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If you already felt like WA was turning into a police state, you aren’t going to like what’s coming.

Today, the State Government announced the formation of nothing less than a “Police Squad”, to, “patrol streets and ensure compliance with quarantine and gathering requirements.”

In case there is any misunderstanding, they are also being referred to as an “Enforcement Squad”, made up of officers from different areas of the force, including 60 new recruits, whose graduation will be fast-tracked by two weeks so they can hit the streets immediately.

Penalties of up to $50,000 for individuals breaching quarantine and gathering requirements already apply under the Emergency Management Act. New legislation to be passed this week will provide the Enforcement Squad with new powers to issue $1,000 on-the-spot fines ($2,000 fines for businesses) without having to go through the courts. That’s a lot of power for a fresh recruit!

Police Minister Michelle Roberts empathises, “I know many are feeling stressed and worried right now, but that’s all the more reason to treat one another, particularly those on the frontlines with kindness and courtesy.”

Gee – thanks Michelle. While I absolutely agree with showing police the respect they deserve, I am not sure if this has me feeling any less stressed and worried.

If that doesn’t already sound enough like an announcement from 1950s East Berlin, Emergency Services Minister Francis Logan will put your mind at ease, “I would warn those people that are not taking this situation seriously, that there are more powers available to the State to impose further restrictions to make sure that they do.”

This is especially concerning in light of today’s announcement by the federal government strongly advising against gatherings with more than one other person in either a home or in public. It is being left to the states and territories to decide whether to make this legally binding.

It seems like Government Ministers are making up for a slow start. Until recently, despite copious advice and examples of what’s to come, the borders were left wide open. Just two weeks ago, hundreds of Perth locals were jumping on planes to the prayer-protected petri dish of Bali, and the core pillar of the containment policy was to provide returning residents and tourists with a pamphlet on self-isolation followed by directions to the nearest uber and taxi rank. Extraordinary!

We may soon have 60 raw recruits fresh from the Academy marching the streets with the power to fine us on sight for gathering in groups of three or more. If that doesn’t have us self-isolating and hiding at home, then nothing will.

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