Tuesday 11 February 2003

Fighting terrorism with third-rate tools

NuLine Plumbing fridge magnetWhen I got back from the pool this afternoon my anti-terrorism pack was on the doorstep. I’d been expecting it with a strong sense of anticipation since, according to various TV and newspaper reports, it contained a fridge magnet. And, although I throw junk mail away without even looking at it, I’m a sucker for a fridge magnet. I immediately picked up the anti-terrorism pack and tried to locate the telltale outline of the fridge magnet within the plastic wrapping. Nothing. The package seemed quite flat.

Let's look out for Australia imitation fridge magnetWhen I opened it, however, along with AN IMPORTANT MESSAGE FROM THE PRIME MINISTER and a 20 page Let’s look out for Australia: Protecting our way of life from a possible terrorist threat booklet, there was an ersatz fridge magnet.

In other words, an 11cm x 19.5cm (4.3in x 7.7in) piece of cardboard with a small magnetic strip on the reverse side.

My fellow Australians and I (the Prime Minister’s IMPORTANT MESSAGE begins “Dear fellow Australian…”) are supposed to fill in a range of important details, such as the phone numbers of the nearest police station and hospital and the location of the water meter and electricity switchboard.

In addition, we are exhorted to contact the 24-hour National Security Hotline (1800 123 400) “to report suspicious activity that may be a sign of terrorism and need investigation by security agencies.”

The booklet lists the Possible Signs of Terrorism:

“My fellow Australians and I have been conned,” I thought to myself. A fridge magnet is a durable plasticized rectangle with a magnetized rear surface to ensure that it sits flush on the enamel freezer compartment door.

Glebe Veterinary Hospital fridge magnetA proper fridge magnet will give years of reliable service—in fact, if necessary, you can even clean a fridge magnet in warm soapy water or give it a quick once-over with your (non-scratch white) Dishmatique. How long will this piece of flimsy cardboard posing as a fridge magnet last? Three months, at most. Less if you knock it off the refrigerator door in your haste to check the location of the gas meter.

And yet the Frequently Asked Questions section of the Let’s look out for Australia booklet contains the following:

How long will Australia be on heightened security alert?

“For the forseeable future.” That’s exactly how long a genuine fridge magnet is designed to last. If the Australian government had given this some careful thought, they could have scrapped the Prime Minister’s IMPORTANT MESSAGE, trimmed the booklet to ten pages (keeping the first aid and “what to do in an emergency” tips plus the multilingual information) and used the savings to give us proper fridge magnets. Because you can’t fight terrorism with a shoddy cardboard imitation.

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Posted by: Aaron on 11 February 2003 at 11:34 PM

Dare I say, a few less bathroom renovations in exchange for a bit more fridge magnet durability. Ooh, I feel so talkback radio.

Posted by: gilmae on 12 February 2003 at 08:14 AM

It won't even hold menus for my favourite takeaway restaurants. Maybe that's because those restaurants are run by potential t-t-t-t-t- ...

Posted by: Andrew on 12 February 2003 at 11:27 AM

"A life that doesn't add up." Marvellous. I've changed my blog description.

Perhaps for the next governmental magnet drive they could send out a set of the individual words which characterise potential terrorists and citizens could arrange them in their own sentences. A bit like fridge poetry.

"Unusual lifestyle purchases of multiple needs" perhaps.

Posted by: aB on 12 February 2003 at 06:35 PM

What an amazing coincidence!!

I couldn't pass up the opportunity to include a link to this.


Posted by: Ollie on 18 February 2003 at 09:20 PM

Ollie, that's excellent! Thanks for the pointer.

Posted by: Jonathon on 18 February 2003 at 10:50 PM

This discussion is now closed. My thanks to everyone who contributed.

© Copyright 2002-2003 Jonathon Delacour