Sydneysiders took their government’s new security laws
in their stride on the weekend, with the bizarre sight of bus
passengers handing over their mobile phones so police could trawl
through their text messages for dangerous SMSs.

We’re told that under the new laws rushed through Parliament last week,
police can arrest people who refuse to hand over their phones if
they’re in a “lock-down” area. There’s nothing like a riot or two
to weaken opposition to State intrusion: after all the fuss over John
Howard’s terror laws, Morris Iemma slipped through harsher legislation
in the blink of an eye.

The new Iemma laws – random phone searches and all – appear similar to
the old Summary Offences Act. Citizens enjoy certain rights, but if you
try to claim them, watch out. Refusal can mean arrest and removal to a
police cell, appearance before an authorised officer (usually a police
sergeant) to determine whether you should be charged; then, if charged,
holding over for some specified time until you appear before a

In Vietnam War protest days, this usually meant at least staying overnight in a
lockup. And even if in the end there is no case, you’ve been given a
rough time without a lawyer, and you’re on a database for future

That’s what many people don’t see coming – the power and control
that’s possible through coercion at very simple levels. You need not
have broken any law or ever be charged with any offence, but your life
can be turned upside down by the application of lawful processes.

So far, Sydney seems to be taking it in good humour, not least because the neo-Nazis and loonies need to be stopped.

On a broader perspective, it’s worth remembering Echelon:
Every phone call, text message, fax and data communication in this
country is logged and monitored by the global spy network; and security
services can access the records of any individual in the
country … which they do on a regular and unchecked basis.

The phone calls and e-mails of most public servants are monitored and,
in the case of “sensitive” agencies, like Defence, ASIS and DFAT, are
randomly examined in a constant search for moles and miscreants. How
much of this the politicians see is hard to assess.

Subscribers who want to see the words that trigger Echelon go here.