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Stranger in a strange (Halliburton) land

Having had local councils on my mind since learning how the Byron Bay Council gave Halliburton a contract because they were afraid of a lawsuit; I've had a coincidental week.

I was just smiling over my front gate to a council inspector while explaining my unregistered dog. As I don't drive, I have no licence. In order to prove who I was I had to find three pieces of identification. This was in order to receive a fine.

You can appreciate my level of annoyance, having flown to Queensland using an album cover and a 1971 (age six) passport, played at Edinburgh Air Force Base using a multi-coloured Land Rover and a pub social club card and flying to Port Lincoln using letters sent to me from the State Attorney General, the former Arts Minister and a Liberal MLC.

I ascribe to the late science fiction writer (and inventor of the water-bed); Robert Heinlein's theory that when a culture demands you continually prove who you are, it's time to move somewhere else. The trouble is, where to go?

I've just spent a few days down at Narrung, on the side of Lake Alexandrina near the Murray's Mouth. No telly, no net, no shops, no dogcatchers... just one of the world's most beautiful shorelines. One every few hours the soundscape is disturbed by a mechanical engine, but that's okay because it reminds you that the noise that you spend your city-life blotting out is not part of the nature you're now inhabiting.

Down at the barrages which separate the Murray from the sea, the gates are open so that you can admire the Haliburton solar panel and pumping equipment. Even KBR seem to have become lackadaisical down here.

A stranger in a strange land, I attempted to grok the technology (or if you prefer Arthur C Clarke, I was the caveman before the monolith) and failed.

Aside: We have one important piece of technology at the shack at Narrung. Dad uses the ride-on mower to mow the verges in the town. The KBR contractors, with no work to do, drive on.

Returning home, crossing the (bloody bumpy) lake, I looked out on the water where Cheney's Men plan to build a hundred-kay diameter freshwater reclamation system, complete with housing estate and marina.

In the same manner an engine noise conflicts here, the mental picture of such an unnatural construct in the middle of such a naturally pristine environment seemed wrong. In the truest meaning of the word, it's "unearthly".

Back on the shores of reality, we drove back to the city on what is going to become a four-lane highway. Guess who the designers might be?

Nope, this isn't the Heinlein-esque bolt-hole that it should be - at least, it won't be in ten years time. I doubt there are many left. If one exists, you can expect to see a corporate logo there sometime in the near future.

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Australian view on the Peanut Butter Files

In using the files that Newsweek has uncovered, the integrity and reliability of Australia's intelligence system, and our politicians' unswerving response to its information, have been shattered. If ASIO can be so wrong about something so simple, how can they be trusted in evaluating more complex matters. such as the status quo if international terrorism in Australia? On the merits of their conduct in the Parkin Incident, it could be perceived that ASIO are a conduit for the US Government to manipulate the Australian political system, dispensing disinformation that Howard and his Henchmen can use without need to question.

The Australian Government can, in any situation, no longer claim innocence in their activities by claiming belief that their information was irrefutable. In the hindsight of this comparitively minor event, basing any judgement or activity on faith in ASIO could only be classified as negligence, and guilt of creating any death and/or destruction brought about in this way can now be laid at the doorstep of Parliament House in Canberra.

Earlier statements that Australia entered into the invasion of Iraq based on assessments of our own espionage must also now be reconsidered.

If an agency that considers a man with some sandwiches an international terrorist threat has lead us into war, and brought about the creating of anti-terrorist hysteria on the basis of its information, we should withdraw from that war until we are once again certain we can rely on our knowledge.

Halliburton Takes Port Adelaide

The former global leader of Halliburton's infrastructure activities is now in control of shipbuilding in South Australia.

An expanded maritime site announced today is now owned by a corporation controlled by ex-Halliburton/KBR chief Andrew Fletcher, who had been recruited last November to "oversee" the warship project.

Fletcher, while still in his Halliburton job, held a seat on the South Australian Economic Development Board.

