Australia’s Increased Surveillance in a Time of Crisis

Peter Dutton suspiciously attended a Five Eyes intelligence meeting early last year, where he conveniently returned with COVID. Since then, there has been a push to strengthen police state powers and expand surveillance monitoring of all Australian citizens, Ethan Nash explores.

PRE-COVID

Australia has experienced a turbulent 20 years of enacting new laws to ‘combat the threat of terrorism’. Such laws have been introduced, often in great haste, in stunning scope and number. 

At the federal level alone, over 80 new statutes have been passed by the federal Parliament. [1

This legislation has been of unprecedented reach, including laws providing for: 

  • Restrictions on freedom of speech, through new sedition offences and censorship rules.
  • Detention and questioning of Australian citizens not suspected of any crime. 
  • The banning of organisations by executive decision. 
  • Control orders that can enable house arrest for up to a year. 

More recently, we have seen pre-emptive detention without charge or trial extend for up to 14 days, metadata retention and warrantless searches of private property by police officers. 

Australian authorities were already 20 times more likely [2] to intercept telephone calls than the United States government in 2002. This includes accessing personal data an astonishing 1,200 times per week. [3

See my feature piece in New Dawn 177, Secret State: The Monitoring of Australia, to gain an understanding of the network behind these laws. Further, how these powers demonstrate that rules thought to once lie outside of democracy, have now become part of the Australian legal system. 

Throughout this entire saga, Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton has become a recurring name in the public discourse and has remained at the head of the surveillance helm.

Now, as the world goes through its most significant world shift, he has once again began to strike.

DUTTON’S MYSTERIOUS MOVES

In recent years, the focus of authorities and intelligence agencies has shifted to online activities and the devices and/or websites that facilitate ‘extremism’ in this digital sphere.

The government has been pressuring Facebook to create a backdoor into its encrypted messaging apps [4], while also passing anti-encryption legislation that compels companies to grant access to encrypted information. [5] Authorities cite ‘paedophiles’ and ‘terrorists’ as the reason.

These are the same ‘suspects’ that were commonly cited years ago as a justification for data-retention legislation [6], and more recently, for laws allowing internet services providers to block domains that promote ‘harmful and extreme’ content. [7]

Under a mask of stopping an illusive threat, the grip has tightened.

Then, 2020 came along. The emergence of the new ‘invisible enemy’

And, just like before, this is being used to further clamp down on the Australian citizen.

Right before the coronavirus saga really picked up in Australia — during the week it was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organisation — Dutton had attended flown to the United States and returned to Australia on 19 March 2020 after meetings with senior administration officials. [8]

Reports suggest the meetings were related to discussions about data encryption policy, and measures to combat ‘child exploitation’. Once again, we must recall past use of this boogeyman.

During the trip, Dutton was photographed with senior officials, including the US Attorney-General William Barr and the President’s daughter, Ivanka Trump.

Two other senior ministers, Marise Payne and Angus Taylor, were also spotted in the US at that time.

Here is where things get interesting.

Upon returning, Peter Dutton confirmed he had ‘tested positive for coronavirus’ and had been admitted to a hospital in Queensland. Right at the time questions began arising over his trip.

Interestingly, it was noted by a spokesman for Scott Morrison that the PM wouldn’t be tested and no one in the cabinet will be required to self-isolate. This is despite Dutton attending a cabinet meeting with colleagues to sign off on the government’s stimulus package upon returning.

Do normal COVID protocols not apply to ministers? This is likely.

However, underneath the surface, it seems this was a clear cover to mask his trip and the various agendas set with US officials, and other members of the ‘Five Eyes’ community.

Dutton quickly recovered and soon was on a mission to expand Australia’s intelligence scope.

THE BRAVE NEW WORLD

During the coronavirus saga, the Australian public has become subject to a plethora of new measures that have been introduced under the guise of ‘safety’ and ‘security’.

Times of ‘crisis’ often serve as the perfect tool for the establishment to carry out their means.

Peter Dutton would soon begin a push to introduce facial recognition for access to MyGov, the central hub for government services, which is set to replace the existing log-in process. [9]

It was also announced that the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade would establish a new taskforce to counter ‘online disinformation campaigns’ and scope social media activities. [10]

This, I have argued, is the systematic targeting of critical thinkers who spread anti-establishment material online, backed by the erosion of safeguards to provide protection for those individuals.

Expanding the existing biometric dystopia, while infiltrating the online world further.

A new bill has recently been passed that will help authorities police the dark web, following many months of calls for an overhaul of digital surveillance methods in Australia. [11]

The legislation gives the AFP, the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission and the Australian Signals Directorate, three new powers to investigate and disrupt online activity.

The legislation includes the ability to take over a person’s online account, collect intelligence from online networks, and add, copy, delete or alter data, during the course of an investigation.

At the same time, Dutton has been beefing up Australia’s military presence under the guise of ‘increasing hostilities’ from foreign nations, specifically China. [12]

The ultimate distraction – the outside boogeyman. Used as a means to further break down privacy barriers under the guise of ‘protecting us’ from foreign spies in distant lands.

These are just a few examples of the path Australia is currently on. Behind the spin and deception of mainstream media talking points and manufactured stories. 

Not all of us have fallen for the propaganda, Mr. Dutton.

We can see the game at play, the preparations in motion and the cover story to draw attention away from a calculated plan to bring the hammer down during a time of international shift.

Be conscious, stay vigilant and always remember — Big Brother is Watching.