So who saw the story about “Sovereign Citizens” on ABC’s 7.30 tonight?
The ABC program reported that a “NSW Counter Terrorism and Special Tactics command assessment” has unveiled a shocking new terrorism threat!
“Sovereign citizens are in Australia and both their numbers and the threat they pose, are growing”
The ABC would have us believe that the US militia movement of the 1990s was about to break forth in Australia:
Police records show the number of Australian sovereign citizens in NSW doubled from 2009 to 2011 and nearly tripled from 2009 to 2012.
Interactions with police increased 50 per cent in 2011, with a “notable increase in threats of violence”.
In the United States, domestic anti-government extremists have murdered 32 law enforcement officers and the Department of Homeland Security now says they’re the number one domestic terrorist threat.
The truth is a little more mundane.
Much more likely. In the ABC’s report a NSW Police spokesperson concedes that the sovereign citizenship movement has not in fact been associated with any substantial acts of violence in Australia:
Australia had not experienced any of the high impact violence resulting in death or casualties associated with the movement overseas
Sovereign citizens might annoyingly drive around “displaying homemade registration plates”, but they are not the US militia movement of the 1990s. So why the terrorism beat up?
Detective Superintendent John O’Reilly is the commander of the Counter Terrorism and Special Tactics Operation Group for NSW Police.
“Sovereign citizens are people that don’t buy into our legal framework, our system of government,” he said.
“They consider themselves individuals and operate outside the law and outside our tax system.”
I’d be really keen to read the NSW Counter Terrorism and Special Tactics command assessment in question. Who else do they consider potential terrorists?
How about land rights campaigners? An increasing number of Aboriginal people take the slogan “Sovereignty Never Ceded” seriously.
What about anarchists? (I ask rather self-interestedly!) Or communists? Or Socialists? What about the growing elements in the environmental movement, trade union movement, or anyone else who has come to see in whose interests our government governs?
Sovereign citizens are cranks, but within Australia they have always been harmless cranks. The idea that Australia’s sovereign citizen movement is capable of anything more than vexatious litigation and creative financial scams is patently absurd. The fact that NSW Police classify them as a terrorist threat is just more evidence of how widely the Australian state is now casting the terrorism net.
The Monthly, 6 Sept 2014, Freemen movement targets Indigenous Australia.
Living the Dream, 12 Oct 2015, Evereything You Know is Wrong – Conspiracy Theory (podcast).
Cartoon by xkcd.