Thursday, August 28, 2008

Get on board for 09

About Talisman Sabre 09

In June 2007, 30,000 Australian and US troops descended on Shoalwater Bay on the central Queensland coast for a series of live-fire exercises including bombings and invasion tactics. They're planning to do it all again in July 2009. At the same time, a new coal port has been proposed for an area inside the the Shoalwater Bay Training Area.

This is an invitation for you to be involved in planning to stop the Talisman Sabre military exercises in July 2009.

The Melbourne Peace Convergence Collective met recently to talk about what needs to be done between now and July 09 in order to make these exercises less likely to happen. We established two groups:

1. Movement building:
This group decided to focus their attention and energy on getting as many people involved in protesting the military exercises as possible. This will primarily be done through education, public meetings, research and organisation. It would also involve liasing and networking with other peace groups to build a national movement to stop the Talisman Sabre exercises which fuel further wars of aggression, align us with US foreign policy, and are destructive to Australia's ecology and national interest.

2. Strategic Direct Action: The direct action group decided to focus on training and equipping as many people as possible to be as disruptive as possible for as long as possible should all other attempts to stop the exercises fail. This will require both those who are willing risk arrest for nonviolent direct action, and significant support crew (people who can do media, legals, driving, logistics, etc). Ideally we would like this to be a nationally co-ordinated effort with people from every state.

We would therefore like YOU to join us on:
Friday September 5th at 6pm (bring some food to share) at 116 Little Bourke Street (Urban Seed), where both groups will meet to make further plans.

These are likely to be monthly meetings so if you can't make this one, plan to be at the next one. Please forward this invitation on to anyone you think might be interested.

Even if you're not planning to go to Shoalwater Bay in July 09, you're welcome to be part of the planning and organisation process. We will need people in Melbourne involved as well.

For more information on the Talisman Sabre military exercises, go to

For questions etc email Kristy at or Simon at, or just come along and find out more on the night.

Friday, May 23, 2008

The Samuel Hill 5 experiment (or, Reflections of a Newbie)

I find Gandhi’s reference to nonviolent action as “experiments with truth” very useful. This has been very much an experiment for me, one that has undoubtedly confirmed my inklings towards nonviolence as the way of discipleship of Jesus, and also as a powerful force for love and truth in the world. What follows are some reflections on the Samuel Hill 5 action as an experiment. It is not a critique of nor reflections on the Peace Convergence as a whole, nor on overall strategy for resistance to Operation Talisman Sabre 07, but are focussed particularly on our action itself. I trust they will be useful in the ongoing conversation in nonviolence and faith circles.

* Choosing stories and storying choices: Perhaps the first and most important point to come out of this action is (to borrow Ched Myers’ phrase) the importance of choosing our stories and storying our choices. We in the West suffer from a crippling lack of imagination, mostly as a result of a dearth of alternative stories to that of the empire in whose shadow we sit. Those who sit in the dominant story mostly find themselves with little room within it to make changes, little room to act or be empowered or see alternatives. I, however, have chosen the Christian gospel as my formative story (or perhaps more accurately it has chosen me) and as a result I will spend the rest of my life immersing myself in it and being shaped by it. It is a story that is deeply subversive and antithetical to the story of empire, despite the ways it has been abused throughout history, and as such it forms the perfect counter to it.

At all stages it was the gospel story that gave us the overarching metanarrative from which to make sense of our actions and others’ reactions to them. This gave us an energy, a courage and a stability that would not have otherwise been possible. Stories such as the temple cleansing and the Gerasene demoniac suddenly leapt off the page and into animated real life. No longer were they mere stories; they were our stories, not merely in some modernist abstract sense of being factual, but in the sense that we had known them, and they had known us, in the biblical sense.

There often seems to be an uncanny connection between current events and the lectionary readings, and the time of our trial was no different. With John 14:16 declaring, “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate [defence counsel] to be with you forever…” and 1 Peter 3:11’s “seek peace and pursue it,” it was clear that we were in the right place. In fact, the whole 1 Peter 3 section was appropriate – from “do not repay evil for evil, but on the contrary, repay evil with a blessing” [the heart of the Sermon on the Mount] to verses 13-17: “Now who will harm you if you are eager to do what is good? But even if you do suffer for doing what is right, you are blessed. Do not fear what they fear, and do not be intimidated, but in your hearts sanctify Christ as Lord. Always be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and reverence. Keep your conscience clear, so that, when you are maligned, those who abuse you for your good conduct in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if suffering should be God's will, than to suffer for doing evil.”

As we prayed the Lord’s Prayer together, phrases like “your Kingdom come” took on new meaning. “Forgive us our trespasses,” also took on a new and amusing meaning.

At the same time, the gospel equipped us to tell our story, particularly as an alternative to the dominant story, in a way that engaged people, made sense of what happened, and extended an invitation to join in.

* Humour as subversion: Our action has also highlighted for me the importance of fun and humour in gaining wider public understanding and bridging the gap between the mainstream punter and the hardened activist. While at no stage did we want to be flippant or deny the seriousness of that which we were resisting, there was something undeniably engaging about playing frisbee with military personnel. The ridiculousness of the image seemed to crack wide open the stereotype of the overearnest, angry, dour faced protestor that pervades much of society. There is something both safely harmless and engaging and yet simultaneously deeply and dangerously subversive about humour (as frequently demonstrated by The Chaser team and Jesus Christ).

