The largest security operation in Australia’s history, costing an estimated $400 million, is well underway in Brisbane. No expense has been spared to protect the gang of warmongers and austerity-imposing politicians who will descend on Brisbane for the G20 Leaders’ Summit on 15-16 November.
Such VIPs as Barack Obama, Vladimir Putin, Angela Merkel and David Cameron will be escorted from the airport in a fleet of 16 bomb-proof Mercedes Benz S-Guard limousines, which the federal government has rented for $1.8 million. So much for the “budget crisis”.
Brisbane is already swarming with police. Every bin in Southbank has been removed. The city drains have been sealed. Mailboxes in the vicinity of the venue have been searched. The Convention Centre is under 24-hour guard and three kilometres of concrete and steel security fencing at a height of 2.4 metres is being erected around it.
Other venues to be barricaded include the Southbank cultural precinct, the RNA Showgrounds and several city hotels accommodating G20 delegates. Black Hawk helicopters now frequent the skies over Brisbane River and the city as the police and the army carry out endless security patrols and training exercises.
In total, 6,000 police will be in Brisbane during and in the week leading up to the G20: 4,500 from Queensland and 1,500 from interstate and New Zealand. They will be backed by 900 ADF personnel at a cost of $8 million. A further 1,000 troops will be on stand-by. The police will be commanded from a multi-million dollar, purpose-built “G20 Police Operations Centre” and from the Queensland Police Service’s new floating station, a 24-metre state of the art boat. In addition, Australia’s largest private ammunition supplier, Nioa, has established a $25 million weapons depot at Brisbane airport, which stores arms, munitions, ballistic protection and encrypted radios for use by police and security personnel during the G20.
The city will be brought to a standstill and thousands of workers inconvenienced in the days preceding the event as extensive road closures and public transport cancellations come into effect. Meanwhile, we are informed that all the delegates will receive golden travel passes, or Go Cards, so that they can explore Brisbane’s attractions. It will be virtually impossible for us commoners to go anywhere, including the much-promoted G20 Cultural Celebrations put on to welcome the politicians and sanitise the Summit. That is no surprise, as the ruling class usually likes to tour the sights without the unpleasant prospect of running into any plebs. For this reason also, the police have been targeting the homeless in recent weeks.
Michael Cope, president of the Queensland Council of Civil Liberties, has pointed out that all the focus on security and threats of violent protests around the G20 is obscuring the huge threat to civil liberties that the G20 Security Act, special legislation introduced to grant police extraordinary powers for the event, poses to civil liberties.
The Act was passed last year, and has already been used against protesters in Cairns for the G20 finance meeting in September. Police have the power to undertake forcible strip searches, without cause for suspicion, and to arrest without warrant, within “declared zones” – the extensive areas surrounding the Convention Centre and the CBD during and for a week prior to the summit.
The Security Act also makes it an offence, punishable by fines of up to $5,500, to carry “banned items” in the declared zones. These banned items range from the obvious – weapons – to the hilarious – reptiles, glass jars and eggs. Megaphones and banners larger than 1m by 2m are also prohibited, proving that despite the endless talk about stopping “violent” protests and anarchists, the real intention is to undermine the right to peaceful assembly.
To enable mass arrests, the Magistrates Court will be open 24 hours a day from 10 November. Magistrates will preside via video link at a special “G20 Offender Processing Centre” at the Supreme Court. There will be a presumption against bail in order to keep those arrested detained for the duration of the summit.
The real threat in Brisbane is not violent protesters, but the increase in the state’s powers.