April 18, 2011

Military police seize old training manuals from book shop

Military Police have raided a Canberra bookstore to confiscate what they described as classified material, even though the books they took were old training manuals that are easily bought on the internet or found in the Australian War Memorial library.

Some of the books date back to 1937, rendering them obsolete.

The Beyond Q Bookshop and cafe lost about $700 worth of its second-hand book stock last week when someone employed by the Australian Defence Force alerted Military Police to the existence of what Defence calls ''pams'' military doctrine training pamphlets.

Twenty-one books were taken on Thursday, with the store's proprietors being told they were classified documents.

But the police returned the next day to hand over a receipt of what was confiscated and to return a journal about the American Civil War called Shenandoah, which they conceded wasn't classified at all.

The Military Police also confessed that the person who had reported the books wanted to photocopy one or two for himself once they came into the possession of Defence.

Beyond Q owner Simon Maddox said the MPs told him they wouldn't let the man photocopy the books, but they had to take them from the shop as they had to act on the report.

''It seems someone in the military was too cheap to pay for the book he wanted and so he got the Military Police to come and confiscate them in the hope that he could photocopy it,'' Mr Maddox said.

''But they wouldn't let him. I think that's what they call karma.

''The MPs themselves were actually quite polite and decent but this whole thing is a joke.

''You can buy these books over the internet and some you can even go and read at the War Memorial.

''I can't see how a 1937 manual on small arms training could be in any way a threat to national security. Or are we still using .303s on the front line?''

All but one of the books were published between 1937 and 1979 and were on sale at Beyond Q at prices ranging between $30 and $45 each.

Most of the small manuals contained drills and instructions from the 1950s and 1960s.

One book, Australian Maritime Doctrine, was published in 2000.

Defence media was unable to find anyone to comment about the incident when approached by The Canberra Times.

A media spokeswoman at the Australian War Memorial said she was unable to say if the institution's library held copies of the confiscated books.

Yet a quick search of the library's online catalogue revealed that copies of some of the books were in the possession of the war memorial.

CONSUMER WATCH COMMENT: The Australian Military Police have gone totally mad!