The war on ice and its unexpected consequence: The Great Australian Methamphetamine Flood

The Illicit Drug Data Report (IDDR) is the annual summary of the “progress” of Austalia’s endless War on Drugs.

Produced by the Australian Crime Intelligence Commission (ACIC), Australia’s national criminal agency, their most recent snapshot of the drug war, IDDR 2016/17, records that the 154,650 Australian drug arrests that year was enough to fill AAMI stadium three times. Imagine that! We’ve reached the level of three AAMI stadiums full of drug arrests a year!

A record twenty-seven tonnes of illicit drugs were seized that year too, twice the weight of a QE2 anchor, the IDDR boasts; so the rampaging illicit drug market has grown so huge, it can comfortably drag this staggering weight of seizures in its wake. If only our government could “grow” other industries so well!

In his preface ACIC CEO Michael Phelan reports that the drugs markets in Australia remain ‘resilient’, though the enormous numbers of drug arrests suggest that ‘rampant’ would be a more accurate characterisation.

In another carefully measured euphamism, he calls Australia’s methamphetamine market ‘large and intractable’, but, as the graph below shows, ‘going gang-busters’, is a far more accurate assessment. This graph of amphetamine seizures at the border over the most recent decade exhibits the unambiguous profile of a methamphetamine flood.


The graph illustrates the weight (and number) of amphetamines seizures at the Australian border in each financial year for the decade before 2016/17. The period between 2011 and the present is what I call the Great Australian Methamphetamine Flood when enormous amphetamine seizures from overseas criminal gangs began to be detected at the Australian border, which turned rapidly into the present unprecedented flood. The cause of this flood, ironically, was the war on ice itself and the extraordinary high price of ice caused by the war.

The war on ice

Now into its tenth year, the war on ice is portrayed as an outstanding success by the media and government. Under this tough-on-drugs, lock-all-users-up approach, Australia has spent tens of billions on law enforcement, while spending relatively little on treatment, trying to arrest our way out of the problem.

The policy has proved counter-productive because the anti-ice propaganda (remember those sensationalist Ice Kills ads?) is dismissed by users, despite their appeal to non-users. Most users are not having problems and when they do, being demonised makes recovery difficult because it cuts their support from family and friends.

Unlike Portugal, which treats drugs as a health problem and pours its money into treatment, we try to solve the problem using police, courts and prisons, with shock tactics, with military-style assaults, believing that we will win the war through shock and awe. As drug offences sky- rocket, the cost of drug law enforcement (called Cost DLE in the table below – the amount of government money spent on the police, prisons and courts securing these drug arrests) increases proportionally.

Illicit drug arrests     2010/11   2013/14   2016/17

Cannabis                     58,760       66,684       77,549

Amphetamines             12,897       26,269       47,531

Heroin                         2,551        2,771        2,970        

Cocaine                       838          1,466           3,306

Total                          84,757      112,049    154,600

Cost DLE                    $1,200m   $1,750m   $2,633m

Sources: Illicit drug arrest figures are from IDDR (2016-17). COST DLE for 2010/11 is based on estimates in Jiggens (2013) and Richter et al, (2013); these papers estimate the cost of drug law enforcement that year as circa $1200 million, giving  an average cost per drug arrest of about $14,000 per drug offence for 2010/11. This is adjusted for inflation to give an average cost per drug offence for succeeding years, which is used to estimate Cost DLE for these years, using the equation, Cost DLE = av. cost/ drug arrest X no. drug arrests.

During these six years, we spent over $10 billion on drug law enforcement and received the methamphetamine flood as the unexpected consequence. While total drug arrests almost doubled because of the Tough on Drugs policy, increasing from 84,757 to 154, 600 between 2010/11 and 2016/17, the number of amphetamine-type-stimulants (ATS) arrests in Australia almost quadrupled from 12,897 to 47,531 as the police in Australia unleashed the war on meth. All that police attention that the war on ice brought should have caused the price of ice to rise, but after an initial spike, the price of ice remained puzzling stable, nonchalantly navigating the crackdown because Australia now had the highest-priced ice in the world!

For the police and government media departments, these were glory days. Record-breaking seizure followed record-breaking seizure; with every massive seizure, premiers and police commissioners, prime ministers and Border Force ministers, claimed victory. But no matter how big the seizure was, or how many stunning victories they announced, they never had any effect. The methamphetamine market wasn’t a market any more. It was an unprecedented flood.

Since May 2011 the Australian record for methamphetamine seizures has increased sevenfold, going from a then record seizure of 240 kilos that month, to a new record of 306 kilos in July 2012, to a newer record of 585 kilos in November 2012, to another record ice seizure of 849 kilos in November 2014, which in turn was surpassed by a new record seizure of 903 kilos in early 2017. This was soon topped by a seizure of 1.2 tonnes in Geraldton later that year.

This brings us to the massive seizures of 2019. The first of these, the so-called ‘tsunami of ice’, was 1.7 tonnes of meth that was discovered in California en route to Victoria in January 2019. This can’t be counted as an Australian record; rather it is included because it is the largest ever meth seizure in the USA, giving Australia the US record ice seizure as well!

The latest Australian record, the Australian tsunami, 1.6 tonnes of methamphetamine was discovered in a consignment of stereo speakers in Melbourne in June 2019. These twin meth tsunamis were both valued at $1.3 billion.

Each of these massive seizures were hailed by politicians and journalists as proof that the war on ice was a great success because the police were taking billions of dollars of drugs off the street, but these figures were a clever way to lie with statistics, inflating the actual value many hundreds of time, because they were based on a street value of about $1 million per kilo and not cost of methamphetamine production of a few thousand per kilo. The big picture was not one of continuing police success, as police spun the story, but one of a country swimming in illicit drugs because of its counter-productive prohibitionist drug policy.

