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Big Macs held hostage in police battle over Maccas site

The battle over a proposed McDonald’s restaurant in Tecoma has turned really ugly, with discounted Big Macs for hungry coppers in the firing line. Crikey has the Police Association response.

Big Mac

Victoria Police is standing by its controversial policy of letting uniformed officers scarf cut-price McDonald’s, despite Police Association chief Greg Davies insisting in a leaked email that “free” burgers were verboten.

In a swingeing email response to a former Upwey resident concerned about the optics of discount-enjoying police blocking access to the planned Tecoma site of the international conglomerate — obtained by Crikey — Davies blasts the insinuation police are effectively accepting McNugget-sized bribes to provide taxpayer-funded security. Police and protesters have been embroiled in a tense stand-off at Tecoma, with allegations of brutality and heavy handedness being hurled around like Big Mac pickles at a train roof.

Davies wrote:

… McDonalds do not provide free food to Victorian police officers/our members. No-one is accepting bribes from anyone. The suggestion is as ludicrous as it is outrageous. Your assertion that our members receive a free gift is both wrong and offensive. In fact, your entire message is wrong and offensive and directed to the wrong organisation.”

But in a statement provided by Police Media last night, a spokesperson confirmed discounts are still being offered. It went on to ward off members of the plod thinking of snaffling a discount grease feast after hours:

Some private organisations have a policy to provide a discount to police members who are in uniform …

These discounts are not to be accepted by members in plain clothes or off duty, and members are not permitted to show their police identification to obtain a discount.”

The gnarled association head was responding to questions from the activist as to why the Police Association was not “following the lead of Trades Hall and supporting the community and local council wishes in Tecoma that there not be a McDonalds built there”:

It’s common knowledge that McDonalds provide free food to members of the Police force. This isn’t a Ma and Pa bakery providing a pie and sauce to their local cop who they know by name, or the local pub feeding members of the CFA and Police forces protecting their town from bushfire, this is a multinational business providing free meals to the police association members at any time.”

While police might not receive “free” food, they can still tap discounts as high as 50% at participating outlets. As Crikey has reported, other chains like Subway also slash advertised prices if the fuzz get the mid-shift hungries for a foot-long chicken teriyaki.

Victoria Police cut ties with Trades Hall in 2012 after 14 years because cuddly Trotskyites Socialist Alternative had hired a room at Trades HQ to discuss police brutality. Association members routinely tangle with SA acolytes during cartoonish confrontations on picket lines including Tecoma and Occupy Melbourne.

Respected University of Melbourne academic and transnational corruption expert Les Holmes has slammed the fast food discounts, saying they could lead to perceptions of corruption. Holmes told Crikey the perks pose a “potential problem”.

They should not be allowed to accept anything, they’re not paid that badly … it would be much clearer if there were rules saying ‘we don’t accept it’,” he said.

Elsewhere in the email, Davies isn’t shy about coming forward to defend his members on the site, who he says would prefer to be enforcing the law elsewhere:

If you think that the community, or the police who are drawn from that community, want to see police on duty at this site, then you are wrong. Very wrong. I would have thought it would be evident to anyone that police would rather be serving the community in their usual roles but, because of the actions of some people, many are currently forced to uphold the law at this location rather than other locations.”

He tells the activist to stop pestering him at the Police Association email account:

I suggest that, if you have further to say on the matter, you either correspond with the Chief Commissioner of Police or direct your angst towards the Victoria Civil and Administrative Appeals Tribunal, who were the body who authorised this development. In the meantime, may I suggest that if you want to send vitriolic hate-mail to someone, you at least get your facts right? It tends to make one appear very stupid when they get things so terribly wrong, and I am sure you are not a stupid person. I assure you there is no need to reply. Greg Davies.”

The Tecoma case will return to the Victorian Supreme Court on Monday, with the “Tecoma Eight” hoping a temporary injunction on blocking the site will be lifted. They have raised $30,000 to travel to McDonald’s headquarters in Chicago to protest the plans and are hoping to buy a full-page ad in the struggling Chicago Tribune to raise global awareness.

