The NSW state government has continued its assault on civil liberties, this time focusing on teenagers in the juvenile detention system.
In February, the government announced a $6 million unit on countering extremism. Teenagers in the detention system labelled a threat to national security by correctional officers will face 24/7 surveillance, monitoring of phone calls and restricted family visits.
NSW already has some of the toughest anti-terror laws in the country; police were given shoot-to-kill powers last year. Adult inmates who have served their sentence can also have their detention extended, for periods of up to three years, regardless of the offence for which they were initially imprisoned.
Premier Gladys Berejiklian has not ruled out extending these draconian measures to youth inmates. This would be an extremely worrying move, given that most accusations of terrorism amount to thought crime.
Since 2015, the NSW government has spent tens of millions on counter-terrorism. The so-called school deradicalisation program alone cost $47 million. A radicalisation hotline set up in 2017 for parents received just five calls in two months. It costs $3.9 million over three years.
All this money for what? Counter terrorism minister David Elliott admits, “There is no evidence that deradicalisation programs work en masse at the moment”. Probably that’s because “radicalisation” is a euphemism for people being enraged by extreme Islamophobia, police harassment and the destruction of the Middle East by the US military, with the backing of the Australian government.
By acknowledging the uselessness of these programs yet continuing to pour tens of millions into them, the government lays bare its real agenda: to further erode civil liberties for everyone, using anti-Muslim hysteria to do so.