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By John Helmer, Moscow

Australia was the only country in the world to close its borders to its  own citizens during the COVID-19 pandemic, and then to force the few allowed to return into police detention for which the detainees were compelled to pay.

This dictatorship of coronavirus as a crime was created by Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who seized the national health, border control and finance powers for himself in secret from parliament and from his own government; and by Gladys Berejiklian (lead images), Premier of New South Wales, who ordered the scheme to compel travellers arriving at Sydney Airport to pay several hundred million dollars for a police operation fabricated to look like a quarantine health service.   

This book tells the story of a lawsuit in a Sydney court – the only one in the country to have challenged the legality of the COVID-19 quarantine fee scheme, and to uncover the lawlessness of the state camouflaged by media propaganda which most Australians have believed to be the truth — until now.

The classified government record — opened here for the first time — reveals the officials plotting, as they confided to each other, “to reduce opportunity for members of the public to dispute the application of the charging regime and proposal to impose fees for detention”. In more than a thousand pages of court files and a dozen hearings over a year, the lawsuit has exposed the attempt to shut the government’s files and close the case in violation of the state statutes and the precedents of Australian courts.    

Force, fraud and propaganda – the world glimpsed in surprise what was happening in Australia when the world tennis champion Novak Djokovic was arrested on his arrival in January 2022, and then ordered out of the country after his court case was dismissed.  The Djokovic case was not the exception – it was the Australian rule by force.  

This book reveals how effective state autocrats were at keeping up to 100,000 Australians out of the country during the pandemic years, and then at locking them up inside the country after they returned. The story documents how the courts have accepted the lawlessness of the politicians and the police. By their acquiescence, too, Australian journalists display themselves as kapos and collabos.

Those notorious words come from the time of German fascism in Europe.

In this story you follow how, little by little, a state of Australian fascism has developed by the use of force, fraud, and propaganda so effective their targets, the inhabitants of Australia, cannot resist because they no longer recognise what it means to live in lawlessness.

High government officials usually know better than to let slip the record of their secret meetings to hatch plans as illegal as locking up innocent citizens and forcing them – at police gunpoint – to pay for their imprisonment. By lucky chance of a freedom of information statute, this Australian secret has revealed, not only a $323 million fraud, but also the efforts of state lawyers, state courts, and judges to keep the secret, and keep the money from being repaid.

These officials will go to an election on March 25, 2023. In just three months’ time, Australia’s largest state, New South Wales (NSW), will vote to decide whether the officials led by a man called Dominic Perrottet, can lawfully succeed his patron, Premier Gladys Berejiklian, Police Commissioner Michael Fuller, Revenue Commissioner Scott Johnston and other state officials; whether they may be trusted with guns and money; and whether the court system they have run for more than a decade can be trusted with fresh power to interpret and enforce the laws of the state. Berejiklian and Fuller have already been forced out of their posts by investigations of alleged corruption. Morrison was defeated in the national election of last May; his replacement, Anthony Albanese, is preserving the quarantine secrets and keeping the state’s emergency powers for the future.

Left: the yoke and arrows is a symbolic badge dating back to the dynastic union of Spain's Catholic monarchs Ferdinand II of Aragon and Isabella I of Castile. Their successors continued to use it on their shields to represent a united Spain and symbolise what they insisted were the virtues of their people. The yoke and arrows became a political symbol of the fascist Falange when it was founded in 1934; during the Spanish Civil War it was used as one of the major emblems of the Nazi Germany-supported Nationalist faction. After they won the war, the Falange became the sole legal party in Spain; the yoke and arrows,  the symbol of the General Francisco Franco’s regime.  Right:  The coat of arms of New South Wales has been redrawn so that the fasces, Roman symbol of state authority,  have been placed inside the red gules (cross) instead of the British imperial lion and four mullets (stars). The original NSW coat of arms,  authorised by King Edward VII in 1906, represents the red cross of St George from the flag of the Royal Navy. The 8-pointed stars on each arm of the cross symbolise the Southern Cross constellation by which sailors navigated to reach the colony and the role of the British Navy in guarding it.    

From Chapter 1

High government officials don’t like being called to work on a Sunday morning unless it’s an emergency. But in Sydney on Sunday, July 12, 2020, there was an emergency – a billion dollars of emergency, as it would turn out.

The morning started cooler than was usual on the Australian latitude that matches Casablanca and Los Angeles. By the time the fog had burned off in the midwinter sun, the bureaucrats running the New South Wales (NSW) state government were sitting in front of their home computers, ready to resume the discussion where they had left off the Friday before. Open on their desks and computer screens were several pages drafted for their meeting by the Crown Solicitor’s Office, the state lawyers.

Days earlier the bureaucrats, the lawyers and the police had been ordered by the state premier Gladys Berejiklian to come up with a scheme to solve three urgent problems – how to keep Sydney’s airport, the largest in the country, open to arriving international passengers; ensure the arrivals could be securely quarantined against the coronavirus; and save the state treasury from an uncontrollable blow-out if the cost of the quarantine hotels continued to come out of the state budget. Berejiklian had decided to save the state’s money and compel the airport arrivals to pay for the lockup out of their own pockets instead.  She had told the state’s chief debt collector, Scott Johnston, to compose a plan that would appear to be legal but keep the details out of the state parliament, the press and the courts – so no one would notice it wasn’t legal at all…

Putting the police operation of the Sydney Airport quarantine first was the secret the state officials were discussing between themselves as the premier was speaking to the press. Making the “nation’s leading hotel quarantine system” look like a critical health protection and vital health service the quarantine passengers should be glad to pay for themselves required a list of more than a dozen executive orders, regulations, and memoranda Johnston was told to work out with the state police commissioner and the state lawyers. According to the six pages of classified record of their Sunday meeting, that’s exactly what they did.

