The Guardian • Issue #2046

Queensland police to compile information on socialists, Marxists


The Queensland Police Service (QPS) is enlarging and strengthening reporting on individuals with “extremist” views and beliefs as a result of the December 2022 killings of two police officers and a neighbour in Wieambilla.

According to an article released by ABC news on 17th February entitled “Queensland police beef up assessments of sovereign citizens, people with extremist beliefs following Wieambilla ‘terrorist attack,’ ” the QPS is changing its procedures for recording interactions with “extremists.” An internal memo sent to QPS officers via email describes new procedures for recording interactions with individuals who “allegedly hold a range of ideological beliefs.” Under these new procedures officers are to record all interactions with “people holding ideological beliefs” in a state-wide central database known as “QPrime” and officers are to do so at the earliest opportunity. Information will be then assessed by counter-terrorism investigation teams and can then be escalated or individuals flagged.

The article primarily focuses on the reporting of religiously-motivated extremists and conspiracy theorists of the kind that committed the Wieambilla attack, but one paragraph mentions a troubling aspect of the memo, namely the listing of groups defined as at risk who should be recorded in the QPrime database. The memo “describes the at-risk groups as conspiracy theorists, religious, social or political extremists and sovereign citizens, as well as people with ideologies relating to capitalism, communism, socialism, or Marxism.”

While the full text of the memo is not reproduced, if the sections reported are accurate, the motivations and implications of this new QPS policy of documenting known socialists and Marxists are troubling. Many Australians, Queenslanders in particular, will remember the government of Premier Joh Bjelke-Petersen and the persecution of left-wing political forces and trade unions by the Queensland government and police at the time. Queensland was a notoriously corrupt and partisan police state, known for surveilling and persecuting political opponents. It is difficult not to see echoes of the Bjelke-Petersen regime in what effectively amounts to a register of political opponents and those not subscribing to the liberal status quo.

The justification for recording interactions with “extremists” is that the state needs to keep track of people likely to commit violence. This highlights that the QPS is drawing a false equivalence. It is placing groups like the sovereign citizen movement and religious fundamentalists on the same plane as anti-capitalists and Marxists.

This would seem to be a particularly aggressive application of so-called “horseshoe theory” whereby those on the far-right and far-left of the political spectrum are considered indistinguishable from each other by virtue of the fact they oppose the current organisation of society. This of course relies on ignoring the respective goals and methods of right-wingers and left-wingers as well as ignoring Australian history. Acts like the Wieambilla attacks are the exclusive domain of reactionaries in Australia. Based on the wording of the excerpts from the memo it would seem that the QPS believes that the mere act of holding political opinions or an “ideological belief” is abnormal and a threat.

We should reject this false equivalency between reactionary forces and ourselves, and oppose attempts to record and monitor socialists and Marxists fighting for change and justice in Queensland.

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