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Friday, 12 September 2014

Tony Abbott raises terror threat level | Crikey

Tony Abbott raises terror threat level | Crikey

Abbott has made Australia less safe — so he’s right to lift the threat level



Tony Abbott

However
facile and meaningless Australia’s terror threat level system is, the
Prime Minister is correct to raise the level to high — a move he has
announced this afternoon. The increase in the level — based on the claim
that a terrorist attack is “likely”, although there was “no specific
intelligence of particular plots” — will be accompanied by a “modest
information campaign”, the Prime Minister revealed, in an announcement
that presumably entirely by coincidence was simultaneous with another
NSW Liberal MP being exposed at the Independent Commission Against
Corruption and Senator Arthur Sinodinos returning to ICAC for more
questioning.


Australians are less safe now than a few weeks
ago — and less safe because of decisions taken, primarily for political
ends, by the Abbott government: namely, to intervene in a conflict in
Iraq and Syria that has nothing to do with Australia’s national
interest.


We know this will make Australians less safe because our
security and intelligence officials told us how the 2003 Iraq war made
Western citizens less safe. Australian Federal Police commissioner Mick
Keelty said it at the time and was abused by the Howard government for
his trouble. Senior intelligence officials in the United Kingdom and the
United States have confirmed it since: the Iraq War radicalised
hundreds of Western Muslims who saw only unprompted aggression directed
toward a Muslim country (the former head of MI5 has explained this best, for the Chilcot Inquiry in the UK).


Islamist
terrorism is portrayed in the media as a force of irrational evil - far
more so than white male terrorists ever are. But terrorism is a
response by extremist individuals to external events, not a random
occurrence of a disturbed or depraved mind. Osama Bin Laden understood
this, knowing that if he could provoke the United States into attacking a
Muslim country, it would deliver a generation of angry young men to his
cause. For Bin Laden, it took the intricately-planned, epic-scale
attack of 9/11 to achieve that. Islamic State militants, however, have
achieved it with far less: some slaughters of prisoners and brutal
murders of two Western hostages. As if compelled by an other-worldly
force, once again Western countries are dropping everything to do
exactly what Islamic extremists want — intervene in a Muslim country.


In
choosing to be part of this process — which includes, along the way,
providing arms to a proscribed terrorist organisation, PKK, which
happens to be fighting on “our” side — Tony Abbott has therefore taken a
decision that will demonstrably make Australians less safe. Moreover,
he has done so primarily for political purposes. Having discovered a
competence in international affairs of the kind that eluded Julia
Gillard until much later in her prime ministership, Abbott has been keen
to use international affairs as a distraction from the domestic
difficulties that see his government lagging in the polls. He has also,
like John Howard, sought to keep the focus on national security, an area
where he knows the Coalition always leads Labor — indeed, part of the
theatrics of raising the threat level are to do just that.


Problematically,
however, Abbott isn’t getting the political benefit: the polls so far
show his government continues to struggle and that he isn’t trusted on
international affairs. It’s one thing to place the lives of Australians
at risk for political purposes, but it’s even worse to do it so badly
you fail to get any political benefit. It has been noticeable (and it’s
been noticed by Labor) that Abbott is ostentatiously invoking Labor’s
bipartisan support on the terrorism issue and repeatedly insisting that
he is not using it for political purposes — especially that the decision
to lift the threat level is one for security officials. Governments in
national security situations can normally rely on the electorate to
stand behind them with little convincing — it’s oppositions that have to
be careful not to be perceived as being out of step. But in this
instance, Abbott occasionally looks as though he’s clinging onto
Opposition Leader Bill Shorten for protection against the criticism of
politicising terrorism.


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