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Roger Rogerson and the return of old-style policing

Date

Mike Carlton

<i>Illustration: Glen Le Lievre.</i>

Illustration: Glen Le Lievre.

''We're back to the Gestapo days,'' protested the raddled old crook as he was hustled from his home and into a waiting police car. "I'm 73 years old."

Three hundred of his closest friends from the media jostled to capture the thrilling moment. Roger Rogerson – the very name – still exerts a magnetic pull. Talk about life imitating art: it was like an episode of Rake. Watching the television coverage, I half expected Cleaver Greene to appear at any minute, hung over and wig askew, protesting volubly on behalf of m'client.

Instead we got Roger's solicitor, Paul Kenny, an ex-copper himself and often the brief of choice for police officers in reduced circumstances. I vaguely recall Kenny threatening to sue me on behalf of one of his more nefarious customers.

In this case, he was horrified at the indignity of Roger's very public collaring. "An absolute disgrace; he was treated like a dog," he huffed to the hacks. "I been in shoot-outs, I been bashed, I've had everything under the sun done to me. But I've never seen conduct like just occurred here, ever." There would be complaints to the Commissioner, the Police Minister, the Premier.

It was hard to see what the fuss was about. Treated like a dog? A murder suspect was arrested at his home, surely not an uncommon occurrence in this line of work. Apparently Kenny had hoped to negotiate a private handover of his man, with conditions; the powers-that-be weren't interested.

But, oh, the exquisite irony of Roger Rogerson complaining about police misconduct. The ghoulish cackle of laughter you can hear in the background is the shade of Warren Lanfranchi, the heroin dealer he famously shot and killed in a laneway in Chippendale in 1981. Self defence, of course, even though Lanfranchi was carrying no weapon of any sort.

That killing laid the foundations for the Rogerson mystique. Here was a no-nonsense copper, hard as nails; bending the rules of course, but always in the noble cause of keeping the streets safe for decent folks. Utter codswallop. But it is extraordinary how many people believed this nonsense, not least among them your friend and mine, the famous broadcaster Alan Jones, who seems to have worshipped Rogerson.

In 1998, while urging police to get tough on picketing workers during the Maritime Union strike, Jones squawked that NSW needed "a hundred Roger Rogersons". More recently, in 2009 he launched Rogerson's fanciful memoirs, The Dark Side, and accorded him the honour of a radio interview to plug it, which he introduced thus:

"I’m not one of those politically correct people and it mightn’t be politically correct to say it but if we had – you talk to people at the grass roots – if we had a few more of the man I’m about to speak to, then we’d have fewer problems in society, confronting society at the moment. A bit of old-style policing wouldn’t do any harm.”

Strange bedfellows

I never thought Dr Dennis Jensen and I would agree on anything. He is a federal Liberal backbencher, the member for the federal seat of Tangney in Western Australia. On your big picture social issues –  abortion, gay marriage, indigenous rights, etc – he is out there to the right of Genghis Khan.

But Jensen is also a scientist of no small achievement, having a PhD from Monash University in materials science and physics. Before entering Parliament in 2004, he worked at the CSIRO and as a researcher and analyst at the Defence Science and Technology Organisation.

And he is furious at the slipshod way the Abbott government has trashed the status of science in Australia. He went for it in Parliament on Tuesday night, slamming the budget for ripping $111 million in funding and 500 jobs out of the CSIRO over the next four years.

"There appears to be a lack of understanding of how science works,'' he said. ''Where is the coherent, co-ordinated approach to science policy?''            

Answer: there isn't one. For the first time since 1931, Australia does not have a minister for science, the only country in the G8 group of economies that doesn't. This at a time when we are constantly being told that we have to be a smarter, more clever country if we are to make our way in the world. 

True, the budget did throw up the idea of a $20 billion medical research fund, to come from the new $7 doctor tax. Do the simple maths on that: it would require nearly three billion visits to the doctor. I wouldn't hang by the thumbs waiting.

Livid at Vivid

Sydney's Vivid extravaganza and the Writers' Festival were both fabulous last weekend. But first up, hearty congratulations for whoever decided to dig up large sections of the pavement beneath Circular Quay railway station.

Well done. You did it brilliantly, a bureaucratic triumph perfectly timed to create as much inconvenience as possible to the crowds who gathered there on Saturday night to see the lights. Ugly barriers stuck up all over the place had created pedestrian bottlenecks, jamming the crowds together, forcing people onto the road and hindering access to the public toilets. 

I don't know who was behind this idiocy. Perhaps it was CityRail, or whatever they call it this week. Perhaps it was the Sydney City Council. Either way it was a flaming nuisance.

With that off the chest, I urge you to have a look at Vivid. The lighting effects are jaw dropping, not only on the sails of the Opera House but on the tallest buildings nearby. The western side of the Quay, near the Museum of Contemporary Art, is probably the best place to see it.

 

You're too late for the Writers' Festival but it, too, was a thundering success, with record audiences and long queues for the more popular events.  