* Strategy:
What we did was successful on several levels:

a. We stopped the war games, albeit temporarily, as evidenced by tanks and other equipment at a standstill, the total shutdown of Samuel Hill Air Base, and the signage indicating the deliberate cessation of live firing (rather than its absence).
b. We gained entry to the base with minimal effort, minimal risk of danger to ourselves or others, and using minimal resources. In fact, it was ridiculously easy.
c. We engaged the troops in respectful face-to-face dialogue on a personal level, had some significant conversations and gained valuable insights.
d. Our action strategically bolstered that of other groups, specifically by drawing attention to the presence of civilians on the base in a way that could no longer be denied by defence personnel.

What we could have done better:

a. Primarily I think research in general would have helped – knowing the terrain is important, more orienteering training would help, know more about the exercises, the equipment used, etc.
b. Strategic legals: Next time I would give much more strategic thought to the legal aspects of the action to maximise the ongoing effects. While I think we did the best we could with what we had (namely a very very inexperienced and naïve bunch of self-represented young people!), had we thought more strategically about the laws around it we may have been able to further our impact on the system. In this case our original intention was to do the action the way we wanted and then plead guilty; we changed our minds on a guilty plea only sometimes afterwards when we realised there was no way we could conscienably call ourselves guilty for what we did (under any definition, legal or otherwise). We were then able to subequently put together a pretty solid case. However in future, where possible, I would ideally tailor the action to suit legals in a similar way to the Pine Gap 4. Priority should still always go towards faithful action over legal issues, but where possible maximising strategic impact in the court process should be important, particularly to ensuring integrity when pleading not guilty.

* Empowerment: As a privileged, educated, middle class person (a group who generally have the most to lose from civil disobedience, and therefore rarely engage in it) this has given me a sense of empowerment beyond my expectations. Crossing the line unafraid and without any real consequences has opened a whole new realm of possibilities for creative action that is both effective and affective. It’s a signal to those who attempt to hold power over me that I will not comply, I will not remain silent even when others do. Phil Berrigan has said of voting, “If it made any difference, it’d be illegal,” and I’d have to agree – voting is at the very least a blunt instrument for social change. It also indicates, I think, that actions that do make a difference tend to be illegal because that’s the way empire stacks the deck (as Ciaron O’Reilly often says, “Good lawmaking comes from good lawbreaking”). Which is not to say that an action’s being illegal is sufficient for it to change anything (let alone for the positive), but it’s potentially indicative.

* Importance of small, independent affinity groups
The action has confirmed for me the strength of small affinity groups, particularly when they are supported by strong intentional communities or solidarity networks. The ability to organise quickly and independently, with minimal resources and to do so sustainably with the long haul in mind, has clearly given us a strength of resolve that would not have been possible in its absence. The Christian Activist Network has functioned effectively in this regard for solidarity, training, and support, as have our respective faith communities.

* Stepping stone
Finally, after court proceedings have finished, I am left with a sense of humility and proportion, particularly in the sense that these particular actions didn’t risk very much. Probably for our first action, particularly as people who have emerged from Australia’s middle class and are (in Simon Reeves’ words, I think borrowed from Jarrod McKenna) “in rehab from consumerism” we needed to begin at this level. I remain, however, acutely aware that, as Sarah said to the judge in her closing statements, “I won’t regret having done this, but rather I regret that am not doing more to resist war and oppression.” In that sense, I think we can see this as a stepping stone to further action.

More info can be found at

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Frisbees in Fed Square pictures

Many, many thanks to those who participated in solidarity actions for us around the trial, including the mob who converged on Federation Square in Melbourne to declare "Peace Games Not War Games!" by handing out and playing with frisbees. Many more people around Melbourne now know about Operation Talisman Sabre as a result - and hopefully some people will be inspired by our stories and others like them to rise up and resist war.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Simon Moyle's defence

(It should probably be noted that it didn't all come out exactly like this...I adlibbed and pulled bits and rearranged it a bit on the go. But this is the gist of it in the absence of a court transcript...)

I want to begin by acknowledging the Darumbal as the traditional custodians of this land and to honour the first inhabitants and their descendants.

We have all decided to represent ourselves today. Despite the fact that I am not a lawyer and have no legal training, I have worked hard to prepare for this day well; I have received legal advice in researching my case and feel that I will competently be able to acquit myself. I do request some understanding and latitude in matters of protocol and etiquette where I err.

It is my contention that these military exercises constituted an extraordinary emergency as outlined in section 10.3 of the Criminal Code, that my actions were the only reasonable way to deal with the emergency and that my conduct was a reasonable response to the emergency.

I understand that this defence has been run before in similar circumstances, but I am here to present the reasons why I disagree with the decisions that have been made in the past, and why my situation is different in significant ways.

I am also aware of the separation of powers, and that you are not here to comment on matters of public policy or make judgements thereof. While I personally believe it is impossible to separate the making of public policy from its enforcement, I respect your role and will endeavour to stick to the matters of law at hand.

And last but not least of my opening disclaimers, I think it is important to state that I am first and foremost a disciple of the nonviolent Jesus. More than anything else I strive to be faithful to his calling on my life. Where that conflicts with any other demand, my loyalty remains to Christ and the Reign of God.

10.3 Sudden or extraordinary emergency
(1) A person is not criminally responsible for an offence if he or she carries out the conduct constituting the offence in response to circumstances of sudden or extraordinary emergency.
(2) This section applies if and only if the person carrying out the conduct reasonably believes that:
(a) circumstances of sudden or extraordinary emergency exist; and
(b) committing the offence is the only reasonable way to deal with the emergency; and
(c) the conduct is a reasonable response to the emergency.

