$100,000 a day on police to escort Woodside workers while Aboriginal youth dies

Gerry Georgatos
WA Police sent 140 to 200 special response police officers to Broome to escort Woodside workers and their machinery onsite at James Price Point where the gas hub precinct is being considered.

In the Kimberley are the state's highest youth suicide rates - Aboriginal youth - in some areas up to 100 times the state average. In this same regions are some of the world's worst homelessness rates, once again Aboriginal folk. The government is spending more than $100,000 per day in paying for the additional police to escort Woodside workers and crush any significant dissent by local Kimberley residents.

Broome-based Nyikina rights advocate and economist, Sofia Mirniyinna slammed the police overkill and the reckless expenditure. "Our people are dying at alarming rates, young and old and Barnett and O'Callaghan spend $100,000 a day, money that does not get spent on our people."

"They flaunt this extravagant spend in the Kimberley right in front of our peoples, who are homeless, who are itinerant, who are down and out, who live in over-crowded conditions, who don't have primary or secondary health care, who go without. We apply for one program after another and we get nothing, some of these programs are $20,000, others a total cost of $100,000 and yet they spend this in one day doing nothing. By the time they're done up here they'll have wasted millions - which could have been spent on saving Aboriginal kids, on better health care, on community activities," said Ms Mirniyinna.

In Derby, in Mowanjum, in many towns with significant Aboriginal populations and in Aboriginal communities throughout the Kimberley the government continues to knock back many services applied for by Aboriginal Elders and Aboriginal Corporations, mostly health and educational services. They are knocking back community and recreational opportunities and in many towns they are cost-cutting and closing down community programs, health programs and police are pulling out of Police Citizen Youth Clubs.

Many believe the police militia were sent by Premier Colin Barnett, the gas hub's biggest advocate and many have argued this is an abuse of his position and of his agenda to see the gas hub processing plant built and developed, however Mr Barnett said it was the Police Commissioner's decision.

WA Police Commissioner Karl O'Callaghan has ruled out recovering any costs from Woodside, one of the world's richest multinationals.

Police minister Rob Johnson said he supported the commissioner's decision to fly up the additional police and he said "people should not criticise the police."

Mr Barnett said to parliament that it had not been his decision to send the police and that he too wondered about the numbers of officers sent, however he explained to state parliament that the decision had been made by police based on police intelligence.

Former leader of the Australian Greens Bob Brown said the police numbers were clearly a political decision.

The Wilderness Society has pledged to hold rallies around the nation to protest "the outrageous use of police resources".

The Forest Rescue Australia activists who supported local Kimberley residents last year have said they will return to protect the rights of the Kimberley environment. One of their activists locked himself on to a metal detector at Woodside's head office in Perth on Wednesday May 16. Police spent four hours trying to unlock him.

"How many Aboriginal lives could have been improved, bettered, saved by spending $100,000 each day for several days up there. By the time your readers read this it'll be a million dollars misspent on police officers to effectively holiday in Broome," said Ms Mirniyinna.

High profile WA police inspector Bill Munnee made the trip with his police to Broome and coordinated the police escorts of Woodside workers, contractors and equipment.



Police Commissioner Karl O’Callaghan has backed down from plans to axe police officers from Police Community Youth Centres around the State after Premier Colin Barnett intervened.

Mr O’Callaghan was forced to call a press conference this afternoon after Mr Barnett announced in Parliament that no officers would be removed from PCYCs.

Yesterday, a spokeswoman for Police Minister Rob Johnson said he was satisfied with Mr O’Callaghan’s reasons for the changes, which were due in the next 12 months.

The backflip came less than 24 hours after Mr O’Callaghan also met disgruntled Liberal MPs and declared he was “staying firm” on his proposal.

“They just needed to have explained to them the details of the model,” he said on Tuesday.

“We’ve gone through that, but we’re not deviating from what we have put out there already.”

But as the Liberal backbench revolt grew, including an extraordinary public attack from MP Phil Edman, the public position of the Mr O’Callaghan and Mr Johnson’s was undermined.

“The Premier, through Premier and Cabinet, has asked if we can just check our stride and do a bit more communication and take some time to implement the strategy,” the Police Commissioner said late today.