They kept this secret for more than a year until the document recording their meeting slipped out unguarded in the only court case to challenge the legality of the quarantine fee in the state, or in the courts Australia-wide. Johnston and the Crown Solicitor’s Office then launched their counter-attack in court to keep the secret. It still is.

 Novak Djokovic tested the Australian courts first

In advance of his long planned arrival in Australia, Djokovic’s managers and agents had arranged the quarantine waiver which had been agreed between the Australian tennis administration and the federal and state health authorities; the Australian Open was staged in Melbourne so the state government directly involved was Victoria. The waiver arrangement was exceptional, but it was legal – and it was standard practice in Victoria as in New South Wales. However, this was not public knowledge in the country. Much better known to Australians was Djokovic’s principle of freedom of choice. To Morrison in Canberra and his subordinates this meant popular resistance, political opposition, an anti-vax conspiracy. By his tweet Djokovic appeared to the government in Canberra to be advertising a call for Australians to exercise the same freedom to choose as he had.

Djokovic had tested negative and was not infected with COVID-19, he posed no medical or health risk to Australians. However, Djokovic was a political risk – Morrison decided to stop that…

What followed was the first test in an Australian court – the proceedings live-streamed on the internet across the country – of the legality of the COVID-19 control and quarantine system. The outcome was victory for Morrison; Djokovic was ordered by three federal court judges to be deported. “Australians have made many sacrifices during this pandemic,” Morrison declared. “They rightly expect the result of those sacrifices to be protected.”

The judges agreed: “An iconic world tennis star may [sic] influence people of all ages, young or old, but perhaps especially the young and the impressionable, to emulate him. This is not fanciful; it does not need evidence. It is the recognition of human behaviour from a modest familiarity with human experience. Even if Mr Djokovic did not win the Australian Open, the capacity of his presence in Australia playing tennis to encourage those who would emulate or wish to be like him is a rational foundation for the view that he might foster anti-vaccination sentiment.”

May is a verb in the subjunctive mood, not the indicative. It’s a propaganda word, not a fact.

From Chapter 8

A dead pig has more legal rights in Australia than a live citizen. That is, if the country is ruled by law. If the law is administered without regard for the reasonableness of evidence and of law, then force and fraud rule – and not even a pig stands a chance.

More than a decade ago, a federal court judge in Sydney named Murray Wilcox ruled that the director of quarantine in Canberra had acted illegally in banning the importation to Australia of American pork. At the time there was a worldwide outbreak of a newly discovered virus affecting young pigs; it caused respiratory failure followed by death. The new virus called PMWS had mutated from a well-known one called PCV, but the experts weren’t sure how or why. They were sure it had started, not in China – then as now the world’s largest producer and consumer of pigs – but in Canada. Antibiotics and other medications used to treat pig disease failed to work.

The Australian government had ordered its own veterinary scientists and several consultants to prepare a risk analysis of the disease and how to stop it from infecting the Australian pig herd.  Their report ran for 767 pages plus data tables. The experts recommended that imports of pig meat would be allowed from any country so long it landed in a sealed container, the contents of which had been heated to at least one hundred degrees Celsius; this was thirty degrees hotter than the temperature already tested to be fatal against other pig viruses. Arriving pork by ship or plane uncooked and uncanned was allowed only from the south island of New Zealand….

The bottom line, declared the three appeal court judges, was that the pork importers had tried to put judges in the place of state officials in order to decide what viruses to quarantine and keep out of Australia. This was unlawful, so Wilcox’s judgement against the pork quarantine was dismissed. His effort “amounted to an attempt to move into the Court the exercise of risk assessment which Parliament has conferred on an administrative decision-maker.” So long as that official hadn’t acted irrationally, his decision stuck….

This is the Australian madness principle – it was the Australian rule for American pigs in 2005; it was still the rule for the Serbian tennis champion Novak Djokovic in 2022. But the thousands of dead pigs got their day in court – winning in the first round, losing in the second. Likewise, seventeen years later, for the tennis player in the same federal court.

Since 2020, nothing comparable has occurred in an Australian court to challenge a quarantine decision under the Biosecurity Act, the direct successor to the old Quarantine Act. No judicial examination of the government’s medical evidence on the human coronavirus for Morrison’s decisions in his ghost health portfolio has taken place, nor the evidence released in public, let alone presented in court. No cross-examination of the expert witnesses for the government, as Wilcox subjected the pork industry witnesses  in 2005, has been allowed in an Australian court since then. That is, with the sole exception of the federal court lawsuit in Sydney by Gary Newman, the traveller who had been marooned in India and who was banned from flying home. Newman’s challenge of May 2021 was rejected. Nonetheless, he, like the pigs before him, got his day in court.

Fascism doesn’t always materialise wearing black shirts and jack boots. It can creep up in a  place, among a people, in a courtroom,  subversively. That’s when the rules of the game everyone thinks they are playing have been twisted, reversed, so that they no longer mean what they used to mean.

The only way to understand this in the law courts is to attend painstakingly to the small print of what is written on the papers and what is exchanged between the lawyers and the judges in the courtroom. In reading this book of a lawsuit you can jump from the crime at the beginning to the shock of whodunit at the conclusion. You can skip the chapters in between of legal papers and  recital of evidence, case precedents, judge’s rulings, sections of statutes, clauses of regulations.

But if you do that, you risk overlooking how the prime movers of fascism in a small place and in the small print – force, fraud and propaganda – seize their advantage to destroy you. Just as ruthlessly as a blitzkrieg but without the explosions. Silently.

Read the book to beat the silence.

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