Issues arising from police activity during election time

Presented by ANU College of Law

In a number of recent cases, police forces have taken well-publicised actions which became part of the narrative of election campaigns in Australia. At the State election of 2015, Queensland police arrested a political activist who wore a T-shirt bearing the slogan “I’m with Stupid” to a campaign event of the then ruling party, but offered no evidence when the case went to court. During the 2016 federal election campaign, the Australian Federal Police conducted a raid on the office of the then Deputy Leader of the Opposition in the Senate, capturing the headlines for a time, and giving rise to several separate inquiries by the Senate Privileges Committee which are still on foot. In elections around the world, interventions of this type have also been seen, ranging from systematic attempts to disrupt opposition activities, to the “October Surprise” visited on Mrs Clinton’s presidential campaign by the Director of the FBI.

In this seminar, the appropriate way in which police should approach their tasks during election campaigns so as to maintain political neutrality while respecting the rights of electoral participants and ensuring the rule of law will be addressed from a range of different perspectives.

Dr James Stellios is a Professor at the ANU College of Law. His primary research interest is constitutional law, and he has published widely in that field. He is the Director of the Centre for International and Public Law.

Mr David Savage AM is a Visiting Fellow at the ANU. He was an AFP Federal Agent from 1982-2001, serving in a number of roles including as a UN Peacekeeper in Mozambique, Timor Leste, and Bougainville. He was involved in supervising Police in Mozambique and Timor during elections and the Popular Consultation. He was also present in Afghanistan for the 2009 elections. He has also worked as a Human Rights adviser with the UN, International Crisis Group and other international organisations throughout South and South East Asia.