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Victoria

Jan 16, 2017

Liberal candidate for Brighton James Newbury

If Liberal candidate for Brighton James Newbury were to succeed in establishing a database of information on those stopped and questioned by Victoria Police, then my suspiciously Muslim profile would be on it. Late last year, I was surprised to leave the Arab grocery store near my home to find a police car parked on the street outside and a couple of officers standing as sentinels outside the door. I combed my memory for any suspicious activity they might have been investigating, only to discover that the suspicious individual in question was me. As the officers reminded me, I had jaywalked across the street on my way to the grocery store.

According to Newbury, this type of encounter between the police and a brown-skinned Muslim woman like me is the exactly kind of information that should be recorded and published in order to help my fellow Victorians sleep safely in their beds at night. Newbury is not advocating the collection of data for those who are charged (which is already undertaken), but for those who are stopped and questioned or interviewed by police. As he wrote in his op-ed for The Age, “people are increasingly incensed that a small minority of immigrants are committing some of the worst crimes. Victorians have big hearts, but they will not tolerate people who have no respect for the community that has welcomed them”.

If Victorians are indeed intolerant of immigrant criminals, the Liberal National parties are increasingly tolerant of the type of dog-whistling-through-a-megaphone that Newbury has just exemplified. With opinion polls indicating that support for One Nation is on the rise and the global far right exultant in the wake of Trump’s electoral victory in the United States, why bother to conceal Australian racism below a veneer of feelgood nationalism-that-dare-not-speak-its-name marketing, a la Meat and Livestock Australia’s latest Australia-Day-advertisement-that-isn’t-an-Australia-Day-advertisement?

[Razer: I am racist and so are you]

Racial profiling has been prohibited by Victoria Police since 2015, in response to a protracted legal battle in which a group of young men from Flemington alleged that they had been repeatedly stopped and racially abused by police for no legitimate reason. While the case was settled in 2013, the policing of racialised communities remains an extremely sensitive issue in Victoria, particularly when combined with media coverage which spotlights “African” crimes committed by the Apex gang while regarding similar transgressions by white offenders to be boringly routine.

In fact, as Lauren Caulfield points out in a follow-up article in The Age, there is a good case for the type of data-collection that Newbury advocates, but in order to monitor the behaviour of police rather than suspects. Tamar Hopkins from the Police Stop Data Network told the ABC last year that racial data collection would help to establish whether or not police were continuing to resort to racial profiling, despite its official prohibition. The same data, then, can lead to very different conclusions. While James Newbury would consider that a large number of police interactions with members of racial minorities to be proof of their criminal tendencies, analysts like Hopkins would justifiably consider it to be evidence of continued racial profiling and unconscious bias on the part of the police.

[Now we know, racists may well represent the ‘silent majority’]

Legal cases establishing the history of racial profiling and anecdotal evidence of its continued (mal)practice make people of colour question the legitimacy of any encounters we have with the police, even when (as in the case of my jaywalking transgression), we freely admit to having broken the law. Friends and family members have warned me against jaywalking (given my use of an elbow-crutch, I’m not really nimble enough to do so safely), so the wake-up call from the police could be seen as a blessing in disguise — had I not been left wondering whether they would have stood waiting for a protracted period of time outside a “mainstream” hipster grocery outlet in a “white” neighbourhood rather than an Arab grocery store in a fast-gentrifying but still visibly “ethnic” corner of the Brunswick-Coburg borderland.

This lack of trust in the police becomes more fraught when seeking to support female friends experiencing violence at the hands of family members. Reporting such violence to the police is always a difficult enterprise, but becomes challenging to the point of near-impossibility for those who have more commonly experienced the police as adversaries rather than allies. Fear-mongering such as that stirred up by Newbury, then, does not just malign members of racial communities as law-breakers and violent offenders who should be subjected to additional police scrutiny. It makes it more difficult for them to seek help from the police when they themselves are victims of crime.

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17 comments

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17 thoughts on “Lib candidate promotes racial profiling, which does have one upside

  1. Damon

    Thanks for posting this. As a resident of Mr Newbury’s constituency of candidature, you can be sure I will be doing everything to hold him accountable for his views.

  2. JMNO

    Th other thing is when does a person become an Australian and stop being a member of a ‘race’? Is someone born in Australia a member of race for profiling purposes? Second generation?

  3. The Curmudgeon

    A sad indictment of the Victorian Liberal Party that an ultra-safe seat can be gifted to a boof-head like this.

    1. bushby jane

      Aren’t they all, note Tim Wilson and James Paterson although they are Fed govt.
      Just for the record I love the MIA ad, it actually makes the point of being ‘Australian’rather than a race.

