So much for Malcolm Turnbull’s fresh approach to dealing with the Muslim community. His government is forging ahead with plans to introduce restrictive control orders for people as young as 14.
Young Muslims have become the latest victims of the government’s anti-terrorism push following the Parramatta shooting. There is, unsurprisingly, no evidence at all that control orders prevent terrorism. But the facts haven’t gotten in the way before when the government has been determined to cultivate fear.
Former Independent National Security Legislation Monitor Bret Walker SC carried out a review of all control orders in 2012 and found, “There’s simply no experience from which one could sensibly say, ‘This is going to make us safer’.”
They will, however, create more anger and despair for the young people targeted. President of the Australian Lawyers Alliance, Greg Barns, expressed the widespread opinion that the control orders will be counterproductive, saying, “If you want to further radicalise people, if you want them feeling they are completely alienated from society…then you’re going the right way about it.”
Control orders have been used to punish people that the police and ASIO don’t have evidence to actually mount a case against. Charges were dropped against Harun Causevic, accused of a supposed ANZAC day terror plot. So a ten-point control order has been imposed on him.
Causevic must stay at his home, wear a GPS-tracking device, consent to his house being monitored, not watch any unapproved media, and stay away from dozens of locations including mosques, airports and government buildings.
A person who is made subject to a control order is not even shown the secret affidavits that are used by courts to make the orders, so that challenging them in court is almost impossible. Turnbull and Brandis want all this to be sanctioned against teenagers not considered old enough to vote or even get a job in some states.
ASIO is already monitoring teenagers—including, apparently, someone as young as 12. Australia is following the ridiculous road of Britain, where a three-year-old was recently revealed to be on a terror watch list.
NSW Premier Mike Baird has cynically used the Parramatta shooting to bolster police powers. He wants the power to hold people in prison without charge for 28 days, instead of the current four.
Alongside this the NSW government have given themselves the ability to force prisoners to speak English, supposedly to prevent terror plots. And yet, “there is no known specific terrorist threat from inside our prisons” according to the Coalition’s own Minister for Corrections, David Elliott.
Their new powers, though, are good for show: the latest in a continual effort to confect a major terror threat and appear tough on national security. The new powers deliberately draw an association between Arabic and other languages and terrorism, as well deny people the basic human right of speaking their own language(s). They also give NSW more powers to spy on prisoners’ communication.
In tandem with the anthem
Turnbull himself was nowhere to be seen or heard when his Social Services Minister, Scott Morrison decided to channel Abbott and decry as “pathetic do-gooders” staff at Cranbourne primary school in Victoria. The staff allowed Shi’a Muslim students to absent themselves from the national anthem at a school assembly.
The students were observing the month of Muharram, when singing or celebration is forbidden to commemorate an important religious figure. This, of course, was lost as the right-wing talkback circuit and the likes of Senator Jacqui Lambie went into a tailspin.
Meanwhile, new powers that allow the government to jail journalists for up to ten years for reporting on ASIO operations, and force agencies to hold onto everyone’s metadata for two years, have now come into effect. Turnbull, who reportedly did not favour such laws in the past, is now in vocal support.
Interestingly, the recent Scanlon Foundation “Mapping Social Cohesion” report and Morgan poll both show that anti-Muslim prejudice is not the majority view but rather solidified amongst a minority. Sydney was the worst place for Muslims, where 27 per cent of respondents reported negative views.
The effect of the repression and prejudice coming from the top is to green light that minority. In recent weeks, a Muslim woman was pushed and threatened with a knife in Melbourne while another was asked to leave a RSL in Noosa, Queensland, because of her hijab.
Racist anti-Islam campaigner Geert Wilders chose Perth to launch a new racist party in October. The neo-Nazi United Patriots Front mobilised a few hundred in Bendigo against the building of a local mosque in late September. And there will be another round of anti-Muslim “Reclaim Australia” rallies on 22 November. Now is not the time to cut Turnbull any slack.
By Amy Thomas