By Jim Hayes
The dust is settling on last week’s events in Melbourne, where ultra-right led mobs attacked a union office and then began a few days on a violent rampage. Most of Australia justifiably condemned them. There are a couple of buts though.
Anger was partly fired by many Australians, who know that life is getting harder for them, the future looks bleak, and their trust in political leaders and institutions is eroding.
The pandemic has contributed to the dark mood.
Although this doesn’t justify the outrageous behaviour, It does give some explanation to what happened.
The other issue is the growing militarisation of the police. The use of potentially fatal rubber pellets and other new weaponry was unjustified. This was a case of overreaction and people were hurt. Added to this, is that most of the media reacted as if this was normal and justified.
Mistreatment is not going to deter the ultra-right, for whom it provided a platform to propel them into the political centre stage. They will welcome the anger caused, a providing fertile ground for recruitment.
Police even prohibited helicopters from entering anywhere near where the policing action was taking place. People have surmised that this was to prevent media scrutiny. The block was removed after it caused a furore.
What is going on? For some years, the police brass has been pushing for more forceful policing, and they have been given the money to buy a hoard of new weapons and vehicles for the purpose. Police have been trained to use them. The police force wanted to test them in the field.
Militarisation of the police is an Australia wide problem and poses a major threat to civil liberties.
An atmosphere being created, encouraging officers to see civilians as the enemy, and therefore, to instinctively act with force. Australian police are starting to look more like their counterparts in the United States. Everyone knows what this has led to there.
Photo from the Herald Sun: Police officer using capsicum spray on person not posing a physical threat
This would not be happening without political support. The sad truth is that Australia is moving towards autocratic government. Autocracy needs can a police force fit for purpose. This is how it enforces its authority.
Last week’s events in Melbourne were used as a convenient testing ground, providing experience in using the newly emerging policing method and an opportunity to soften the public to accept it.
New South Wales has seen the pandemic used for heavy handed policing of working class areas. There has been the use of the army to control civilians. Scott Morrison has put a general in charge of the vaccine rollout.
Australia is being conditioned to accept autocracy as normal.
What we saw in Melbourne’s streets last week, is going to be used in other places, unless there is sufficient community outrage to put a stop to it.