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.