“I’m not bowing, as such, but there has to be a level of negotiation in the deployment of police.”

Mr O’Callaghan said he had spoken to people from the Premier’s department this morning, before Mr Barnett answered questions about PCYC in Parliament.

“I’ve made it very clear that police officers are not going to be removed and that is a discussion going on within Government and with the Police Commissioner,” he said.

Under the watered down plan Mr O’Callaghan said officers would still be assigned to PCYCs, but not required to do administration duties. They would focus on programs to reduce crime.
Up until today, the commissioner, whose new contract is on hold while he faces a Corruption and Crime Commission inquiry, wanted to replace 12 full-time officers with 20 roving youth liaison officers.

Shadow police minister Michelle Roberts said the back down was extraordinary and “in the face of community revolt”.

She said it also showed Mr Johnson was out of touch with the community.
“This Police Minister has just been a rubber stamp for the Commissioner,” she said


Police have hit back at claims their response to protesters in Broome was a disproportionate waste of taxpayers money, pointing out they had prepared for the worst case scenario based on events at the same site last year.

Inspector Bill Munnee said last year, there were 52 arrests, 25 of which occurred on the first day of police moving in to break up the protest on Manari Road.

There were also 65 infringements 83 move-on notices and four summons issued, he said. Asked whether this year’s response was heavy-handed and over-the-top as claimed, he said: “Hindsight is a wonderful thing.

“For us, what happened on Monday was the best case scenario – there was no resistance, they were compliant, and the convoy went through … and nobody got hurt.”

Insp. Munnee said on Monday, there were 55 officers dealing with about 20 protesters, which was a proportionate response.

“We’re not heavy handed and we’re not trying to intimidate people,” he said. “I believe this was a success because it was a deterrent factor, the number of police.

“Locals and would-be protesters would have known there was a larger than normal number of police in town.”

Insp. Munnee denied Police Commissioner Karl O’Callaghan had made a mistake in sending such a large number of reinforcements to Broome or that local police had failed to read the intentions of protesters.

“The Police Commissioner acted on information that he received from the deputy commissioner and superintendent in Broome – they certainly did not make a mistake,” he said.

“They based it on … information received, the intelligence that we had, local knowledge and prior behaviour. It could have turned terribly, terribly wrong … so we were prepared for the worst.”

Insp. Munnee repeated that the decision to send the police had been the Commissioner’s alone.

“The Premier of the State does not tell the Commissioner what to do … we are not security guards for Woodside or any other corporation,” he said.

“I know there is a process where we want additional resources – it would have been signed of at various levels … by the police, by the State Government.

“I’m not too sure about the process, but I do know that the hierarchy knew about it and the Minister and the Premier knew about it.

“But I want to make it absolutely crystal clear, the Minister of Police or Premier does not tell the police what to do.”

Insp. Munnee said police had not been “lying on Cable Beach getting a sun-tan” during their stay and taxpayers’ money was not being wasted.

Police were staying at “garden variety” hotels and were “gainfully employed protecting and serving the community,” he said.

“They have been working very hard, doing concurrent training, they’ve been assisting detectives with search warrants, they have done foot patrols of the town site,” he said.

“They have also done vehicle patrols … we’ve sent additional police who are here to Derby, Kununurra, South Hedland and Fitzroy Crossing … we’re not going to have people sitting down doing nothing.

“We have also sent some officers back – I am not prepared to say how many – to the places were it is needed the most.”

He pointed out Broome had recently experienced a burglary spike, but this week there had been none:
“This is the effect we’re having on the town – the law abiding citizens of this town should not be worried at all.”

It doesn't matter whether it's chogm, green peace or any other peaceful demonstrators, karl o'callaghan is a megalomaniac with a strict agenda, he wants to intimidate, abolish and eradicate any citizen that doesn't think like a sheep. the man appears to be untouchable with his lap dog minister taking up space and the premier, ever so careful not to upset the apple cart or present disunity. sending a 200 strong special police response unit with full armory and riot gear for a peaceful demonstration is just wasting australian tax payers money so paid thugs can bully, vilify and assault fellow australian tax payers whom are merely exercising their democratic right to freedom of speech and demonstration. wake up western australians, there is a police state forming around you.