The defence of sudden or extraordinary emergency depends on my satisfying you beyond reasonable doubt that I reasonably believed that
(a) circumstances of sudden or extraordinary emergency exist; and
(b) committing the offence is the only reasonable way to deal with the emergency; and
(c) the conduct is a reasonable response to the emergency.

a) Circumstances of sudden or extraordinary emergency exist

I begin with the idea that circumstances of sudden or extraordinary emergency exist. It is my understanding that the Talisman Sabre military exercises constituted an extraordinary emergency, a situation of extreme gravity and abnormal or unusual danger.

I note that this defence only requires that the emergency be sudden OR extraordinary, and not necessarily both, as stated in paragraph 17a of Nguyen and the Queen (2005) Western Australian Supreme Court of Appeal p 22. This section is found on page 2 of that case.

[17] Relevantly, for present purposes, it is necessary to make the following observations.
(a) The circumstances in which the defence may be raised include a sudden emergency or an extraordinary emergency. It is not necessary for the emergency to be both sudden and extraordinary.

While the emergency constituted by Talisman Sabre was sudden in that it was a threat that was posed at a particular time and place, it was certainly more extraordinary than sudden.

The emergency constituted by Operation Talisman Sabre was extraordinary in the size, scope, intensity and duration of violence involved. Extraordinary not only in the sense of unusual and beyond anything I had experienced before, but in the sense of grave, extreme.

The facts of what occurs during Operation Talisman Sabre are largely undisputed. The ADF’s own public environment report compiled by Maunsell Acom details the use of high explosives on land and sea, use of live artillery fire, use of active sonar which is damaging, often fatal to marine life, and many other detrimental environmental impacts. That report also fails to mention the most damaging effects such as intended explosive impact areas, preferring to focus on the degree of risk of inadvertant impacts.

Talisman Sabre was clearly not a theoretical or academic exercise, with both Australia and the US currently involved in wars in multiple countries. It was direct training for those who were about to enter the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. We know this from our conversations with military personnel while on the base. During our time inside the base we had the opportunity to speak on a very personal level with several personnel from both the Australian and the US forces involved about their time spent in Iraq. Without exception they spoke negatively of the job they had been given to do, of colleagues, enemies and civilians killed and collateral damage created, but stated that they were there to do a job, and not to question their orders. What was clear was a direct link between these exercises and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

It is an immutable law of nature that violence begets violence and destruction. As the great Indian independence leader Mohandas Gandhi cautioned, if you desire a particular end or result, your means must be entirely consistent with it. In this case we were dealing with training for war, an activity that many would justify as necessary to enforce or maintain peace. But the reality is that this point of view is totally illogical and deluded. The fact that so many people believe it does not stop it from being so. The unreasonableness of such a belief is revealed in such statements as that of Lt. Col. Nathan Sassaman, the commander of a US battalion that surrounded the Iraqi town of Abu Hishma with a razor wire fence in mid 2003. He said in a New York Times article, "With a heavy dose of fear and violence, and a lot of money for projects, I think we can convince these people that we are here to help them." This is the logic of violence. The truth is, if you train for war, you get war. If you begin to practice for peace through active creative nonviolence, not passivity or apathy or inaction, then eventually you will get peace.

If it is true that, as Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr says, “We are an inescapable network of mutuality tied into a single garment of destiny” then every act of violence is a crime against all humanity. Not merely the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but even these military exercises known as Talisman Sabre, particularly in the damage it does to land and marine life, both plant and animal and ecosystem, because damaging the earth damages us too. As Wendell Berry argues in his 1977 essay The Body And The Earth, "The earth is what we all have in common; it is what we are made of and what we live from, and we therefore cannot damage it without damaging those with whom we share it…It is impossible to care for each other more or differently than we care for the earth.” (The Body and the Earth, p. 118)

Therefore every act of violence in our world, towards ourselves, others and towards the earth, constitutes an extraordinary emergency that requires that human beings get involved in nonviolent responses that effectively transform such acts of violence through self-giving love such as that demonstrated by Jesus Christ. If we merely stand by, if we allow it to happen then in our apathy, we are personally implicated in the emergency. That is the true crime; the crime of no response. As Nobel Prize recipient Archbishop Desmond Tutu has said, "If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor." Every act of violence is an injustice, because it dehumanises the perpetrator as much as the victim, and so to do nothing in the face of violence is to side with the violent. Though I am aware that international law has no influence on the outcome of this case, it is worth noting that this very idea is supported by principle VII of the Nuremberg principles, that of inaction constituting complicity in crimes against peace and humanity. Citizen’s refusal to step in the way of such crimes was soundly condemned then and should be condemned now.

On 4 occasions in recent times in my local area in the inner north of Melbourne I have come across physically violent conflicts in which I have felt compelled to intervene. In fact, the very day before we walked onto the SWBTA, on June 20th 2007 as I walked down one of the streets in Yeppoon I came across a fist-fight that had just broken out between two girls in the front yard of a house. Surrounding the two girls was a group of about 10 others who were verbally encouraging the fight to escalate. While a driver in a passing vehicle stopped to call police, I was able to defuse the altercation by physically intervening. The events of that day differed from those of the following day only in the intensity, scope, and duration of the violence involved – the latter day, of course, seeing much more violence, with greater destruction for a much longer period. How much more important, then, that we intervene in the second, much worse situation of emergency. It is my belief that every one of these situations constitutes an extraordinary emergency that must be intervened in.

