ABC online “Police ‘furious’ over Palm Is decision”
The Queensland police union is threatening industrial action to protest against manslaughter charges being laid against Chris Hurley for the killing of Mulrinji in the Palm Island watch house. TV reports today and last night have suggested that action could take the form of withdrawing police from indigenous communities as well as marching on parliament.
A selective strike targeting Aboriginal communities is a clear breach opf racial discrimination laws and would lead to the union getting into hot water in the courts if they go down this road. But apart from the legal stupidity of such a campaign I hope the police do exactly that as it would give a priming boost to Aboriginal communities to begin their own self policing programs which many Aboriginal leaders are calling for. It is a fine paradox indeed to hear Murundoo Yanner calling for all police to leave Aboriginal communities and now the police union is threatening to do exactly that.
The police union has advanced the cause of Aboriginal Australia by politicising the manslaughter charges and building a political campaign around the policing of Aboriginal communities. A prolonged fight by the police will for sure create a major crisis for the Bjelke-Beattie government and it will have to respond one way or the other – back down to the police or follow this crisis into its logical next step – to review how Aboriginal communities are policed and institute change. The police union providing an active participant in this dispute will surely provide plenty of oxygen for the growing fires of outrage being fanned by Aboriginal people and their supporters.
This new offensive by the police union is sure to expand the public debate from what happened in the Palm Island watch house in 2004 to a broader discussion of how Aboriginal communities are policed.
Even the supposedly culturally sensitive Murri court system that is being expanded in Queensland will have no effect on incarceration or death in custody rates as it does not remedy authoritarian, racist and brutal work practices by grass roots cops in grass roots communities.
It is futile to tinker with the court system when the primary agency of institutionalised racism that leads to the extremely high Aboriginal incarceration and death in custody rate is the police force itself. Murri court simply streamlines the prosecution, sentencing and criminialising of those who the police choose to arrest.