An American peace activist locked up in solitary confinement today instructed lawyers to appeal against the withdrawal of his visa.
The Government has refused to explain why it now considers Scott Parkin - who is being held in solitary confinement in Melbourne Custudy Centre - to be a security threat.
But Julian Burnside, QC, who is working with Greenpeace and Mr Parkin's lawyers on the case, said: "If all Mr Parkin has done to be assessed a security risk is to peacefully protest his opinions, then we are in serious trouble.
"The Govenrment must answer, why is peaceful protesting in Australia enough to justify deporting Mr Parkin?
"No Australian government should deport a person merely for their political beliefs.''
In a statement this afternoon, Greenpeace - which is providing legal help to Mr Parkin - said he had instructed his lawyers to appeal to the Migration Review Tribunal to review the basis on which his visa was withdrawn.
Greenpeace campaigns director Danny Kennedy said: "The burden of proof in the Scott Parkin expulsion case lies morally with the Commonwealth, to prove that he is a danger.
"When the Government brought in anti-terror legislation, they promised the public that these laws would only be used to confront a real and present risk of a terrorist attack, not a sweep-all approach against citizens.
"Peace is not terrorism. Peace is not a threat to national security. No democratic government should expel a foreign citizen because [it] opposes his political opinions."
Mr Burnside said he wanted to know why it took Australian authorities so long to act if Mr Parkin was indeed a security threat.
He told smh.com.au Mr Parkin had been in Australia for six weeks and had only participated in peaceful protest against the war in Iraq.
"The question then is, has he got an adverse security assessment because he's advocating peace, or something he did before he came to Australia?'' the barrister said.
"If it is because of something he did before he came to Australia, why did they give him a visa in the first place? And if it is because of something he's done in Australia, why won't they tell him what it is?"
Mr Burnside said national security legislation could render any legal challenge useless.
"We have the position where the Government won't tell him what he's done and in litigation can refuse to allow evidence to show what he's done.
"So he's in the position where he can be held indefinitely while he challenges this but may find out nothing about why he's being held," he said.
Mr Parkin was detained as he left a Melbourne cafe on Saturday morning, just hours before he was to deliver a workshop on non-violent protesting which was sponsored by the Pt'chang Non-violence Community Safety Group. (Pt'chang is supposedly the sound that having a good idea makes.)
The group's organiser, Iain Murray, said he had been the only non-legal representative to see Mr Parkin in custody.
"He's perplexed and baffled as to why he is considered a national security threat, considering that all he has done has been to hold workshops on non-violent activism and participate in street theatre," Mr Murray said.
"I feel confident that nothing that Scott has done in Australia could possibly constitute a threat to national security in Australia," he said.
The Pt'chang group asked Mr Parkin to run a workshop because the organisation Mr Parkin works for, the Houston Global Awareness Collective, was committed to non-violence, Mr Murray said.
An advertisement for the planned workshop said the Houston Global Awareness Collective advocated "people power" as a means to "exact social, political and economic cost on Halliburton for their operations in Iraq".
Mr Murray said ASIO had contacted Mr Parkin last Wednesday by phone and requested an interview with him.
"[Mr Parkin] asked if it would affect his stay in Australia and [ASIO] wouldn't tell him. He also asked if he was required to attend an interview and they said no, he wasn't. So he decided not to [be interviewed]."
Mr Parkin had been arrested in the United States at a protest against Exxon Mobile while he was "dressed as a fluffy tiger", Mr Murray said.
However, he did not know what he had been charged with.
Copyright © 2005 The Sydney Morning Herald