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Has Australia Become a National-Security State?
Since the dawn of the nuclear age in 1945 political analysts have predicted that the immense dangers implicit in this technology would inevitably lead to the implementation of police-state tactics.
It never occurred to me however that my own free and easy country would be so endangered. I was wrong.
Two weeks ago I attended Lizard’s Revenge, a colorful, well-organized, lawful gathering of over 200 people who were demonstrating against BHP-Billiton’s Olympic Dam uranium mine in the desert outback of South Australia. Energized by deep concern over the ongoing tragedy of Fukushima and aware that Australia uranium helped fuel those six reactors, participants travelled great distances to give voice to that concern and to protest against the fact that Australia continues to export uranium to many countries throughout the world.
These demonstrators were also aware that Australia --and specifically Olympic Dam – is indirectly responsible for creating thousands of tons of toxic radioactive waste that the reactors it supplies produce, waste that even the US Environmental Protection Agency acknowledges must be isolated from the ecosphere for one million years .
Seeping and leaking into underground water supplies over millennia, these high-level radioactive elements will bio-concentrate up the food chain and eventually into human bodies thus inducing damage to the human gene pool and, epidemics of malignancy. Furthermore, uranium when fissioned in a reactor also generates plutonium which is, of course, nuclear weapons fuel.
I have attended numerous protests and marches in Australia over the past four decades but never have I seen such a massive intimidatory police presence as I witnessed at Lizard’s Revenge; over 400 officers arrayed around the town of Roxby Downs, blocking the main road to the demonstrators’ camp, with a huge presence adjacent to the Lizard’s Revenge site located three kilometres and thus well away from the Olympic Dam mine site itself. All this to “control” 200 Australian citizens engaged in lawful assembly.
The police were officious and intrusive, detaining for up to an hour at a time people who tried to drive out of the camp and, demanding all their personal details. Further, they rode horses into the crowd and marched in long lines into the camp site. Helicopters circled overhead filming protestors and beamed search lights down on the campers for hours during the night.
These actions were clearly designed to be intimidating. Indeed one photojournalist commented that the last time he saw such an offensive intrusive police presence was in 2011 at Tahrir Square. The police, when challenged that this was more like a police state than 'democratic' Australia, said they had special powers granted them by the Govt of SA under the Protective Security Act (2007). This extraordinary Act was repeatedly read out over a megaphone or played over the BHPB loud speaker system at the mine entrance as police stood behind steel fences. This law gives the police special powers to arbitrarily arrest and detain, strip search and demand personal details of 'suspects'.
How many millions of dollars were expended by the tax payers of South Australia on this exercise to “protect” by intimidation a largely foreign-owned corporation engaged in mining and exporting lethal material?
And what is happening to our precious democracy where freedom of speech and assembly has always been assumed by Australians to be part of our national heritage? Are we also evolving into a police state?