Public First Program


Shane Elson


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+61-3-5134 8556

+61-4-1349 7828

Sept 2007 # 1

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Back to Editorials 2007

Agents of the State

How much security can you buy for $250 million these days? Thugs acting as agents of the state and not much else it would seem. The incredibly audacious stunt by the ABC’s Chaser comedy team showed just how ridiculous the whole “war on terror” scaremongering is. A dozen people dressed up as security guards, driving or running beside black limos containing, among others, someone dressed up as Osama bin Laden, kind of really tells us who the joke is on. 

With passes that read, “APEC 2007 Chaser’s War”, “It’s pretty obvious this isn’t a real Pass”, “Insecurity” and “Joke”, one really has to question the effectiveness of our government’s commitment to our ‘security’ and the ability of the people paid by our taxes to protect us. In short, the martial law declared, for the first time, in our country, failed. 

Having been given police permission at two check points to proceed, I think the Chaser team’s defence that they had no idea they had entered a ‘security zone’ has great merit. After all they had gone to great lengths to clearly and obviously state they were fakes. Nonetheless it just goes to show how much authority a card on a lanyard conveys when it has a photo and a few words on it. 

The Herald Sun wrote, “The stunt exposed an embarrassing and potentially dangerous flaw in the $250 million security measures put in place to protect 21 world leaders …” So, lets see, even with my bad maths, 250 divided by 21 equals more than enough to have fixed up many of our schools, hospitals or public transport problems. However, as Danny DiVito once said in a movie, “its other people’s money”. Ours! 

The real issue that emerges from the Chaser stunt and the other so called ‘security’ measures put in place for APEC is that we allowed ourselves, regardless of whether you live in Sydney or not, to become the victims of martial law. That is, our governments imposed, on all Australians and foreigners here during APEC, conditions under which our civil liberties and our lives could be removed by an agent of the state. 

You may recall that last Friday a minibus was stopped just inside the New South Wales border. The people on the bus were detained, searched, interrogated and a number of them refused entry into the state. These people were on a ‘black list’ of individuals who our government deemed unfit to attend public events. The only crime these people committed was their commitment to a political ideology that challenges the currently prevailing hegemon. 

The police who were deployed, along with the military, were troops marshalled by the state not protect us from each other but to ensure that we did not interact the people whose decisions affect every aspect of our lives. The steel and concrete barricades were not erected to keep out terrorists (or even pretend ones) but to ensure the real rulers of the world could go about carving up the planet, uninterrupted by small inconveniences such as we, the people. 

What is interesting about the situation in which we find ourselves is that, paradoxically, the very need of the rulers of the world to barricade themselves from us, turns on it’s head the notion that we, the people, need to barricade ourselves in to protect us from the excesses of the state. The exercise in Sydney showed that they are afraid of us. This should give us great confidence to proceed with our dreams of restoring justice, real law and order and peace to a world being torn apart by those who are nothing more than greedy masters of the universe. 

Nonetheless, the sweeping powers introduced in various pieces of legislation passed by the New South Wales and Federal governments in the lead up to APEC, were about the most effective ways of preventing us from exercising our right to not only dissent but also, as was the case with so many Sydney businesses, earn an income, ply our trade or provide services for a fee. 

The $250 million price tag for another crass and failed attempt at preventing us from going about our business doesn’t include the millions of dollars of trade and income lost in Sydney while APEC was on. In fact, this should be another lesson to take from the ‘economic’ summit. The fact is the summit is not about raising the poor from their squalor but is all about how to capture or steal more wealth from the average person. After all, the poor have nothing to take. It is also worth pointing out the imposition of martial law has little impact on the poor and marginalised anyway. 

Another question arising out of the Chaser stunt is why so many officials were so quick to point out they could have been killed. From Ruddock in the past to Iemma recently to the Police chief Scipioni on the day, all said there was no ‘lethal force’ clause in the police and military briefings. But Scipioni was forced to admit the truth, that our police / military would shoot to kill anyone they thought was a threat. This is what martial law is all about. 

The agents of the state are briefed by the state as to what behaviour is or isn’t acceptable. They are then told to use their best judgement in enacting the will of the state in the context of their orders, the situation facing them and their duty to obey. It truly is a shoot first, ask questions later scenario. To draw a not too long a bow, if we compare how wrong agents of the state got the treatment of people like the falsely imprisoned and then deported Vivian Alvarez Solon and the falsely imprisoned Cornelia Rau and 200 other Australia or foreign nationals and we amplify that by the pressure being exerted on ‘our boys in blue’ during APEC, we find that Scipioni was right. The Chaser team probably were lucky they didn’t get shot. 

While we cant go back and undo history, the most pressing questions for us today, even more pressing than whether John Howard or Kevin Rudd is the next PM, are “do we really want to have our rights stripped from us and then guns pointed at our heads if we resist?” This is exactly what happened in Sydney last week. No attempts were made to cover it up. We saw endless TV news shots of snipers on buildings, circling helicopters carrying snipers and war planes circling overhead. This was a full military exercise with the civilian reserve army – the police – called in not to protect us but to potentially kill us.

This is not hyperbole. This is the fact, confirmed by Scipioni, Alexander Downer and John Howard. These men knew what laws they were signing into power and we allowed them to get away with it. This time the ‘laws designed to protect us’ would have only, perhaps if the aim was right, protect us from a slow and painful death. But what about the next time? What about the time, somewhere in the future, when your sons or daughters say, ‘we’ve had enough and we want our rights back’. These ‘respectable’ adults, who are far removed from the so called ‘femo-nazis’ or ‘rabble’ or ‘filth’ who were supposedly in Sydney last week, may well want to take to the streets in numbers to claim back what is rightfully theirs. The question then will be, did $250 million of security protect them from an over zealous agent of the state?

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