The Body Snatchers

01.03.2014

tags: Federal policing, Peace Officers,

discussion: 0 comments

By Jason Byrnes

From the March 2014 issue of the APJ.

Few episodes in the history of federal policing in Australia are more controversial than the circumstances surrounding the passing of the Peace Officers Act 1925.  

The circumstances leading to the passing of the Peace Officers Act 1925 were driven by the serious ideological conflicts that then dominated Australian politics and which, at the time, threatened to deeply compromise Commonwealth and State relations to an extent that can be barely comprehended by the modern audience.

The legislation was created in haste during an intense political crisis when the New South Wales (NSW) Government refused to assist the Commonwealth Government’s attempts to deport radical trade unionists. With its hands forced on the issue, the Commonwealth rushed through the legislation and created a police force that did not have an obvious role or function after the political crisis passed.

This article outlines the circumstances surrounding the introduction of the Peace Officers Act 1925, the subsequent formation and duties of the Commonwealth Peace Force through until the establishment of the Commonwealth Police in 1960. This is a story of how a piece of politically motivated legislation actually proved to be a robust (albeit imperfect) statutory basis for the Commonwealth’s involvement in law enforcement for over three decades. 

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