When the Australian Federal Police (AFP) conducted the first of these enormous seizures on 4 May 2011, it earned breathless praise from Matt Doran, reporting for TEN news, who exhausted his superlatives describing how this massive bust had delivered ‘a monster blow to those who organise the traffic in deadly and illegal drugs’. It was, Doran continued, ‘an extraordinary 240 kilograms of ice with a street value in excess of S50M, the biggest bust in Australian history’. He declared it had ‘dealt a major, major blow to organised crime in Australia’.

But this major, major blow had no effect at all. As the graph of seizures shows, it was the first small wave of the approaching flood. In 2011, a two-hundred-kilo seizure was extraordinary. Since then they have become almost commonplace.

In the eight years since, the market has been in flood and the seizures have been huge and growing in size; the scale of the flood is unprecedented.

Since 2014, the police have claimed several seizures each with a street value greater than a billion dollars! The two most recent, the record US and Australian methamphetamine seizures, were valued at $1.2 billion.

In 2011, Matt Doran called a $50 million seizure ‘a major, major blow’. Eight years later, the market is many times larger and the big seizures, the tsunamis, are valued at over $1 billion. Of course, this is ‘street-value’; real production cost would be only a few million dollars, but with the potential to become billions of dollars once they are successfully smuggled into Australia: so the incentive to continue the flood is staggering! The enormous increase in the price of ice from a few thousands dollars per kilo to produce in countries like Thailand and Mexico to an Australian street value of a million dollars per kilo is entirely due to the huge amounts of money we spend on drug law enforcement, on policing, prisons and courts.

What the Drug War warriors won’t admit is that the cause of Australia’s ice flood is the war on ice itself, and the blowback from the police attempt to arrest their way out of the problem.

Before the flood, amphetamine-type stimulants were largely manufactured in Australia. In their 2012 annual report, the International Narcotics Control Board suggested that the recent crackdown on precursor chemicals in Australia caused the price of amphetamine-type stimulants to rise, which has in turn attracted the attention of foreign traffickers, seeking to take advantage of the potential for profits.

The initial police crackdown on home-bake and precursors shifted the balance of the methamphetamine market toward importation, and this is the reason for the record seizures at the border. Since the shortage caused by local law enforcement only drove prices higher, Australia became a focus for overseas gangs because it was the most profitable methamphetamine market in the world. Australia’s methamphetamine market was globalised and outsourced to the global amphetamine industry; the Mexican cartels, the Southeast Asian triads, and the outlaw motor cycle gangs of Canada and the US, who found the Australian ice market very attractive. The great Australian methamphetamine flood rolled in.

By giving Australia the highest priced methamphetamine in the world, the war on ice made Australia the target for these gangs and unleashed an unprecedented methamphetamine flood. As a result of the flood, seizures have increased sevenfold and amphetamine arrests have quadrupled, while price has remained stable.

Our prohibitionist policies criminalise all drug use, when our aim should be to treat drug abuse. While 90% of Australia’s illicit drug budget goes into law-enforcement, the Portuguese turned this on its head by decriminalising and diverting the money going to police into health and treating drug addiction as a health problem. Arresting your way out of the problem doesn’t work.

 Dr John Jiggens

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I am a journalist for 4ZZZ in Brisbane and 2BayFM in Byron Bay and a cannabis historian who has written many books about cannabis, including Sir Joseph Banks and the Question of Hemp and Marijuana Australiana and I am standing for the HEMP Party for the Senate in Queensland.

The HEMP Party is committed to ending the war on cannabis, which is undoubtedly the most useful plant on the planet. It treats a myriad of illnesses and is a valuable source of fibre, food and fuel.

Cannabis is an extraordinary medicine that was safely used by our ancestors for centuries. As an historian, I have documented how cannabis was one of the most important medicines in Australia before it was banned. Today 90% of the Australian public want cannabis to be legally available as a medicine, but Australian governments have legislated a fake version of medical cannabis legalisation that enriches their corporate mates, and forces most of the medical cannabis community to the black market

True cannabis legalisation can only exist when it becomes legal to grow our own!

The HEMP Party is committed to ending the war on cannabis users. Australian governments spend three billion dollars enforcing the drug laws and most of this is spent in the war on cannabis with close to 100,000 cannabis offences prosecuted each year.

Prohibition does not work.  All drug law enforcement does is to proportionally increase the price of illicit drugs, so prohibition acts as a multiplier for the black market: every dollar spent on drug law enforcement is worth $10 to the black market. Prohibition has created a $30 billion black market in illicit drugs.

 Roadside drug testing has become the latest way of persecuting cannabis users. Drug driving testing should be about impairment; instead it has become a law against the internal possession of cannabis, unfairly punishing people who might have used cannabis over a week ago. These laws need to be amended so they include a dose value based on impairment, similar to alcohol laws.

Separate cannabis the plant from the other illegal drugs. Regulate and tax it.