The issue here then is one of whether such an emergency objectively fulfills the requirement of compulsion. Threatened harm to people or the earth may satisfy the defence of necessity providing it is of sufficient gravity to satisfy the requirement of compulsion. That there was harm threatened to the earth, and ultimately to people, in the situation of Talisman Sabre is not in question. What matters is only my belief that a situation of extraordinary emergency existed, and that the actions taken would constitute a reasonable response under the circumstances as I understood them.

It should be noted that the idea that a person deliberately chose a certain course of action is not incompatible with the requirement that the action taken must have resulted from compulsion. What is required is merely that it is an urgent situation of imminent peril, as stated by Crockett in Crown and Loughnan, Victorian Reports page 460.
R v Loughnan [1981] VR 443 (FC), Crockett J at 460

The Queensland Supreme and District Court Benchbook as at 13th April 2008 states “It is not for the defendant to prove that he acted as he did because of the stress of a sudden [extraordinary] emergency. It is for the prosecution to satisfy you beyond reasonable doubt that he did not.” Therefore I believe that the burden of proof is not on us to prove that we were compelled any more than I already have, but on the prosecution to prove that we were not so compelled.

b) Committing the offence was the only reasonable way to deal with the emergency
So we come to 10.3, 2b) Committing the offence was the only reasonable way to deal with the emergency.

It should be noted that our presence on the Training Area was the last in a long line of steps we had taken to stop the exercises. We had written to the defence minister and had received no satisfactory response. We had participated in marches and written letters to the editor to raise public awareness of the Talisman Sabre exercises. We had personally spoken with senior United States consular officials in Australia and requested their help to stop the exercises. I had submitted myself to a process of talking through, with my family, faith community and with senior officials of the Baptist church under whose authority I sit whether this was a reasonable course of action. All agreed that it was.

The only legal step that remained for us was to seek an injunction to have the games stopped. However, as I understand it, we do not have the necessary standing to be granted such an injunction, so this option was unavailable to us.

Even when others had attempted to stop the games by trespassing on the base, the government and ADF had not believed that they were there despite video evidence showing them entering the restricted area. Therefore the only effective way for us to stop the games was to make our presence known, making absolutely sure that we would be seen, but not in a confrontational or threatening way.

At the point at which we entered the base, it was clear to us that no other course of action would have been sufficiently effective as to stop the exercises – this was the only course of action that was likely to work, and therefore the only reasonable way to deal with the emergency. As I will go on to argue, it was also a proportionate response under those circumstances.

c) the conduct is a reasonable response to the emergency
Thirdly and lastly I come to the idea that the conduct was a reasonable response to the emergency, which is to say that it was a proportionate response under the circumstances.

I trust you will note that we were meticulously nonviolent in the way we approached our intervention.

There was absolutely no self interest involved. We reached the base only after a long, cold, wet, walk through the bush in order to reach the fence adjacent to the base. We did not enter the restricted area until we were sure we were less than 150 metres from the tarmac of Samuel Hill Air Force Base, the closest point of the base to the fence that marks the boundary of Shoalwater Bay Training Area. This meant that the risk to ourselves from unexploded ordnance was negligible, particularly as it was so unlikely that the ADF would use or allow to be used such explosives so close to its own facilities. We had also ascertained beforehand where in the base the bombings usually took place, and avoided those areas entirely.

We walked openly down the tarmac so as to be seen most effectively, and had our arms outstretched in a gesture of conciliation and to demonstrate that we were unarmed and posed no threat. We approached the first personnel we saw rather than waiting until we had reached any particular strategic point. We deliberately drew attention to ourselves rather than waiting to be found.

It was important for us not merely to refrain from violence but to actively confront the situation with actions that were both obstructive of what we disagreed with, and constructive towards the alternative. As I have already said, training for war means more war; training for peace means that we further ourselves down that road. Hence the frisbee. The frisbee became for us a way of pointing to an alternative. Just like peace itself, it pointed to the need to practice something that most of us were pretty unfamiliar with and not very good at, me included. It’s a game of discipline, precision, respect and fun. And it’s a game you can’t play by yourself, you need at least one other person, and that means cooperation is required.

So our means were our end – to practice for peace with those with whom we had differences, rather than being violent or vengeful or alienating. We’re not saying that by itself playing frisbee will save the world or end violence or war. But I will say that our act carries the seeds of what is required. And the conversations we were able to have with the soldiers both during and after playing frisbee expressed the essence of why we were there. Gentle, reasoned dialogue and peace games with between people who differ is surely a reasonable and proportionate response to the emergency of high powered explosives and the destruction of people and property.

I understand the separation of powers, that you are here to administer the law. I believe we have given you enough room within the law to aquit us. But regardless of whether you agree we have all been made aware of the truths that we have presented today. As MLK Jr said, “We must never forget that everything Hitler did in Germany was "legal" and everything the Hungarian freedom fighters did in Hungary was "illegal." I would not want to argue that there is a direct analogy between Hitler’s Germany and Australia in 2007, but the point is that sometimes laws serve to protect and give legitimacy to practices that need to be challenged at best and are evil at worst. Sometimes they are unjust laws, and sometimes they are just laws applied unjustly. In the same way as those evils were protected by good people who for whatever reason did not stand up and say no, we believe that unless people stand up and challenge them, the laws that protect and legitimise the destruction of Shoalwater Bay and our brothers and sisters in Iraq and Afghanistan will remain, and will thereby diminish us all. And so with King I say, “Law and order exist for the purpose of establishing justice and when they fail in this purpose they become the dangerously structured dams that block the flow of social progress.”

