By Sonia Hickey and Ugur Nedim
For many years now, we have been surrendering our legal safeguards and protections to bolster the powers of the state and enable governments to protect us against terrorists.
But recent headlines have sparked debate about whether the benefits of spending billions of extra taxpayer dollars on security and surrendering basic liberties such as privacy, freedom of movement, freedom of association, the right to silence, the right against arbitrary detention to name just a few, are justified by the terrorism threat.
Terrorism makes terrific television
The threat of terrorism has been the subject of countless television shows and big screen films, as well as a great deal of media reporting and political posturing.
But recent statistics from the US suggest that many seemingly ‘low risk’ activities such as sleeping on a bed, taking a shower and mowing the lawn pose a far greater risk to life and limb than terrorists.
The statistics suggest that mowing the lawn killed an average of 76 people per year in the US between 2004 and 2015, and falling out of bed killed an astounding 737 Americans per year during that period.
The figures are said to be a surprise to many – from journalists, to academics and statisticians. They led reality television star Kim Kardashian to tweet the table below, which recently made headlines as the ‘International Statistic of the Year.’
The figures suggest there is may be a significant reality versus perception problem in the US, and perhaps globally, with many fearing terrorism when they may be better served by taking protections against other ‘threats’.
A recent survey suggested that a whopping 43% of Americans are either ‘afraid’ or ‘very afraid’ of a terrorist attack.
The Trump Government has budgeted $US 126.8 billion for the war on terror this financial year – expanding both the Navy and the Airforce, and strengthening the Army and Marines as well as earmarking funds for cybersecurity.
Spending was $US 80.3 billion during the previous financial year.
Statistics also suggest that in America, a lower figure of 28% of people are afraid of a random mass shooting. Yet Americans are 14,000 times more likely to be killed in this way than a terrorist attack.
In Australia, the federal and states governments have also beefed up counter-terrorism spending.
Federal defence spending is up six per cent in 2017-18 to $34.6 billion, a figure that represents 1.9 percent of gross domestic product.
As the state spends more on more specialised intelligence agents, police officers, additional training for law enforcement officers, and a highly sophisticated arsenal of weaponry, the politicians tell us that we are better ‘safe than sorry’.
One of our biggest fears
The current Australian terrorism threat is set at ‘probable’, and an Australian National University poll recently reported that more than half of the nation’s adults are concerned Australia will be a target for terrorism at home.
The same report found that most are convinced the government needs to introduce greater preventive measures to combat the threat.
But the reality is a different story – it’s far more likely Australians will die through methods which they are not consciously fearful of.
Deaths in Australia
Last year, 1,225 people in Australia died in road fatalities and more than 3,000 people committed suicide in 2016. Around 400 women die each year in our country as a result of domestic violence.
These figures dwarf any threat posed by terrorism in our country. Yet our governments continue to make laws which remove our legal protections and safeguards, and spend billions of extra dollars, to guard against terrorism on home soil.