The Guardian June 6, 2001


Carr Government puting NSW on the track to a police state

by Marcus Browning

The NSW Carr Government has taken another step down the path to police 
state tyranny with proposed new laws that widen police powers yet again, 
adding to the raft of draconian laws it has introduced since 1996. The 
proposed legislation would allow police to take anyone they consider to be 
under "reasonable suspicion"  including children as young as ten  to a 
doctor's surgery or hospital and have them x-rayed in an "internal search" 
for illegal substances they may has swallowed.

Police only have to apply the "reasonable suspicion" test  a vaguely 
specified criteria allowing for a broad interpretation by police officers -
- to seek an order from an "eligible judicial officer", including a JP, to 
have children who they suspect to be drug couriers electronically searched 
by x-ray, CAT scan or ultrasound.

The proposed new laws dovetail into the legislation introduced earlier this 
year as part of the government's manufactured drug crisis and law-and-order 
scare campaign. In the earlier legislation the presumption of innocence was 
jettisoned, allowing police to invade homes and treat as guilty anyone they 
care to target as being suspicious of drug use or trade.

The judicial order would allow police to detain a person for up to two 
days, so the drug package can pass through the suspect's body. The police 
have two hours to acquire a search order for adults who do not consent to 
the x-ray.

Civil rights and law organisations raised concerns. The Association of 
Children's Welfare Agencies pointed to the potential for police to misuse 
their powers. "Forcibly holding children in hospitals and using what are 
still fairly invasive procedures is quite concerning", said the 
Association's Nigel Spence. "It's a very heavy-handed approach."

In order to hand more power to the police the Carr Government has been 
riding the crime beat-up and law-and-order ticket since it came to office, 
including scare campaigns based on manipulated crime rate figures and the 
drug menace bogey.

In addition, the Government has de facto admitted that these latest laws 
will result in the violation of people's rights by tacking on a safety 
clause in cases of arrests of Indigenous Australian's. Indigenous people 
must have a "search friend" present when they give consent.

When the Carr Government floated its reactionary Zero Tolerance Policing 
plans in 1999, ATSIC warned that it would increase criminalisation and jail 
rates and that the poor and homeless, Indigenous people and other 
minorities would become acceptable police targets.

ATSIC said at the time, "Instead of chasing headlines with glib and 
meaningless slogans about tougher law-and-order, governments need to face 
up to the fact that they have failed to deliver. The circumstances that 
unfairly put our people behind bars haven't changed."

The "reasonable suspicion" power was introduced in 1998, mainly to hound 
and harass youth on the streets. It meant NSW police could stop, body 
search and detain anyone on the street who they have a "reasonable 
suspicion" might commit a crime.

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