Dr John Jiggens HEMP candidate, Queensland

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Evan Whitton Tribute…/cracking-corruption-with-the-la…

Dr John Jiggens – My Tribute to Evan Whitton

Evan Whitton has died at the age of 90 after a journalistic career spanning several decades, five Gold Walkley awards and expossés of some of the country’s most insidious institutionalised police corruption.
Quentin Dempster, who presented the NSW edition of the 7.30 report for many years, spoke about Evan Whitton whom he got to know in the press box during the Fitzgerald Inquiry in Queensland.
Dempster said: “He saw the role of the journalist was to expose intellectual dishonesty.
“The virtue was for him was his pursuit of the truth.”
The interview with Quentin Dempster, was intercut with an interview of Evan Whitton, speaking in 2009 for a Sydney Living Museums project called Sin City, about the role of Fred Krahe in the murders of Det Sgt Don Ferguson at NSW police Headquarters, Shirley Briffman and Donald Mackay.,

Dr John Jiggens: Cracking corruption with the late Evan Whitton on Community Newsroom
Evan Whitton “came late to journalism,” says award-winning Australian journalist Quentin Dempster, “and through his career and other great works that he did he commanded the brief”. Evan Whitton has died at the age of 90 after a journalistic

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The Linc Stink

The Linc Stink

Queensland’s biggest environmental disaster.

In April, following a 10-week trial, Linc Energy Limited was found guilty by a jury of five counts of wilfully and unlawfully causing serious environmental harm at its underground coal gasification plant at Chinchilla in the western Darling Downs.

Linc’s mine at Hopeland was described by Environment Minister Stephen Miles as potentially the biggest environmental disaster in Qld history. Appropriately, Judge Shanahan handed down a $4.5million fine, the largest environmental penalty in Qld history, but still well short of the enormous clean-up costs needed.

The mining technique, which Linc practiced at Hopeland, was an extreme form of fracking known as Underground Coal Gasification. Judge Shanahan explained it thus:

“Underground Coal Gasification is an aspect of the fracturing of coal seams colloquially known as fracking. The term fracking also covers a number of other processes. This actual process involves the setting fire to a coal seam underground and production of various gases that are used in particular processes, particularly the generation of power or, in relation to the Linc system, the conversion of the gas to liquid products, including fuel.”

Linc Energy was aware of the danger of contamination from fracturing both the coal and the adjacent overburden and allowing contaminants to escape. They said they knew the principles to be applied to ensure the safe operation of the project, but their frequent failures demonstrate otherwise.

The result was the Linc Stink, clouds of methane, hydrogen, hydrogen sulphide and carbon monoxide generated by the burn that escaped from the gasifiers and afflicted the animals, the workers and the farming families of this beautiful agriculture area for six years between 2007 and 2013.

The company, which was already in liquidation, did not defend the action and it is unknown whether any part of the record fine will be paid. Does a company escape from its requirements to repair environmental damage by declaring itself insolvent?  Over the next several years, the lawyers can anticipate a lavish picnic as they feast upon this question and the intricacies of the Corporations Act.



The five counts of causing serious environmental harm related to various gasifiers operated by Linc Energy on its site at Hopeland near Chinchilla.

In Underground Coal Gasification, the chambers that are dug in the coal seam, then set alight are known as gasifiers. The first two counts of the indictment involved the operation of a site known as Gasifier 2 or G2 between March, 2007, to June, 2008.

Linc said they knew of the need for appropriate site selection, including assessing the nature of the overburden, and the presence of any pre-existing fractures in the landform, yet the operation of G2, which resulted in damage to the landform that spanned up to two kilometres, loss of containment and escape of contaminants, including gasses bubbling to the surface.

The manager of operations reported to the CEO of the disastrous operation of G2, and the company replaced this failure with another gasifier, G3, which was sited only some 100 metres from the G2 site.

The G3 seam was ignited in August 2008. Once again, there were widespread well failures, gas bubbling at wellheads and a significant concentration of contaminants in monitoring bores. Decommissioning of G3 was recommended In March 2009, but it went on operating until the end of May.

Linc’s technical team advised in April 2009  that the Chinchilla site was not a feasible site to operate a fourth gasifier due to damage to landform of the previous gasifiers. Nonetheless, management directed the technical team to find another site there.

Gasifier 4 operated between 2 February 2010 and 20 February 2012 with the same faults: monitoring bores detected high concentrations of contaminants; gas was escaping in puddles from one of the water bores, so it was nicknamed Mr Bubbles. When a regulator visited the site, Mr Bubbles was covered by some sort of crusher dust so that the bubbling could not be seen.

The last gasifier, G5, operated between two years from October 2011 to December 2013,  in spite of a report from senior staff  that the site was unsuitable because of significant fracturing. Before the operation of G5, the company applied to the regulator to extend the limits of possible contamination to a much larger area than had been previously acknowledged. Judge Shanahan said:

“Also, a decision was made to stop the voluntary testing of groundwater samples for an extended period of time. It seems to me that that was a clear indication that Linc was well aware of the damage that was being done and was attempting to hide it from the regulator. It seems to me that that is a particular aggravating feature.

“ …during the operation of G5, the defendant was made aware of significant concentration of contaminants being detected in monitoring bores and shallow wells during its operation. It was advised of a detection of benzene, a product of the UCG process, being found in a shallow well …  G5 continued in operation to December 2013.  In my view, the defendant was plainly ignoring the information it was receiving and continued with its operations.”

Judge Shanahan concluded that Linc frequently ignored the advice it was getting from its own team of scientists. The offences were serious and extensive and proceeded over seven years. Judge Shanahan said:

“Each gasifier was operated in a manner that resulted in explosive and toxic gases, tars and oils escaping into parts of the landform.

“The offences have resulted in a contamination of the groundwater system that will require monitoring and remediation for many years to come. The land also faced ongoing explosive and toxicity risks in relation to the escape of contaminants.”

