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The Chicken Little-in-Chief’s Big Scare

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The terror threat level has just been raised in Australia from medium to high — but Bob Ellis isn’t buying it.

It’s interesting what the Liberals think is a popular thing to do. Spending a billion looking forever, fruitlessly, for bits of a downed plane. Spending a hundred million looking for bits of bodies on a downed plane and ‘bringing them home’. Inviting Protestants, Buddhists, Jews and Muslims into a Catholic cathedral to speak before a crucified Christ. Going to war, again, in Iraq if the guys who lost the last two Iraq Wars ask them to. And, lately, a Terrorist Red Alert.

There may be ‘inconvenience’ at football finals, we hear, and airports, as if the ‘terrorists’ would go anywhere near such places. The last terrorist outrage at a sporting event was the kidnap and murder of some Israeli weightlifters at the 1972 Olympics, which set back Arafat’s PLO by fifty years, and no-one has done any such thing since then; you don’t kill sporting heroes, you don’t do that. The last terrorist incident on a plane was the Underpants Bomber, and full-body imaging makes it hard for that cock-up to be repeated.

What ‘terrorists’ often attack is suburban trains (London, Madrid, Tokyo), and they do it for the obvious reason that they can bring suitcases, backpacks, shopping bags on to them, can leave them on shelves or under seats and detonate them remotely.

Curiously, this particular Red Alert makes no mention of this. It’s in part because it’s impossible to police. If random electronic searches hold up four trains each morning and nothing is found, and five school buses, the Government falls.

If the government is serious, they must do random searches on every opening night a politician goes to — the Wharf Revue, The King And I, the Bob Dylan concert. They must upend, disrupt and inconvenience every political party conference. Labor’s conference in Sydney Town Hall, which had a pro-Gaza demonstration next door, could be entered by anyone, and observed from the gallery upstairs. Carr, Shorten, Plibersek were at it, Clare, Rees, Firth, Robbo, Albo, Faulkner, any one of whom could have been seized at gunpoint and beheaded on Facebook. So could a similar cast at Neville Wran’s funeral in the same crowded venue.

Abbott’s biking and Iron Man events must be discontinued, clearly. Joe Hockey’s visits to his Queensland farm must be overflown by vigilant thumping helicopters. Julie Bishop’s visits to Geneva must be accompanied by armed motorcades.

Do we believe any of this? Well, no, we don’t. The reason is that the terrorists’ resources are limited, and the people they want to terrorise aren’t living here in Australia. People wanting to set up a Syria-Lebanon-Iraq-Egyptian caliphate are not going to bomb Newcastle Town Hall. They are not going to kidnap and behead Peter Hartcher. They are going to concentrate their efforts round Mosul, Baghdad, Samara.

The ‘terrorist virus’ theory the Liberals are trying on lately – that young men, infected in Syria by beasts who want to overthrow Assad, will come back here and blow up a cricket match – lacks what Poirot would call

“… a believable motive, ’Astings. What do they ’ave to gain by doeeng zat?”

They have a lot to lose — their lives, their intimacy of their young wives, the love of their children, the suburban contentment of their mothers, cousins, old grandfathers. Why would they do it? What lost homelands would they liberate in Strathfield, Logan, Collingwood? Why would they do it?

And why haven’t they done it already? Muslim Afghans have been here since 1830, Muslim Pakistanis, Indonesians, Somalians for twenty, twenty-five years. And the last terrorist attack on our soil was by Martin Bryant, an Anglo-Saxon, in 1996, and the one before that, the Hilton Bombing, in 1978, was contrived not by terrorists but ASIO.

Oh, similar things do happen here. Bikie gang wars, Underbelly assassinations, suburban ‘incidents’ where the crazed fathers of kidnapped children shoot it out with the police. But nothing of the kind we know as ‘terrorist’ – the Bali bombing, the Tube train massacre – on our soil since the Battle of Broken Hill in 1916.

How much money will this nonsense cost us? Where’s it coming from? The shelved GP co-payment? What? And what evidence is there for alarm? None, evidently. Apart from two young men who are about to go to Syria to fight, as Obama advises, against ISIL.

Abbott, caught in a moral tangle as usual, says going to war with ISIL is a criminal offence if boys from Logan do it, but an heroic act if Diggers do it and it won’t endanger Australians at all — we won’t provoke the ‘terrorists’ by going to war with them.

And he won’t go to war unless the Americans tell him to — the Americans who got it so right last time, destroying six million lives, and causing ISIL while they were there. He’ll consult the Americans, but not the Australian people. And he’ll body-search Australians at football finals in case they’ve got atomic weapons up their clackers.

Dare we call this excessive? Deluded? Hyperbolic? Demented? Wasteful of, ho ho, the taxpayers’ money?

More Australians have died from backyard pool drownings in the last five years than ‘terrorism’ in the last hundred, on our soil. Fifty times as many from funnel-web spider bites. Twenty times as many, each day, from cigarettes. Four times as many, each week, from road accidents.

What you have to do in Big Scare politics is make the people believe you. Believe you, Tony Abbott. And one of the ways you do that is behaving as if you yourself believe it. And unless there are full-body searches of every foreigner at the Crown Casino, or The King And I, or the Melbourne Cup, or the corridors outside ICAC, no-one will believe you believe it.

Abbott says, ‘Carry on with your lives as usual’, and ‘Look, look, the terrorists might be strapped with bombs at the next Grand Final’ simultaneously.

What an oaf he is. What a creepy, Americanised, frantic fool.

What a Chicken Little-in-Chief.

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