Minor political parties should be provided with equal rights, guaranteed through the integrity of the Australian electoral process.At best it was an inept decision by the NSW Police Force to raid the headquarters of the Australian Help End Marijuana Prohibition Party, at Nimbin, 10 days prior to the federal elections. At worse there is the question whether approval for the raid was politically timed consciously, raising serious issues for the civil liberties of minor political parties in Australia.
The question begs: who authorized this raid on the HEMP Embassy and HEMP Party so close to the Federal election? NSW Police could have raided these premises any other time.
The raid on the headquarters of the HEMP Party occurred only two days after the parties official launch from these premises. Ms. Canales, candidate for the seat of Richmond, was present in her electoral office at the Embassy during the raids, but was not charged. Only minor amounts of marijuana were found on the premises. One person was arrested from the nearby Hemp Bar. At least 28 police were used, and the raids inflamed locals.
A detective inspector is reported in the media as saying that the raid was partly in response to a prior complaint from State National Party MP, Thomas George. This only adds to the ambiguity because the HEMP Party has candidates standing against George’s party in the Upper and Lower House in the coming Federal elections.
The Hemp Embassy, where the HEMP Party is based, has always been overtly transparent about it’s political role on the issue of ending marijuana prohibition. The Embassy’s behaviour is totally consistent with political dissidence, not standard criminal activity.
While the NSW Police have denied that the raid was politically timed, there is also a perception that this may not be the case. Only an open investigation could ensure the integrity of the electoral process.
The Australian Electoral Commission should investigate, although the issue requires examining the activity of a State authority. The AEC informed the HEMP party that this is outside their jurisdiction! However, interference in an electoral process is unacceptable, regardless of who does it.
If the issue is not addressed adequately by the AEC the impression may linger that it’s ok for police to harass minor parties.
Michael Balderstone (NSW Senate candidate and HEMP Party president)