Feb 28, 2012

Greens call for Qld Police Minister to explain Arrow Energy rent-a-cops

Greens Senator Larissa Waters has written to Queensland Police Minister Neil Roberts to demand an explanation after multinational miner Arrow Energy paid "rent-a-cops" to act as private security at a coal seam gas protest.

Andrew Crook — Former <em>Crikey</em> Senior Journalist

Andrew Crook

Former Crikey Senior Journalist

Greens Senator Larissa Waters has written to Queensland Police Minister Neil Roberts to demand action after multinational miner Arrow Energy paid rent-a-cops to act as private security at a coal seam gas protest. After a recent CSG convergence at Kerry, south of Brisbane, Arrow admitted to paying police to draft in armed special services, or "SS" forces, to stare down protesters, leading to 15 arrests. Waters has also asked Roberts to reveal whether Queensland Police was working in league with the Australian Federal Police to spy on protesters using covert surveillance. Around 100 police were in attendance at the tense Kerry stand-off, some paid the going commercial rate of about $110 per hour. Queensland regulations permit companies to pay police where a local commander considers a response is warranted "over and above" usual rostering. Companies are asked to submit a written application outlining their security needs, conveniently available on the QPS website. "Police escorts or road works traffic direction" cost about $108.35 per hour or $216.70 on public holidays. A horse is a relative bargain at $6.65 while a 50 horse power boat goes for $162.15. A stationary vehicle costs $21.70. In January, Queensland Police released a statement explaining its stance, claiming it was unfair to burden taxpayers with the cost of protest patrols. It said it was not profiting from the exercise and was simply recouping revenue. Police remained under the direction of the Commissioner at all times, the force added. Last week, about 50 police, some from the tactical response unit, attended a protest 250 people (including a sweat drenched Alan Jones) at a New Hope Group coal dump at Jondaryan, west of Brisbane. However, in a statement provided to Crikey, New Hope -- a large Liberal party donor -- admitted to liaising with Queensland Police but said it did not pay police for attending. A spokesperson for the force confirmed that the Southern Region officers present were all on rostered duty at the time. Queensland Gas Company -- the target of CSG protests last year -- also said in a statement that it had never paid police. Lock the Gate campaigner and veteran activist Drew Hutton told Crikey that the current arrangements were "completely inappropriate". "It reminds me of our how police were used in the strike breaking days. That's the danger, it's one thing for a community group to pay for police as security or a street festival -- that clearly is in the public interest. But where there's a private company trying to shut down protests, police are conflicted from the outset." Feisty Katter Party MP Aidan McLindon said the practice of paying police was akin to a military attack on an innocent population. "During World War II you bombed the ports what we're now seeing the same thing with miners and financial transactions. We've now got a situation where foreign owned miners are subcontracting to arrest citizens. It's become an absolute farce," he said. Arrow is half owned by PetroChina and half by Royal Dutch Shell following a 2010 foreign takeover. Senator Waters said she had also asked the Minister which provisions of state legislation permitted police to be hired by private interests and also asked him to explain how discretion is exercised during the protest. "Citizens and community members have a legal and legitimate right to protest the actions of the mining industry, especially when those actions pose a long-term risk to the viability of our farmland, water resources, environment and regional communities," she told Crikey. Last week, Roberts denied that there was any conflict of interest in mining companies paying police. "I do not accept that there was any conflict of interest in police officers performing special services at the recent CSG protests at Kerry," the Nudgee MP said. "At all times police officers are subject to the direction of the commissioner of police. Officers never become the employees of the person or organisation paying for special service duties. All officers work to uphold the laws of the state and do so without fear or favour." But Waters was unimpressed: "We believe the primary role of the police at mining rallies is to ensure the safety of everyone involved, and not to advance the interests of mining companies. It is difficult to see how police can do their job 'without fear or favour' when they are accepting money from private interests in the mining industry." Yesterday, the Senate's Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport Legislation Committee nixed a Waters-sponsored private member's bill that would have granted the federal government the right to veto rogue CSG operations.

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12 thoughts on “Greens call for Qld Police Minister to explain Arrow Energy rent-a-cops

  1. James K

    This is actually very significant. It captures the reality of the slow erosion of democracy, to a multinationals run country….