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  • 1
    MJPC
    Posted Tuesday, 20 August 2013 at 1:35 pm | Permalink

    Corruption comes in a variety of guises, even super sized.

  • 2
    Mark Duffett
    Posted Tuesday, 20 August 2013 at 1:37 pm | Permalink

    They have raised $30,000 to travel to McDonald’s headquarters in Chicago to protest the plans and are hoping to buy a full-page ad in the struggling Chicago Tribune to raise global awareness.”

    Knowing what $30,000 could do for millions of refugees and the starving in the world, how do these people sleep at night? First world problems indeed.

    It’s called ‘free enterprise’ for a reason. Build a bridge…

  • 3
    DiddyWrote
    Posted Tuesday, 20 August 2013 at 1:42 pm | Permalink

    Stopping the police from receiving free or discounted burgers might also have the unintended benefit of slimming down many members of the constabulary. A lot of them look like they would be very hard pressed to run down any perp on foot. Super sized indeed!

  • 4
    zut alors
    Posted Tuesday, 20 August 2013 at 2:00 pm | Permalink

    You are what you eat. And let that be a friendly caution to the Victorian Police.

  • 5
    Nick Seidenman
    Posted Tuesday, 20 August 2013 at 2:58 pm | Permalink

    Greg Davies would do well to take his own advice: get YOUR facts right, Mr. Davies.

    I live in and pay rates in Tecoma, Mr. Davies. Our protest exists precisely because there is no way for our community to petitioni VCAT to reconsider and/or rescind their decision. The only avenue of appeal is with regard to errors of law. The best outcome we could hope for from such an appeal would be to have VCAT review (just) those errors and correct them. Since our council did not wish to risk our money to undertake such an appeal, the decision was left to stand and, the period for filing having expired, the avenue is now closed.

    If you ask your fellows who know our community, they’ll tell you there is little support for a McDonalds here, and overwhelming opposition to it. Yet, they — and we — are powerless to stop it. Instead, they must “obey orders” that do nothing but back up McDonalds legal bullying with the added threat of physical — even lethal — force being used against this community that McDonalds speciously claims to “care about”. Police enjoying discounted food from this same corporate bully can only lead to the conclusion that you are, to put it frankly, on the take. This perception is, by the way, only reinforced when we see police arrive within minutes of McDonalds (or their hired “security” thugs) summoning them, yet if one of US calls for help, we’re lucky if an officer shows up at all. Even then usually takes close to an hour for a checkered car to rock up.

    Honestly, I don’t think for a minute that any cop is so craven or so stupid as to do McDonalds bidding simply for the promise of free or cheaper McCrap. But the disparity in response time as well as the lack of respect you show the community you are paid to protect suggests, strongly, that something is seriously wrong, here.

    Rather than berate US for doing our CIVIC DUTY in peacefully protesting this offense to decency and to law as well as to our community, you could remove at least the APPEARANCE of corruption and instruct your officers to take NO gratuity whatsoever, be it in the form of a discount, a free meal, or anything else.

    If you cannot, in fact, support the community that is now being assaulted and bullied, if you cannot even support a brother union in THEIR support of our cause, then at least TRY to lessen the appearance of corruption. Get your facts — and your moral compass — straight, Mr. Davies.

  • 6
    MJPC
    Posted Tuesday, 20 August 2013 at 3:53 pm | Permalink

    NS; well said, particularly observations of the Police poor attendance times for the ordinary citizen as against the business owner, or support for corporations.
    Keep up the good fight; we have a McDonalds in our area and all it means for non-users is rubbish throughout the streets.
    Is nowhere sacred from this insidious scourge of unhealthy eating.

  • 7
    Tony Meman
    Posted Tuesday, 20 August 2013 at 4:26 pm | Permalink

    While there is a police discount, on a number of occasions I have personally witnessed McDonalds staff refusing to take any money whatsoever from police thus giving them free meals(Close to everyone I have asked has observed this behaviour as well- most claiming that they have NEVER seen police actually pay a cent at McDonalds). Surely Davies wouldn’t be blind to this fact?? McBribes or not, the police should be seen to be beyond reproach and accepting discounted food, let alone free food should be outlawed. Davies appears to be the one with his facts wrong. Besides, if there wasn’t a McNugget of truth to this, I doubt it would have got his back up so much.

