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.