Last month Australia’s terrorism alert level was increased from medium to high. The government claimed this was a result of the threat posed from people returning to Australia after fighting with Islamic State (Isis) in Iraq and Syria.
By Tim Tran, Socialist Party
Within a week of the announcement, the biggest anti-terror raids in Australian history were carried out with more than 800 officers raiding the homes of people from Muslim backgrounds in Sydney and Brisbane.
The mainstream media have run a concerted campaign reporting on an alleged “terrorist plot”. This has helped smooth the way for the introduction of more draconian amendments to the anti-terror laws that will further undermine basic civil rights.
The hysteria created has already led to increased discrimination towards Muslim and Arab communities. Right-wing and racist groups are using the opportunity to call for a ban of the burqa while an increase in racist attacks and abuse has been reported.
The proposed National Security Legislation Amendment Bill includes a wide range of measures that gives more powers to the police and the secret service – ASIO. The agencies will have more access to private data with less scrutiny and even immunity when carrying out undercover operations.
At the same time, the amendments will also include a significant lowering of the threshold applying to police officers when considering whether to arrest someone for terrorism offences without a warrant or use “control orders” to restrict movements and activities of “suspects” without charge.
The laws also crack down on media freedom with possible jail terms for journalists who report “whistle blowing” information, even when doing so is in the public interest.
While putting in place these new measures the government desperately wants to protect itself from public scrutiny by introducing harsh punishments to prevent an incident similar to the Edward Snowden case which unveiled a huge undemocratic surveillance scheme.
Under the proposed measures, if there is a warrant to access a single computer ASIO would have access to all computers on the same network even when most of these computers belong to innocent third parties. ASIO can also manipulate data on computers without prohibition.
The new laws will mean police officers would need to only “suspect on reasonable grounds” that a person has committed, or is committing, a terrorism offence and rather than “believe on reasonable grounds” that this was the case, which carries a higher legal standard of proof.
The Abbott government is hoping to whip up a climate of fear in order push through these laws in the same way that the US administration pushed through the notorious Patriot Act.
There are already more than enough laws on the books to deal with terror threats. These types of measures have proven to be totally ineffective in stopping terrorism previously. Even the government’s own committee admitted last year that the anti- terror laws from the Howard era are “unnecessary and even ineffective in responding to terrorist threats.”
The hysteria fanned by alleged terror threats provides a useful tool of distraction for the government. Against the backdrop of huge amounts of anger at recent budget cuts, the government knows that they will face ongoing resistance to their attempts to implement austerity measures.
Conditions are ripening for serious social and political upheavals in the near future. While the pretext for these anti-democratic laws is to combat terrorism, they will be used to combat other anti-government movements in the future.
While we do not condone terrorism in any way, shape or form, we stand against these anti-democratic laws. Far from combating terrorism these laws will be used to defend the profit-driven system. They distract and divide ordinary people while undermining our rights, civil liberties and living standards.
Socialists explain that the only way to combat terrorism is to eliminate the conditions that foster it. Imperialist wars, oppression and poverty created by capitalism provide fertile conditions for terrorist groups. Replacing capitalism with a democratic socialist system would be the most effective way to ensure peace and security for all.