Yesterday’s Operation Fortitude debacle proved the power of public backlash and protest. And now, the morning after, Australian people and officials alike have some powerful opinions to share.
The day began with the Australian Border Force announcing a plan to patrol the Melbourne CBD, checking visas on the street and “speaking with any individual we crossed paths with”.
This raised immediate concerns, with the words “racial profiling” and “police state” frequent among media and social media backlash. Follow-up statements clarifying plans did little to ease fears.
Demonstrators quickly gathered outside Melbourne’s Flinders Street Station, bringing the city centre to a standstill and ultimately causing the planned press conference to be cancelled.
Within hours of announcement, the operation was dead in the water.
The social media reaction was, as usual, equal parts humorous and pointed:
The cancelled operation has gotten just as much criticism on an official level.
MP Andrew Wilkie was perhaps harshest of all, releasing a statement that “Joseph Stalin would be proud of Tony Abbott”.
“Just as East Germany’s Stasi would be delighted with the Australian Border Force — why, even General Pinochet would be impressed”.
“Since the terrorist attacks in the US in 2001, Australians have been subject to countless new security law excesses, including the mandatory retention of metadata by the current government”.
“To now have the prospect of the Australian Border Force “randomly” stopping people in Australia is surely the final straw”.
The Victorian Government also released a statement criticising the ABF’s communication.
“The State Government was notified this month that Victoria Police would lead a joint-agency operation this weekend in the CBD aimed at keeping Victorians safe”, said the statement.
“We were advised it would target anti-social behaviour and commuters to ensure people got home safely”.
“We fully support the decision by Victoria Police to cancel the operation after the unfortunate and inappropriate characterisation by the Australian Border Force today”.
Senator David Leyonhjelm called the cancellation “good news”.
“Either the Border Force are doing racial profiling, in which case they should stop it, or they are hassling everyone, and they should stop that as well”.
What did you make of yesterday’s news and its response? Is this truly the final straw? Will this change the way we respond to future government blunders?