Australia is becoming increasingly authoritarian. Laws restricting civil liberties and democratic rights have proliferated under the guise of anti-terrorism, public order and combating criminal gangs. 

Prisons are more populated than ever before despite violent crime rates being at a historic low. And policing is racially biased against Muslims, Indigenous people and certain non-white migrant groups.

How do we resist the law and order agenda? That’s a question that attracted 115 people to a Sydney meeting with Greens MP David Shoebridge and Wollongong socialist activist Chloe Rafferty on 8 October.

The starting point is rejecting the rubbish fed to us by the government and the mainstream media. Law and order has little to do with making people safer. It is a means to maintain economic exploitation and oppression. 

“The law and order debate is a way for those people who have property and power continuing to protect their property, increase their property and exert their power”, Shoebridge said. 

“The rise in repressive police powers and mass incarceration today has mirrored the rise of inequality in the era of neoliberalism”, Rafferty said. As the gap grows between rich and poor, and as welfare is eroded and access becomes more difficult, “the state has responded by ramping up its own repressive powers and attacking our civil liberties”.

Governments have been able to restrict our freedoms because of the decline of union struggle and mass protest. We need to rebuild the left to push back against increasing state surveillance and the militarisation of police forces.

The meeting was a step toward this, bringing activists together from different campaigns and political groups. 

“I think we should do more of this, more of this united movement on the left, because there’s a rising right, and if we don’t stick together it’ll pick us off one by one”, Shoebridge said.