Interesting to read lawyer Malcolm McCusker's warning to Western Australians that we are in danger of becoming a police state as a result of irresponsible and populist law making. McCusker's arguement is that citizens' rights will continue to be eroded by the Barnett Government's "populist" law-and-order platform of proposed stop-and-search laws, mandatory sentencing and vehicle confiscation. McCusker argues:
"If we don't watch it, we'll find ourselves in a society that used to pride itself on adhering to the rule of law, but will now find itself being governed in some respects by police....That's not what a democratic society is about."In relation to these laws we should remember the comments of Liberal backbencher Peter Abetz when speaking in Parliament in support of the laws who used the example of Hitler to illustrate his point. Abetz was quoted as saying:
" When it comes to the crunch, people prefer to be safe than to have freedom".The British experience is that stop and search laws are increasingly used to stifle and criminalize genuine and legitimate protest and dissent, and have had the effect of diminishing the space for public dissent. Police have used the laws in a preemptive way to prevent public demonstrations, even using stop and search laws against 11 year old twins attending a demonstration. Police have recently admitted that stop and search powers have been used unlawfully.
In the UK the laws have been used against people involved in legitimate protests, and have targeted particular racial and religious groups. Photographers have also been targeted to prevent them taking photographs in public places.