Australia: secret government briefing warns of riot risk

Leaked briefing notes prepared by the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet for a secretaries’ retreat over summer were published by The Australian.

Senior bureaucrats warned that “it remains possible for Australia to encounter sporadic breakdowns in social cohesion, such as that recently experienced in the US (Occupy Wall Street) and throughout Europe. The 2004 Redfern Riots and 2005 Cronulla Riots show the potential for real or perceived inequality to give rise to important events of protest and violence. The most likely trigger for such events would be in the event of a return of climbing unemployment (such as if growth in China were disturbed), however cost of living concerns or commentary on the issues underpinning the 2011 London riots could increase the possibility of such outbreaks.”

The briefing also says that “The debate on cost of living pressures will remain a central element of the political dialogue occupying the government in 2012,” as will concerns around housing affordability and Indigenous poverty.

It also says “A number of major disputes and claims of greater union activism from business will provide the backdrop to the review of the Fair Work Act in the first half or 2012,” and that there is “substantial risk the financial turbulence in Europe and the US will become a deeper and more sustained economic crisis”.

It also notes that in 2014 Australia will host the G20, again.

The paper can be downloaded as a .pdf here.

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