State Premier Mike Rann says that the newly announced shipbuilding facility, which includes the Star Wars Ship construction, will make Adelaide a "global hub".

A 2004 edition of Engineers Australia Magazine explains Fletcher's role two years ago:

Senior vice-president of US company KBR, with responsibilities for global infrastructure and the Asia Pacific region A civil engineer from Adelaide University, Andrew Fletcher was catapulted into his international position when KBR, the engineering and construction arm of US giant Halliburton, took over Australia’s Kinhill Engineers in 1997. The company now has about 3000 staff in Australia. One of Fletcher’s main tasks when he took over his current position was to “forge a solid global team” from the regional groups in the Americas, Europe and Asia Pacific including Australia.

The news of the expanded naval site has been released one day before its launching at an international expo in Sydney. Our State premier has explained that, "This new hub, into which the State Government is investing $140 million in infrastructure, will be capable of building other ships at the same time the air warfare destroyers are being built."  He added that, "There is now $55 billion worth of federal defence contracts up for grabs over the next 10 to 15 years."

State Treasurer Kevin Foley elaborated that the site would be suitable for companies involved in "in civil or military shipbuilding, ship repair and maintenance, metal fabrication and module construction, paint and blast, warehousing and component manufacturers and suppliers".

Under its new name of Techport Australia, the maritime construction precinct will be marketed today at the Pacific Maritime and Naval Expo in Sydney. Techport Australia is owned by the Port Adelaide Maritime Corporation, which the Adelaide Advertiser says is "under the control of" the ex-Halliburton Chief. Fletcher told the newspaper that one of his aims was to "deliver a sustainable long-term defence industry base here at Osborne".

Fletcher's previous company was previously spearheaded by the former US Defense Secretary and current US Vice President, Dick Cheney. The company constructed and has part-ownership of the Adelaide to Darwin Railway. It also a major naval shipbuilder in the UK, and a part-owner of that country's Road Management Group. KBR has recently completed construction of the Port River Expressway that links the port to the Northern Suburbs.

Roadwork construction improving links from the port to the Southern Suburbs will commence next year. Until last year Adelaide was the official global headquarters of Halliburton/ KBR's infrastructure division.

Don't say you weren't told... 

Mining The Lake

I didn't know when I wrote this piece that the jetty I landed on, at the Murray Mouth Town of Goolwa, is also eing redeveloped by KBR (item 21 here)...

I've begun to consider the idea that the water from the lake might not be reclaimed for domestic consumption, but could well be piped north to assist the mining at Olympic Dam.  Hadn't thought of that one before.

Have a look at two lines from an architect's resume

 

Xsteel design and detail drawings for WMC Refinery structure including cell supports, pipe supports and pipe racks – 400t. Project designers – Worley.

Xsteel detail drawings for WMC Enhancement Project pipe racks - 400t. Project designers – Halliburton KBR

On a corporate level, this state is beginning to look like Iraq. 

If anyone is interested in reading the KBR presentation on the Lake Alexandrina Twin Lakes Project , it can be found here.

Richard Tonkin's piece on Scott Parkin

Richard Tonkin's piece on Scott Parkin is disturbing. What I can't fathom is, do ASIO and their US counterparts really perceive protestors like Parkin as a threat or is it political chicanery? We know the Howard government will use incidents like this to give the impression that their "war on terrorism" is having results, even if the public need not know the details. I expect nothing less from them. But when ASIO becomes involved it really disturbs me. Either they are grossly incompetent - more than likely - or are a deliberately using their powers for the political gain of certain people.

Parkin- ASIO confession time

The Newsweek story suggests to me that the Federal Cabinet had no idea what information they were acting upon.. just that it existed.  I now highly doubt that anyone checked... until it was too late.

