The acquittal by a Melbourne jury yesterday of Jack Thomas, who was alleged to have had a plane ticket paid for with funds from Al-Qaeda, is another blow to the multi billion dollar ‘war on terror.’

The Australian government spent millions of dollars and six years on the Thomas case, including deciding to retry him after he had won an appeal, on the basis of an interview he had done with the ABC.

The victory for Mr Thomas should provide a warning to the Rudd government and state governments that the ‘war on terror’ is misguided.

In these tight economic times why is, for example, the Rudd government wasting more taxpayers money on fear mongering advertising at railway stations and other public places about dobbing in a terrorist and breathlessly telling you to ring a hotline if you see anything suspicious – you know, like a group of young Muslim men congregating together as they wait for a train.

According to the Commonwealth Attorney-General’s Department’s David Finlayson, the Rudd government is proposing to update the Howard government’s anti-terrorism advertising campaign.

Finlayson told the Senate Estimates hearing on Monday, “With any campaign there’s a need to refresh advertising approaches to continue to have the impact you desire, and consideration is being given to whether we need to look at refreshing.”

What Finlayson’s political masters should be doing is abandoning the multimillion dollar advertising campaign and the hotline and putting that money instead into eliminating prejudice against Muslims in our community.

It is time we got over the ‘war on terror’ — it is nothing more than a gross over reaction to the events of 9/11. As the former head of MI5 Stella Rimington told The Guardian last Saturday, the response by the west to 9/11 was a huge over reaction. It is time, she said, to acknowledge that as shocking as it was, 9/11 was no different to any other major terrorist event.

Rimington observed “You know, it was another terrorist incident. It was huge, and horrible, and seemed worse because we all watched it unfold on television. So yes, 9/11 was bigger, but not … not …” Not qualitatively different?

“No. That’s not how it struck me. I suppose I’d lived with terrorist events for a good part of my working life, and this was, as far as I was concerned, another one.”

Rimington has made the right call on 9/11. If it were not the US that was hit but a developing world country, then we would have been spared anti–terror laws and the billions of taxpayers’ dollars spent on ‘security measures’

Politicians, Ms Rimington says, are now using national security as a political weapon “to get at the other side. You know, ‘We’re more tough on terrorism than you are’,” she said.

And, she might have added, heads of security agencies are spooking politicians about terrorism, so they can keep increasing their funding. A prize example of that happened yesterday when ASIO tabled its Annual Report in Parliament. According to ASIO chief Paul O’Sullivan, “If not for the action of ASIO and its partners in recent years I believe there would have been a terrorist attack or attacks in Australia.”

The problem with this boast is that the taxpayer will never know if it is true or not, because of the secretiveness of ASIO.

And ensuring that ASIO keeps its massive funding base – courtesy of the 9/11 over reaction – O’Sullivan warns that a terrorism attack remains the great threat to the security of Australia. Well compared to what? And on what basis is that assertion made?

We will never know.

Peter Fray

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