Editorial: War and terror—desperate moves from a desperate government

Abbott’s terrorism scare is a desperate ploy from a deeply unpopular government. The result has been scores of Islamophobic attacks, including physical violence, on Muslims across the country.

At the same time, Abbott has enthusiastically gone to war in Iraq, joining the US Coalition against Islamic State. RAAF planes are already carrying out bombing raids and Abbott has refused to rule out sending troops.

Abbott’s war-mongering, his terror scare and the Islamophobia that goes with it are part of a desperate attempt to use national security to rebuild the government’s credibility and take the political focus away from the budget cuts and the attacks on Medicare, education, workers and the unemployed. Both the war on Iraq and the war on Muslims have to be opposed.

The terror scare is transparently orchestrated. The terror alert level had been raised just a few days before the police, with the media in tow, organised the country’s largest ever anti-terror raid. It took 870 police to arrest 15 people and charge just one person on anti-terror charges.

Within days, the story that an imminent attack had been foiled was unravelling. Firearms charges against one man arrested in Sydney were so trivial that he was released with a $500 fine and a good behaviour bond.

He told the media that police officers showed him a list of people he was allegedly conspiring with to stage an attack. But despite collecting masses of evidence, police could not justify the claims.

A follow-up raid in Melbourne saw 100 police mobilised to arrest just one man. He is not even suspected of violence, only of sending money to Syria.

Abbott has seized on every opportunity to whip up fear. He backed up Cory Bernardi’s hysteria about the burqa, describing it as “confronting”, words that will only help inflame anti-Muslim sentiments.

Abbott also used the media to target the Islamist group, Hizb ut-Tahrir, even threatening to use his new terror laws to ban them. But the group does not support terrorism and there is no evidence whatsoever linking it to any supporters of terrorism. Yet Abbott still accused the group of justifying terrorism while he whipped up a scare about supposed “preachers of hate” coming into the country.

Cynical manoeuvres

In the community, there is real cynicism about Abbott’s motives and he hasn’t been able to seriously recover in the polls. Many are suspicious that he now has no trouble finding $500 million a year for bombing Iraq after claiming there was a budget emergency.

Even some conservative commentators think his terror laws go to far. But if his Islamophobia isn’t vigorously opposed, it can grow. Tragically, Labor has handed the political initiative to Abbott by going along with his every move on national security.

The Greens, who, to their credit, voted against the terror laws, made a huge political concession to the idea that there is some threat within the Muslim community with their proposal to create an Australian Centre for Social Cohes­ion.

The Centre supposedly would develop pro­grams to ensure the community stayed tolerant and inclusive, “by bringing together government and law-enforcement agencies, members of the public, academics and former extremists.”

Yet it is government and law-enforcement agencies who are responsible for the Islamophobia in the first place. It is Abbott’s ridiculous notion of “Team Australia” that is driving social exclusion and racism.

The backdrop to all this is the slowing economy. Revenue is falling because of declining coal and iron ore prices. Hockey and Abbott want to divide the community as they try to push through their cuts and attack the public service.

More than ever, we need to keep up the fight against Abbott’s austerity. Protests and community outrage have put the government on the back foot. The Medicare co-payment, the deregulation of university fees, and the attacks on the aged pension have to be killed off completely.

Balloting for strike action is underway in the public service against the government’s offer of effective wage cuts and savage cuts to conditions. This is on top of the 16,500 job losses. They shouldn’t be left to fight alone.

Strikes by Medicare, Centrelink and other public sector workers would be a blow to Abbott and will build confidence that he can be stopped. This is a second chance for the unions to fight Abbott, after they shied away from a real campaign of protests and strikes against the budget.

The response to Abbott’s Islamophobia has been encouraging. The National Imams Council has called for the anti-terror laws to be rejected.

We need vocal public meetings and solidarity to step up the campaign against the terror laws and Islamophobia. Anti-war rallies have been called in Sydney and Melbourne for the weekend of the 22-23 November.

Abbott has declared war—on Iraq, on Muslims and on workers. We need to unite the resistance to fight against him on every front.


Solidarity meetings

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