On Thursday, a rather chatty police officer told me something that I found quite shocking.
Just spent a couple of days at the community blockade of Arrow Energy’s CSG exploration drill site at Kerry, Qld, near Beaudesert. It was a real community gathering – all ages, kids playing in a temporary sandpit, supporters bringing an amazing smorgasbord of food (including a gobsmacking array of home-cooked cakes, scones and biscuits) and chairs/rainshelters/newspapers/books. There’s a buzz of animated discussion, and every now and then people got up to give impromptu performances of poems, stories and songs (even F and I had a go).
In contrast to this scene of community harmony, there was an enormous (and dare I say, unnecessary) police presence. I counted 10 police vehicles, with accompanying police officers, and 3 mounted police, with horses. And I wasn’t even there when the real action was happening.
One of the people at the blockade said they had called the local police one morning, and were told that there was no-one available to help them because all the police were at the blockade! (aka the community picnic-with-a-message)
Now, overdoing the police presence at a peaceful community gathering is one thing, but here’s the bigger thing:
Two separate police officers told us that Arrow was paying for them to be there. What? I mean, … what?
Here is why this is a problem:
- if there is confusion about who the police are acting for (is it the taxpayers? is it the mining company?), it blurs the line between mining industry and state.
- if Arrow did hire the police,
- it reduces the pool of police available for legitimate duties, like helping the public
- having the police service available for hire by corporate interests effectively gives corporations access to a trained mercenary army. How did we let this happen?
- by wearing their police uniforms, the police imply to the public that the work they are doing is sanctioned by the police force and the state. It demonstrates that state approval is available to whoever can pay for it.
I’m in the process of chasing official confirmation of the unofficial police statements about being paid by Arrow. No-one seems to be able to say yet which police have been bought by Arrow, and which police are actually working for the Australian people. But here is why I am taking seriously those unofficial reports:
- two independent police officers told two separate people (including me), on two different days that Arrow was paying for police to be at the drilling site.
- Apparently, it’s common practice for event organisers to pay for police presence at their events. Arrow hiring the police to act as security guards could well be possible under this scheme.
- Unless Arrow was paying, you’d think at least one officer would have been allocated to help the public (who, under normal circumstances, fund them). Instead, the poor person who called them for assistance was left stranded.
Goodness. This all just keeps on getting more frightening. Do I sound paranoid? I really hope that’s all it is.
Quote for the season: “We often feel like hapless atoms, running endlessly according to the blueprints and programs of unseen masters, whether it’s the banking industry, Madison Avenue, whoever. We tend to disempower ourselves. We tend to believe that we don’t matter. And in the act of taking that idea to ourselves we give everything away to somebody else, to something else.”