No sooner does the ASIO alert level go up than police start interpreting it as licence to surveil political activists who are nothing to do with terror.
West Australians should not have to pay for security with liberty
Civil Liberties Australia says it’s gravely concerned to hear that WA Police Acting Commissioner Steve Brown (pictured) has told a press conference that “What we will be giving special attention to is any activity that is politically motivated”, when talking about the increased terrorist threat level. According to journalists present he went on to say that this included protests and “other large gatherings”.
“I don’t ever recall a protest chant along the lines of ‘What do we want? Violent murder of innocent civilians…!’” CLA State Director Rex Widerstrom said.
“But sarcasm aside, the very nature of terrorism means that it is planned in the shadows and carried out in secret. Real terrorists do not organise protest marches, or carry out other activities which bring them to the notice of law enforcement, because it’s obviously counter-productive.
“The people who do give voice to protest are either law-abiding – in which case police have no business paying them ‘special attention’ – or they break the law in a flagrant manner designed to draw attention to their cause, such as refusing to move.
“Lawful protest is the right of every West Australian and for police to say they’ll be giving protests ‘special attention’ and viewing it through a prism of terrorism is likely to have a chilling effect on many people’s willingness to become involved, especially given the wide-ranging powers of arrest and detention which can be used against suspected terrorists,” Mr Widerstrom said.
“The irony of course is that many terrorists would like to see introduced a system under which protest would be unlawful. West Australians are not prepared to live under such a regime, whether it’s at the behest of terrorists, or of WA Police, and Acting Commissioner Brown would do well to remember that.”