Call to increase police powers
By Brent Wish
BRISBANE — The Criminal Justice Commission (CJC) on August 15 recommended that the search powers of police be greatly increased giving them "covert search warrants". These warrants would give the police the power to search premises without the knowledge of the occupants, placing the civil liberties of many Queenslanders at risk.
The CJC Official Misconduct Division director Mark Le Grand spoke in support of this proposal saying that, "If you require police to protect society, to keep law and order, they have to have sufficient power to do the job".
The stated target of these new powers are the "Mr Bigs" of crime.
The recommendation to extend police powers reflects a general "law and order" push by the Goss government. Other recommendations touted include increased "move on" powers for police aimed at young people and urban poor. The repressive Southbank laws have already been in effect for several months; these have given police and security guards power to remove anyone they wish from the SouthBank site.
Opposition to the recommendations has come from the Civil Liberties Council and other social justice organisations. They are concerned that if covert warrants are added to the Drugs Misuse Act police will have the power to search anyone's premises without notification or charges being laid.
Bernard Wunsch, a spokesperson for the socialist youth organisation Resistance, said "the increase in police powers will be another repressive tool focussed against youth. This power is reminiscent of the police state of the Joh years".
The proposals have not been tabled in state parliament but the CJC recommendation makes it more likely that covert search and other powers will be on the government's agenda when parliament resumes on August 26.