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September 28, 2005

It was no suprise that the national security state adopted a tough counter terrorism line all round at yesterday's CoAG meeting between the Commonwealth, state premiers and territory leaders. All the Labor Premiers had been looking tough and muscled up in the lead up to the CoAG meeting, and they kept talking about a safer Australia. The state premiers just didn't roll over. They were enthusiastic supporters of a tough counter terrorism, gave narry an opinion about ensuring that Australia remains a model of a workable, cosmopolitan multicultural future in a globalized world, and failed to achieve a balance between security and freedom.

The National Security State has used the 9/11 terrorist attack, the recent London bombings and intelligence information to introduce tough new anti-terrorism policies with limited review and "sunset" clauses. Under the new legislation, police will be able to get control orders that allow them to track people, including by attaching electronic devices. Suspects can be detained preventively without charge for up to 14 days, whilst police will have increased powers to stop, question and search and can seek penalties for people who "incite" terrorism.


What evidence was put forward to justify measures that undermine Australia's tradition of liberal democracy? Why were they deemed necessary? Who is making Australia unsafe? Why the need to be so tough on easing our constitutional freedoms?

The Howard Government allowed ASIO and Office of National Assessments to talk publicly about 800 Muslim "extremists" living in Australia being motivated to carry out a London-style attack. There is no mention of sleeper cells in Australia. Conservatives talk about people needing to be heavily fined for leaving their baggage at any transport hub. So we can presume that the threat is profiled as homegrown Muslim terrorists, with an agenda of hate, violence and bigotry towards a permissive, hedonistic society, blowing up our transport hubs.

This kind of talk creates enough of a climate of fear and suspicion that is ready made for the tabloid press. It also legislation that would allow citizens to be locked on an arbitrary basis of having only a reasonable suspicion without proper legal safeguards to protect their civil freedoms. The effects are an undermining of Australia's liberal and democratic foundations.

Behind these counter-terrorism policies sit the ideas about combating extremism, “evil ideologies”, and enemies within. The emphasis is not on building positive community relationships and so the tough approach will reinforce a siege mentality amongst the Australian Muslim community. Young Muslims will be increasingly targeted in the new climate of fear and speculation about the phenomenon of home-grown terrorism. Do we have a situation where the moderate Muslim groups are gaining access to policy-makers, whilst the extreme groups are gaining access to young Muslims in search of certainty, fellowship, meaning and direction in life, and a cause?

What is not being asked is how come a migrant family in a passive community that keeps to themselves have children who are full of anger, hatred and susceptible to radical ideas? What is not being done is reaffirming our historical memory to renew Australia's identity of a liberal and democratic nation state in the faced of potential moderate terrorist threats.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 06:44 AM | | Comments (0)