Chatting to people, one of the common responses is that other countries have the equivalent, the implication being that so should Australia. The first time I went to mainland Europe I was struck by the presence of para-military forces.The first time to the US, the firepower on display with police and also the extremely officious customs and immigration service. Although Australia is more "armed" than say the UK or NZ, I found it very strange and a bit off-putting. Since then, we have gone down the same route and I don't like it.
All this may sound naive, but it doesn't make me feel safe. I am just too conscious of the way in which state institutions have been corrupted, co-opted in the creation of totalitarian states. There have been a number of Australian thrillers, can't remember the titles at the moment, postulating this. While I quite enjoyed them, I thought them silly at the time. Now I'm not so sure.
One of the problems of organisations like Border Force, or the police for that matter, lies in mission creep. The organisation acquires its own momentum that inexorably draws it outside the boundaries originally set. It also acquires the structure and skills to argue its case in public. A second problem in this particular case lies in the increasing risk of jurisdictional conflict between multiple bodies with overlapping powers. A third problem is that of co-option, the way in which other bodies are drawn in outside their original role, in so doing creating new mechanisms for coercion and enforcement.
Operation Fortitude was a classic case in point. A train inspector's primary role is to reduce fair evasion. Later, train safety was added. The use of train or taxi inspectors to enforce immigration law all in the name of public safety is, to my mind, a rather dramatic example of mission creep. The inability of the ABF Commissioner, or of the ABF staff involved in the fiasco, to recognise the conflicts that they were dealing with, suggests that the ABF has already become lost within the labyrinth of its mission.
Victorian Police have put on hold any future operations with Border Force until roles etc are clarified. I quote from the ABC story:
Commissioner Ashton told 774 ABC Melbourne the bungle was alarming and could not be repeated.
I've said look we won't be doing any more operations together until we sort of understand what they might look like and what the differences are now between Border Force and what Immigration might do"
"Until we do that we won't be doing anything further together."