bit of a long report today!
The day started with the Judge ruling in favour of the Commonwealth’s bid for public interest immunity – basically shutting down the defence’s ability to present any evidence about the actual operations of Pine Gap (it of course leaves open to the Prosecution to reveal whatever they like). But she stated that the defence is able to talk about their belief about the operations of Pine Gap, leaving plenty of room for the defence to present evidence about what the public believe happens there. The Judge also stated that it was too early to make rulings in regard to the accused’s defence – as the Commonwealth’s lawyer had sought for the defences to be struck out as evidence that can be presented to the jury.
ASIO came up a few times today as their presence in the arrest was discussed. This was the piece of information that the defendants had fought so hard to be able to reveal through the lifting of their suppression order. However whenever more general questions were asked about the presence of ASIO at the base, the four withdrew their questions, not wanting to allow further delays to the proceedings.
This afternoon we had the remainder of cross-examination of Mike Burgess, Deputy Chief of the Facility. Bryan was able to clarify that “Pine Gap contributes to timely US and Australian knowledge that has military significance”. Jim then explored the fact that the original Raytheon estimate to fix the fence was only $6,400 while the final bill was over $12,000. Mr Burgess stated that it was unusual for a final cost to be double the quote, but didn’t query it, as Raytheon has the maintenance contract for the base. When Adele then got up and asked whether he was aware that Raytheon had just paid $410 million in the US for defence fraud (which he was not aware of), it raised some interesting questions for us all. Adele said “Well, maybe you should change your contractor,” to laughter throughout the courtroom.
Donna queried why all members of the US Congress were allowed access to the base when Australian MP’s were not, and unfortunately Mr Burgess was only able to disclose which MP’s are allowed in, not why the discrepancy exists. She also queried why the 4 are the first to ever be charged under the Defence (Special Undertakings) Act 1952, despite the vast number of protesters that have scaled the fence in protests throughout the year. Mr Burgess suggested that it was because no one else had ever entered the technical area (the inner area), however this is not the case.
Jim also clarified that, to their knowledge, no authority from the East Arrente people had been sought or granted to use their land as a military base. The four had sought permission from a senior traditional owner before they went in, and this will be presented in the defence as permission having being sought and granted to enter the base. He also asked what was actually happening during the early years of the base, when it was called a ‘Joint Space Research Facility’? When Mr Burgess replied that it was used as a joint space research facility – Jim replied that “are you serious” – what planets were they researching? When the Judge queried why this might be relevant, Jim stated that it was because everyone had lied about the base.
The second witness was the duty manager of the hire company we hired a car from in December 2005. After months of waiting and days of interrupted work waiting to give her testimony, she was able to give her five minutes of uncontested evidence.
Then the AFP officer in charge of the base ‘Inspector Napier’ took the stand, or Ken as he is known by and well regarded by us. He was asked by the prosecution to look at photos of us and identify the people and activities contained. It was quite surreal having a photo presented of me praying in the dirt, and Ken having to identify what was happening! When asked about the naming of the prayer vigil at the gates on the 8th of June, where he had noted people were on their knees with candles, and stood in a circle holding hands, he stated that whatever we may call it, to them it is a protest. Ken was able to confirm that we were all peaceful and respectful at all times.
Ken was also able to confirm under cross-examination that the group made clear to him their intentions for entering the base. Bryan pointed out to him a section of the Defence (Special Undertakings) Act 1952 that allowed him to have arrested people at this point, however he indicated that he believed that the security at the base would be sufficient to keep members of the group outside the base.
Speaking of security, Jim spent the last part of the day cross examining Mr Napier about the alarm system at the base. There were what appear to be over 30 false alarms in the half hour before the citizen’s inspection, which raise questions about the ability of the alarm system to adequately respond to a real threat – which raises the core question, of
What are we doing with a US base in the middle of Australia that we can’t possibly protect?
Mr Napier’s cross examination and further witnesses will take the stand.
Tonight a group of 40 people or so are watching a movie “The Ground Truth” telling the stories of US veterans from Iraq who are deeply disturbed about their experience – I would recommend it to anyone.
I’ll sign off with some words from a song we sing each day:
“I will stand and I will defend my right to fight against violence”
May we all do this in our own way…………