A dirty piece of business
by Marcus Browning Even the front cover of the "Lets look out for Australia" terror package mailed to all of us good citizens, with its photos below the sub-heading, "Protecting our way of life from a possible terrorist attack" — a beach scene, a barbeque, laughing school children, a cop, a soldier — tells us that this is a dirty piece of business. Inside more pics — the Aussie flag with its patriotic union jack held aloft by children on a beach, a family cricket match, and someone I took to be an example of what your garden variety terrorist suspect might look like — close-set eyes, thin lips, dark coat. But it turned out to be the bloke from the terrorist warning adverts on television. Inside, the booklet helpfully lists all the means that the Howard Government is using to take away our way of life: increased powers to ASIO and ASIS; and new commando forces, including Special Operations Command, Special Forces, Incident Response Regiment and the Tactical Response Group. New power to the Federal Police and a new combined Federal, State and Territory force, a raft of new laws that wipe out our basic rights as citizens. Now, the thing about all these new military and police forces — and their incredible power to act without any public scrutiny or accountability — is that they're domestic. They're all ours, or more to the point, we're all theirs. In other words, as well as aiming to frighten people, the booklets and television ads are meant to make the public swallow the utterly false premise that it is necessary for the state to have total control over our lives, in the name of security. The booklet also introduces us to the some of the unelected figures who will enforce the control, putting a human face on the terror machine. One stares out at you on page four: Major General Duncan Lewis, Commander Special Operations Command, who informs us, "The new command is prepared to respond quickly, in support of the civil authority, in the event of a terrorist attack." What the General doesn't tell us is that strikes, protests and any form of dissent are included in the definition of responding to "terrorism". Another, on the "Be alert, but not alarmed" page is Dennis Richardson, Director-General of ASIO, who tells us, "Terrorism takes many forms and there is no definitive list of what to look for." This apparently meaningless piece of advice from the head of Australia's newly vested secret police, has its purpose. In order to cultivate fear and suspicion the concrete must be avoided in favour of the vaguely abstract. Because terrorism can "take many forms" it means it can be anybody: your workmate, your neighbour, the bloke at the pub, your significant other, your kids. So we get another uniform on page eight, Mick Keelty, head of the Australian Federal Police, who reinforces the "need to work together against terrorism". In practice they want the community to work against itself. The word "suspicious" appears so many times throughout the booklet the authors must have taken out a copyright on it. The question is, what to do? One angry citizen has composed an e-mail message to be sent to the address of the National Security Hotline on the back of the booklet. It says: "I have been invited by the Prime Minister to notify you of possible terrorist activity. Accordingly I wish to inform you that George W Bush and his administration, Tony Blair and his cabinet and John Howard and his cabinet are intending to invade Iraq contrary to the provisions of international law, and have openly admitted to threatening military action against Iraq with the view to forcing the government of Iraq, and its people, to behave in a particular way. This constitutes terrorism within the meaning of that term as defined by the United Nations. I urge you to take steps to prevent the threatened acts of terrorism from taking place." You could also slap "return to sender" on the package and pop it into your local mail box.