By Rewi Lyall
In an earlier post I criticized the trend of successive Western Australian State governments and Local Government Authorities to ever harsher policing powers, from the expanding surveillance of citizens to the proposed police powers to stop and search any Western Australian who seeks to enter certain events or public spaces. That post was subsequently republished on Larvatus Prodeo, with an ensuing engaging discussion by visitors to that site.
One of the comments was a pointed observation that I had omitted any reference to the Labor Party. Indeed, I replied, it didn’t mention any specific parties.
The fact is that I haven’t always been impressed with the approach of the Labor Party on ‘law and order’ issues. The initial statement by Eric Ripper that Labor had sought to introduce similar measures, I’ll concede, was one I found less than inspiring.
However two recent excursions by Shadow Ministers into the field have given me fresh hope.
A story in the West Australian on the 28th of October covered comments by Shadow Minister for Police Margaret Quirk:
Shadow police minister Margaret Quirk called on the Government to address causes of crime rather than continually resorting to harsher penalties. The Government recently announced a range of measures to curb alcohol- related violence in Northbridge.
“I think the focus is very much going hard on the offenders, and while that is legitimate the overall focus should be on there being fewer victims,” Ms Quirk said. “You need a much more complex approach to law and order.”
She said cutting money from the office of crime prevention and a reduced focus on education campaigns hindered the battle against increasingly violent attacks.
“It’s no consolation for a victim to have the Attorney-General and the Minister for Police waving their finger at the offenders after the event,” she said.
This line of argument is, while cast within the continuing frame of a law and order debate, at least getting closer to some of the concerns raised in the discussion on Larvatus Prodeo about root causes. I hope to write some more about that at a later date.
It has been followed up by recent comments by Shadow Attorney General John Quigley regarding the proposed stop and search powers (with thanks to the Western Patriot – hard to get access to the Perth Voice over here):
Mr Quigley told The Perth Voice that the new powers are, “extreme laws giving unheralded powers to the commissioner of police, the likes of which you would only see in a fascist or totalitarian regime.”
Combined with mandatory terms of imprisonment for assaulting police officers, these new laws significantly erode the rights of individuals against the State.
Mr Quigley told The Perth Voice that the State Government could “get away with [it] by…inducing the people of Perth to believe they are living in the most dangerous city in the country, or the western world, and it is just not true.”
This is a distinct and welcome shift in approach from the previous statements by the Opposition Leader. Although the rhetoric might be a bit stronger than I’d use, it represents a strength of resolve on the issue that we should embrace.