The Guardian February 12, 2003


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.

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