If you have a taste for the somnambulistic — or the sado-masochistic — you can wade through the 441 pages of the Western Australian Legislative Council Standing Committee on Legislation’s report into “stop and search” laws for yourself. Given that it took 11 months, 21 submissions, 76 witnesses and three delays to write the thing, and might take about the same process to read it, let me save you the trouble and quote from the first page the only thing you need to know.

“After considering [the Bill], a majority of the Committee (comprised of Hons Mia Davies, Dr Sally Talbot, and Alison Xamon MLCs) could find no justification for the Bill.”

That would be, for the uninitiated, the Liberal Government’s own Upper House committee, saying very clearly that the Bill has no justification. Never mind any amendments, never mind any supposed safeguards or limitations or utterances of faith. Stop and search legislation should never have been proposed in the first place.

As for amendments designed to provide “checks and balances”, what is the point? The entire idea of removing reasonable suspicion from was to remove checks and balances in the first place. Any government really interested in safeguards and accountability would never have put this turkey of an idea up at all.

Surely now Police Minister Rob Johnson must go. He’s presided over laws that jail the mentally ill, laws that confiscate innocent people’s cars and now had laws designed to remove an innocent person’s right to personal physical sanctity rejected by his own people. How much is enough?

This legislation is now a dozen pages of condemned product. And if the Government had the common decency of even a corner supermarket grocer it would have done the honest thing and recalled the bill; the whole thing has been killed stone dead by the Government’s own committee, and to proceed with it any further would be a sort of legislative Weekend at Bernie’s, propped up by wires and rods and bugger-all raison d’etre.

But of course, this is politics. And facts have little to do with the case.

In a display of arrogance that would be breathtaking if wasn’t predictable, the Barnett Government will  press ahead with the laws. Laws, remember, that have no justification and no chance of rectification. Laws that have been shown by trial and evidence to have no effect on crime but every effect on everyday citizens. Laws that are so flawed in concept and execution that everyone from the Law Society to former Liberal politicians to the United Nations reckon they’re stuffed.

You can only assume they’ve lost the plot.

All this drum-beating is occurring in the midst of household utility prices rising an average of $1000 a year thanks to Government policy, ministers who can’t explain their own policy and treasurers who lose their jobs shortly after they lose their trousers. Never mind all that, eh? Carry on with legislation that isn’t needed, wasn’t wanted, doesn’t work and shouldn’t happen.

This penny-pinching, piss-ant mob of mean, nasty, ignorant little intellectual dwarfs that pose as the Western Australian government seem intent on proving their own caricatures.

Prohibited behaviour orders? They don’t work, but we’ll bring ’em in anyway. Naming and shaming kids on the internet? Saves on the cost of building stocks on Subiaco Oval. Stop and search laws? 60% of the public don’t want them (very courageous, Minister, very courageous), the police didn’t ask for them and our own committee killed them; but what the hell, let’s persist with a bit of Zombie government.

These laws have curled up their toes, started pushing up daisies, rung down the curtain and joined the bleedin’ choir invisible. Yet with rising prices, falling crime and ministerial dysfunction, this is what Colin Barnett has chosen to pursue; he’d rather you be frisked without cause than you pay your power bill.  It isn’t so much out of touch as it is a total loss of sense and feeling.

Stop and search is dead, and nothing short of a jolt of electricity can bring it back to life. Anybody got a Taser handy?

Peter Fray

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