    They can change PM’s when they want to. That is clear now.
    They can make an opposition become their voicepiece (‘we dont need the mining tax money!’)
    They can get the police to protect their interests when they want to….

    all very disturbing.

  2. Michael James

    Before everyone has a collective collase from hyperventilating, the practice of user-pays police is a long established one in a number of states.

    In NSW, the state I am most familiar with, the practice was introduced under the Carr Labor Govt and is most often applied to major public events.

    The weekend NRL, AFL, ARU and NSL games, major music festivals, public events such as open air motor car rallys and concours, community fairs and such all make use of user-pays police.

    The rationale is that NSW Police will roster on as many officers as they believe is appropriate for the nature of the event and the risks to public safety, however with manpower and resource constraints they may not be able to roster on as many as the organiser would like.

    Many organisers seek additional police to ensure a heavy police presence to prevent anti-social behavior, which would normally be in excess of the numbers the NSW Police would allocate.

    The user-pays police concept allows for off-duty officers to undertake extra duty, within clearly defined limits as to how often and for how long, which is paid for by the event organiser.

    Those police are in uniform, subject to all of the rules and regulations which normally govern police activities at such events, and provide additional police support to major public events.

    They are hardly the end of our democracy, they help ensure that public events are covered by as many police resources as the organisers feel necessary to ensure a safe environment for the public.

  3. Stephen

    It’s exactly the kind of corruption you’d expect under the dead weight of modern managerialism, with its values, mission statements, goals and objectives, plans and programs, and continuous improvement.

    The Minister’s flimsy Chinese wall as a denial of any impropriety is fine in some ideal world, where everybody’s got the same amount of cash to call out the same number of cops. But I doubt the protesters could find one squillionth of the annual Arrow revenue stream.

    Why not just sell the cops direct to the media instead? It worked for the Met and Rupert.

  4. Microseris

    Former Victorian Premier, Brumby had police hand over files of information collated about protesters against the Victorian desal plant, to private consortium Aquasure. This desal plant built along a pristine stretch of coast is believed to be the largest public private partnership in the world.

    If we are honest, governments of all persuasions are puppets for business.

  5. James K

    Indeed Microseris – you are right. Both our major parties are not immune from this disease.

    But it should make us support candidates and parties that will legislate to prevent it.

    (and no surprises here: that is one of the many reasons I like the Greens).

  6. Microseris

    JK, me too however I would settle for support for any of the independents and we might actually get back to being a democracy.

  7. James K

    That may be the ideal, but wouldn’t they just gravitate to like minded others in Parliament and end up forming blocks to vote through legislation.. defacto parties?

  8. Microseris

    Current experience suggests the independents make decisions on a case by case basis. Xenophon, Wilkie, Windsor, et al. The principle of our democracy was supposed to be each representing their constituents. Now days Liberal and the ALP (Alternative Liberal Party) vote in blocks according to the party line and it is very unusual that they get a conscience vote. Any party including the Greens could insist on conforming to the party line.

    Independents are arguably more accountable to their constituents for the decisions they make.

  9. MaggieP

    What a bunch of vote chasing jokers the Greens are. Seriously!

    Notification of serious crimes, BY the AFP, and wait for it… documented in emails between the AFP and Howard regime ministers, was provided to over 50 of their officials. This included all their senators.

    No reply, except by Bob Brown’s dysfunctional PA, informing that “This is not an issue in which Senator Brown has the capacity to pursue at this time.”.

    So what’s the difference here Bob?

    How come it is important for a QLD minister to explain this…. but not for a FEDERAL minister to explain what the Expendable cables exposes regarding much more serious matters.

    Well? We are waiting.

    I think the phrase is ‘closing ranks’. Bad news Bob: it won’t be going away.

  10. AR

    From their inception under Sir Robert Peel, to make the streets (Dublin 1813 & London 1829) safe from the disbanded and half revolutionary soldiery, then surplus to requirements following Waterloo, police were never intended to protect the citizen, unless that citizen was well propertied.
    Police are an arm of the state, the modern state is a wholly owned subsidiary of commercial entities. The only notable difference here is that the particular company is entirely foreign owned, by a foreign sovereign entity (PetroChina) & foreign semi state entity, Royal Dutch Shell.

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