In recent weeks governments all over the world have used the London bombings as an excuse to strengthen so called ‘anti terror’ laws. The Australian government has been no different.
Attorney-General Philip Ruddock has announced measures which include greater powers for the federal police and ASIO as well as more security cameras, tougher jail terms for inciting violence and fines for leaving bags unattended at airports.
The federal government also wants to increase the waiting period to obtain Australian citizenship from two to three years, and wants applications to be security-checked so citizenship can be refused on security grounds.
These is the third separate set of ‘anti-terror’ laws introduced since September 11, 2001 and are perhaps the most over the top. The Socialist Party is totally opposed to these laws and other similar laws being rushed through all over the world. We believe they are more aimed at further winding back civil liberties and will not only be used against alleged terrorists but will also be used against workers and activists in particular anyone who dares to campaign against Howard’s foreign policies.
In the US for example the Patriot Act, which was rushed through after 9/11 has been used against anti-war protesters. We have already seen some evidence of Howard’s intentions here with the deportation of peace activist Scott Parkin.
Apart from a vague reference to the July 7 bombings in London, Howard has offered absolutely no evidence to justify the need for these new measures. He has actually even admitted that the government has no specific information that justifies increasing the terrorist alert level.
None of these laws will serve to lessen the chances of further terrorist attacks and will in fact only create more tension, especially amongst the Muslim community. So far the counter terrorism laws have only been used against Muslims but could easily be directed at any group Howard sees as a political threat.
True to form the Labor Party has offered very little opposition to these laws. At a federal level, Labor has said that they have watered down the worst of previous ‘anti terror’ legislation but at a state level they have introduced a range of laws that compliment Howard’s attacks on our civil liberties.
With the absence of a mass workers party in Australia the trade union movement needs to take the lead against Howard’s attacks on our democratic rights. They need to lead a campaign that alongside fighting against Howard’s new industrial laws will fight to protect the civil liberties of every working person.
The best way to achieve this is to make the point that all of Howard’s laws represent the needs of big business and not of working people. A campaign that draws the links between Howard’s IR laws, his attacks on our civil liberties and his role in Iraq and Afghanistan is the best way to put Howard under pressure and build a movement that will eventually get rid of him.