  • 8
    Serenatopia
    Posted Tuesday, 20 August 2013 at 8:51 pm | Permalink

    Well said, Nick Seidenman, MJPC and Tony Menman…
    I just came back from Vanuatu…the island of Santos…untouched and beautiful…the Melanesians feast on coconuts, free range chickens and beef…fruits like papaya, watermelon and custard apples…they are fit, healthy, lazy and so very happy…I asked the local ni-Vanuatus, including my cool looking guide whether they have heard of McDonalds or knew what fast food means? All of them looked seriously confused…it was even more difficult explaining it…the look of bemusement on their faces…priceless…
    I felt like buying the entire island just so to preserve the innocence and beauty of Santo and the health and liveliness of its people…spam and fast food unfortunately has begun to creep into Port Villa being the capital of Vanuatu on the island of Efate…but the Santo’s Ni-Vanuatu’s were blissfully unaware…
    How could the filth that is McDonald’s come to define an entire nation? When our institutions including police and VCAT are slaves to these corporate interests…how could beauty be preserved…Tecoma is beautiful…the local Maxi’s stocks healthy beautiful clean home-grown food…one of the only remaining places in Australia untainted by the golden arches of filth…I would buy you Tecoma — -if I only can….

  • 9
    bluey50
    Posted Wednesday, 21 August 2013 at 5:08 pm | Permalink

    If Mark Duffett loves free enterprise so much he should applaud the protesters’ initiative in raising $30K to go to Chicago.

    But McDonald’s isn’t really about free enterprise is it?

    McDonald’s is not about setting up one or two shops and letting other business people do similarly elsewhere. It’s about trying to crush your opposition until the whole planet eats from ONE menu.

    I still remember a McDonald’s ad (for its wares miles away) on a bus stop directly opposite a small corner shop on the road near Innisfail.

    Just because they can.

  • 10
    Mark Duffett
    Posted Wednesday, 21 August 2013 at 5:56 pm | Permalink

    bluey50, you miss the point. ‘Free’ means you don’t get to stop anyone from doing anything just because you don’t like it. Prevention of any activity should remain the sole province of the law.

    I like the freedom for people to raise and spend $30k on whatever they choose; it’s ludicrous to suggest it follows that I should like that choice.

  • 11
    Nick Seidenman
    Posted Thursday, 22 August 2013 at 1:09 pm | Permalink

    Mark Duffett, your assertion (#2) begs the question, is this indeed “free enterprise”? In fact, McDonalds is very active in manipulating or changing the laws governing commerce, planning, environment, and employment to favor their pursuit of profit. To that end, they seek to “game” the marketplace so that their costs are lower and there are as few other impediments to keeping ever larger shares of revenue as profit.

    In Tecoma’s case, the building McDonalds is seeking to construct will be larger than any other building, will not look like any other building here, will be the only business of any kind with a “drive-through” window, will be located closer to the preschool than any other “food” business here, and will have signage that is far more visible, in far greater size and number than any other business here. In other words, they want to tilt what they see as the “market” in our area in their favor as much as possible, to the detriment not only of our environment, our children, and our safety, but also to the detriment of the very same “free market” you extol.

    We have 21 cafe’s in Belgrave, just 2 km up the road, two pizza shops, a fish and chip place, and a charcoal chicken here in Tecoma itself. You won’t hear any of these businesses talking about, or otherwise trying to run the others out of town or out of business. You won’t hear them talking about doubling their market share over the next five years, unlike McDonalds’ CEO Catriona Noble’s stated goal. These businesses coexist, symbiotically, with all the other small businesses in the area, and serve locals and tourists alike quite well. McDonalds doesn’t know how to co-exist with anything; they’re stated goal is market domination. Free enterprise? Hardly.

  • 12
    Salamander
    Posted Thursday, 22 August 2013 at 5:08 pm | Permalink

    A monopoly, as this ends up being, is supposedly anathema to “free enterprise competition”.

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