It barely registered a murmur across the Australian press, though it caused the traditional ripples over the protester fraternity. Christian activists, collectively known as the Pine Gap Pilgrims, had received sentences pursuant to the Defence (Special Undertakings) Act 1952 (Cth), a cold war relic used by the Australian government to conceal the nature of Canberra’s association with the joint US-Australian signals facility.
The prosecution of Margaret Pestorius, Paul Christie, Jim Dowling, Franz Dowling, Andy Paine and Tim Webb centred on their entering of the clandestine base in September 2016 had been obstinate and typical.
The grounds advanced by Michael McHugh SC for the government made weak reference to the history of peaceful protest that had marked the practice of Australian democracy. He even drew a curious precedent from the archives of history about how the Suffragettes had, in their day, shown the way on civil disobedience. They, it should be noted, were deemed to have acted illegally, though ultimately successfully, in their cause.
The Crown certainly got what it wanted in terms of verdicts, but Justice John Reeves was not proving totally cooperative to the holy shrine of US power in Australia. The judge had initially given an inkling that the charade around Pine Gap and its secrecy might continue. For one, he found little to accept the defence made under the Commonwealth Criminal Code that the conduct of the six in trespassing had been in…