Saturday, 29 August 2015

Reading with comprehension

appears to be a dying art. 
 I would have thought a writer with several published novels would have been able to read and understand a press release.  It seems not.
I admit the press release was not particularly well written. Many press releases are not well written. They are designed to get maximum (mis)information out in a minimum number of words. Sometimes they are designed to stir up public opinion.
Yesterday there was an outcry because a poorly worded press release from the "Australian Border Force" appeared, to some, to suggest that migrants/refugees/people-from-different-backgrounds were going to be targetted in an operation in the CBD of Melbourne. People were going to be "asked for their papers" and they would have to produce them!
I read the press release carefully. It says no such thing. It would never have said anything like that.
Let's be quite clear about something. Australians are not required to carry any form of identity with them. They do not have "identity cards". If someone is driving a motor vehicle they must have a licence - with a photo but if they are walking down the street they don't need that. 
If the police (and this includes the ABF) stop someone then they can ask for their name and address - and nothing more until they make an arrest. Even if they make an arrest people have the right to refuse to answer questions. (That may have implications later but the right is there.) Police can only search someone if they have "reasonable cause".
So, what was the outcry about? The police were going to "target anti-social behaviour and outstanding warrants".  Nothing was said about anything else apart from the fact that if someone was committing visa fraud then it would only be a matter of time before they were caught. That is a perfectly reasonable statement but it doesn't mean the police are going to stop someone in the street and ask them to prove they have the right to be there. They cannot do that. All they can ask for is a name and address - and no law abiding citizen should be concerned about providing that.
Personally I would not have a problem with that providing police were not deliberately targetting law abiding citizens of a particular social group or ethnicity. And why should they? 
If the ABF or the police wanted to conduct an operation of the nature being suggested they would not have announced it. It simply would not have worked. People who believed themselves liable to be stopped  or in the country illegally would simply have avoided the areas announced.
The outcry in the media that "refugees" were being targetted was nonsense. There was no such intention. 
Many refugees come from countries where the police are viewed with suspicion, great suspicion. Many refugees are genuinely afraid of the police. The outcry in the media and social media over this operation was simply wrong because it will just have caused people who view the police in this way to believe that the situation is the same here. They will believe they are targets for brutality and corruption and more. There will be instances of it in any police force but it is not the norm. 
I wonder  if those who went charging in making unfounded accusations about what was about to happen gave any thought to trying to understand what might really be the purpose of the operation and how much damage they have done to the people they believed they were "protecting"?

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