  4. Hugh Harris

    I think the performance of Australia’s security services in preventing terror attacks has been astonishing.
    Rather than suggesting the people who put their own safety at risk are racist, perhaps we should consider for a minute the usefulness of information in solving and preventing crimes. The people working daily in jobs where post traumatic stress disorder is endemic are just as entitled to consideration as the ethnic communities they serve.
    The generalisation that “all police are” so and so is just as improper as racial or gender stereotyping. It also fuels the sort of anti-police attitudes the author refers to. A policeman also once stopped me from jaywalking – what an oppressive police-state we live in! Build a bridge…

    1. craig english

      “The people working daily in jobs where post traumatic stress disorder is endemic are just as entitled to consideration as the ethnic communities they serve.”

      Wait, what??

      Because cops deal with PTSD, we should give them more powers to racially vilify certain members of the community as, what, a counter-measure?

      Brilliant!

      1. Hugh Harris

        Nice: I suggest you google straw man.
        I said “equal consideration” as you quote. That means not making the gross and bigoted assumption they are all racist.

      2. Hugh Harris

        Nice: I suggest you google straw man.
        I said “equal consideration” as you quote. That means not making the gross and bigoted assumption they are all racist.

        1. craig english

          “I said “equal consideration””

          No, you didn’t.

          The author didn’t so much as insinuate that all police are racist. That you’ve taken it as such says more about you than the author. You’ve just pulled a #notallmen or #alllivesmatter and missed the overarching point of the article, as well as seen fit to tell the author to “build a bridge” because you thought she was making it all about her.

          You’re doing a fine job of reinforcing her concerns.

          1. Hugh Harris

            “The author didn’t so much as insinuate that all police are racist. ” Oh really? Not in these quotes?

            “…of continued racial profiling and unconscious bias on the part of the police.”
            “had I not been left wondering whether they would have stood waiting for a protracted period of time outside a “mainstream” hipster grocery outlet in a “white” neighbourhood rather than an Arab grocery store ”
            I’m sorry, but there’s only so much sympathy one can summon for being stopped for jaywalking.
            And pray tell, why shouldn’t police be “just as entitled to consideration”, or equal consideration?

          2. craig english

            “Oh really? Not in these quotes?”

            Really.

            “And pray tell, why shouldn’t police be “just as entitled to consideration”, or equal consideration?”

            I don’t believe I said they shouldn’t be. What was contentious about your remarks was that you refuse to see the undertones of racial profiling that already pervade the community.

            I’m not the only one who read that article and came away with the understanding that the police as a whole were not being tarred with the same brush. Perhaps look at why you couldn’t – or, rather, refused to – arrive at the same conclusion.

          3. Hugh Harris

            “What was contentious about your remarks was that you refuse to see the undertones of racial profiling that already pervade the community.”

            Baloney. My comments argue against stereotyping people. Only the wilfully blind could not see that.

          4. craig english

            “Only the wilfully blind could not see that.”

            Do you see the irony of this statement?

        2. thelorikeet

          Hardly a ‘straw man’ to reject nostrums amounting to ‘all police action is good’. Cops are cops. Some are good. Some are not. The policing system is geared to find badness in the community, and racial profiling is a distortion away from the search for badness to the search for race.
          Liberty onnce taken is taken forever. Racial profiling and the might efforts of our police can and have been used to deprecate liberty before andwill again. You lack ‘eternal vigilance’ at your peril – and mine.

    2. Ben.

      They didn’t stop her from jaywalking, they let it happen and then waited outside the shop to confront her about it.
      Funny thing with jaywalking, I’ve only ever seen police issue tickets at crossings in the city where they were specifically targeting jaywalkers. Other times I’ve personally jaywalked in front of police officers and police cars and they haven’t blinked. Following and waiting for someone just to give a verbal warning? That’s odd.

      But the point of the piece is that if this suburban warrior’s plan was put into action, Shakira’s name would be logged in a database along with her race, for easy cross referencing and collating purposes, because despite current evidence to the contrary, he wants to be able to prove his pet theory that those he considers foreign are behind all crime.
      (I don’t think he even actually wants or expects this to happen, he’s just trying to prove what a tuff boy he is to his Tory mates and make a name for himself in the party as a hard man who isn’t scared to stick it to those they consider ‘other’ – it’s not political correctness that stopped racial profiling, it was high court rulings. )

      And if you want to stick up for coppers rights, pause to consider that Newbury has never worked in law enforcement, yet is calling for something that would make policing harder due to divisions it causes in the community.

  5. AR

    As to how long someone must have lived in Oz not to be subject to racial profiling perhaps an Aboriginal could answer that.

  6. rlynch01@bigpond.com

    Well I guess if Mr Newbury wants to racially profile, then he should consider the current criminal profile. I would expect them to be 1. Australian 2. Brits 3. Kiwis & none of those racially defined. That WOULD be living in hope. Look at how ATSI are stereotyped in our prisons, and in the general population. Is that what Mr Newbury wants to do? He has been beaten to it.

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