The crowds were different for both shows, but they shared one important characteristic: a calm friendliness. People behaved themselves. It is nice to live in such a civilised city.

Contrast this with the US which, as we have seen yet again, cannot keep its people safe from any deranged adolescent with an assault rifle.

19 comments

  • I thought your piece this week is a bit soft, Mike. But then I paused and thought about the bigger picture - so many criminals, so little column space. I guess you can ease off on One-Term-tony because he has comprehensively pissed off everyone who is not a wealthy individual or corporate donor. Enjoy the R&R. And keep getting stuck into that disgusting old tart Alan Jones.

    Commenter
    Truthy
    Date and time
    May 31, 2014, 4:50PM
    • Embrace crooks? Well Mike, you embrace the Labor Party. What's the difference?

      Commenter
      skipper
      Location
      engadine
      Date and time
      May 31, 2014, 6:49PM
      • Gee Skipper, seen any of the ICAC enquiries of late? My guess is the mob you embrace have some crooks in the cracks as well. While there are no doubt crooks in all political parties to say the entire Labor party are crooks is, well, criminally ignorant.

        Commenter
        Stinking thinking
        Date and time
        May 31, 2014, 7:23PM
      • Yes Skipper - because your Liberal mates breezed through ICAC as clean as the driven snow. Yellow and brown snow perhaps.....

        Commenter
        Richo
        Location
        Melbourne
        Date and time
        May 31, 2014, 8:09PM
      • Very deft, original.

        How long did it take you to come up with that one(?).

        Commenter
        Jason of Gold Coast
        Date and time
        May 31, 2014, 8:10PM
    • Too right Mike, Rogerson and his like should have no place in our police force, or on any positive folk law. As a young bloke growing up the 21 Squad ruled the streets. I was caught up in a heroin addiction then, praise God now 24 years since my last shot. The 70's was a different time and we expected some hard law. But when we were busted and charged with a small percentage of what we had been caught with, beaten by the police for the poor quality of the drugs we had and knew that the drugs were back on the street within hours of being busted it was hard to not feel our cynicism about society was not well founded. Then the deaths with strong rumours of police involvement started. Rogerson was front and centre in that time. If he is found guilty of this crime long may he rot.

      Commenter
      The 70s
      Date and time
      May 31, 2014, 6:56PM
      • Why would anyone ever take serious notice of anything that self-promoting ignorance panderer said about anything. The ageing Jones is becoming more and more extreme as the government moves to further to the right. He has got to the stage where he is almost apoplexic in his rantings as the tries to get even more right wing than his ultra-right wing idols in the Abbott government. Rogerson is a criminal and Jones is just stirring up the poor idiots who listen to him.

        Commenter
        RTP
        Location
        Sawtell
        Date and time
        May 31, 2014, 7:13PM
        • One day, hopefully before he voluntarily retires, i hope one of the scumbags Jones has attached his cart to (for endorsement dollars i am sure) starts to bring this guy down. That the old farts who listen to him start to realise that he is a disgraceful human being who will squark for whoever is paying him, and his association with the Rogersons of the world diminish his power, the power the old queen thrives on.

          Commenter
          richard
          Date and time
          May 31, 2014, 7:54PM
          • ['There would be complaints to the Commissioner, the Police Minister, the Premier.']

            If one were charged with a capital offence it really matters not a great deal as to how the warrant is executed. And, I'm sure the manner in which Rogerson was arrested would be his last concern at the moment.

            In any event, on what I've viewed on the box and read in the media there wasn't a hint that the
            arrest was carried out other than in a professional manner.

            Were there, for instance, any physical injuries inflicted on the defendant? Maybe pride's at stake.

            --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

            As for CSIRO's funding reduction it should come of no surprise. Abbott doesn't do science; his Maker will take care of all those silly things scientists carry on about, like global warming.

            One day most will look back on this period with disbelief. How did we get it so wrong, they'll say.

            ['True, the budget did throw up the idea of a $20 billion medical research fund...']

            The rationale for the GP copayment is based on, so the story goes, the unsustainablity of Medicare in its current form. If that's so, the obvious question is why is not $5 going straight into consolidated revenue? The answer is political: far better to attempt to pull the wool over the punters' eyes by putting monies into a medical research fund. Once the copayment's in situ it will be far easier to index same.

            Abbott, Hockey & Corman must think most Australians came down in the last shower, speaking of which it's raining cats and dogs on the Goldie for the first time in a long time, following one of the hottest Mays on record. But this of course is a mere anomaly, nothing to do with GW.

            Commenter
            Jason of Gold Coast
            Date and time
            May 31, 2014, 8:02PM
            • Oh dear Mike, you left out the corrupt ALP heroes Willo and Thommo. Plus why not link the Circular Quay to the ALP master, Eddie Obeid? Doesn't he operate most things down at the Quay?

              CSIRO cuts? That's what the ALP did no more than a year ago. Maybe I missed that piece of quality journalism.

              Anyway Mike, keep trying maybe one day you will nail it.

              Commenter
              enough is enough
              Date and time
              May 31, 2014, 8:05PM

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