What is the real meaning of the G20 security farce in Brisbane? It is a massive exercise in political intimidation. It is a demonstration of the power of government to prevent or limit the most basic democratic rights of free speech, protest and assembly. Perhaps the worst thing about it is that, in the atmosphere of these times, this intimidatory assertion of authority is accepted without question as normal, routine and completely justified. There is a long term conditioning process of work here.
The original target of the G20 security operation was demonstrations that might be organised by protest groups along the lines of Seattle or ‘Occupy Wall Street’. Why should such dissent require any more than ordinary measures of police supervision, backed, for this occasion, by enhanced intelligence work? Why should 900 heavily armed troops be involved in non-violent civilian protest, even if inconvenient to the authorities and unsightly for the visitors? One would have thought that a display of democratic protest would have been salutary to the likes of Putin and the rest.
But the way this has been done – and spun in an extraordinary mixture of secrecy and selective publicity – has caused Brisbane citizens to believe that it is all about ISIS etc. In a single newscast on 3 November Channel 7 Brisbane had three juxtaposed items: an army rehearsal for a response to a random off-the-street kidnapping; an appeal by Premier Newman to citizens to come into the CBD during G20, lest Brisbane ‘look like a ghost town’; and the serving of a keep-way order on some poor ratbag officially designated as a ‘serial pest’ (shades of ‘The Skull‘ who used to haunt election meetings in Sydney in 1969 and 1972).
Of course the most innocent explanation is that all this is not about protecting the people or the visiting Heads of Government but to protect the collective backsides of officialdom. But when we link the deification of the Australian soldier in connection with the First World War Centenary with this current involvement of the Australian Army in civilian control, it is not difficult to see the eventual outcome, intended or not: a pervasive and permanent acceptance of the use of the Australian military forces as a routine extension of the police power, against the exercise of the most fundamental democratic rights.
As Goering said, ‘To control the people you only have to tell them they are being attacked. It works every time in every country.’