Tens of millions of dollars have been spent, dealing with the impact of the contamination offences. Judge Shanahan concluded that the company put its commercial interests well above its duty to conduct its processes in a way to safeguard the environment. His judgement was:

“In the operation of earlier gasifiers, my view is that Linc ignored the obvious risks and continued on. But in relation to the two later offences, my view is that Linc acted with clear knowledge of the environmental damage and made commercial decisions to proceed. …  My view is the purpose of this ecological vandalism was purely commercial.”

It remains to be seen if the company will pay any of the $4.5 million fine as it is in liquidation. CEO Peter Bond is selling off his assets, including the Dunk Island resort, and his Fig Tree Pocket mansion, snapped up for only $7.5 million by Clive Palmer. In the coming months, Peter Bond and other Linc Directors are due to face criminal charges under new legislation. Affected farmers are organising a class action against the government for approving the technology.

The Linc Stink is spreading.

The response of the Environment Defenders Office Queensland  is here.

Judge Shanahan’s judgement can be found here (pdf).

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Gumboot Guru, Alan Knight, AKA ‘Perfect Bastard’, dead

(Alan Knight, 1949-2017)

Alan Knight, aka the Perfect Bastard, one-time guru of the Aquarius Festival’s Gumboot Cult, infamous student cynic, ABC journalist and academic, died in West Concord hospital of cancer in February 2017.

Jim Beatson recalls his fellow 4ZZZ elder when they were young students, plotting an alternative radio station in Brisbane in 1973.

”Alan had a big impact on my life; we shared a house together for a while with other troublemakers at the back of Toowong. Most of the early plotting and scheming about trying to create a radio station took place in his Semper office, under the innocuous Union Media Committee title. Alan had a wicked sense of humour and as Semper editor, I remember him printing an article with a photograph of a Volvo, which Brian Laver had just purchased, labelled “Join the Revolvolution”.

[Brian Laver was a radical student activist, the inspiring voice of Brisbane’s remarkable, pioneering radical movement.]

“Not many people knew that Alan was quite a cartoonist as well. He once produced a poster, showing a very po-faced Brian Laver, in his best Che Guevara boots, addressing the masses at the University, reading from a very long sheet of paper which rolled off into the distance, with the heading “List of Unattainable Demands.”

“Alan was particularly good at giving all of his friends a serve in Semper. I fondly remember him calling me in an article, “a squinty-eyed near hunchback.”

In the year when he was Semper editor and plotting 4ZZZ with Jim Beatson, Alan Knight founded the cult of the Cosmic Gumboot to counter the considerable amount of cosmic bulldust being sprinkled on the fields of Nimbin during the Aquarius Festival.

Any brand of salvation you wanted could be found at the Aquarius Festival in a section of the main camping ground that became known as the Soul Supermarket: there you would find the Yoga Centre, the Krishnas, the Children of God, and the Divine Lighters, the Divine Light Mission, who worshipped the fourteen-year-old Perfect Master, whom they showered with limousines.
The ecstatic moment that triggered the Gumboot Cult was the morning when Paul Joseph and the Magic Circle wandered through the misty fields of young hippies, singing ‘May the long time sun shine upon you’.
In response, Alan and other Brisbane students conferred with the Dingo Pack, a Melbourne street theatre group, and together they plotted the Revenge of the Gumboot.
That night the Gumboot was carried aloft on a pole like a sacred standard while Alan hopped behind, carrying his other gumboot, dodging the cow turds as he channelled the bullshit.
Unlike the Magic Circle, who had copied The Incredible String Band song, they had written their own. It was based on the Hare Krsna chant, beginning, Hare Gumboot! Hare Gumboot! Gumboot! Gumboot! Hare! Hare!, then cycling progressively through Hare Nimbin!, Hare brown rice!, Hare meat pies!, and on and on and on, while the Dingo Pack sang and pranced and danced like the Magic Circle, only more energetically and absurd.
The great thing about the Aquarius Festival was the way people joined in events like the Gumboot procession. Winding through the fields, they picked up a large crowd. By the time they reached the Soul Supermarket, the Gumboot Cult had more followers than anyone.
In an inspiring channeling of ‘The Farce”, Alan revealed himself as the Perfect Bastard, expounded on the mystery of the Cosmic Gumboots, Yin and Yang, and expressed his relatively humble desire (compared to other gurus) to be showered with an electric Blue Ford Escort.
After his student days, Alan held many positions at the ABC, not just limited to annoying the militant feminist staffers at Triple J where he was the newsroom’s head.

When he finally got the gig of being the industrial roundsman for ABC TV, he knew he had to sound the part. So he copied an amalgam at that time of the ABC copperplate singsong voice. Viewers could not tell whether he was deliberately trying to send up the ABC’s ‘reporter voice’ or just epitomising its style.

Needless to say, Management assumed he was taking the piss, which he probably was, and which he denied with his mock serious smile. As his career prospered, he spent years as an ABC foreign correspondent in Asia and China.

In a distinguished academic career, Alan Knight was a Professor of Journalism at Central Queensland University, then at Queensland University of Technology (QUT).

I recall him relating how a quip he made about his head of department led to his departure from QUT, and seeing him smiling his impish smile, delighted by his own humour.

His departure from QUT took him to a better place. He joined the Journalism Department of the University of Technology (UTS), ending his days as Emeritus Professor of Journalism at CQU.

In these years, I would ring him for the Brisbane Line to comment on media controversies and he was great radio talent: waffle-free, his wit tamed by age, but still waspish.

When I heard about his cancer, I cried, but I recall him now with a smile, a funny guy, impish and mischievous; disruptive, when the word still meant something.

