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Jesuit says dishonest politics making Australia a terror target

Human rights lawyer Fr Frank Brennan has said Australians must question the Prime Minister's denial that last week's Madrid train bombs demonstrate that Australia is a special target of terrorist groups.

John Howard yesterday rejected suggestions by Australian Federal Police Commissioner Mick Keelty that the Madrid bombings may be linked to Spain's involvement in the invasion of Iraq, if they proved the work of Islamic terrorists.

In the text of a lecture to be delivered in Sydney tonight, Fr Brennan compares the Prime Minister's dismissal of the views of Commissioner Keelty with the "rough handling" Anglican Primate Archbishop Peter Carnley received from the Government when he asked a similar question after the Bali bombing in October 2002.

Fr Brennan recognises the politicians' "difficult call" in assessing unreliable intelligence about weapons of mass destruction being developed and handed on to terrorist organisations. But he is critical of the their refusal to countenance criticism from the churches, and their after-the-fact changing the rationale for the war in Iraq.

"The belated emphasis on the humanitarian concern for the Iraqi people was rank hypocrisy coming from the United States ... and from an Australian government which had punished Iraqi asylum seekers who had the temerity to seek asylum within our borders."

He stresses the increased need for citizens to trust their political leaders at times of crisis, and that Australians have been let down by the Howard Government.

"Trust in government would be better maintained if Mr Howard simply admitted that his public rationale for war was the honouring of the US alliance".

Fr Brennan will deliver the lecture, which will be followed by extended discussion, at 6:30 pm this evening at St Aloysius College, Milson's Point, in Sydney. Tonight's lecture is part of the 2004 Jesuit Seminar series titled A Fair Go in an Age of Terror, which is sponsored by Uniya Jesuit Social Justice Centre and Eureka Street magazine. The national tour has so far visited Adelaide and Melbourne. Brisbane is scheduled for next Tuesday, Canberra Thursday 25 March, and western Sydney Tuesday 30 March.

Fr Frank Brennan SJ AO: A Fair Go in an Age of Terror: Countering the Terrorist Threat to Human Rights and the Australian Identity, Jesuit Seminar Series 2004 (16/3/04) - not available online

PM slams Keelty over terror threat remarks (Sydney Morning Herald 16/3/04)
A Fair Go in an Age of Terror (Uniya 11/2/04)
Lectures assessing post September 11 human rights compromise (CathNews 9/3/04)
Foreign Affairs Minister Alexander Downer: At the Sir Thomas Playford Annual Lecture

In Wake of Madrid, Pope Calls for Unity of "Healthy" Social Forces (Zenit 14/3/04)
Top cop wrong on Iraq link: PM (The West Australian 16/3/04)
Howard defiant on terror threat (The West Australian 16/3/04)
Pope Calls for Harmonious Solidarity and Commitment (Zenit 14/3/04)
Al Qaeda influence on Spanish elections ( 15/3/04)
Pope tells believers in Europe, across the globe solidarity is stronger than terrorism ( 14/3/04)
Pope celebrates mass for victims of attack in Madrid (Vatican Information Service 15/3/04)

16 Mar 2004