Concerned citizens and community leaders confront the Queensland Police Service over the increased expanse of their powers during the G20 at a community forum in West End this month.
Despite the summit being three months away, community unease continues to rise over the new and unprecedented police powers detailed in the G20 (Safety and Security) Act 2013.
These concerns were raised again at a G20 community forum in West End earlier this month, where citizens and community groups were given the opportunity to communicate with two Queensland Police G20 Taskforce Commanders – Assistant Commissioner Katarina Carroll and Deputy Commissioner Ross Barnett.
Brisbane Community Action Network [BrisCAN-G20] Director Robin Taubenfeld expressed concerns about the impact of the various laws which exist to augment police powers on everyday citizens.
“What many of us are concerned about are the laws, not just the G20 law but the VLAD Act, erosion of civil liberties and threats to our right to assemble, and police surveillance,” she said.
“These powers are beyond what’s required.”
Deputy Commissioner and G20 Commander Ross Barnett responded to these worries by declaring the vested interests the Queensland Police Service [QPS] has in establishing and maintaining strong accountability for the future.
“We totally recognise that the powers under this act are unique and significant,” he says.
“We asked the government for these powers because of the unique nature of and the scale and scope of the event that we’re expected to police.
“Having said that we know that we’ll be accountable for the use that we make of the powers that the government has given us.”
Caxton Legal Centre Director Scott McDougal raised similar issues to Ms Taubenfeld, emphasising concerns over avoiding mass misuse of broadly defined police powers by an enlarged police force.
“The thing we’re quite concerned about is what happened in Toronto in 2010 where 1,100 people were arrested and only 4% of those were actually convicted of criminal offences,” he said.
“There is a power in the act [G20 Act 2013] for police to detain people without arrest for as long as reasonably necessary. Which could include, if they can’t process people quickly, the entire weekend.”
“That is our fear at Caxton … that there is going to be mass arrests.”
“Obviously the leadership from the QPS is going to be an important factor but I don’t know how that leadership is going to trickle down to the 6,000 police officers who are going to be on the ground enforcing the law.”
Commissioner Barnett also reaffirmed the QPS’s role during the G20 in facilitating the lawful exercise of the public’s democratic rights.
“I consider that our roll in this event is to facilitate lawful peaceful process not to stop it,” he says.
“What we are concerned [about] is that people who do exercise their rights do it safely and do it within the parameters of the law.”
Assistant Commissioner and G20 Operational Commander Katarina Carroll continued on to dispel fears about Brisbane repeating the mistakes of the 2010 G20 in Toronto.
“We have been planning for nearly two years, so every person, every officer, who comes into this state has already got the legislation, has already been completely trained,” she says.
“They will be operating under the command of the Queensland Police Service, they will be operating under our philosophy and under our policy.”