[extract from interview transcript, 16/11/05 Sunday]

ADAM SHAND: There's also this quite celebrated case of Scott Parkin, the US activist who was ejected from Australia. He can't find the reasons why he was thrown out, but they do appear in the Australian

JOHN HOWARD: Well there was a story in the Australian newspaper, and I'm not going to comment about its veracity. I will quite separately from that say that there were good reasons for him being handled as he was, very good reason. And the Leader of the Opposition was made fully aware of the reasons why the Government acted as it did, and I don't have anything more to say.

ADAM SHAND: So he was a threat to national security?

JOHN HOWARD: There were good reasons to kick him out of the country.

ADAM SHAND: But suffice to say you are fully in support of the decision to throw him out of Australia?

JOHN HOWARD: Fully supportive.

 

Remember how A-G Ruddock wouldn't discuss anything?

[From The SMH]

"I'm not able to speculate on the assessment, but there was an assessment made by competent agencies," Mr Ruddock told Southern Cross Radio this morning.

"He (Mr Parkin) is in a position where in relation to the cancellation of his visa he can take legal action to test the lawfulness of that decision."

Asked why Mr Parkin was allowed into Australia if he posed a risk, Mr Ruddock said: "People do come, where information that may not be known to you at the time has come to notice later".

From seven.com.au

Defence Minister Robert Hill said he hadn't been briefed on the matter, but presumed Mr Parkins' visa was cancelled because of security concerns.

Senator Hill said Mr Ruddock would not have been politically motivated, but would have acted on the advice of officials with no political interests.

 

Parkin's US surveillance is, thanks to the Newsweek story, raising an important civil liberties issue- that of the level of national securtity threat imposed by a protester of a private corporation.

Newsweek did not comment on Parkin's deportation, or make any assumption that the Australian Government used the fact that the US Army had a file on him as the reason for deporting him.  They don't say that the Howard cabinet was so eager to please the Bush White House by kicking out a Halliburton protester that they might have, being aware that such a file existed, not bothered to check what was in it. 

Newsweek doesn't say that if ASIO had tried to protect non-existant information by leaking a lie then they would be perceived as extremely incompetent by the international intelligence community.

Newsweek also doesn't say that if Kim Beazley was briefed that the US Army had a file on Parkin as a possible terrorist, but didn't ask about the currency and accuracy of the information, he would also appear to be a twit.

If this situation wasn't so sad it would be a great plot for a comedy.

Never mind the February court case... in the light of the Newsweek article, ASIO should be telling us the reasons for its action.  "The interests of national security" in this case are no longer enough.

US Army Spied on Scott Parkin - Newsweek

 If this is the information that ASIO used to deport Parkin, some questions will need to be asked.

Firstly, was ASIO acting based on a current profile of Parkin, or outdated infomation it had previously received from TALON

Secondly, is the Australian Cabinet, from Prime Minister Howard downward, guilty of acting on inappropriate information simply because it existed ?

Thirdly: Have ASIO's activities in Australia mirrored the intensity of Paul Wolfowitz' US program?  If so, how many how many profiles of Australian anti-war activists and writers now exist in ASIO's files.

Fourthly: Are Australian anti-Halliburton activists considered as being of a level of security risk that the US Army no longer considers Parkin to be?

Newsweek, cover-date 30/1/2006

The demonstration seemed harmless enough. Late on a June afternoon in 2004, a motley group of about 10 peace activists showed up outside the Houston headquarters of Halliburton, the giant military contractor once headed by Vice President Dick Cheney.

They were there to protest the corporation's supposed "war profiteering." The demonstrators wore papier-mache masks and handed out free peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches to Halliburton employees as they left work.

The idea, according to organizer Scott Parkin, was to call attention to allegations that the company was overcharging on a food contract for troops in Iraq. "It was tongue-in-street political theater," Parkin says.

