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Issue #1700      September 2, 2015

“Operation Fortitude” – a wake up call

There was a rapid response to a press release issued by the Australian Border Force (ABF) last Friday (August 28). Hundreds of angry protesters quickly gathered outside Flinders Street Station in Melbourne to protest against the ABF’s Operation Fortitude. Last Friday’s turn of events was a wake-up call to all left and democratic forces in Australia and to the wider community.

Australian Border Farce

“ABF officers will be positioned at various locations around the CBD speaking with any individual we cross paths with,” ABF Regional Commander Victoria and Tasmania, Don Smith said.

“You need to be aware of the conditions of your visa; if you commit visa fraud you should know it’s only a matter of time before you’re caught out,” Smith added.

The press release said ABF was part of an inter-agency operation to “target crime” in the CBD of Melbourne.

Just in case the point was not clear, the press release continued: “The inter-agency outfit will continue to work together on an ongoing basis to target crime in and around the Melbourne CBD to make the city a safer place for everyone.”

The ABF was officially formed in July this year with the full support of the Labor Opposition. The departments dealing with immigration and customs were merged to form the Department of Immigration and Border Protection.

The ABF is a fully armed paramilitary outfit, operating under the command of Commissioner Roman Quaedvlieg. Immigration and Border Protection Minister Dutton claimed proudly, “... secrecy provisions in the department are in line with partner and like agencies such as the Australian Federal Police and the Australian Defence Force”.

No one has explained why customs and immigration officers would be preventing crime in the city centre. That is the responsibility of police.

So who would they stop? What would happen if someone did not have a visa on them? After all there is no requirement in Australia to carry ID papers. What was the purpose of this exercise?

These and many other questions remain unanswered. The operation has all the dressings of a crude, highly visible exercise in the promotion of racial profiling aimed at Muslims. The press release also carries an implied link between Muslims and criminal activity, otherwise why would immigrations officers be required?

Neither Border Protection Minister Peter Dutton nor the PM Tony Abbott had answers. The ABF’s response was to imply the media had misreported the stated intent of the operation. Tony Abbott tried to dismiss the whole incident saying, “All sorts of press releases go out all the time”.

Dutton who, like Royal Commissioner Heydon, apparently doesn’t read emails tried to duck the fact he had been sent a copy twice.

Protesters outside Flinders Street Station in Melbourne.
Protesters outside Flinders Street Station in Melbourne.

Political exercise

Asked about the Melbourne issue on the Friday, NSW Police Minister Troy Grant stated that “the Border Force already engages in NSW … they do a range of stuff. So it’s just Victoria catching up.” After the operation was cancelled he issued a denial and qualification. Labor leader Bill Shorten not only failed to condemn it on the Friday, but said, “Labor obviously believes in targeting crime”.

Clearly this was not a genuine exercise in catching people who have committed “visa fraud”. If it were, it would not have been preceded by a public announcement enabling offenders to take cover. There are strong similarities with the way in which the media is present when raids on the homes of “terrorists” are carried out.

There can be little doubt that this was a political exercise from an extremely reactionary government, one of the most reactionary governments Australia has ever had. Abbott is playing the anti-Muslim/security/terrorist card and intends to do so right up to the next election.

He has the full support of his enabler Bill Shorten.

Next article – Horrors in offshore detention centres

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