Queensland police defend use of vehicles branded with Santos logo

Coal-seam gas opponents circulate images showing QPS vehicles bearing the energy giant’s name

The Queensland police commissioner has defended the use of vehicles in Queensland police service colours branded with the logo of coal-seam gas company Santos as part of a road safety campaign.

Opponents of CSG circulated images at the weekend showing police vehicles bearing Santos’s name. The energy giant runs about a third of the gas wells across Queensland and is forecast to bring a further 6,100 online over the next two decades.

Police have regularly attended sites run by Santos and other energy companies to deal with clashes between anti-CSG activists and security.

But the state’s police commissioner, Ian Stewart, said Santos was one of 13 sponsors for the “Stay on Track Outback” campaign, which launched in 2012.

“I can certainly understand the perspective of the people who have been battling this company through the anti-CSG lobby,” he said. “But from our point of view Santos is a publicly listed company. It’s in the mining game, but we regularly partner with private industry to achieve outcomes for the community which are beneficial.”

Stewart said the QPS often took on private sponsors to help pay for “extra things where we identify problems outside of our normal duties”.

“We have very clear guidelines about who we partner with and the types of sponsorships we undertake,” he said.

Stewart said the two vehicles bearing the Santos logo were decked in police colours but were donated by other sponsors and had “no police fittings” – including lights and sirens.

In 2008 Queensland police became the first in the country to carry private advertising, running the logo of the Brisbane Airport Corporation on the side of all police vehicles.

More controversially, Queensland police have been permitted to to engage in “special duties”, where off-duty officers are paid by private companies to oversee protests or events, including demonstrations against CSG.

Arrow Energy reportedly hired about 100 police to attend a tense protest at a gas well in Kerry, in the state’s south-east, in 2012. They made 15 arrests.

Stewart said any officers hired by energy companies were not at their “beck and call” and subject to the same accountability procedures as on-duty police.

Drew Hutton, the president of the Lock the Gate Alliance which campaigns against CSG extraction, said the use of the Santos logo on QPS-branded vehicles was “a bad look” and would be extremely controversial at protest sites.

“The campaign Santos is sponsoring is a good campaign but the police are supposed to be imposing the law impartially,” he said. “And how can you enforce the law impartially against a company that’s sponsoring you?”


Michael Safi

The GuardianTramp

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