Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Is This Really What People Want?

What kind of country am I living in?

Is fear really the lowest common denominator of Australian society?
Two-thirds of Australians, including half of Coalition voters, believe Australia is more at risk of terrorist attack because of the Iraq war, and are willing to sacrifice privacy and civil liberties for protection from it.

The results of the latest Herald Poll come as the Federal Government is contemplating a range of new counter-terrorism measures in the wake of the London bombings, including new legislation to introduce the controversial charge of indirect incitement to terrorism, a national identity card and increased use of closed-circuit surveillance cameras.

Debate in Britain has centred on the difficulties of introducing legislation covering indirect incitement to terrorist acts. Britain already has legislation covering direct incitement.

The Prime Minister, John Howard, will be briefed over the next few days on the new counter-terrorism measures which are being actively considered. Cabinet is expected to discuss them early next week.

Only 1 per cent of those who responded to the Herald Poll, conducted nationally over the weekend by ACNielsen, thought the invasion of Iraq, ostensibly carried out to prevent the spread of terrorism, had actually made Australia safer from it.

And just 30 per cent supported the Government's position on Australia's vulnerability to attack - which is that the Iraq war made no difference because Australia was already a target "for who we are, not what we've done".

Most of the recently-suggested increased security measures, with the exception of detaining suspects indefinitely and allowing police to shoot to kill, have strong support. Having more security cameras in public places was the most popular protective initiative, supported by 87 per cent of respondents.

Slightly less popular was the idea of deporting terrorist suspects. Seventy-eight per cent of people supported it, despite the practical difficulties of taking such action merely on suspicion.

Random bag searches were acceptable to 66 per cent of people, and a national identity card to 61 per cent. Fifty-six per cent supported the detention of terrorist suspects for up to three months, without charge.

Most survey respondents drew the line, however, at detaining suspects indefinitely without charge. Although 28 per cent favoured such a strong measure, 68 per cent were against it.

There was also relatively strong support for giving police the authority to "shoot to kill" when pursuing terrorist suspects. In spite of the recent example of an innocent man shot by police after the London transport bombings, 40 per cent of people wanted police to have such powers, while 55 per cent opposed it.

The Prime Minister and his Government continue to insist that Australia's involvement in Iraq has made no difference to Australia's risk of terrorist attack.
Then we have former ASIO agents, the present AFP chief and now the PM alternatively "warning" and "reassuring" us that terrorist cells are both here, yet "under surveillance" respectively.

So if these "terrorist cells" are under surveillance, there should be no need for any new laws, because they'll be arrested before they manage to commit any crimes, right?

Lies, lies, and more lies.... and yet somehow they get away with it. And if any terrorist incident actually occurs then there is always a "failure of intelligence" excuse that can be trotted out to ensure no one in the government or public service suffers any blowback (except for perhaps one or two convenient scapegoats if there is enough media pressure).

Are these new laws really what Australians want? A certain saying springs to mind:

"In the end, people always get the government they deserve."

Random Surfings

It was pointed out to me a little while ago that Senator Andrew Bartlett has a blog. Finally got around to reading it. It's interesting to see more progressive politicians adopting blogging as a way to interact with the voting public. This can only be a good thing I reckon. Perhaps it'll catch on with others?

Then I stumbled across mention of some kind of new progressive group, "GetUp!", in this piece on WebDiary. There's also this write-up in The Age. Must admit that I've never heard of them before, and it will be interesting to observe exactly what they do (which seems a bit unclear from their website). Alas, I'm a little pessimistic about the inroads that new left-leaning political movements can make into mainstream Australian politics. If they show any signs of causing trouble for the government then you can bet Howard and his hatchet-men will be all over them.

I was also sent this link to an amusing animation which should appeal to anyone who's ever worked in a technical support role!

And I'll throw in a link to my favourite webcomic Sluggy Freelance. Pete Abrams certainly has a sense of comic timing par excellence.