But that's not how the Pentagon saw it. To U.S. Army analysts at the top-secret Counterintelligence Field Activity (CIFA), the peanut-butter protest was regarded as a potential threat to national security. Created three years ago by the Defense Department, CIFA's role is "force protection"—tracking threats and terrorist plots against military installations and personnel inside the United States. In May 2003, Paul Wolfowitz, then deputy Defense secretary, authorized a fact-gathering operation code-named TALON—short for Threat and Local Observation Notice—that would collect "raw information" about "suspicious incidents." The data would be fed to CIFA to help the Pentagon's "terrorism threat warning process," according to an internal Pentagon memo.

A Defense document shows that Army analysts wrote a report on the Halliburton protest and stored it in CIFA's database. It's not clear why the Pentagon considered the protest worthy of attention—although organizer Parkin had previously been arrested while demonstrating at ExxonMobil headquarters (the charges were dropped).

But there are now questions about whether CIFA exceeded its authority and conducted unauthorized spying on innocent people and organizations.

A Pentagon memo obtained by NEWSWEEK shows that the deputy Defense secretary now acknowledges that some TALON reports may have contained information on U.S. citizens and groups that never should have been retained. The number of reports with names of U.S. persons could be in the thousands, says a senior Pentagon official who asked not be named because of the sensitivity of the subject.

I have no doubt that ASIO, along with Prime Minister Howard and his Cabinet were acting on an outdated script.  With this hindsight, the ASIO "leak" to The Australian's Greg Sheridan appears farcical.

To answer a part of my questions.. it's a fair assumption that in the hysteria immediately followng the September 11 2001, the White House and the Pentagon implement a level of surveillance thathas not been rescinded or reduced by the Australian Government and it's  authorities.

On behalf of the civil liberties of the Australian public, an  inquiriy needs to be launched on the level of accuracy and immediacy of information be ing used by Australia in deciding its actions in the war on terror!

SBS "Halliburton Down Under" doco

Speaking of SBS, Chris, have you seen Sophie McNeill's Dateline piece on "Halliburton Down Under". There's even a cameo by Yours Truly.

You can watch it from here.

The power of profiteers

In an oblique way, this doco might be relevant. It is The Mayfair Set, by Adam Curtis (Power of Nightmares).  It describes the marriage between the "free market" and politics in the UK, and the rise to power of the super funds.  We watched it again this weekend and pondered similar episodes in the "freeing up" of Australia.

I have gently pestered SBS programmers to show it here.  I'll keep you posted.

Future Fund Investment

My sneaking suspicion is that the new fund's investment portfolio will be considerably weighted towards Public Private investment in infrastructure. The odds for betting on who will get a lot of the "private" part of the work are dramatically narrowing.

It's a bit of a worry that we're giving water and sewerage contracts to people who obviously can't keep the two apart - this story was all over US media overnight.

Humanity Or Tumanity

Michael de Angelos; Yes indeed, privately run gaols run for profit. Of course our law makers will ensure these institutions do not run short of raw material. Of course the North Coast will be a convenient location for such an establishment. With all those social security cheats and of course residents in outlying properties many who have their own little “bins” (a small marijuana crop) will ensure a continuing supply of raw material for the future growth and profits for such establishments.

Growth is an interesting word. When we consider it in terms of our economy, it is good, for capitalism requires continuing growth for its success. When we consider it in the personal and biological sense it has more frightening and sinister connotations; for the terms “growth” and “cancer” are interchangeable.

Mark Ross asked what I feel is a very important question and if I may Mark allow me to ask it in a slightly less rhetorical manner:

Could growth in the modern economic/capitalist sense simply be another form of cancer if considered in relation to Mother Earth?

Thank you Mark and Michael for you have raised excellent issues here that directly relate to humanity or is it tumanity?

Growth

Mark Ross, your growth could be cancer, but the differential diagnosis would be morbid obesity. That's what usually results when people consume far more than they need. It's a huge handicap, interfering with social relationships and the ability to function normally and is ultimately very dangerous.

obese cancer

Well said Robyn.

Ultimate happiness is learning to need nothing.

Still growing.

