Australia has lent aircraft to the US intervention in Iraq while the Liberals are attempting to use the Islamic State to stir up nationalism and Islamophobia at home.
Abbott has talked in lurid terms about the group’s “murderous hordes” and labelled them “a danger to the region and the wider world”.
He wants to encourage panic about Australian “jihadis” fighting in Iraq and Syria and talk up the supposed threat of terrorism in Australia. He claimed jihadis “committing unspeakable atrocities and honing terrorist skills” were likely to “return home”.
David Irvine, ASIO’s head spook, claims Australia now faces “a new generation of Islamist extremists.” There is not a shred of evidence that Australia faces any increased risk of terror attacks. But their comments will fuel racist attitudes towards Muslims and Arabs.
In a widely lampooned comment, Abbott claimed the new anti-terror laws that his ministers have struggled to explain are part of a “Team Australia approach”.
The new terror laws will force companies to retain all internet and phone metadata for two years, which law enforcement agencies can access without a warrant. They will make it easier to question and arrest people returning from overseas. Any Australian who travels to Syria or Iraq will be assumed to have been involved in terrorism, with the onus on them to prove otherwise. The laws were rightly condemned by the Lebanese Muslim Association for unfairly targeting Muslims.
Shamefully, the laws are likely to pass with Labor’s support.
By Amy Thomas