Published on Sunday, September 11, 2005 by The Age (Australia)
Visiting US Peace Activist Arrested
by Andra Jackson
AN AMERICAN environmentalist and peace activist, in Australia to talk about non-violent methods of protest, has been arrested as a security threat.
History teacher Scott Parkin, 35, was arrested by the Australian Federal Police in Melbourne on Saturday as he traveled to a workshop he was conducting on the US peace movement. Last night he was being held at the Melbourne Custody Center.
An Immigration Department spokesman confirmed he had been arrested on "character grounds" at its request and he would be deported "as soon as practicable".
The move has sparked outrage among politicians, refugee groups, environment and legal groups.
At the end of a week in which the Federal Government put forward unparalleled anti-terrorist arrest and detention provisions, they say Mr Parkin's arrest highlights the abuses to which such sweeping powers are open.
The high-profile American activist works for Houston Global Awareness and writes for on-line magazine Zmag. He was arrested under the Immigration Act, which allows the deportation of any non-citizens who "incite discord in the Australian community or represent a danger to the Australian community".
The act also specifically allows a visa to be canceled where "a person's presence is, or would be, prejudicial to relations between Australia and a foreign country".
Mr Parkin, a community college instructor from Texas who gives talks on companies investing in Iraq, has been arrested a number of times in America.
He arrived in Australia three months ago on a six-month visitor's visa.
He was working with Greenpeace and had already given talks in Brisbane and Sydney and taken part in street theater protests outside the US corporation Halliburton during the recent Forbes meeting.
ASIO phoned him last Wednesday but he refused to attend a voluntary interview. Liz Thompson from the National Anti-Deportation Alliance, one of about 30 people protesting outside the Melbourne Custody Center yesterday, said: "This is a major attack on dissent, free speech and the anti-war movement."
Marika Dias, of Brimbank Community Legal Service, assisting Mr Parkin, said he had been declared a risk to national security without any evidence or a proper opportunity to tell his side of the story.
Opposition Leader Kim Beazley said he would seek a briefing on the matter.
Greens Senator Bob Brown called for an explanation from the Government, accusing it of appearing "to be doing the Bush Administration's bidding".
"He was granted a visa to enter the country, so his arrest contradicts the Government's own assessment of his credentials," he said.
Greenpeace Australia Pacific spokesman Dan Cass said: "The silencing of a peace activist for the 'crime' of satirizing US policy will only confirm many people's worst fears."
Fitzroy Legal Service's Dan Nicholson said the real threat to security came from "Government officials who imprison and deport an innocent person because of his political views".
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