Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Why we oppose the "stop and search" laws

[The text below is from a leaflet distributed by Perth Resistance at the rally against the proposed "stop and search" laws outside the WA parliament on 20 April 2010.]

1. If they remove the need for “reasonable suspicion”, the result will be unreasonable searches.
Under existing law, police already have considerable powers to stop and search people. “WA’s stop and search laws are already some of the widest-reaching in the country, and far exceed most other western nations’ laws,” according to Law Society president Dudley Stow. Already too many arbitrary police searches take place. “Stop and Search” laws will only make this worse.

2. Similar laws in Britain have been misused by police
In Britain – where someone is stopped and searched by police every 20 seconds! – there has been a 66% rise in the last year in the number of people searched under the section 44 “Anti-Terrorism” powers (that is the stop and search powers where no reasonable suspicion is required). Out of 210,013 such searches, only 9 people (0.004%) were even arrested for terrorism offences. Black and Asian people suffered the biggest increase in searches since these laws were brought in so now police are deliberately increasing their searches of white people so the racial profiling statistics don’t look so bad!

The European courts have recently declared this law illegal.

3 These laws move WA ‘one step closer to a police state’
These laws are part of a pattern of laws that undermine democratic rights and civil liberties. Other laws that erode democratic rights include: mandatory sentencing laws, proposed “anti-bikie gang” laws, and federal “anti-terror” laws. The WA Law Society says these proposed “stop and search” laws move Australia “one step closer to a police state, undermining some of our basic democratic rights and freedoms as citizens”.

As well as the Law Society, others to speak out against the laws include: Equal Opportunity Commissioner Yvonne Henderson, Australian Lawyers Alliance director Greg Barnes, former Fraser government minister Fred Chaney, Children’s Commissioner Michelle Scott, Crime Research Centre professor David Indermauer as well as police, lawyers and many more.

4. We need to defend our democratic rights if we want to keep them
Capitalist governments – whether Labor or Liberal – cannot carry out their agendas of privatisation, cutbacks and neo-liberalism and maintain popular support at the same time. In part the rhetoric of “law and order” is a diversion – to try to stop people focusing on the real problems in society: global warming, war and underfunded social services to name a few. But they are also part of a pattern of erosion of democratic rights that is aimed in part at silencing dissent.

If we want a socially just and sustainable world, we have to fight for it. Defending our democratic rights is part of that fight.