Forum held in Brisbane to address 2014 G20 summit, police powers


Photo: Max Riethmuller

A public forum entitled G20: dissent, police powers and international reviews of security implementation was held yesterday as part of a collaborative project between the Griffith Law School, the Caxton Legal Centre, Queensland University of Technology and University of Queensland, to discuss whether vastly expanded police powers contained within the ‘G20 Safety and Security Bill’ (now before Parliament) are necessary.

Speakers at the George Street forum:

  • Superintendent Graham Coleman, Program Director of the Queensland Police Service G20 Group
  • Dr. Tim Legrand, Research Fellow at Griffith University’s ARC Centre of Excellence in Policing and Security
  • Dan Rogers, Secretary of the Caxton Community Legal Centre and a specialist in criminal defence and administrative law


As leaders from across the globe will descend upon Brisbane on November 15-16, 2014, Queensland Police have already began preparation in advance to devise ways of combating violence demonstrated at previous G20 summits in London and Toronto. With more than 4,000 international delegates and 3,000 media representatives estimated to arrive in Brisbane for the summit, the potential influx of approximately 5,000 or more protesters has influenced the introduction of new laws ahead of the event.

149291-fortress-brisbane.gifEstimated figures for the G20 summit in Brisbane, November 2014 – via Courier Mail

Following the announcement of over 7,000 security troops (+ personal reinforcements allowed for each leader), the Queensland Police Service declared ‘Surveillance Drones to combat crime‘ ahead of the conference – allowing for $30 per hour drones to monitor the Brisbane skies as a means of crime prevention ahead of the Convention Centre forum. Members of the Australian Council for Civil Liberties voiced their concerns over ‘Big Brother in the sky’ and the unjustified approach to monitoring criminal activity.

As further increase of powers, the introduction of the G20 (Safety and Security) Bill 2013 into Queensland Parliament has allowed for the approval of strip searches under 3 divided categories – Basic search (Clause 20), Frisk search (Clause 21) and Specific search (Clause 23).

A ‘Basic search’ describes the “non-intrusive” approach to searching a suspected individual during the G20 summit. An officer is allowed to search “…using electronic screening devices, an inspection of a person’s belongings and/or walking an explosives detection dog past a person. A basic search is similar to searches routinely conducted at airport security checkpoints.”

A ‘Frisk search’ is essentially a standard pat down and routine search of items, whilst a ‘Specific search’ is what has caused an uproar amongst various civil liberty groups within Queensland. The new legislation details the methods of this search as:

A specific search is a search of all clothing worn by a person, a strip search of a person and/or a medical x-ray of the person.

This is only one of many controversial police powers included in the G20 (Safety and Security) Bill 2013, as Clause 31 of the proposed Bill describes police powers when confronting a vehicle within the restricted area:

The clause provides for the powers of a police officer or appointed person to stop and search a vehicle for a restricted area or motorcade area. This includes powers to detain the vehicle and the person in charge of the vehicle, move or require the person in charge of the vehicle to move the vehicle, search anything in or on the vehicle, open or require the person in charge of the vehicle to open a part of the vehicle or any thing in the vehicle and undertake an electronic inspection or search of the vehicle. It also includes a power to place a seal, lock or other similar device on the vehicle to prevent a person opening a section of the vehicle or indicate that a person has opened a section of the vehicle.

Clause 38 also details the requirement of identification details and detainment for those who refuse under the new laws:

A police officer has the power to stop a person and require the person to disclose the person’s personal details if a police officer reasonably suspects the person has committed, or is about to commit, an offence that is intended to, or may, disrupt a G20 event or is posing or may pose a serious threat to the security of a G20 event. This power can therefore be exercised by a police officer outside a security area. The person can be detained for as long as is reasonably necessary for the purposes of the clause.

Peter Shields from the Queensland Law Society says the proposed changes are drastic and a breach of basic rights.

“It is a bill which has not been properly thought through, and there are going to be innocent members of the public who will find themselves in custody,” he said.

Criminal lawyer Bill Potts says for the period of the summit, the normal rights that citizens expect will be “suspended and abrogated in the most draconian way”.

1263976_122900544547174_1035773465_oG20 ‘Exclusion Zone’ for meeting in 2014


The forum in Brisbane was introduced by Professor Bill McNeil from Griffith University Law School, and the discussion lasted over an hour in length. Superintendent Graham Coleman addressed the crowd first, and followed a routine police script ensuring that all powers are necessary and justified under the new laws.

Following the speech, Dr. Tim Legrand stressed the importance of reducing the potential of violent situations, stating; “They have to use their powers proportionally and lawfully and remember that they will be held accountable for everything they do. Police also have to distance themselves from protesters to reduce friction and diminish flashpoints.”

There was also substantial discussion on innovative ideas, including the implementation of independent legal observers to hold police forces accountable for their actions, and to appropriately assist any persons feeling that the police powers used against them were unjustified and a severe breach of personal rights. The forum was also followed by a Q&A session from various members of the audience. TOTT News was present at the event, and below we have attached audio clips of all speeches and questions from the day:

The key speeches and Q&A have been uploaded to SoundCloud – CLICK THE LINKS BELOW FOR FULL AUDIO

We are currently helping plan the ‘Alternative G20 Summit’ in Brisbane next year and would appreciate any suggestions of help or assistance. If you are interested in contributing to this event (to be held at the time of the G20), please contact us at You can find information about the alternative summit and what it is about by visiting Thank you.


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