Reading through the Attorney-General’s Budget Statements one could be forgiven for thinking that the threat of terrorism in this country was on the march. Attorney-General Philip Ruddock announced a whopping extra $35.7 million for the Australian Federal Police and other agencies to play with over the next four years.
And Mr Ruddock announced that some of the $20.5 million that the AFP is getting in this year’s Budget “will allow expansion of existing Joint Counter Terrorism Teams and ensure that people who are the subject of a control order can be properly monitored.”
While it’s appropriate that taxpayer funds be spent on ensuring Australia remains safe from terrorist activity, it is worth noting that on the Attorney-General’s own admission, it does not seem that the threat is as potent as the Howard government would have us believe.
The National Security Hotline, established with much fanfare in December 2002, has received “over 93,000 calls, letters and emails from members of the public,” according to the Attorney-General. That’s just over 20,000 contacts a year on average. If one assumes that at least a third of these contacts are crank calls, misinformation and other pieces of useless flotsam and jetsam, then the conclusions you can draw are that either the National Security Hotline has been a dud, or there is not as much suspicious activity as we are led to believe by some media outlets and politicians.
And why is so much money needed to ensure the “proper monitoring” of people who are subject to control orders under the anti-terrorism laws? There are only a handful of people to whom these abuses of state power apply. Or is the Attorney-General planning to subject hundreds of other individuals to such orders over the next few years?
This Budget tells you one thing. That the law enforcement agencies have captured the politicians. They have done so well out of this Budget because they do what other regulators do when facing the Cabinet’s Expenditure Review Committee each year.
The argument is simple. Terrorism is threatening our way of life but give us more money and we will have the resources to fully utilise the draconian powers given to us by the anti-terror laws. The scared politicians meekly put their hands up and say “ok, how much do you want.”
Meanwhile, Australians who cannot afford to access justice and rely on legal aid only got an extra $20 million over the next four years from Mr Ruddock.
And there is no extra money for human rights protection.
What a surprise!