And so we’re inviting you, from the current narrow definitions of these laws which serve to protect and make acceptable war and destruction, to broaden those terms to include our actions as a way of joining us in the struggle for peace and justice in our world. Thankyou for your time and attention.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Found Guilty for Being Extraordinary?! (by Sarah Williams)

Thankyou everyone for your support! We couldn't have done it without you! Thanks to Margaret who wrote up a summary of the case and for being with us from Cairns, thanks to all of those that wrote references for us, those who played frisbee around the city of Melbourne and to those who came with us to court from Melbourne to calm those nerves.
Enclosed is my statement of evidence in court and my legal defence. Enjoy!

I too, would like to acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land of Shoalwater Bay, the Darumbal people. I would also like to thank those here that are present for your time in hearing what I have to say.

Today I would like to affirm my plea of not-guilty for the charge of trespassing onto Commonwealth land under the Crimes Act of 1914. I believe I had a lawful excuse and will discuss the reasons for my presence in the Shoalwater Bay Training Area on 21st day of June, 2007.
I have chosen to represent myself today and hope that it will not hinder this court process as I am not a trained lawyer. I have not, however, taken this charge lightly. I have in fact taken it very seriously and have tried to do much research into the relevant law whilst also obtaining legal advice. I believe that by speaking myself my reasons for entering SWTA will be best represented.
On the day that myself and four other friends entered the base we carried a letter for the Australian and U.S. Generals hoping to engage in dialogue. Our message was clear “We believe that practicing for war only means more war. That is why we must imagine peace, embody peace, practice peace.” In this letter we also stated
People are likely to say that we have no respect for the law, however, this is not so. Rather, we say, with Martin Luther King Jr. and in accordance with the principles of nonviolence, “I submit that an individual who breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust,..... is in reality expressing the highest respect for the law.”
I too, accept the consequences of my actions and would not have usually walked onto prohibited Commonwealth land if I did not consider that it was a matter of extraordinary emergency and therefore a ‘necessity’ to do so.
I believe I was justified in committing the lesser offence of trespass in order to prevent the greater crime of Operation Talisman Saber ’07.
I believe under the circumstances I had no other alternative as I had exhausted all legal means and I did so in such a way that was a reasonable response to the emergency.

Commonwealth Crime Code, 1995
10.3 Sudden or extraordinary emergency
(1) A person is not criminally responsible for an offence if he or she carries out the conduct constituting the offence in response to circumstances of sudden or extraordinary emergency.
(2) This section applies if and only if the person carrying out the conduct reasonably believes that:
(a) circumstances of sudden or extraordinary emergency exist; and
(b) committing the offence is the only reasonable way to deal with the emergency; and
(c) the conduct is a reasonable response to the emergency.

Reason of necessity
(a) circumstances of sudden or extraordinary emergency exist; and
The extraordinary emergency that led me to acting as I did was the presence of Operation Talisman Saber also known as “War Games” where approximately 30,000 Australian and U.S. troops were practicing for war in various parts of Australia such as the Bradshaw Training Area and Delamere Air Weapons Range in the Northern Territory and Shoalwater Bay in Queensland. I chose Shoalwater Bay as it is one of the largest. The ADF website describes it as such:
‘The Talisman Saber series of exercises are conducted biennially in Australia with the United States. Talisman Saber 2007 is designed to train Australian and US Forces in planning and conducting Combined Task Force operations, which will help improve ADF/US combat readiness and interoperability…
Talisman Saber 2007 focuses on operational level warfighting with training based on fictional scenarios that vary according to location between ground, air and marine activities in conjunction with simulated exercises’ (
It is no secret that these exercises include land and sea bombings, combat on the ground and the use of active sonar, all in one of Australia’s most environmentally sensitive areas.
What is a secret to the general public is the alternative agenda of the “war games” in our foreign policy practice.
During the year 2007, I became aware of these exercises and upon this knowledge started making arrangements to be present in opposition to what these games stand for “the training of violent ways in dealing with conflict resolution.” I had heard many personal stories and evidence in regards to the effects of these games and decided to not only let the general public know by creating awareness but somehow also represent my voice (however small) in trying to stop these “war games” from happening. I joined a group of people who learned about the principle of non-violence and underwent much training and researching in how this principle can change the world as it has in the civil rights movement and with so many other courageous prophets who believe another world is possible such as Jesus, Martin Luther King Jr, Gandhi, Dorothy Day and John Dear.
I began taking the words in the Bible serious such as:
“Blessed are the peacemakers”
“Love your enemies, pray for those who persecute you”
“Beat your swords into ploughshares and study for war no more”
I have even tried to live out this principle in my own life as part of a faith community named Jahwork in Doveton, Victoria.
Unlike other activists who had planned for a long time to enter SWBTA, it really became an emergency for me to enter the base when I started hearing first hand what was going on there. I met some of the indigenous elders from Guam such as Fanai Castro, a Guam activist from the Organisation of People for Indigenous Rights who shared her stories of the impact the US military is having on her country. The Chamoru people of Guam have struggled for a long time to protect their land and culture from the effects of militarisation. You only have to spend a little time researching what happened in Vieques to understand that having the U.S. army anywhere near your country can have detrimental effects.

