Regrettably, for some time to come, Australians will have to endure more security than we are used to and more inconvenience than we would like. Regrettably, for some time to come, the delicate balance between freedom and security may have to shift.
There may be more restrictions on some so that there can be more protection for others. After all, the most basic freedom of all is the freedom to walk the streets unharmed and to sleep safe in our beds at night.
Tony Abbott in Parliament 23 September 2014
When it comes to entertainment, terror takes the cake. Say what you like about romance, game show or reality TV. None of these can poke a stick at terror. Not even Budget Crisis, the long-running LNP soap opera featuring popular villains Debt and Deficit. Not even sport. (Sport, like politics contains powerful theatre but essentially is applied psychopathy.) In sport and in politics you dedicate yourself to putting shit up your opponent. And occasionally on your opponent. Terror, on the other hand, scares the shit out you. And it’s good for you. It combines the therapeutic power of catharsis while it reinforces conventional morality. No wonder Abbott and the Death Cult Zombies, the latest smash hit theatre sensation is taking the country by storm.
Death Cult Zombies is a shrewd investment attracting powerful backers such as Rupert Murdoch. And billionaire entrepreneurs who have long lunches with the treasurer. It’s a sure thing. With terror you can’t go wrong. It’s tried and true. A box office you can bank on. Little wonder then, our LNP coalition has just treated us to a feast. It comes naturally. Political conservatives have a natural talent for popular entertainment. And creative fiction. It shows in their day to day dealings such as dropping unpopular bits of their budget while claiming today that they remain completely committed to their budget. It shows in their central political tenet that looking after rich mates is some form of public service. And it finds expression in rich theatrical occasions.
Who can forget such baroque epics as Malcolm where’s your trousers? Hockey’s biography: the compelling achievements of a man who so far hasn’t amounted to anything, much. So far. And who will go on to do even less.
What can compare with the finesse and fictive inspiration of Abbott’s intent to repay his mate Andrew Bolt for his support in winning the election by promising to gut racial discrimination law? And then claiming this would improve freedom of speech for the nation. And then doing a backflip because of some mythic concern for the Muslim community. It’s a wonder they don’t incorporate the party and publish it as a work of fiction. It’d be a best seller. Shit all over the opposition. But then, Labor hasn’t walked out on the show. They are clinging to the second best seats in the house.
Death Cult Zombies is an all-singing, all dancing, (mostly) all Australian, anti-Terror Terror show. It’s a show to die for. Of course, it’s a Dutch treat. You get the bill in your tax assessments. With interest. Unless you are a big corporate sponsor like Murdoch. Then you’ll pay one cent in the dollar. Yet it’s compelling viewing. Endlessly diverting first Act. Then an enormous dramatic pause. So dramatic in fact that the suspense is killing us. Some of us are even beginning to notice impresario Anton’s vestments. The (former, would-be) holy roman emperor’s new clothes. And wonder if he’s wearing any.
Where’s the second act?
Why so quiet? A cone of silence has descended. The curtain remains down. The Greatest Australian terror raid played to packed houses mid- September. Two weeks have passed and there is not even an apology for extending interval. Why? What do the authorities have to share? Have to hide? Is it tough love? Or tough titty: we are never going to tell you and soon we will change the law so we never have to? 800 police and AFP must have more to show for their efforts than a pimply 22 year old with paranoid delusions about killing a random pedestrian. When do we get to see it?
We love big shows in Australia. Especially those which are big overseas. We love to talk them up before we go and afterwards. Up and up. This gratifies us for many reasons, not the least of which is the virtuous feeling we derive from talking up our experiences generally, our quality lifestyle, our good taste, our superior networking and of course our nose for good value. “Great show and we were so lucky to get the best seats in the house so cheaply …”All sold out by my mate who knows the producer got me tickets.”
Exclusivity, amazing fortune, breathtaking bargaining skills or special contacts and great connections are all part of the weave of the legendary experience retold. Especially at ICAC. Rich indeed is the warp and weft of your typical après show discussion. Yet most of this is missing from our latest national diversion. Curiously absent.
It was a big operation. Massive. Even bigger was the hype. Australia’s biggest counter terrorism operation ever was the way it was presented. And re-presented. And commented upon. Repeatedly. Never has any show been so in love with its own production values. Not that we have that much to compare it with. A couple of smaller shows with a limited cast of evil bearded rotters and plotters. Still, others are bound to follow. You may depend on it. Now we’ve set a benchmark, we will have to better it. We won’t be able to help ourselves.
Australians deserve to know the score. It can’t just be nothing. Or next to nothing. After all we’ve just been slugged a cool $600 million for the beefed up security. And the costs don’t end just with the show. Factor in the cost of anxiety, fear, panic, paranoia, xenophobia and alarm washing through our consciousness as we battle to remain focused on those daily tasks which ordinarily make us if not paragons of productivity, a people chasing world’s best for time spent at work.
A great deal of fuss was made of the busting of terrorists on the day Abbott signed us up to fight in Iraq or Syria or wherever the United States said. But not go to war. Not yet. Humanitarian arms supplies and assisting air strikes. And a great deal of money was spent. And made, no doubt. Commercial news was full of the threat of a random beheading. Could happen to anyone. Just around the corner.
Abbott insists that we are all in real and present danger. Not because we are going to war. But because ‘truly evil’ jihadist terrorists in Syria and Iraq have stretched out their terror tentacles to Australia. ISIS operatives are hiding in bedrooms all over the country. We need to go to war over there to stop them over here. If we could swat the ISIS blowfly in the Middle East we could be free from domestic maggots. We would be safe in our beds at home.
But we haven’t really found any. Even though police kicked down doors and upturned beds all over the country. It’s not much of a plot, really is it? Stated baldly it’s not all that convincing is it? Or logical. True, there are successful shows that have creaky plots based on implausible stories but impresario Abbott needs to pull a rabbit out of a hat or his audience will walk out during intermission. Are walking out, as we speak.
Every impresario has something up his sleeve. Abbott is no exception. In this case it’s introducing new anti-terror laws. Laws that curtail our freedom. Especially the freedom to enquire about the missing second act of his Death Cult Zombie Show. The freedom to ask to see the proof of this dire new threat. Ask why we need new laws. A question we all need to ask. A question we need to be able to ask freely. Or remain forever silent.
Or before too long we will get laws we don’t need and didn’t ask for. Laws that don’t make us any safer. But which give much greater power to the government and its agencies. Surely we don’t want that. No citizen wants that. Or is it that after the Death Cult Zombie show, Act One, we are so frightened we’ll be happy to give up our right to stand up for our rights. Or even ask what’s going on.