The past few weeks have seen a dramatic loss of perspective from many of our federal politicians, with this week proving spectacularly that many people are losing their heads entirely.
On Wednesday we had Malcolm Turnbull telling the Parliament:
...all of us must recognise that, as we seek to defend and protect our security, we must defend our liberty. If we fail to defend our security, if we leave ourselves defenceless against terror, all of our freedoms inherited over the centuries will be set at nought.
This massively overstates the extent of the terrorist threat. To directly threaten freedom, terrorists would have to threaten the capacity of the free State to function. They simply do not have the capability to do that, and to claim they do is to blow things massively out of proportion. (I have said more on this here).
Not to be outdone, the Prime Minister has described the terrorist threat as:
the modern equivalent of that period we lived through with the threat of nuclear annihilation
This statement has me wondering if perspective might be a totally alien concept to the Prime Minister. It is beyond ludicrous to suggest that terrorists have the capacity to wipe out all life on the planet four times over, as was the case with the superpowers during the cold war. If he can get people to believe it, though, it will make it easier for him to keep his grip on power.
To put terrorist threats into perspective, consider this: In the first 6 years of the 21st century, your chances of being killed by a United States soldier were more than 30 times that of being killed by a terrorist. If we fear terrorists, how much more, then, should we fear United States soldiers? Now as a white male in Australia, my own personal chances of being killed by a United States soldier are fairly low, but there are plenty of people with different skin who lacked the foresight to be born in Australia who make up for those odds - and if they fear US soldiers to a degree that, taking into account the chances of death, reflect the fear the Prime Minister suggests we should have of terrorists, then people in the middle east must be living in constant, overwhelming terror.
Another way of putting terrorism into perspective is to look at the chances of death from other causes. In Australia, more than 50 times more people have died in road accidents since 1st January 2001 than the number of Australians killed by terrorists worldwide in the same period. With that taken into account, how much should we be willing to sacrifice to avoid that risk?
But lack of perspective is not a unique attribute of the Coalition side of the House. This week we had a claim from the Leader of the Opposition, Kim Beazley, that the industrial relations legislation was the greatest threat to liberties. This statement is so ridiculous on its face that it bears no further comment.
Politicians are not the only ones losing touch with reality. We have had journalists claiming all sorts of ridiculous things about the consequences of what is now the Anti-Terrorism Bill (No. 2) 2005. They have claimed that it would prevent them reporting on ASIO raids after they have taken place, would prevent them from reporting on preventative detention even after that detention has ended, and in the silliest of claims would even prevent them from publishing material critical of the Government. None of these consequences are true if you read everything in its proper context with an adequate understanding of the law.
There are several problems with this lack of perspective on the part of participants in politics:
We need to be prepared, as a nation, to call our politicians on these ridiculous statements - they should be made to feel as silly as they sound for rattling off such obviously outlandish tripe.