Contributed from Queensland
In a move that is of no surprise to anybody, Malcolm Turnbull has announced two new measures that are said to be necessary to combat the threat of terrorism.
One thing he has failed to mention is that both impose on all of us and because of this, they are wrong. Nor will they be effective at countering those who might commit acts of terror.
The first is to legislate to make it easier for the Australian Defence Forces (ADF) to take on a civilian policing role. According to Turnbull, the role is to prevent offenders from “from leaving the scene of an incident”. There is also an intention to embed military personnel in the police forces and use ADF personnel to train police as paramilitaries.
These changes are significant. They
The stated motivation for the militarisation is the coronial report on the Lindt Café siege. The report questioned the police handling of the case and it are3suggestions that the perpetrator had a personality disorder. No evidence was provided that he had participated in an attack planned by a group.
Lone wolf acts will not5 be stopped by militarising society. It may be legitimate to take preventative action and deal appropriately with perpetrators. But the solution is more complex than waving a big gun. Experience of other countries that have gone down this road suggests that this approach leads to more attacks not fewer.
Once the military is used as a means for civilian policing, its application will be expanded further and aimed at others than those currently designated as “terrorists”. Failure to provide a clear definition of the term, makes the prospect even more likely. Anyone can be called a terrorist.
Countries experiencing terror attacks are involved in overseas wars and are seen by the populations of these countries as conquering invaders. Terror groups exploit this and carry out attacks that are aimed to create precisely this militarisation of society, in the belief that the wider population will eventually be suppressed and they will turn against their governments.
The second measure is to legislate to force internet companies, such as Apple and Facebook, to hand over the contents of encrypted messages. If it comes to pass, this will not and cannot be restricted to only those who are clearly involved in the planning of a major crime. Everyone will be affected.
Can we trust government not to use personal information for political purposes, or sell it off to someone for commercial profit? Not if the track record is anything to go by.
The Queensland Liberal National Party Conference this weekend, passed motion to ban “head scarves”.
It has been said more than once that terror attacks are a new phenomenon and a product of the computer age. Those who suggest this show their ignorance of history. For centuries, those on the other side of a war have always been terrorists. Attacks have been carried out on the innocent and populations have been vilified. Governments have attacked civilians under the guise of dealing with terrorists.
What we are experiencing today is nothing new. Nor is the failure to learn the lessons of history, which show that it is no use just taking on the symptoms, without dealing with the underlying causes of the problem.
Although a few do carry out murderous acts, the “terrorist” label has a political dimension, used to profile populations and justify acts of abuse and viole3nce that would never have been tolerated a short time ago.
Auistralia has experienced a spike in attacks and violence on people perceived those thought to be Muslims.
The loudest voices against the terrorists are the loudest voices against restrictions to acts of racial abuse. This warrants some thinking about.