I even talked to a builder who had taken part in building a temporary town inside the base which he described as a “mini Baghdad”(picture available).

In this small town was the presence of a mosque which they called a “community centre.” The soldiers were preparing in their practise of ‘interoperability’ to invade other countries as they have done in the past e.g. Iraq and Afghanistan and continue to do despite international law. In terms of the environmental impact of the games I also had spoken to many locals who had experienced unexploded ordinances appearing on the shores of public beaches despite the ADF ensuring that comprehensive environmental impact statements will be carried out. If these unexploded ordinances fell into the wrong hands e.g. a child playing on the beach this could be deadly. For these reasons and many others, I was compelled to act and put my body on the line to stop these “war games.” Upon careful deliberation I decided I had to go onto the base. By doing this I knew that it would stop the games if only for a little while, I also had to chat with the soldiers and embody another alternative to them. I entered the base in a place where I knew there was no risk and walked up the Samuel Hill airstrip carrying a peace flag, 2 letters for the Generals and a Frisbee promoting “peace games and not war games.” This extraordinary emergency of the presence of Operation Talisman Saber was of such a nature that I reasonably believed that committing the offence was a reasonable response to the emergency.
I believe that the ultimate question here is not whether you believe it was in fact an extraordinary emergency that I felt a necessity to enter the base but that I reasonably believed in the existence of the emergency.

Type of threat
The threatening situation
(b) committing the offence is the only reasonable way to deal with the emergency; and
I would like to talk a little about the type of threat that I perceived and why this was a threatening situation. I am aware that the intense pressure to take action which avoids impending harm is the hallmark of necessity or emergency.
An example of this is in the case of the Crown v Loughnan [1981] VR on page 443, (hand out sheet to magistrate, prosecutor) where the situation of necessity was described as an "imminent peril" and a threat of "irreparable evil". In this case the applicant (Loughnan) was tried and convicted before the County Court on a charge of escaping from Pentridge Prison. He believed his life was in danger whilst in prison and therefore believed it was a “necessity” to escape.
Chief Justice Young and Justice King summarised the 3 elements of the defence of necessity as follows:

“First the act or acts must have been done only in order to avoid certain consequences which would have inflicted irreparable evil on the accused or upon others whom he [or she] was bound to protect.”
Secondly, “… the accused must honestly believe on reasonable grounds that he [or she] [or those they were bound to protect] were placed in a situation of imminent peril.”
“The [third] element of proportion simply means that the acts done to avoid the imminent peril must not be out of proportion to the peril to be avoided.”

I understand that the term "imminent" in this case denotes a threat which is overhanging or impending, with provision for a time interval between the making of the threat and when it is carried out. This may be contrasted with the word "immediate" which signifies "occurring at once", without delay. Hence, the defence could be available as long as the resulting pressure from the threat persisted, until and including the time when the accused committed the crime alleged. This was certainly evident with the presence of OTS in Shoalwater Bay in 2007 which in my case was the perceived threat or ‘emergency.’ I would like to reiterate that I do not believe this emergency was “sudden”. It started in 2005 and will be going on for at least the next 20 years. I believe every time this happens it will be an extraordinary emergency and hope to join with other fellow Australians in trying to stop it.

I also understand that the description of "irreparable evil" focuses on the gravity of the threatened harm, to indicate the pressure confronting the accused. It is not concerned with time, unlike the notion of "imminence". There may be some instances where the gravity of the harm, without any urgency of time involved, sufficiently exerts the pressure to create a situation of necessity. I would also like to reiterate that the “irreparable evil” that I believed was the presence of OTS. It is irreparable evil because it causes direct harm to the land and sea (land that I see is our indigenous people’s land - the Darumbal people), it involves training for the further militarization of Australia and involves other social and economic issues which I will touch on in this statement. I believe I was under intense pressure to do something about this extraordinary emergency as the gravity of its effects is longlasting.

Necessary pressure
(c) the conduct is a reasonable response to the emergency.
In this section I would like to talk about the type of conduct I carried out whilst on the SWBTA. I believe this was a reasonably necessary response to the danger threatened.
I believe that I was compelled to take this course of action because all other legal attempts of action had been exhausted. I had written letters to MP’s, had been to public rallies, had put out media releases and signed petitions. Even after my arrest I still continue to do so (documents available - O Talisman). Despite the record attendance of millions of people at protest rallies across the world in 2003 our government still sent our troops to Iraq and keeps them there. In Melbourne alone (my home) there were around 150,000 people (BBC estimate) (Over 200,000 organisers estimate) who joined the demonstration.
I believe that my conduct carried out on the base was in fact the next step for me, and was the least harmful response in trying to display an alternative to practicing for war.
Before we were taken away by police we enjoyed many in depth conversations with military personnel who shared their inner feelings about the Iraq war and what they saw and were exposed to (e.g. use of depleted uranium and its effects). We got to share about our concerns for their lives and civilian’s lives and about our worry over the environmental effects that war and these games have. To our utter disbelief the hypothetical mission at the games was in regards to hypothetical “terrorists” coming to take over the country. Were we those terrorists? I believe we were just everyday Australians armed with another message: Love at all costs! As we were driven out we saw tanks and soldiers scattered all throughout the bush that had cease-fired as the base was closed whilst we were on the grounds. That day our concerns for our friend’s safety that were still on the base went to parliament, as no one believed it was possible. To me it was worth it just to have the conversation we wouldn’t have had whilst we were kept in silence. I invite you today to not silence it anymore!
As all the protesters went home the locals are left with the night sky blaring, the sound of bombing, their homes shaking, their health at risk and the real threat that because this base is located where it is they will be a likely target. The destruction of Shoalwater Bay continued until the 2nd July, 2007 and will go on for the next twenty years. Australia continues to spend $55 million a day on its military whilst where we live in Doveton, Victoria many social problems are unaddressed and experienced daily such as lack of affordable housing, social isolation, mental health issues, lack of education to name a few. We were on that base that day because we would like to call an end to further militarization of Australia!

