Mainstream media sirens were going off last week as the Murdoch press and television morning breakfast shows were alerted to posters made by primary school students displaying Black Lives Matter messaging that were hanging on the walls of a progressive school on Sydney’s Northshore.
The Daily Telegraph broke the news on 20 April, outlining that the posters contained antipolice messaging, such as “stop killer cops”, “pigs out of the country” and “white lives matter too much”.
The media frenzy surrounding it led to NSW police minister David Elliott becoming the belle of the ball.
“This is nothing short of indoctrination,” Elliott told Kochie on Sunrise. “I don’t want to see taxpayers’ money going into an alleged education where children are going to walk away thinking police are somehow racist…. We don’t have a race problem here in Australia.”
The police minister then appeared on 2GB to speak with radio host Ben Fordham, where he called for the sacking of the “half-witted” teacher over the “brainwashing” of students.
But, as NSW MLC David Shoebridge has pointed out, Elliott didn’t have his facts straight when he showed up on shock jock radio. And rather than seeing the primary school teacher lose her job, the Greens justice spokesperson is calling for the sacking of the police minister.
“Well, I heard it on the radio, and I saw it on the television”
“This is a man who has shown repeated poor judgement in his position as police minister,” said Shoebridge. “In this case, he has called for the sacking of both a teacher and a principal before even the most basic investigation was done.”
“In fact, the initial investigation shows that these messages were not taught by the school but were in fact brought to school by the students,” he told Sydney Criminal Lawyers.
As the media storm commenced, NSW education minister Sarah Mitchell ordered an inquiry into the posters of Lindfield Learning Village’s year 5 and 6 students. And after Elliott’s tour de force, it was announced that the messaging wasn’t taught, but rather they were the student’s ideas.
The principal stated that the posters were part of a pre-learning activity aimed at identifying what students knew about contemporary Aboriginal history – meaning they’d come to the conclusion that police are racist and perpetrating violence against First Nations people from their day-to-day lives.
Systemic NSW police racism
Elliot made clear on Sunrise that, as far as he’s concerned, there’s no race issue in Australia, while around 25 percent of the NSW adult prisoner population is made up of First Nations people, who, on a broader scale, only account for 3.4 percent of the state’s overall population.
“To be the police minister and pretend – or worse believe – that there is no race problem in Australia should disqualify you from the outset,” Shoebridge maintained.
“There is no question that when you look at discretionary police powers in this country that they are repeatedly shown to be applied using either implicit or overt racial discrimination.”
NSW police officers have been found to disproportionately strip search First Nations people. Aboriginal people are more likely to end up in court if found with a small amount of cannabis in this state. Statistics have shown NSW police drug dogs are more likely to be deployed in areas with a large First Nations population. And in NSW, Aboriginal defendants are 20.4 times more likely to be refused bail than their non-Indigenous counterparts.
“There is no other way to explain the gross overpolicing of First Nations people and the fact that First Nations people in this country are the most incarcerated people on the planet,” Shoebridge added.
Blurring the right
“This is the sort of behaviour coming from ideologues working in the education department that want to skew what Australia stands for,” the police minister said, this time on Nine’s Today program. “I can’t believe we’ve got these left-wing teachers out there acting racist themselves.”
If you’ve been in the habit of reading Mark Latham’s parliamentary speeches of late, you’ll know that during his onscreen rants, Elliott was sounding very much like the NSW One Nation leader. Indeed, you could be excused for thinking the pair were indoctrinated at the same school.
“This was a coordinated media hitjob by the Liberal police minister and the leader of Pauline Hanson’s One Nation Party in NSW, Mark Latham,” Shoebridge continued.
“They had a concerted media strategy that ran on both talkback radio – primarily through 2GB – as well as the Daily Telegraph, and it was designed to increase the profile of Mark Latham as he was chairing an inquiry into his toxic Parental Rights Bill.”
Currently, Latham has a private members bill before committee that seeks to ban teachers, counsellors or any other school staff member from mentioning gender fluidity at work via threat of dismissal. The bill effectively erases the identity of transgender youth within the education system.
“Voters across the political spectrum would be concerned to see the NSW police minister sitting down and planning an attack media strategy with the head of Pauline Hanson’s One Nation Party,” Shoebridge said. “I know I was disturbed by it.”
Time for dismissal
But, according to Shoebridge, that’s not the whole of it.
“Elliot also has a record of extremely problematic behaviour that includes the unlawful firing of a submachine gun – a crime which has a maximum 7 year criminal penalty – as well as a notorious road rage incident against a very young driver in his own electorate.”
Photos of Elliott, as corrections minister, firing an automatic weapon to mark the 2018 opening of a prison emerged last year, while, in 2019, the minister is alleged to have chased a driver he claimed clipped his car, and as he approached the 17-year-old he stated that he “worked for the cops”.
Under the police minister’s watch, the amount of strip searches being carried out upon the general public continues to skyrocket. Elliot defended police having strip searched 122 girls – with two as young as 12 – over a 3 year period, saying he’d be happy for officers to strip search his own children.
There have also been police misconduct incidents that appear to have gone unsanctioned. There was the coordinated harassment of a lawyer to the point that he gave up representing his client, as well as an assault perpetrated by a constable upon a First Nations teen in a Surry Hills park.
“With the aggressive approach he takes to his portfolio – including his in effect celebrating and supporting the strip searching of children – it’s hard to see how he can retain his position as police minister,” concluded Shoebridge.
“I join with growing voices across the state who say he needs to go.”
NSW Greens MLC David Shoebridge is currently running an online petition calling for the police minister to be dismissed.
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Paul Gregoire is a Sydney-based journalist and writer. He has a focus on human rights issues, encroachments on civil liberties, drug law reform, gender diversity and First Nations rights. Prior to Sydney Criminal Lawyers®, he wrote for VICE and was the news editor at Sydney’s City Hub.