Jim Beatson writes, “Alan was a magnificent, annoying bastard, yet quite shy and loving in a quiet way that we have all known and loved over many decades. A real Aussie larrikin and a devoted inquiring reporter of the principled kind.”

Vale Perfect Bastard!

May flights of gumboots sing thee to thy grave!

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The myth of ANZAC

Mark Cryle: The myth of Anzac

Australian governments have spent $325 million dollars on the hundredth commemoration of the Australian and New Zealand invasion of Turkey in 1915 (largely ignoring the British, French, Senghalese, and Indian contributions), a commemoration which reaches its peak today. Over the century an enormous propaganda campaign has tried to establish ANZAC Day as Australia’s co-called ‘foundation myth’. But how real is this foundation myth? How was the myth made? MARK CRYLE is a historian writing his PhD on the history of ANZAC Day. In this interview with 4ZZZ’s Dr John Jiggens he discusses the history and the prehistory of Anzac Day.



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The heroism of Chelsea Manning

Ciaron O’Reilly on the heroism of Chelsea Manning (Bay FM interview)
Anchor: Ciaron O’Reilly is an Australian anti-war activist who served two years in US and Irish prisons as a result of Ploughshare actions against the wars in Iraq. O’Reilly has devoted the last six years to solidarity actions for Julian Assange and Chelsea Manning.He spoke to Bay-FM’s Dr JOHN JIGGENS about the release of Chelsea Manning.
JJ: Ciaron O’Reilly what is your reaction to the release of the US military whistleblower Chelsea Manning after seven years imprisonment?

CO: Great relief. At the end of last year I was fairly convinced that Chelsea would attempt suicide again. There were two suicide attempts at the end of last year and it looked very bleak. It felt like she was coming to the realisation that she couldn’t do the rest of her 35 year sentence. So it was great relief.

Chelsea is very much a hero for our time and it is important to have such acts of heroism recognised. I think it is very important to build up a culture of solidarity with our people who are facing court or are in prison. I think the anti-war movement failed to do that with Chelsea Manning and Julian Assange.

I think people have to learn about solidarity. When you march against the war – and in London 2 million people marched against the war in 2003 – you implicitly incite people to non-violently oppose the war and to take risks against the war.

Ironically if you look at most of the resistance against the war, most of it, even the non-violent resistance, has come from people in the military, in terms of jail sentences, refusing to deploy, putting their weapons down and denouncing the war.

More of that kind of resistance came out of the military rather than the civilian anti-war movement. I think there’s a lot of posturing – there is this good phrase, what they call ‘virtue signalling’ – instead of real organising and resistance and solidarity.

This is a long war. It began 26 years ago. Chelsea was only four years of age at that stage when George Bush senior attacked Iraq, dropping the equivalent of eight Hiroshimas on the people of Iraq. After that it morphed into the sanctions under the Clintons, killing a million children by denying basic medical supplies and other equipment. And then, of course, a full-blown invasion under George Bush Junior and the occupation, and now it’s at another phase with IS, which we know organised in the dungeons and prisons of Iraq, so it’s been a long war. Chelsea was only 14 when the invasion happened in 2003, a war which she became part of when she was deployed there a few years later.
So the war hasn’t gone away. It is the anti-war movement that has gone away.

JJ: Why did you get involved in the solidarity campaign for Chelsea Manning?

CO: It comes out of my own experience of being an anti-war prisoner. I spent about two years in prison in the United States, and also Australia and Ireland, and I learned about the importance of solidarity, nourishing the spirits of political prisoners. I also felt that nonviolent resistance and exposing the war is the most significant thing that can be done. I think there is not much non-violent resistance going on at the moment because there is not a culture of solidarity. It is very significant to build a culture of solidarity, building that praxis.
Many historians argue that Chelsea’s exposure led to the Arab spring. They also probably led to the United States pulling out militarily. Once US war crimes had been exposed to the Iraqi government, they wouldn’t grant American troops immunity. That’s the reason why Obama withdrew the troops initially.

JJ: I am looking at a photo of you with Chelsea Manning’s mother Susan. How did you come to meet Chelsea’s mother and the family?

CO: Yeah, well most of our activism before the court martial in 2013 and the sentencing was in London and we did a lot of presence, along with Veterans for Peace and others at the U.S. embassy, whenever Chelsea was brought to court. The court martial ended up being three months long and once the sentencing happened we were in Britain and that’s where the maternal family was.

Chelsea’s mother Susan is a Welsh woman who met an American soldier, and married. The first child was born in Wales and then Bradley was born ten years later in Oklahoma. So she has six sisters and one brother and I travelled up to meet them after the sentencing and they had an Irish father themselves. Chelsea’s maternal family was from Dublin.
So I had a lot of contacts in Ireland from my own trials there, anti-war trials. It was a great move at the end of 2013 to bring the family over to Dublin. And Gerry Conlon who was one of the Guilford 4, the film “In the Name of the Father” was based around his experience – he served sixteen years in jail for something he didn’t do – he was willing to come down from Belfast and we had quite a big event. It was the first time the family of Chelsea Manning was with a large group of people that actually supported what she’d done.
That relationship developed, and actor/playwright Donal O’Kelly within about six weeks of that event brought a dozen artists, musicians and activists over to Wales. And there was probably five or six occurrences like that over the last 3 years when the family has come to Ireland. This Sunday actually, Chelsea’s mother will be in Dublin for a celebration of the release.

