Operation Fortitude didn’t happen this weekend.
If it were to happen, what would it have entailed?
Apparently, members of Her Majesty’s Australian Border Force would have been wandering the streets of Melbourne checking people’s visa status to ensure nobody is here without permission or is violating the terms of their particular visa.
A usually imperturbable AussiePride hastily banged the living daylights out of his keyboard to knock out an email to let me know about this outrage. He was fewmin, liberally using adjectives such as fascist and police state.
Personally, I was a little more sanguine about the operation;
Firstly, I don’t have an objection to visa obligations and conditions being actively enforced, well, at least not in principle.
Secondly, the anarchist in me would have loved to have seen quite how they thought it might work in practice. In fact, I was a little disappointed that they weren’t planning to run the publicity stunt here in Manli ™ and had stopped me during their activities.
Why? Because it’s utter illegal bollocks, that’s why. Stop me on the street and demand identification without having reasonable grounds to suspect that I’ve committed, am about to commit or have just witnessed a crime and you’ll be given a short answer in the negative. Detain me for more than a moment and you’ll be meeting my legal team to discuss the compensation for unlawful arrest.
Unusually, the Grauniad gets it right here. Stopped clocks being correct twice a day, an’ all that.
Victorian and New South Wales’ laws are very similar in this regard; you must carry and produce on request your driving licence whilst driving a vehicle (as Magic found to his peril) but there is no legal requirement to identify yourself to the police or border authorities whilst going about your legal business on a Victorian or New South Wales street. It’s a different story at an airport or port though, so I wouldn’t recommend telling the coppers to take a hike if asked who you are there.
You must also be very careful with the language one uses in New South Wales. In fact, locals tell me that this has been used very effectively by Sydney cops over the years to supercharge offences from mild misdemeanors to a trifecta which might attract a prison sentence with resisting arrest (i.e. you objected to having your head slammed against the hood of the police car) chucked in as the third and final strike.
But back to the aborted Operation
SNAFU Fortitude; how might it have worked out for the team as they patrolled the mean streets around Federation Square?
Border Force One; (to a swarthy-looking gentleman); Excuse me sir, can you step over here please, I’d like to talk to you about your immigration status?
Swarthy Gentleman; No sorry mate, I’ve already donated to the girl collecting over there. I’m in a hurry as I’m meeting my mates at The G for the match.
Border Force One; Please stop immediately and provide identification otherwise you will be arrested!
Cop providing support (quietly); Um, you can’t demand ID and we can’t arrest him.
Border Force One; Right sir, on this occasion only I will let you off with a warning but don’t let it happen again.
Swarthy Gentleman; Jesus, what an utter fucking waste of taxpayer’s money.
Cop; Get up against the wall, NOW! Someone read him his rights while I cuff him.
Happy 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta, by the way.