In the leading common law decision of Crown v Loughnan [1981] VR 443, Crockett J posed the question: "Would a reasonable man in the position of the accused have considered that he had any alternative to doing what he did to avoid the peril?" In the same case, Crockett J stipulated that "[t]here was open to the accused no alternative, other than that adopted by him, to avoid the greater harm".
I believe an ordinary person similarly circumstanced who has heard the stories of war I have and who has become aware of the joint military exercises would have acted in the same or a similar way. If more Australians knew about OTS I would hope they would do the same.
I have been working as a Support Worker for the Salvation Army for approx 2 years and have heard many stories of the effects of war as we have many refugees settling down in my suburb of Doveton. I would even go as far as to say that many of the people I meet with have directly been a victim of the harm in Afghanistan and Iraq. I often sit with shared tears as they tell me the stories of their family members being murdered in front of them, stories of torture, trauma and rape. I would never wish these events to happen to anyone and yet our country is directly involved in mass murder by participating in foreign wars where we have ulterior motives.
According to a report titled “Rising to the Humanitarian Challenge in Iraq”released by Oxfam issued on the 30 July 2007:
Four million Iraqis – 15% - regularly cannot buy enough to eat.
70% are without adequate water supplies, compared to 50% in 2003.
28% of children are malnourished, compared to 19% before the 2003 invasion.
92% of Iraqi children suffer learning problems, mostly due to the climate of fear.
More than two million people – mostly women and children - have been displaced inside Iraq.
A further two million Iraqis have become refugees, mainly in Syria and Jordan.
Jeremy Hobbs, director of Oxfam International, said: "The terrible violence in Iraq has masked the ongoing humanitarian crisis. Malnutrition amongst children has dramatically increased and basic services, ruined by years of war and sanctions, cannot meet the needs of the Iraqi people. Millions of Iraqis have been forced to flee the violence, either to another part of Iraq or abroad. Many of those are living in dire poverty.
These games play a direct part in that as the soldiers present have been in Iraq themselves. Some of our soldiers still are. We heard stories of that horror whilst on the base. These soldiers were directly training for this idea of redemptive violence to proceed.
I wanted to go on the base to speak to the soldiers because I have heard testimonies of conscientious objectors who experienced the atrocities of the Iraq war. Matt Howard, a US Iraqi Veteran tells his story
"...The people of Iraq are suffering horrors hard to conceive on a daily basis because we are there. And yet their only crime is that they were also victims of previous horrors under a different regime. The Iraqi people fighting us are fighting for their freedom - to be free from foreign military occupation...We go and clear an area and they just go somewhere else and when we leave they come back, and this will go on and on until we finally admit that we're not supposed to be there. We never should have been there in the first place. This war was based on lies. As I like to say, you can't win a crime, you can only stop it...." Matt Howard
If this is not an emergency enough then I do not know what is. I believe our common humanity calls us to stand up for those who are dieing everyday in unnecessary wars and to protect our own country Australia.
The more serious question I would like to ask myself is not if another person would act in the same way but in light of what I know about war and these games – why aren’t I doing more for my international brothers and sisters who obviously have to bear the cost of war more than I do.

Summing Up…
It is with knowledge like this that I decided recently to see for myself the effects of war. This year I spent 5 weeks in Sudan (mostly in the South) where my heart broke.

I would like to submit a picture which I believe depicts the effects of war e.g. it is a picture of a tank near one of the biggest battle fields in South Sudan and a field of landmines. You can see that the tank is rusted out, a village surrounds it and children play on it. For me it represents how comfortable we have become with the presence of war. Our lives go on whilst we forget those that miss out women/children/dead/starved/injured. I know it isn’t your job today to agree with me on points of public policy that have badly gone wrong.
I do however, through this dialogue wish to reiterate that it was my reasonable belief that there was an emergency, a perceived threat to our livelihoods and our future as Australians on the day that I openly entered the base.
Again, thank-you for your time.

Friday, April 25, 2008

More Notes from Court [compiled by Margaret]

The case was run all together from the prosecutor's side because he [Mr Shaun Janes] had arranged an agreed set of facts. Each defendant had prepared an individual case, however and requested that they present separately. The “formal admission” – or ‘agreed set of facts’ which had been signed by each defendant was tabled at the beginning of the court session.

The Magistrate reminded the defendants that there was no compulsion to give evidence under oath but they could if they wanted and that would open them to ‘cross examination’.

Simon Moyle was called first and began with a statement about their actions on the day in questions:
He said: "We were: meticulously nonviolent, there was no self interest, we did not enter the restricted area until we were within 150 m from the tarmac. We ascertained where bombings had taken place to ensure safety, we approached with arms outstretched to show a non threatening stance, we drew attention to ourselves, we were at all times obstructive and constructive. Training for war means more war, Training for peace means more peace – that’s why we had frisbees to throw – we were practising for peace.