JJ: The family have issued a media statement about Chelsea’s release. It begins, “Chelsea has endured seven years loss of liberty for her whistleblowing actions while those whose wrongdoing she exposed have gone unpunished.” Could you speak to that?
CO: Chelsea is arrested when she is 22. She was actually in the military I think for a year or two before that. And was heavily bullied in the military, was actually been discharged when they needed more techie people in Iraq. And then was deployed to – I think it was Operation Base Hammer in Baghdad. And she came across evidence of war crimes and initially went to her commanding officer and said “this looks like a war crime!” and was told to ignore it, and then leaked the information.

Initially Manning tried to approach the New York Times and the Washington Post, but they weren’t interested, before going to WikiLeaks. So she was arrested in May of 2010. Their priority always, I believe, has been to get Julian Assange. She was initially tortured in Kuwait. She was kept in a cage in a tent where they kept changing the light and disrupting sleep, and other harassment before being taken to Quantico where she was also put in isolation and tortured – I think with the hope of breaking her to make up a story implicating Julian Assange.

JJ: What do you think of the mainstream media’s coverage of this issue?

CO: I think what they have learnt since Vietnam is how to wage war on the imperial perimeter, in this case in Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen and Africa, while keeping a sense of normalcy at the centre, in North America, United States, Europe, Australia. In Australia we have troops from Brisbane’s Gallipoli Barracks deployed in the Iraq theatre at the moment. And we have bombers from Amberley dropping bombs from on high on Syria

You wouldn’t know it, there is no anti-war movement, there’s no tension about this. Occasionally someone is killed and they bury them, a bit of a form sentimentality rolled out by the government when that occurs. So the media plays a very, very significant role in maintaining a sense of normalcy while war is being waged. And all that is asked from us during this period, unlike Vietnam when they had conscription, unlike WW2 when they had rationing and a whole society mobilised for war, is our silence and our sedation.

All they ask of us is to avert our gaze and look the other way. And that’s what Manning refused to do in Iraq. She could have easily looked the other way and never had suffered for the last seven years.

It’s a great testimony to her heroism that she refused to do that!


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The Seige of Julian Assange


Ciaron O’Reilly is an Australian activist who has spent the past years supporting Julian Assange, acting as a non-violent bodyguard for him during his court appearances, and vigiling outside the Ecuadorian embassy.
In this interview with Bay-FM’s Dr JOHN JIGGENS he gives a picture of Assange’s life in his Ecuadorian asylum, under seige by the police, while the spectre of rendition to the US holds him a prisoner there.

JJ: Ciaron O’Reilly, firstly can you describe Julian Assange’s living quarters in the Ecuadorian embassy.
CO: Yes the Ecuadorian embassy is located in a building just across a small road from Harrods. The embassy only takes up half of the ground floor, so as you enter the building on the left is the Ecuadorian embassy and on the right is the Colombian embassy. The Ecuadorian embassy is about five rooms, Julian is in one of these rooms. At the moment he is in a small room at the back of the building. There is no natural source of sunlight for him, only a small area to move around in. For three years the British police were visibly surrounding the building. Initially they had dozens and dozens of police there when Julian first entered the embassy five years ago.
Just before the United Nations ruled the detention was illegal, that it was arbitrary detention, the Christmas before last, they took away the visible policing. They had spent 11 million pounds on sustaining a 24/7 police presence outside the embassy. And when you consider the Chillcot Inquiry into the Iraq War – why Britain was in Iraq – cost 10 million pounds, it’s pretty ridiculous and outrageous.

JJ: So how is Julian handling his confinement?
CO: He is a remarkable person. He is obviously very bright and very committed to his work. He has pretty much been doing this stuff since he was 16 or 17, so that’s nearly 30 years I guess. And I think it is really the work that sustains and nourishes him in these tough times.
He is someone of great mental and psychic strength, to be under this pressure, not knowing when this will end – when this arbitrary, indefinite detention will come to an end. So it’s not like doing a jail sentence when you’ve got a finishing line in mind and a finishing date. It is an open ended kind of eternal now.

JJ: Why did Sweden drop the charges against him?
CO: Well there were never any formal charges. There was an inquiry and when it started in 2010 Julian reported to a police station in Stockholm and the Chief Prosecutor of Stockholm came to the conclusion that there was no absence of consent, there was no crime, and he could go on his way, which he did. And then another Prosecutor in Gothenburg resurrected the inquiry. So there was never any formal charges.

I think this Marianne Ny, this Prosecutor, her mission, or vendetta, or whoever she was working for… it didn’t require much effort from her. She pretty much sat on her arse for the last five years and wouldn’t come to England and interview Julian. Julian was quite willing to be interviewed in England before he went into the embassy and while he’s been in the embassy or he could have been interviewed via Skype. She finally, they came in December last year and the conclusion they reached is that they are now finishing the inquiry.

JJ: So even tho the Swedes have dropped the charges, the British police are still determined to arrest him. Why is there such a determined exertion by Britain, the United States and Sweden to get him?
CO: The big thing, and why Julian has received political asylum from the government of Ecuador, is the case the United States has been building against him and WikiLeaks through the Grand Jury. America is an empire and you even had Julia Gillard, the Labor Prime Minister of Australia, offer to take away Julian’s citizenship and passport back in 2010, when this first came out. So that’s a Labor government willing to turn over Julian, let alone the British or the Americans. So that’s an ongoing inquiry and the head of the C.I.A. came out recently at a press conference and said it was a big priority for the new administration to pursue Julian and WikiLeaks

JJ: If the US get their hands on Assange, what fate awaits him.
CO: I think anything from execution, to life without parole, to a similar sentence to that Chelsea Manning got. I remember in 2010 when I first heard of Julian, I thought this is the guy in history who has pissed off the most amount of powerful people in the shortest amount of time. And he hasn’t backed off from the work he has chosen to do with his life and he is still upsetting lots of powerful people.
All he has done is what the New York Times and the Guardian and other newspapers did, which is to publish these leaked, classified documents. If they are going to pursue Julian, they should pursue the Guardian and the New York Times as well. That’s an argument still to be had. I suppose that if Julian stepped out of the embassy now, the police would arrest him and I assume that the Americans would have an extradition warrant ready for him. He could appeal that, and there would be some legal struggle in England, but I guess he would be put on trial in the United States.

