Tuesday, 19 June 2007

Socialist Canada; Police State Australia?

The Wombats, like most Antipodeans, have been known to make fun of our Maple-leaved cousins, but there have always been a few things that the Canadians have had over other parts of the english-speaking world (starting, notably, with the fact that some of them also speak French. Then there's the recognition of the indigenous population. And really good beer. And a healthier approach to foreign policy than their southern neighbours, on things stretching from overseas wars to Cuba. And so on. We don'tl ike ice-hockey, however.).

However, this week, we have discovered something else to take note of. A poll taken by The Globe and Mail, Canada's second largest newspaper, and largest circulation paper (with over 2 million per week) - and admittedly historically a left-liberal paper, although the past year or so indicates to the contrary - has 60% of respondents saying they believe that socialism is
"still a viable political alternative for the major industrial nations".

Admittedly the numbers aren't huge (8057 vs 5400), but it makes a welcome break from Australia this week.

On Monday, the SMH reported that NSW police "intelligence" have tried to recruit,
Daniel Jones, one of those charged over the G20 demonstrations in Melbourne to inform of his fellow protesters.

"I asked him straight out what agency he was from," Mr Jones, a socialist, said yesterday. "He said he was from intelligence and I said what's intelligence? He said NSW Police."

The article reports that when the spook was called and a
sked "about Mr Jones's allegations, he replied, after a pause: "You are not really supposed to be talking to me about this.""

The timeliness of this cannot be under-emphasised. Legislation is before the NSW Parliament this week to give police extra powers for the period of the APEC conference in Sydney this September, when protests are planned, in particular against US President George Bush. These wonderful powers, under the
APEC Meeting (Police Powers) Bill 2007 (NSW) include:

* “restricted” and “declared” areas in large parts of central Sydney;
* allowing the police to stop and search anyone in or around these areas and confiscate items considered “prohibited”, including 'banner-poles' of a metre in length;
* six-month jail terms for entering a restricted area without "justification"
* two years’ jail for carrying a “prohibited item” (as defined by the police, including the potential for them to declare anything as such);
* a presumption against bail (meaning people arrested could be detained for up to the two weeks of APEC).
* severely limiting police liability, (which raises the possibility that police will be allowed to break the law with impunity (especially important since the payouts to victims of police violence at the S11 protests in Melbourne in 2000 have finally been decided)
* allowing the police to create secret lists of “excluded people”, including those who fail to comply with a police order during APEC, and those who the police consider to pose a “threat” to people or property during APEC. These people will be prevented from entering parts of Sydney during APEC, and
may even be picked up even before the protest or conference, and held for the duration, without charge.

The unsettling response to the criticism came from NSW police came today from
a spokesman for the Police Minister, David Campbell - that those on the list "won't need to be informed - they know who they are". Furthermore, the May 18 Sydney Daily Telegraph reported that Federal Attorney-General Phillip Ruddock “dodged questions about whether the military will have shoot-to-kill powers during the Sydney APEC meeting."

Naturally, activists are not taking this lying down, and we will be taking to the streets regardless.

Meanwhile, in sunny Queensland, the trial of Constable Hurley for the killing in custody of Palm Island man Mulrunji Doomadgee continues.

The Socialist Alliance has a good collection of the current media coverage, as well as a chronology and history of the case. They are also selling (like hotcakes, apparently) yellow Justice for Mulrunji wristbands, as a response to the Qld police wearing blue wristbands ("the thin blue line") in support of Hurley, even (especially?) into aboriginal communities.

The latest claim from Hurley's defence (after he changed his story to match the evidence given in court, and admitted that he fell on Mulrunji, not next to him) is that it is a political campaign and poor Chris Hurley (who is ever so sorry about having not killed Mulrunji) is that the entire case is politically motivated (although when several hundred aboriginal people have died in custody in the past couple of decades, and Hurley is the first policeman even to be charged, the concept isn't so far fetched. In fact, it's high time the political establishment got motivated to do something about it. And more importantly, it's time the rest of us did.)

The trial concluded today, and the jury will likely retire tomorrow to prepare a verdict. Regardless of the outcome (likely a slap on the wrist) there is a going to be a political fallout to deal with.

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