By Crikey reporter Lucy Morieson


Scott Parkin, the
American peace activist who was kicked out of Australia after the
Department of Immigration classified him as a security threat, was
deposited in Los Angeles this morning. Escorted by two Victorian
correctional officers, he was handed over to US customs officials and
told he was free to go – although he now has a bill for almost
$11,700 from the Australian Government.

As the SMH
reports this morning, Parkin was slapped with a bill which includes
$4,235 for his airfare back to the US and $6,675.39 for the return
airfares of his two corrective services escorts as well as their
accommodation in Los Angeles. It also included $777 for his five-day
stay at the Melbourne Assessment Prison.

But he only has to pay the bill if he returns to the country, which is
rather unlikely given that his Australian visa has been stamped with
“not for further travel” and he’s banned from entering the country for
three years.

Parkin
told ABC Melbourne’s Jon Faine this morning that he’s “just completely
baffled” by his treatment in Australia, and said he has “never been a
part of any violent political action, or inspired it.” And he’s still
in the dark over the reason for his “removal” – pointing out that
officially, he wasn’t deported.

But Parkin says he suspects
the Australian Federal Government “didn’t like me being critical of
their support of the illegal occupation and war in Iraq.” And if that’s
the case the approach has backfired, he says, because “in the
Australian media it’s created an incredible frenzy.”

Andrea Buffa, who is a friend of Parkin’s and a member of the US-based human rights organisation, Global Exchange,
says that peace activists and human rights groups in the US are
“shocked” by the actions of the Australian government. She says
Americans are accustomed to the US government targeting peace activists
but “had no idea that the same thing was going on there.”

Crikey reader Elizabeth Fletcher, who runs a yoga studio, tells of her interlude with Parkin:

We recently had a backpacker
from the US called Scott Parkin stay with us as part of a work program for
travellers where they work in exchange for food &
accommodation.

Scott was in Brisbane to take part in
the Brisbane Social Forum where he conducted workshops on non-violent direct
action (in the spirit of Mahatma Gandhi). He was a history teacher, softly
spoken and was easy to have a conversation with ie. he in no way pushed his
point of view like some socialist/ greenies do. He cooked us lunch, vacuumed the
floor, mopped reception, participated in yoga classes and was very
peaceful!

I am shocked, alarmed and
embarrassed at the government deporting him. Why are we sending a man who works
for a cleaner, more peaceful world away from our country? Why does the government
consider a non-violent protester a threat? Why isn’t the government giving
a reason for his deportation?

There is no reason, no
threat and no justification for this violation of human rights and free
speech.

And I am thus inclined to
believe your article that the government was not acting alone on this
matter.

Peter Fray

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Editor-in-chief of Crikey

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