All aboard the surveillance express (Opinion)

To nobody’s surprise the special COAG anti-terrorism meeting has endorsed the Federal Government’s plans to vastly increase the apparatus of the surveillance state.

The leaders of all Australia’s states and territories have agreed to the establishment of a national facial recognition system, based on the photographs and personal information contained on driver’s licences. They have also agreed to national uniformity on detention without charge for up to 14 days for terrorism suspects.

The moves are a further significant extension to the establishment of a surveillance state. Over the last few years the Government has passed laws enabling the collection of phone and Internet metadata, it has tightened immigration laws, and it has ramped up the rhetoric on public safety.

Big Brother is watching.

It has all been done with the acquiescence of a supine Opposition, afraid to be seen to be ‘soft on terrorism’. It has also occurred with the approval, or at least the lack of disapproval, of the majority of the population.

All in the cause of combatting terrorism. No measure, it seems, no matter how extreme nor how antithetical to the freedoms we supposedly hold so dear, is too extreme when the spectre of terrorism is invoked.

Terrorism is an evil thing, to be sure. But by these massive overreactions the Government is playing the terrorist’s game. It is doing just what the terrorists want – sowing fear in the minds of the populace.

Terrorism is not mindless. Its victims are random, for sure, but it is this very randomness that makes it so, so – terrifying. Never mind that the actual number of people killed is small – many more people die from domestic violence or accidents with rogue domestic ladders. The aim is fear. Terror.

People are scared of travelling because of the fear of terrorism. They are frightened – way beyond rationality. The Government’s actions are actively feeding into this fear.

The best way to combat terrorism would be to ignore it – not introduce repressive laws, not report on it, not give them any oxygen. Instead, we do just what they want us to do. It is the height of stupidity.

The Government introduces Orwellian surveillance regimes. It tramples on our freedoms – the principle of habeas corpus, one of the cornerstones of our legal system – has been thrown out the window.

The Government can watch us all the time. It can detain us without charge. It restricts our movement around the globe. And at the same time it says the terrorists will not win, and they will not change our way of life. It’s all bulldust.

It is in the Government’s interest to play the terrorist’s game. A frightened populace is a tame populace. Thanks to the Government’s actions, the terrorists have already won.

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