There were fewer than five government agencies addressing the risks associated with terrorism in the 1980s. And the federal budget allocation for national security was very low.
Is the world really more dangerous today?
Late last year, however, the launch of a new super-ministry headed by Fuhrer Peter Dutton -- to be called Home Affairs -- was announced, and there are reports that up to 33 percent of government agencies now have a security function.
In 1980, prime minister Malcolm Fraser talked little of security and even less about terrorism, as was the case with successors Bob Hawke and Paul Keating. In stark contrast, recent prime ministers Tony Abbott and Malcolm Turnbull, along with their senior ministers, seem to talk about nothing else.
So is the threat of terrorism that high? Is the treat of terrorism that much higher in 2017 than it was in 1980? Is the additional focus on national security, the massive funds allocated to this and the freedoms we have given up, justified?
I'm sure there are many people keen to tell you how bad it is -- based on what the politicians have told us or what is reported in the newspaper -- but what are the facts?
Is terrorism really that much more prevalent today than in the 1980s?
Consider the number of terror attacks in Western Europe:
In the past 45 years, there have been 16,000 terror attacks in Western Europe, averaging 350 a year. The peak was in 1995, when it hit 1019.
The deadliest year in terms of fatalities from terror attacks in Western Europe was 1988, when they claimed 440 lives. In terms of the number of people wounded, the worst year was 2004, with 1853 victims. The numbers have fallen each year since. In 2015 in Western Europe 148 people died as the result of terrorist attacks.
The numbers are even lower in the United States. Setting aside the attracks of 9/11, they have been negligible in most years, as they have in Australia. The numbers are so low in Australia that there is no trend at all.
Globally, the number of terror attacks first peaked in 1994 at 5000, hit the same level again in 2012, and shot up to 17,000 in 2014. Fatalities peaked in 2007 at about 12,000 and then again in 2004 at 50,000, before falling away again in 2005 and continuing to decline to the current day.
It seems that 2004 was an especially bad year. That said:
During the whole of the 2000s, not one western country was in the top 10 countries affected by terrorism.
Low levels of terrorism in the West do not make those in the rest of the world acceptable. They are not , and they need to be brought down. Further, it is highly likely that the increased security in the west has contributed significantly to the relatively low numbers of terrorist attacks. But the fact is, westerners are much safer in 2017 than they were in 2004 or 1994, and certainly safer than they were in the 1980s.
There is actually little, if any, justification for all of the hype and talk about terrorism in western countries, including Australia today. This talk is not so much related to the facts as it is related to:
Sleep well. In the absence of the IRA, Abu Nidal, Basque Homeland and Freedom, Basque Fatherland and Liberty, Red Army Faction, The Red Brigades, and many other such groups, you are much safer today than you were in the 1980s.
Another myth exploded!!