Protesters against South Australian council’s ‘Big Brother’ tech invoke Liberal Alex Antic’s video

<span>Photograph: Mick Tsikas/AAP</span>
Photograph: Mick Tsikas/AAP

The South Australian Liberal senator Alex Antic says he has “nothing to do” with a group that has distributed flyers with his image to promote a protest against a local council’s use of “Big Brother technology” to create an “open-air prison”.

The No Smart Cities Action Group (Noscag) is encouraging people to show up to a Salisbury council meeting next week to oppose the use of smart city technology, which is used for purposes such as notifying council workers when bins need to be emptied or toilets cleaned.

The flyer includes QR codes linking to videos featuring Antic, including one released in December in which Antic claims the state government could use smart city infrastructure to enforce “climate emergency” actions, such as targeting people if a “climate lockdown” was imposed.

Antic said: “I am aware of the Noscag group but that is the extent of my knowledge of what they are doing.”

He told the ABC he had asked the group to remove references to him from its flyers.

Last week protesters claiming climate action would restrict their freedom allegedly tried to storm the Onkaparinga council chamber, before police were called and the meeting was cancelled. Councillors said there was “disruptive and aggressive behaviour”, with people being shoved and verbally abused, the ABC reported. It is unclear who organised that protest.

The Salisbury mayor, Gillian Aldridge, told the ABC on Tuesday tens of thousands of pamphlets had been delivered in the area, “encouraging everyone to come to the council meeting, which is really quite frightening”.

“I’m concerned for the safety of my council and my staff,” she said.

Smart cities were about improving residents’ quality of life, she said, calling the “Big Brother” notion “ridiculous”.

A spokesperson for SA Police said they would monitor next week’s protest.

Similar claims have been made about a council in the UK, with social media users claiming electronic gates would be placed on key roads, confining residents to their neighbourhoods as part of a so-called climate lockdown. But the council said there would be no electronic gates, and said nobody would be confined to their neighbourhood or not allowed to drive.

In the December video, Antic claimed without evidence there was a “bigger, badder future” that came with the technology used in smart cities.

He used the example of technology in the Unley council area which allows people to check the availability of public barbecues and car parks.

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“Let’s assume in a world not far from now your government has declared a climate emergency – by the way your government has done it already in SA, which is a lunatic nonsense, it’s just absolutely crazy,” he said.

“Imagine you’re in a climate lockdown and you’re told no one can barbecue meat because you’re saving the planet … And you come down here to use one of the barbecues, it works out who’s down here, works out someone’s using the barbecue and the police come down to stop you.

“You want to take a deep dive into your dystopian future under the digital surveillance state.”

South Australia has declared a climate emergency, but it has not imposed a “climate lockdown” or banned public barbecues. The Unley mayor, Michael Hewitson, said the council published all the data it gathered in the name of transparency, and there was nothing “nasty and sneaky” going on.

Grant Harrison, a spokesman for Noscag, was unable to prepare a response before publication.

The office of the federal Liberal leader, Peter Dutton, has been contacted for comment.

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