Interview: Court's in Session
Industrial: Whose Choices?
Politics: Peter's Principles
Environment: TINA or Greener?
History: Its Not Just Handshakes and Aprons
International: US Locks out Jose' Bove
Education: No AWA - No Job
Culture: Jesus was a Long-Grass Man
Review: Charlie the Serf
The Locker Room
Belated Merry Whatmas?
The Grinch Who Stole Christmas
I Think Therefore I Scam
A Taxing Answer
Leslie John Turner
Hitler in Bowral
On Friday 20 January, police in the semi-rural town of Bowral (NSW) removed an anti-Howard political poster from a street stall following an alleged complaint, or complaints, from the public.
The poster was a large homemade amateurish affair, comprising photographs of Adolph Hilter and John Howard with the Question posed above them 'SPOT THE DIFFERENCE', and below them the Answer 'THEY BOTH LOVE FASCISM'.
Bowral is a well known day-tripper tourist destination, and a bolt hole for the rich and famous, many of whom enjoy tax relief as 'farmers'. It also attracts Sydney residents, like talkback host Alan Jones, who maintain luxurious addresses in the surrounding district. Despite glossy real-estate spin in the Ita Buttrose edited journal High Life, a local cover version of the prissy English silvertail Country Life journal, the town and surrounding area is not all jodhpurs and pearls; the ALP has a significant following, and there is a sizeable, active, network of dissidents and rebels of various kinds who support everything from Green politics to Refugee Rights.
The poster removed by police was the work of the local branch of the right-wing populist Citizens Electoral Council (CEC), an outfit founded during the 1980s in Queensland and closely associated with the American organization of political activist and perpetual Presidential candidate Lyndon LaRouche.
Local CEC members have been reported as opposing the trend towards the Australian population becoming subservient „to business and the banks‰, and recommending the approaches of „Franklin Roosevelt and John Curtin‰ as the way to go.
The anti-Howard poster was one of a few on display in Corbett Plaza on Friday 20 January at a street stall conducted by the CEC, including one with the anti-Bush jibe „ECONOMY IS BUSH‚S NIGHTMARE, TERRORISM IS HIS DREAM‰. The stall had local Council permission and met relevant regulations. The tree lined plaza is right in the centre of town, and within spitting distance of the electoral office of the NSW Liberal Party‚s Shadow Treasurer Peta Seaton.
According to reports the police decision to remove the anti-Howard sign was made after the local police station received complaints from members of the local community alleging the poster was offensive.
Just how many complaints were made is something of a mystery. Reports differ as to whether it was a single complaint, a number of complaints, maybe even a mass of complaints from people on a tourist bus. Then again, there was the proximity of the stall to Shadow Treasurer Seaton‚s electoral office.
Police fronted the CEC stall, reportedly told the organizer there had been complaints, that an „imminent breach of peace‰ was in the offing, and took the offending item away to the local police station a hundred metres up the road.
The Bowral police action is an example of where the new state and federal terror laws are taking us, and raises basic issues about freedom of speech. As one concerned local resident put it in a letter to the Editor of the local paper:
„What is what is going on here? By what and whose authority did the police remove the poster? Have NSW police the authority to make political judgments about political material that does not break specific laws? Was the right of free speech actually curtailed by NSW police on Friday January 20 in the town of Bowral?
"Seems to me that if the NSW police can act in this manner against the sort of political poster and political comment involved in the January 20 incident, then we are entering very scary times. The poster was making a legitimate political point, especially if you regard Fascism as a grouping of political and cultural characteristics and not a time-specific political system.
"What I want to know is at what point, and when, did the display of the sort of material removed by Bowral police, actually become a police matter? And if it is not a police matter, then can someone please help the Bowral police work through their confusions and uncertainties?"
These are questions we should all demand answers too.
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