The Guardian 8 June, 2005


Bitter fruit of hatred and war

Whether or not the letter sent to the Indonesian embassy is connected to the jailing in Indonesia of Schapelle Corby on drug smuggling charges, it has exposed the Howard government's opportunism and the way the government's scaremongering and racism have shaped the opinions of some in the Australian community.

The fact that there was no scientific examination of the substance in the envelope didn't stop Foreign Minister Alexander Downer from immediately claiming that it was a "biological agent", implying anthrax. It was not.

The government went with the flow of the sensationalist media coverage of the incident. Prime Minister John Howard fed the media frenzy with statements such as "reckless evil act". The government has also continued to claim that the incident is connected to the Corby case even though they haven't any evidence about that, either.

As with all their machinations, whether it be the infamous "children overboard" in order to demonise asylum seekers, the bogus war on terrorism, or non-existent weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, this latest development is being exploited from every political angle by the government.

This time their exposure as liars was swifter. A terrorism expert at the Australian National University, Clive Williams, said Downer's "biological agent" statement had resulted in the "ramping up" of emotions in Australia and in the foreign media.

Williams also pointed out that although anthrax occurs naturally, lethal forms of it are only produced in state laboratories and that terrorist groups have not been able to manufacture it.

The ACT's police chief, John Davies, noted that the sending of the letter was "designed to cause major disruption and instil fear". Such an act is precisely the mode of operation of the Howard government: it is startlingly similar to the government's past contrivances to whip up fear in the community. If they didn't orchestrate this, it is a coincidence of quite massive proportions that has fallen neatly into their hands.

The government, in both word and deed, has told the community that the way to resolve problems and differences between nations is with violence. Peaceful coexistence and tolerance are not in this government's lexicon.

Whatever the motivation behind those who sent the letter, they are simply following the government's lead. Sowing fear, suspicion and hatred of other peoples and cultures, and prosecuting endless conflict under the banner of an anti-Islam holy war, will inevitably bear bitter fruit.

Much at stake in coming battle

If the government is successful in imposing its vicious anti-union legislation on the working people it will hit Australia as a whole and have profound economic and social affects.

For example, there is taking place in Australia the creation of stratum of working poor. Australian Bureau of Statistics figures show that already almost a quarter of the population 4.5 million people have to get by on a total weekly income of less than $400.

Figures from the National Centre for Social and Economic Modelling one of the bodies Prime Minister John Howard selectively quotes when fiddling his government's economic numbers show that over the eight years to 2002-03 the bottom 10 percent of households have seen on average their income increase by just $26 per week. On the other hand, the top 10 percent had an increase of $762 per week.

Last week, Melbourne University's Dr Leslie Cannold, a fellow of the Centre for Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics, warned that the planned attack on the organised working class will bring about changes in many areas. "What we have already seen with the deregulation of the labour market so far is disadvantaged groups falling further behind, women in particular, so further deregulation can only exacerbate that trend", she said.

She warns also that, with the increased pressure and insecurity of work, the fertility rate will continue to fall as parents become reluctant to have children because of increasingly uncertain and harsh circumstances.

"Children are not just the taxpayers of the future as Peter Costello keeps reminding us", noted Dr Cannold, "but literally the future itself."

In the coming class battle, many things will be at stake.

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