Economy

Burger off: McDonald’s calls on elite police squad to end Tecoma protest

Andrew Crook /

Leaked internal notes from McDonald’s reveal the fast food peddlers are liaising with police to dispatch its elite search and rescue team to remove protesters from a planned restaurant site at Tecoma in Melbourne’s Dandenong Ranges.

As Crikey’s deadline approached today, rumours were swirling that police would move on the site this afternoon to disperse protesters, including one perched on the roof of building set to be razed to build the controversial store. Demolition planned for yesterday was delayed on account of the roof dweller.

The notes, believed to be written by McDonald’s workplace safety manager Bob Dunger and obtained by Crikey, detail the scene at the Tecoma site on Monday. They show Dunger called Belgrave Police Senior Sergeant Doug Berglund first thing and that Berglund was negotiating with protesters. They say a police “inspector” needs to approve the deployment of the Search and Rescue team. Names of protesters and a mobile number for McDonald’s Victorian development manager Ken Pryor are listed.

They also reveal the need to make an “informed decision” on an “asbestos report”. The substance needs to be removed by contractor BR Demolition before existing buildings on the site can be cleared. It is noted BR Demolition boss Bernie Rafferty was “picketed at home” on Saturday by protesters.

Berglund, who is in charge of the police operation, confirmed to Crikey this morning the “Bob” in question, who has been spotted onsite this morning, worked for McDonald’s. A McDonald’s spokesperson later told Crikey the man was Dunger, a former NSW police officer. The spokesperson said he was present “to make sure the site is safe and secure”.

Victoria Police receive free or discounted McDonald’s from most Victorian stores.

The rare insight into the global conglomerate’s internal workings show how the company has deployed enormous corporate resources to ensure construction goes ahead, despite the vociferous backlash from community groups including No McDonald’s in the Dandenong Ranges and website Burger Off!. A PR war is also raging with Dunger making references to 3AW host Neil Mitchell’s coverage of the dispute.

Two weeks ago, Crikey revealed the wide-ranging court order temporarily outlawing the occupation and “calls to arms” on social media, along with various affidavits and writs lodged by McDonald’s. A senior lawyer for Norton Rose, Zoe Justice, had raked through every media mention of the dispute to identify protesters, with lawyers attempting to serve the so-called “Tecoma Eight” with representative writs that extend to the broader group. They show that the average McDonald’s restaurant rakes in $10,000 a day. If activists breach the order, they are liable to be arrested and charged. Last week, McDonald’s CEO Catriona Noble bizarrely claimed on Rafael Epstein’s ABC 774 radio show that she was “not aware” of the order.

The case will return to the Supreme Court next week, with law firm Maurice Blackburn preparing to lodge documents on behalf of the protesters.

The Tecoma stoush has escalated ever since a local council decision to reject the store was overturned on appeal by the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal last October.

A photograph of the internal notes?—?read the transcript of the notes

This article first appeared on Crikey.

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