Ummm.. listen guys. You know how I said that growth was good?

What if Doc said that my growth was a tumour?

It's still good if it's a tumour, isn't it? I mean, it's still growing after all.

Hell it's growing so big I can hardly piss in a straight line. That kinda big must be real good. Right?

It seems that the economists have decided, on our behalf, that eternal growth is good. I disagree. Stasis is the optimum condition of an organism.

Rampant, all devouring growth is called cancer.

What if my state has a tumour? Who's gonna give my state a bit of chemo so as my state can piss straight again? 

Real happiness is going back to when you had enough

Michael's Haliburton Hiltons

On the theme of Michael's Haliburton Hiltons. (It used to be Wackenhut and their wacky holiday camps.)

I highly recommend Ghosts... of the Civil Dead, if you can find it.

It's all about growth, son.

This could be true. The so-called Labor former premier of NSW Bob Carr heartily endorsed this concept when he commissioned Haliburton, in one of it's other guises to build some splendid new jails which the new premier is happily filling, and claiming that this is indicates a great success in their fight against crime.

The more people locked up, for the profit of Haliburton shareholders, the greater success in the fight against crime which will last as long as the war against terrorism. Some claim that a private corporation building a jail at great expense must expect a boost in crime in the future if it's premises are to be filled and profits made.

This has been taken care of. Punitive social security measures will surely drive many to commit petty crimes and those foolish enough not to adopt the views from another thread by a German member of the House of Lords (who would surely make a great dinner companion for Carr) and use this as an opportunity to re-invent themselves will be housed courtesy of Haliburton whilst we taxpayers pick up the tab.

The Byron Bay council should hang it's head in shame over this decision. They could have found a way around it. However it finally puts an end to the lingering view that Byron is in some way an alternative paradise. The late Nicholas Shand who founded the Byron Echo and was one of the first to realise Byron's potential would be rolling in his grave at what's become of the place - everything he abhored.

In another incarnation...

In another incarnation as accordion player in a bush band I had the pleasure of playing in Austin... they made us Honorary Citizens.

Which is why when my daughter was playing with another brat at the Adelaide show, I picked up her mother's accent and fell into a convo about inter-city relations.  Mother worked for Motorola, but her hubby didn't have a job in Adelaide as, she explained, the level of IC technology he was used to dealing with hadn't arrived here yet. The comment made me wonder how many other such experts were cooling their heels here, waiting.

In the week ending July 13 2001 a team of from the Austin campus of the University of Texas spent a week here. 25 postgraduates took a "snapshot" of Adelaide, then went back home to finalise plans for "twinning" the two cities as knowledge hubs.

Part of the plan was to introduce cultural exchanges between the two cities, such as the one I'd been on eight years earlier.

From these two examples I'm guessing that plans are much further along the road to implementation than we might think. I know it's a quantum leap in extrapolation, but watching the charade involving Adelaide's "winning" of the Missile Shield Warship construction while coincidentally hosting the southern radar headquarters for said Missile Shield hasn't done much to change my mind.

The water system in Lake Alexandrina is anticipated to create the equivalent of one third of Adelaide's water consumption, and will be piped back to the city.

As an extra... the consultants for the Adelaide Metropolitan Stormwater Project? The subcontract organisers for the Joint Strke Fighter Project? The environment consultants for the Olympic Dam Uranium Mine (c'mon guys, who's really after nickel?) and the Warship Precinct? You don't need to be telepathic to hear the word in your head.

Grow up dammit.

It's all about growth, son.

We need developement to make things grow coz when things grow they get big and everybody knows that bigger is better.

If we keep developing stuff then maybe South Australia will grow real big. As big as Texas, maybe. Wouldn't it be great if folks walked around saying "Damn, did you see how big that (insert noun) was? Hell, it was bigger than SA".

Now that's development and growth for you!!

God Dammit, son. Don't you want you state to grow?

Happiness is knowing when you have enough. :)

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