The Guardian June 13, 2001


NSW a reactionary law and order model

by Marcus Browning

The young woman sitting outside a railway station in a suburb in Sydney's 
inner west greets the Labrador dog as it trots down the footpath. The dog 
sits as she strokes its head. Its owner approaches the girl and identifies 
himself as a police officer and proceeds to conduct a search for illegal 
drugs of her belongings and clothing. The dog is a police trained drug-
sniffer and its owner is from the police dog squad.

NSW is creating a reactionary law and order model for the rest of the 
country to follow: a ready-made package of police powers tied together with 
the ideological and political means to introduce them, such as 
scaremongering about crime, longer sentences and demonising all law 
breakers while polishing up the image of law enforcement personnel.

At the moment the Carr Government has cranked up its law and order election 
bandwagon. So we have the Premier officiating, for the benefit of the 
media, last month at the ribbon cutting for a new maximum security facility 
inside the maximum security Goulburn Jail, south of Sydney.

So brimming with promises of a secure community and family values was he, 
that the ceremony could have been mistaken for the opening of a new child 
care centre.

Last week the Government's new legislation became law allowing police to 
have people x-rayed who they have a "reasonable suspicion" of having 
swallowed packets of illegal drugs for the purpose of concealment. Suspects 
as young as ten can now be taken to a doctor's surgery or hospital where an 
ultrasound, x-ray or CAT scan will be used to conduct an "internal search".

These new measures add to dangerous, regressive laws already enacted in 
NSW, including the scrapping of the presumption of innocence, compulsory 
DNA testing, and legislation introduced last year under the pretext of 
security for the Olympics. Together they represent the potential of major 
violations of people's political, civil and human rights.

The mouth swab DNA testing of almost 8,000 prisoners in the State has 
inevitably led to a push for DNA records, to be taken at birth, to be kept 
on all Australians. Already the NSW Police are clamouring after the results 
of DNA testing on babies in the State's hospitals (hospitals carry out 
tests on 98 percent of babies) to put on their police data base.

The Olympic legislation allows for the searching and removal of persons on 
the slightest of pretexts by the state police, the Australian armed forces 
and "authorised persons" operating on behalf of public and private 
organisations.

The legislation entitles all these "security forces" to prevent legal 
activities; warn, search and remove persons from public places; prevent the 
distribution of material for information or advertising; stop the use of 
cameras, recording or broadcast equipment; demand names, addresses and 
proof of identity; photograph alleged offenders; seize property; issue on-
the-spot fines of $200.

Police sniffer dogs being led about covertly in public places by plain 
clothed police is just one manifestation of an extremely dangerous trend.

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