Surveillance of protesters attracts Bob Browns ire

January 8, 2012 |

The ABC reports at Brown slams surveillance of green activists that the Federal Government has pushed for surveillance of environmental activists.

The report provides:

Greens leader Bob Brown has accused Federal Resources Minister Martin Ferguson of turning Australia into a police state, after reports he pushed for increased surveillance of environmental activists.

A report in Fairfax newspapers details documents, obtained under Freedom of Information laws, that show Mr Ferguson requested additional monitoring of anti-coal mining groups and other environmental groups.

Senator Brown claims coal and fossil fuel companies pressured Mr Ferguson into having the federal police spy on environment groups who protest against energy companies.

Senator Brown says tens of thousands of dollars of taxpayers’ money is being spent having private contractors monitor activists.

“That paying of private corporations to spy on community groups is an abuse of taxpayers’ money,” he said.

“Martin Ferguson should never have been allowed to promote that and it should be stopped.

“The Attorney-General, if not the Prime Minister, should see that it stops immediately.”

A spokeswoman for Mr Ferguson says governments are concerned with maintaining energy security.

She says this includes maintaining the rule of law and energy supply, where issues-motivated groups seek to engage in unlawful activity.

The Victorian government came to legal grief when its organisation shared data with private security firms who were monitoring the desalination protestors at Wonthagi. That resulted in an action in VCAT under the Information Privacy Act. If the Commonwealth Government provides information covered by the Privacy Act to private security officers it may find itself in the same problem as the Victorian authorities.  The comparison is that the redress offered under the Commonwealth structure is far less effective than the Victorian processes.



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