JJ: In its first four years, WikiLeaks broke story after story that shook the powers of the world. Given his extraordinary achievements as a journalist and publisher, what do you think of Assange’s treatment by the mainstream media?

CO: I think most contemptible has been for Guardian newspaper which he worked with on the releases in 2010, who’ve abandoned him and also abandoned other whistleblowers like Edward Snowden – people willing to put themselves at risk and then are exploited by what’s supposed to be a liberal left media newspaper.
The Guardian’s consistent character assassination and attacks on Julian has probably undercut what natural forces of support that would have come from England from the liberal left. There’s a lot of hostility to Julian in England, much more so than in Australia and United States, and that’s got a lot to do with the campaign the Guardian has run.
Why they have run these lines? There’s a number of different theories: one is that they detest him because he’s basically an Australian hippy kid and they are all upper class people who have gone through Oxford and Cambridge and they resent the rock star status that he had in 2010. But I was talking to a Guardian feature writer on one occasion and he said, no, it’s more serious than that. He said what journalists value is being the gatekeeper of secrets, who get to know how much they get to know and when they get to know. And WikiLeaks comes along with the primary data and throw it up in the air and says, go work it out yourself! So it kind of undermines and undercuts their economic base and their status as journalists.
The Guardian’s technique is to create cynicism around Julian to accuse him of being arrogant – as if they’re not! (laughs). And it really is a cowardly response from Australians, or the left in London, or whoever, to have a cynical position about someone who is indefinitely detained in London for exposing the machinations of the US war machine. It is outrageous and people need to be outraged by it.

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Was Australia intended as a hemp colony?

Robyn Williams:  There’s as book on my desk which features the glossy portrait of a man you know in all his finery, red sash, large medallion, buttoned great coat and the face – all authority, determined jaw and imposing brow; for it is Sir Joseph Banks, whose name resounds all over Australia from Bankstown to banksias representing our firm link to a scientific tradition from the very beginnings of the European colony.  But then there’s the title of the book Sir Joseph Banks and the Question of Hemp.  Can this be serious? Was Joe a hippy? What’s the story?  Well here for your edification and mine is historian Dr John Jiggens – make of it what you will.

John Jiggens:  In 1995 I helped organise an Australian tour for Jack Herer, the author of a book called The Emperor Wears No Clothes, which was subtitled the true authoritative history of cannabis hemp.  Herer was an amateur historian and a crusader against marijuana prohibition who had discovered that marijuana was also this plant called hemp, which had once been an extremely important plant, but was now banned because it was said to be an evil drug plant.  During his research Herer discovered the founding fathers of the US, George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, had grown hemp, while the sixth president, John Quincy Adams, had even written an essay on the growing of hemp in Russia when he was Consul there.

Herer concluded that hemp had been the most important plant on the planet and he developed the theory that marijuana prohibition had come about as a back door attempt to make hemp illegal.  Hemp had been banned because of the economic competition it offered to the plastic industry, to paper from trees and to new synthetic fibres like Nylon.

As a historian I found Herer’s history of cannabis remarkable, yet he was such a cannabis enthusiast that some of his conclusion seemed far-fetched. I set to work researching the history of hemp in Australia and I was surprised to discover that Herer’s claims about hemp’s historical importance were justified. From reading the documents about the founding of Australia and from reading books like Blainey’s The Tyranny of Distance I came to see how central concerns about hemp were in Britain in 1786 when the decision for New South Wales was made.

The history we had been taught at school that convicts were the original reason for settlement was simply a cover story.  New South Wales was intended as a hemp colony. For Europeans in the Age of Sail, cannabis did not mean marijuana; it meant hemp, the long vegetable fibre extracted from the stem of the European hemp plant.  The word canvas comes from the Dutch word for cannabis.  To fit out a first rate man-of-war required 80 tons of hemp for sails, cables and rigging and to produce that much hemp 320 acres of Cannabis sativa had to be grown.  Because it was the basis for sail and rope, hemp was as central to sea power and empire in the Age of Sail as oil is in our era.

Just as the oil industry provides the technological basis for our commerce and our warfare, 200 years ago hemp was basic to the technology of war and trade.  As oil supplies and alternatives to oil occupy some of the greatest minds of our era, 200 years ago, Sir Joseph Banks was preoccupied with hemp supplies and alternatives to hemp.

In the course of my research I became aware that Sir Joseph Banks played a central role in planning the colony of New South Wales and that Banks was deeply interested in hemp. Just as the founding fathers of the US were hemp enthusiasts, so was the founding father of Australia.  My breakthrough came while reading Joseph Maiden’s biography, Sir Joseph Banks – The Father of Australia, where I discovered a reference to a file in the Kew Banks’ collection called Hemp 1764-1810. For many years I have been sifting through this file, laboriously deciphering Banks’ gout-crippled handwriting, trying to understand the history it contained.  Having long suspected Banks’ central role in British hemp policy I was pleased to discover that the file more than confirmed my view.

