The Australian Greens have reacted strongly to confirmation that fossil fuel companies successfully pressured energy minister Martin Ferguson to enlist ASIO and the Federal Police in spying on climate change and clean energy activists.
"This is a deliberate abuse of the role of Australian security agencies, who have better things to do than follow the dictates of foreign coal and energy corporations," Australian Greens Senator Scott Ludlam said.
"Instead of promoting the surveillance and intimidation of climate activists, Minister Ferguson should devote some of his time to dealing with the issues they raise."
The Greens have called on the Prime Minister to haul Mr Ferguson into line, and demanded that new Federal Attorney General Nicola Roxon come clean on the degree to which Australian intelligence bodies are diverting resources into spying on environmental campaign groups.
ASIO chief David Irvine indicated to Senator Ludlam in an estimates committee hearing in February 2010: "ASIO does not devote any resources to constraining legitimate protest. We are specifically prevented from doing so by our act, and we do not do it."
Subsequent to this exchange, the Government made substantial amendments to ASIO's act (the so-called ‘WikiLeaks amendments') giving the agency unqualified powers to spy on civil society organisations.
"This is a dangerous expansion of the surveillance state, a wholly unhealthy cocktail of economic interests, privatised intelligence gathering, misuse of clandestine intelligence resources and above all, a demonstration of the warped priorities of a Minister who needs to be pulled into line," said Senator Ludlam.
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