The News Ltd tabloids were singing from the same songsheet today: The Herald Sun, Daily Telegraph, Advertiser and Courier-Mail left their mass audience in no doubt, with headlines screaming “Holy War Plot” and “Ready to die for Jihad.” Yesterday’s scuffle outside Melbourne’s magistrates court provided the kind of pictures tabloid editors dream of; here was graphic evidence of the kind of thugs we’re facing.

The tone was set by TV. Seven’s Melbourne newsreader Peter Mitchell put it in terms everyone could understand: “These are people who hate our way of life,” he announced in last night’s evening bulletin, over footage of the terror suspect round-up. Rather than back down, Seven’s news director, Steve Carey, went on radio this morning to brazenly support his script.

Asked by ABC 774’s Jon Faine if the comments were fair, Carey shot back: “Course it is. Mate, you’ve only got to hear what was said in court yesterday to understand that’s the truth.”

The political build-up to yesterday’s raid was always going to guarantee a media free-for-all. But the sound and fury is obscuring one fact: as we pointed out yesterday, there is no evidence that the ongoing terror arrests demonstrate an urgent need for the Government’s proposed new terror laws.

As The Herald‘s Peter Hartcher put it today: “Yesterday’s dramatic raids do nothing to explain the need for the 137 pages of the Anti-Terrorism Bill (no.2) 2005, and its 116-page explanatory memorandum, that Howard has put before the Federal Parliament.”

“If anything, yesterday’s arrests seem to illustrate that the existing laws are entirely adequate to allow pre-emptive action against a potential terrorist attack. If the authorities can move effectively to head off an attack under present laws, why do we need the draconian new measures of secret preventive detention and control orders?”