Australian police equate socialists with right-wing extremists, spy on both
via Queensland Police Service

BRISBANE, Australia—Police in the Australian state of Queensland are enlarging their effort to keep tabs on individuals with “extremist” views and beliefs as a result of the December 2022 killings of two police officers and a neighbor in the city of Wieambilla.

According to reports, the Queensland Police Service (QPS) is changing its procedures for recording interactions with what it terms “extremists.” An internal memo sent to QPS officers via email describes new procedures for recording police encounters with individuals who “allegedly hold a range of ideological beliefs.”

Under these new procedures, officers are to record all interactions with “people holding ideological beliefs” in a state-wide central database known as “QPrime,” and officers are to do so at the earliest opportunity. Information will be then assessed by counter-terrorism investigation teams and can then be escalated or individuals flagged.

Though much media reporting is focused on the planned tracking of religiously-motivated extremists and conspiracy theorists of the kind that committed the Wieambilla attack, one troubling aspect of the memo is getting little attention—namely the listing of groups defined as “at risk” of causing public danger who should be recorded in the QPrime database.

A report from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) says the memo “describes the at-risk groups as conspiracy theorists, religious, social, or political extremists, and sovereign citizens, as well as people with ideologies relating to capitalism, communism, socialism, or Marxism.”

While the full text of the memo is not reproduced by ABC, if the sections reported are accurate, the motivations and implications of this new QPS policy of documenting known socialists and Marxists are troubling, especially given the history of past political targeting campaigns.

Queensland state government and police, particularly under former Premier Joh Bjelke-Petersen, has a history of persecuting left-wing political forces and trade unions. Queensland was a notoriously corrupt and partisan police state in the past, known for spying on and persecuting government leaders’ political opponents. It is difficult not to see echoes of the Bjelke-Petersen regime in what effectively amounts to a register of political opponents and those not subscribing to the liberal status quo.

The justification for recording interactions with “extremists” is that the state needs to keep track of people likely to commit violence. This highlights that the QPS is drawing a false equivalence. It is placing right-wing groups like the so-called “sovereign citizen” movement and religious fundamentalists on the same plane as people critical of the capitalist economic system and Marxists.

The policy is a particularly aggressive application of the so-called “horseshoe theory,” whereby those on the far right and far left of the political spectrum are considered indistinguishable from each other by virtue of the fact they oppose the current organization of society.

This, of course, relies on ignoring the respective goals and methods of right-wingers and left-wingers, as well as ignoring Australian history. Acts like the Wieambilla attacks are the exclusive domain of reactionaries in Australia. Based on the wording of the excerpts from the memo, it would seem that the QPS believes that the mere act of holding political opinions or an “ideological belief” is abnormal and a threat.

The police memo puts forward a false equivalency between reactionary forces and progressives on the left. Democratic movements are organizing to oppose attempts to record and monitor socialists and Marxists fighting for change and justice in Queensland.

The Guardian (Australia)

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Miles Fitzsimmons
Miles Fitzsimmons

Miles Fitzsimmons writes for The Guardian (Australia) workers weekly, published by the Communist Party of Australia.