22 August 2015
by Daniel Ellery

Abbott's fear-mongering threatens our civil liberties

There are ominous signs our civil liberties will increasingly come under threat as Abbott's continued dive in the polls brings on more hyped-up terror threats.

Almost twenty years ago, Bill Clinton signed an act that has had considerable ramifications around the globe; the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Act, which effectively rendered the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878 all but useless. The Posse Comitatus Act was created to limit the powers of the U.S. Federal Government in using its military personnel to act as domestic law enforcement personnel.

In 1993, the FBI in conjunction with the U.S. Military stormed into a compound owned by an Evangelical Christian group in Waco, Texas, killing 76 innocent people. Among the casualties were over 20 children.

There have been ominous signs supposing our fragile civil liberties have been increasingly at risk here in Australia, for a number of years. Tony Abbotts’ draconian fear-orientated government is quite fond of reminding us that terrorist’s are lurking in our own backyard.

Again, using our Western neighbour as an example, a 2013 CNN Time Poll found that 61 per cent of surveyed Americans said they were concerned that new policies will restrict their civil liberties. Two years later, we are seeing ever increasing evidence to support that our own civil liberties have to be very closely scrutinised here in Australia.

Abbott stated in a speech in September 2014:

“Regrettably, for some time to come, Australians will have to endure more security than we are used to and more inconvenience than we would like. Regrettably, for some time to come, the delicate balance between freedom and security may have to shift. There may be more restrictions on some so that there can be more protection for others.”

In speeches to the Australian Nation in 2003, former Prime Minister John Howard and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper both made incredibly similar presentations. These speeches were about Saddam Hussein’s so-called “Weapons of Mass Destruction”.

At stages, these speeches said the exact same thing. One could blame an incredibly lazy public relations team that felt a quick copy and paste address to the nation would either go unnoticed, or that people would not see any issue in this.

However the issue here is clear, these were two leaders of different countries saying the same thing, and both bowing to another country’s foreign policy issues (U.S.A). In short, this excerpt shows just how serious this address was:

“It is inherently dangerous to allow a country such as Iraq to retain Weapons of Mass Destruction, particularly in the light of its past aggressive behaviour. If the world community fails to disarm Iraq, we fear that other rogue states will be encouraged to believe that they too can have these most deadly of weapons and that the world will do nothing to stop them.”

“We should not leave it to the United States to do all the heavy lifting just because it is the world’s only superpower. To do so, I believe, will inevitably undermine one of the most important relationships that we have.”

We now know that the speech to invade Iraq was based on lies the United States had told about Saddam Hussein and polls suggest Bush’s foreign policy is one that the majority of Americans surveyed now reject. Howard admitted in an interview that he felt pressured by the force of the language in 2002 American National Intelligence Report, and was “embarrassed” to have acted on the "Weapons of Mass Destruction" intelligence.

Independent MP Andrew Wilkie even going as far to say that:

“Howard should consider himself quite lucky that, conceivably, he hasn’t been tried for conspiracy to commit mass murder.”

A book aptly named Perpetual Peace for Perpetual War highlights ghastly resemblances between a speech from a U.S. ‘Pre Osama’ text to a speech made by Adolf Hitler in 1933:

“Restrictions on personal liberty, on the right of free expression of opinion, including freedom of the press; on the rights of assembly and associations; and violations of the privacy of postal, telegraphic, and telephonic communications and warrants for house searches, orders for confiscations as well as restrictions on property, are also permissible beyond the legal limits otherwise prescribed.”

Hitler was the greatest salesman and marketer of the century. When fear is used by a government, it is used as a form of control and repression and in turn causes anxiety within society. This creates a willingness to listen and obey anything to make that fear, worry and anxiety cease. People go to great lengths to manage anxiety.

The Government of the United States has used fear campaigns extremely well to control the masses in the wake of terrorist attacks, and we are seeing it again in 2015. Can one see the resemblances here?

According to the Sydney Morning Herald, Prime Minster Tony Abbott has used the phrase "death cult" over 346 times when mentioning the Islamic State.

The Government has created a sense of division we can’t help but feel, with the Abbott party’s acts described as an “unprecedented power grab” by Greens Senator Penny Wright:

Peter Dutton’s proposal that he alone should have the power to strip away a person’s citizenship on suspicion alone is preposterous, unworkable and only goes to show how extreme this government really is.”

The Abbott Government is seeking unprecedented power to bypass the courts, throwing out the most basic democratic right we have.

Recently passed legislation includes but is not limited to the surveillance of telephone and internet data and the Border Force Act passed in May. The latter could see teachers, doctors and security staff jailed if they speak publicly about what they have witnessed, particularly in the Nauru Detention Centre. The Government’s abandonment of Julian Assange in 2010 is another reminder how these laws may affect whistle-blowers in the future.

In June 2015, Tony Abbott publicly attacked the Australian Broadcasting Commission after the ABC aired an episode in which an Australian man convicted of threatening Commonwealth officials appeared on the popular Q&A program:

“I think many, many millions of Australians would feel betrayed by our national broadcaster right now, and I think that the ABC does have to have a long, hard look at itself, and to answer a question which I have posed before: Whose side are you on? Whose side are you on here?

“Journalism is printing what someone else does not want printed. Everything else is public relations.”

A retaliation attack in the wake of the Waco massacre in Texas provided some interesting insights into the motivations of the Oklahoma City bombing that killed 168 people, most of which were government staff.

The bombing was masterminded by Timothy McVeigh, who was found guilty of 11 counts of murder and conspiracy. McVeigh quoted a section of Supreme Court Justice Brandeis’s dissent just before the court made their ruling:

“Our government is the potent, the omnipresent teacher. For good or ill it teaches the whole people by its example.”

Justice Brandeis goes on in his dissent to say:

"Crime is contagious. If the Government becomes a lawbreaker, it breeds contempt for law; it invites every man to become a law unto himself; it invites anarchy.”

Abbott’s recent claims of “sabotage” regarding the Adani coal mine legal challenge copped a scathing rebuttal from the NSW Bar Association President, Jane Needham:

The courts are not the servant of the Executive — any such implication is inimical to the basic principle of the separation of powers, which is fundamental to our Westminster-style system of government.

The courts exist to make decisions according to the law, not to further the interests of particular individuals or organisations, including government. They are an independent arbiter of disputes, and politicians need to understand and respect their non-partisan role.

Laws infringing on privacy like the collection of metadata set a dangerous precedent in Australia. Laws passed after the terrorist attacks, of which were largely provoked by the U.S. have slowly hacked away at the rights and liberties of ordinary citizens in the Western world.

We must be led by a Government that personifies moral strength in an increasingly morally bankrupt world. With a current Government that many feel to be going backward rather than forward, one must ask what it is that the current government cares most about?

The same can be said if we allow politicians to hold our civil liberties to ransom. Terrorism is not a joke subject, but neither is degradation of our right to a free, sustainable, and just world. We have to find a healthy balance between staying vigilant and seeing through the veil of government deception. The people need to fight for a democratic society and understand totalitarianism before it erodes our most basic human rights. This is a democracy after all, right Tony?

If Tony Abbott and the Liberal Party can be given one concession, it is that they have hopefully shaken the trappings of apathy and indifference from the Australian public.