Simon said that the actions fitted the context of his life. “I have always sought to obstruct violence where I come across it. I feel compelled to intervene in violence and I want to be consistent in those interventions.”

Simon Reeves also took an affirmation – refusing to swear on the Bible in the court context.

He said “I believed I was fulfilling my commitment to be a responsible citizen and to love my neighbour as my self and to ‘love your enemy’”. Simon Reeves developed a framework for his actions centering around the prevention of a greater harm [see his statement on the blogspot Samuelhill4] – “my act was a lessor harm in defence of other lives”. He said “Operation Talisman Sabre” involved harm that was great and significant. He characterised this harm as a “Social Harm”.

This harm was derived from “the intention of the operations to teach skills, knowledge and tactics for combat that directly do harm to others.” Simon identified three harms:
harms resulting to others from the learning of the skills and knowledge related to violence
harms relating to the soldiers themselves from the process of learning violence
environmental harms impacting on the Land on which the exercises were held.

Simon said that we “should oppose evil when evil comes along.” And that while the “tools used in the exercise may be used with good intentions, actually those tools are used to do extraordinary harm to other people in other nations through their use in ‘mid to high intensity combat.’”

Also he pointed out that involvement in combat results in harm directly to the soldiers – “Over 4000 US soldiers have been killed in Iraq;” he said. “When we practice or train for violence the more violent we become. Violence is anti life. 10% of soldiers evacuated from Iraq to hospitals in Europe have mental problems.” He said.

Also the war games are creating an environmental harm. We live in a complex web. Harm to the environment is harm to self and others.

Simon Reeves argued that the issue was the enactment of greater versus a lessor harm. He said that the Samuel Hill 4 had committed a lessor harm by far in their attempt to prevent a greater harm.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Are the Frisbee4 Ordinary People?

The verdict in the court case for the Samuel Hill 4, basically came down to the question: Are they ORDINARY people?

The sitting magistrate Ms Baldwin quoted Justice Brennan in rejecting a plea of not guilty and finding the 4 did not have ‘lawful excuse’ for being on the Shoalwater Base. [warning loose quoting ahead] Brennan had said“Lofty aspirations should not be confused with rule of law” and “it is essential to separate the functions of court and government”. I think Brennan had been trying to intimate you can't influence public policy through the court system.

The 4 defendants made an excellent case that they were not attempting to 'influence public policy" but to interfere directly in the "social harms created when people are given skills and knowledge and tactics for mid to hight intensity combat" [Simon Reeves]. Mr Simon Moyle said: "Training for war creates more war; training for peace creates peace".

Like the Pine Gap 4 and others before them, the 4 attempted to convince the magistrate that they had a legitimate purpose in being there: to prevent GREATER HARMS.

The magistrate first addressed the defence under 10.3 of the Commonwealth criminal code: the idea that the 4 had an extraordinary emergency that gave them reason to be on the tarmac stopping the training and skilling in combat methods. She did however say in relation to the defence that “in the circumstances [she] would be prepared to find that [the reasons they were there] were extraordinary”.

But she didn’t think that it was ‘reasonable’ that they were there. Perhaps “subjectively”; but according to her “objective” test their actions were not reasonable.. She said she needed and “objective assessment of reasonability." Quoting from Mr Justice Gallop in the case “Mark and Henshaw” she said “the critical issue [is] not the appellants belief or state of mind...[but] will come from an objective assessment ...[which] requires application of community standards ...[as to] whether the conduct is acceptable to the community.”

Earlier she had invoked the “man on the Clapham bus” as the standard of ordinary set by some English judge sometime. [I’ll come back to that]

But now she discussed the “ultimate impact of a breach of law on the community standards”. she implied that such breaches of law went against “community standards”. She pointed out that that the people involved in Talisman Sabre were also entitled to the protection of the law.

Ms Baldwin said “I believe all four defendants believed that what they were doing was reasonable but on an objective test could not be seen to be reasonable.”

She also addressed 10.4 of the criminal code: the idea that Samuel Hill 4 were compelled to intervene in the training and skilling of people in violent methods [war games] in defence of others who would otherwise be subject to great harm. She said that none of the defendants was ultimately able to show imminent peril and therefore she “must determine reasonability in relation to community standards. She again thought that community standards didn’t yet extend to “allowing breach of the law” and this was “not withstanding the method of execution through nonviolence.”

Margaret's Comment

So were they ordinary people? Each of the 4 thought they were pretty ordinary. Simon Reeves claimed to use bikes [he also has a bike he said!] But apparently it is not ordinary in our society to listen to the stories of people around you and then translate that to behaviours that intervene in the unjust acts that you hear about in those narratives.

Personally I thought they were pretty extraordinary not withstanding their use of buses and rather lowly jobs in the outer suburbs of Melbourne.

I thought they were extraordinary because of the way they engaged intellectually with the legal material, the way they showed respect and love in the court room, the way they spoke clearly and brilliantly about why they did what they did. I loved how they summoned Gandhi and King and John Dear and Dorothy Day - yay.

From Simon Moyle’s evocation of the nonviolent Jesus.; Krystal Spencer's bold solidarity with Indigenous Australians and their Country; Sarah’s appeal that they were “everyday Australians armed with another message : ‘Love at All Costs’; Simon Reeves’ argument about concerning the 3 harms of Talisman Sabre and his own compulsion to intervene in those harms on humanity and the Earth each person was particularly lovely there in the court room. Each participant spoke thoughtfully from the heart and with the Spirit of God shining forth.

Blessed Be.

Margaret Pestorius