Occupy Sydney wins against police

Not a murmur of protest has come from the NSW Labor Opposition over the O’Farrell government’s political use of the state’s police in Operation Goulding against Occupy Sydney.

Both Greens City of Sydney councillor Irene Doutney and NSW MP David Shoebridge have supported Occupy Sydney’s right to protest.

Police have arrested more than 90 people over the course of the protest, but no charges have been successful in court. Most of the charges have been for alleged breaches of the Local Government Act relating to “camping” or “staying overnight”. Charges have either been withdrawn by police or dismissed by the court.

Police had another two charges relating to “staying overnight” against Occupy Sydney participants dismissed on May 17. The magistrate in dismissing the police case, said there was ambiguity over what constitutes “staying overnight” and the area to which this applied.

Excesses

Police have arrested and detained people “far in excess of the alleged offence”, said an April 17 Occupy Sydney statement.

Magistrate Bradd dismissed a previous Occupy Sydney case on April 4, saying police had made illegal arrests and the prosecution’s evidence was “unreliable”.

In answer to NSW Greens MP David Shoebridge’s February 16 question in the NSW parliament, the police minister, Mike Gallacher, replied on March 22 that as of February 28, $78,123 had been spent policing Occupy Sydney in addition to normal police salaries.

Police have regularly raided the Occupy Sydney Martin Place site since a week after the protest began on October 15. As well as the violence associated with the raids and the usual gamut of fines, harassment and arrests, many items have been confiscated, including laptops, personal belongings, sleeping gear, tables, shelving, banners, flags, mannequins and sheeting

It has been an expensive attempt, sanctioned by the O’Farrell government, to criminalise political dissent.

With no political support from the Labor opposition in response to this repression, after six months Occupy Sydney has been affected by the police actions. As intended, the state government and its police have succeeded in grinding down the broader support that Occupy Sydney received, and this has affected the number of people participating.

It doesn’t mean that the slogan “We are the 99%” is any less relevant or timely. At the height of Occupy Sydney, more than 3000 people were mobilised in two rallies and a number of smaller actions.

Clearly the repression of Occupy Sydney is a small taste of what many have already experienced on a far larger scale in the US and Europe.

Economic crisis

Overall the disastrous social and economic conditions brought on by the capitalist class and its global financial crisis have not yet had as much impact in Australia for the majority of working people as in many other countries.

However, a recent ACTU report has shown that 40% of Australia’s workforce are not permanently employed, having no regular pay, no paid holidays or sick leave and no job security. This means about 40% of the 101,000 new jobs created to April 2012 are either casual or part-time (64,000 are full-time jobs). The total of new jobs created is down from an annual peak of 255,900 in 2007.

Official unemployment in NSW is down to 4.9% (WA 3.8%, Qld 5.1%, SA 5.2%, Victoria 5.3% and Tasmania over 8%), which is at the lower end of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development countries, after South Korea (3.7%), Austria (4%), Japan (4.5%) and China (4%) according to a report in the May12-13 Sydney Morning Herald.

Australia’s unemployment is not at the levels of Spain (24.1%) or Greece (21.7%), which is on a par with the 1930s Depression levels. The Australian economy is being compared to Germany, where unemployment is 5.6% rather than the US (8.1%) and Britain (8.2%).

While the NSW O’Farrell Coalition government is shedding 5000 public service jobs, planning more cutbacks and preparing for more privatisations if it is re-elected for a second term, this has yet to have an impact on the unemployment rate. Both the government and business are barking in the media for major changes to the Fair Work Act, which already has major weaknesses for unions and workers. But don’t hold your breath looking to the NSW Labor Party and its supporters in the union movement for a fight back if the lack of public support for the right to protest for Occupy Sydney is any example.

Direct Action — May 25, 2012