The conventional explanation for the British settlement of New South Wales was that Britain needed to find an alternative outlet for disposing of its burgeoning criminal classes.  Since the British sent out convicts on the First Fleet it seemed reasonable to believe that they simply wanted Australia as a gaol.  Yet the cost of establishing a convict settlement halfway round the world was so great that historians like K. M. Dallas suggested that ‘the dumping of convicts view’ was too simple and that there were hidden reasons.

In Sir Joseph Banks and the Question of Hemp I suggest that the hidden reason  behind the settlement in New South Wales was the need for a replacement hemp colony, rather than a replacement prison. My analysis of the hemp trade between 1776 and 1815 shows that the need for a hemp colony was a recurring theme in British strategic thinking during the Georgian era.

Banks’ hemp file was my entry point to the question of hemp.  In 1797 at the height of the French Revolutionary Wars Sir Joseph Banks was appointed to the Privy Council Committee of Trade, the main instrument of the British state dealing with trade and colonies. At this crucial point in the struggle with France, Banks assumed charge of hemp policies for the British Empire.  The file, ‘Hemp 1764 to1810’ contained Banks’ working papers on hemp during this period.  The major document in this file was a report on the hemp question that Banks delivered to the Committee of Trade in 1802.

An important reason for the differing opinions about the founding of Australia is that we lack substantial documentation to explain the intent of the British government in 1786. Apart from the 15 paragraphs in the Heads of a Plan for Botany Bay there is an historical vacuum.  One of the 15 paragraphs in the Heads of a Plan is concerned with the importance of the New Zealand hemp plant for naval supplies.  There is substantial corroborative evidence in the journals and the letters of the early governors and officers to support the hemp colony theory; however this paragraph has been the major evidence that British government concerns over hemp prompted the Botany Bay decision.

This explains why Banks’ Privy Council file on hemp and the Indian Office files on the Indian hemp experiment are so important.  What these files disclosed was a second British hemp experiment in the Georgian era in India, but a much better documented hemp experiment, with the question of hemp comprehensively addressed in Banks’ report to the Committee of Trade and in George Sinclair’s memorial to the East India Company. Although there is a dearth of documentation on the New South Wales hemp experiment, these files on the Indian hemp experiment contained hundreds of pages of discussion and analysis of the hemp question.  Because of the short interval between the two hemp experiments, it can be confidently inferred that the benefits that were advanced for the Indian hemp trial were identical to those that prompted the New South Wales hemp trial.

Banks’ scheme to solve the question of hemp with cannabis plantations in India was undone by an error in cannabis taxonomy.  Although he was informed that hemp grew well in India, the cannabis of India, Cannabis indica, was different from Cannabis sativa;  Indian hemp or ganga had been developed as an inebriant, not a fibre crop.  Because they looked similar, the British assumed the plants were the same and that the Indians were foolishly ignorant of ganga’s quality as a hemp. And so the British grew plantations of ganga for hemp in India, unaware that they were trying to turn dope into rope.

But ganga, Cannabis indica, is a separate species to hemp, it is not a fibre crop just as hemp is not a drug crop. As well as revealing British hemp policies, Banks’ hemp file records his meeting with the Indian hemp plant. The existence of a drug variety of cannabis was puzzling to Banks and his investigators, because hemp does not have the same intoxicating qualities as ganga. Having procured a source of the drug Banks supplied the poet Coleridge with a quantity of Indian hemp.  Not only was Banks a substantial cultivator of the drug cannabis, he was also the first recorded supplier of drug cannabis in England!

The species question in cannabis is contentious, but over the centuries the polytypic theory of cannabis, the idea that there are several cannabis species, has developed.  First argued by Lamarck, Banks’ contemporary, and extended by the Russians in the early 20th century, the polytypic theory contends that there are three species of the genus cannabis, sativa, indica and ruderalis. This view is reinforced by the disappointment of Banks’ Indian hemp experiment, which failed because the British incorrectly assumed that the Indian hemp plant ganga was the same as European hemp.

In revealing how this error was made, I hope to clarify the cannabis debate and allow for more sensible cannabis laws.  At the moment hemp, Cannabis sativa, is regulated as though it were ganga, Cannabis indica. We ban hemp on the pretext that it is marijuana.  As a consequence the growing of hemp is illegal in many jurisdictions and in others it is so heavily regulated that the industry can barely survive.  I hope that this disambiguation of hemp and marijuana will aid the revival of this important plant.

In its day hemp was the most important vegetable on the planet.  During the age of oil hemp has been dethroned, slandered and banned.  The resulting mineralisation of the economy has been a major cause of growth of greenhouse gasses.  The re-vegetabilisation of the economy that a revival of the hemp industry will bring offers us the chance to change this.

Robyn Williams: Dr John Jiggens in Brisbane maybe he wants us to return to sail, it’ll be more serene, unless there’s a storm of course, but should take a little longer.  His book is Sir Joseph Banks and the Question of Hemp.  I’m Robyn Williams


Herer, Jack The Emperor Wears No Clothes, Ah Ha Publishing, Van Nuys, CA, 1985

Hemp 1764-1810, Kew Banks Collection

Dallas M The First Settlement in Australia, considered in relation to sea-power in world politics THRA P&P, 1952, No. 3,12,

Hemp and Flax 1790-1805,IOR/H/375

Heads of a Plan for Botany Bay, Historical Records of New South Wales, Volume 1 part 2

Schultes, Richard Evans, Klein, William M, Plowman, Timothy and Lockwood Tom E. Cannabis: An example of Taxonomic Neglect (Cambridge, Mass: Harvard Botanic Museum, 1974

To order book go to Sir Joseph Banks



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Seneca, Revenge and Game of Thrones

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