ASIO: The Enemy Within, ignored by Australia’s mainstream media, is a must read book for anyone wanting to understand the conundrum that is Australia today. Critics describe the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation as a secret police force which has done enormous harm to the country’s once flourishing democracy. The country’s politicians have remained silent, either out of their own personal fears or because it suits them. This is an important book which is long overdue. With the Australian government gifting extraordinary powers, protecting it from journalistic scrutiny with some of the most totalitarian legislation imaginable, and increasing its funding in the order of hundreds of millions of dollars in the so-called war on terror, this book is more relevant than ever. Author of ASIO: The Enemy Within, Michael Tubbs, a barrister who took the fight to one of the countries most secretive organisations, is a credible and powerful critic, all the more so because he is not a professional writer but a concerned citizen who has seen at first hand, as a representative of aggrieved parties, too many lives and careers pointlessly destroyed. If you want to know what ASIO has been doing in and to Australian society, this is the book for you. Other books have been written about ASIO, but this book is unique in many ways. No one is better qualified to deal with Australia’s premier domestic nosey parker than Michael Tubbs, one of the few barristers who took the fight up to ASIO by appearing for clients who had fallen foul of its powers. No punches are pulled as Tubbs tries to deliver the Knock-out blow to ASIO and put it out of business. If you want to know how ASIO’s national network of political spies have surreptitiously and manipulatively affected Australia’s free society and changed its political landscape, you need to read this book.
ASIO: The Enemy Within, written by Michael Tubbs, a leftwing activist turned barrister who spent much of his career representing clients with grievances against the agency, is a combative book.
Tubbs argued that the Australian Intelligence Security Organisation had no place in Australia’s democracy and should be abolished. Since its formation in 1949, it has acted as a partisan political secret police force, ridden roughshod over civil liberties, engaged in illegal activities, all with the aim of creating and managing a docile, tranquil public. It has succeeded.
In her forward retired Macquarie University Senior Lecturer in Law Gil Boehringer questioned how it had all come to be, how they had got away with it. We could sum up a major lesson of history by those two fundamental words the radical journalist and social critic, IF Stone enjoined us to never forget: “Governments lie.”
Australian people will demand the end of secret policing. Why? Because it has been used against their interests, even their country. It is a rare thing that the target of secret police have the opportunity to turn the tables and shine some light on the hidden, ambiguous world of the clandestine institutions which we are continuously told operate to protect our society and our country.
Tubbs links the specifities of secret policing here to the general transformation of Australian state and civil society over the last 50 years. Not surprisingly, in the wake of the social impact of pressures to restructure Australia which built up in the 1980s and especially the 1990s, and the coincidence of the ‘war on terrorism’ since 2001, there has been an intensification of secret policing and surveillance. Indeed, we could say that a surveillance culture has crept up on the country, destroying what was once a freedom loving country.
The author had specialised in representing people whose lives had been damaged by the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation and were attempting to seek redress through the court system. Many people attempting to speak the truth took great personal risk. In the course of Old Alex’s lifetime, striking a blow for freedom of expression against powerful vested interests had become a high risk enterprise. Pillaged from within and pillaged from without, Australia had been strangled, or sold to the highest bidder. Tubbs wrote that we all like the idea of freedom. We all like to think we are free, and the more free we feel the better we think of our society. But freedom was illusory, the public hoodwinked.
In a psychological context, two basic things make us feel safe and secure – one deals with our material needs, and the other our mental state. Our basic psychological requirement is the peaceful enjoyment of our life – the knowledge and peace of mind that comes from feeling that we are free, safe and secure in our home and community. I contend that this feeling only exists if we are imbued with the knowledge that we have certain fundamental rights as free citizens, exercisable against ordinary abuse – even abuse by the government in its many manifestations. But feeling free and being free are not always the same thing.
No sooner had the Cold War withered away than our government imposed its rhetorical ‘war on terrorism’, and with it, its attack on our freedoms and rights.
For hundreds of years, by convention, Parliament had a hands-off approach to our freedom. It could be easily measured to a large extent by what common law fundamental individual rights applied throughout society. Today, even if we might still think we have guaranteed basic rights and freedoms, we do not! They are all gone.
The country is a democracy in name only.
That’s the way it feels. That’s the way it is.
Tubbs is utterly scathing of a rogue institution which was not just secretive but almost entirely unaccountable. And of the generations of politicians on both the left and the right who had not just let it happen, but had failed to warn the public.
The war on terror has become a war on the people.