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Thursday, 28 August 2014    

So I imagine that from time to time they would want a different captain but nevertheless, that’s what he said, that we’re all part of Team Australia and you’re our captain.

Captain Australia, 20 August 2014

A curious obliviousness has descended over the political scene and its commentary to the escalation of tensions over Iraq. Partly it comes from the desperation of a government thinking that it will solve its significant political problems. Partly it comes from the opposition’s fear it will as well, on top of the normal shutdown it has over anything to do with national security, especially under its current leader.

But it’s also to do with the complications behind the current escalation that neither side wants to see.

For a start, any military action in the Iraq will inevitably remind everyone of the failure of previous interventions in Iraq. The US and UK spent almost a decade in trying to build a viable state in Iraq, which is collapsing in the space of months from the onslaught of an army from nowhere.

Actually, the record could look even worse than that, as ISIS only seems to have came from nowhere because where it did come from raises even more awkward questions. Clinton is telling anyone who listens that Syria’s problems come from the US not intervening enough, as she not-so-subtly distances herself from the disappointments of the Obama administration in preparation for 2016. Yet, the reality seems to be that the US has been involved as much as you would expect it to be in such a key strategic area. It’s just that it appears to have badly backfired, again, and so now must go back in and try to mop up the mess it helped to create – but with even less clarity on its goals than before.

But there is an even bigger complication than just being forced to go back over the ground of past failures. It was something that was also present, if side-lined, during the War on Terror but unavoidable now.

It was summed up by one of the most important counter-terrorism measures announced by the government so far: the decision to suspend benefit payments to those found going abroad on a jihad.

As a counter-terrorism measure it’s a joke. For a start, it only applies to one of the Australians abroad fighting for ISIS, Khaled Sharrouf – he who captioned a photo of his seven-year old son holding a decapitated head in Syria with “that’s my boy”. But using him as an example also shows the ludicrousness of the thinking that believes someone who goes abroad on a jihad to kill, and willing to brutalise his son in the process, will somehow think twice if he loses his lavish disability pension.

This chasm between the banality of the measure and what it is supposed to be aimed at comes from this not being about an international terrorist threat that bombs can be thrown at with no questions asked – but something homegrown, which is a whole different ball game.

Let’s be blunt. Australia has become a major exporter of terrorism. In fact, per capita it has the largest contingent fighting for ISIS of any foreign country. Nor is it especially new. Just as uncovering the US’s involvement reveals the murky past of stuff ups with its operations in Syria, Australia was seeing an outflow of nationals to fight in the Syrian civil war years before they emerged with ISIS on the other side of the Iraqi border.

This makes things awkward for both sides of politics. For a right that is more comfortable with a foreign bogeyman, it is torn between slyly implying Muslims living in Australia might not be part of “Team Australia”, or presenting the threat as foreign all along. This gets them into knots, such as the Daily Telegraph’s fear that terrorists will bring their “twisted beliefs” home, when obviously to go off and fight for something as barbaric as ISIS means they surely already had them when they left Australia.

There were similar contortions by the out-going head of ASIO, David Irvine, in his speech to the National Press Club this week, who talked of concern of “enhanced religious commitment” from those returning, as though going off to kill didn’t require a rather lot of religious fervour, or whatever, in the first place.

But Irvine also raised the other contortion that is more widespread to include the left, in his call for Muslim community leaders to redouble the efforts to control the “few misguided people in their midst”.

“Community” is a word that is much loved on the left of politics and is a bedrock of the view that sees segregated and isolated sections of society under the rose-tinted glasses of multiculturalism. In Australia, there was a long history of this type of thinking even before the advent of multiculturalism in the 1970s with the celebration of cultural difference of indigenous peoples. It not only flattered what has been a persistent and vast social disparity in living conditions relative to non-indigenous people, but never had anything to say to the unemployed indigenous youth in Redfern whose cultural activities, like many men his age, may not go beyond watching TV footy on the sofa on a Saturday afternoon.

In this case, the word “community” implies an assumption of a cohesiveness that may not be there. Such a rose-colored view on the cohesiveness of immigrant groups is in danger of back-firing as the leaders are now assumed to have an influence they simply don’t have.

It certainly prevents questions being raised that should be when Muslim “community leaders” are paraded to explain their reaction to the jihadists as we saw on the 7.30 Report last night, namely, who are these “leaders”? Who appointed them? Why should they be as responsible as anyone else for these jihadists and why would they be able to do anything about it? Certainly when whites of European descent run amok, we don’t see community leaders being dredged up as responsible. Which “community leader” or cultural values were responsible for David Hicks running off to make a fool of himself in Afghanistan?

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Monday, 11 August 2014    

David Rowe: AFR

David Rowe: AFR

What this government is trying to do is trying to stop Australian Muslims travelling overseas to murder other Muslims. They’re going to Iraq, they’re going to Syria. There are Sunnis targeting Shiites. This is not an anti-Muslim attitude; this is an attitude that’s trying to save the lives of other Muslims from being attacked by Australian Muslims. Read more …


Disaster politics

Thursday, 31 July 2014    


We’ve got a situation where Tony Abbott’s become the strongest leader in the world on this issue.

Gerard Henderson

Right now there could well be remains exposed to the European summer, exposed to the ravages of heat and animals.

Tony Abbott

As a prime minister of a country, how does a tragedy like this affect you at a personal level?

Fran Kelly


Context is all.

The last few weeks have reminded that in recent years something rather unpleasant has entered politics, and the commentary that surrounds it. It is not only unpleasant to watch but has caused politicians to fumble on sensitive issues and commentators to completely mis-read the impact on the electorate at home. Read more …


The confusions of anti-politics

Tuesday, 15 July 2014    

Political sophisticate meets naïve political rube, from the US.

Political sophisticate meets naïve political rube, from the US.

I’m determined to get on with governing

T Abbott 11 July 2014

I’m determined to get on with the job of governing,

J Gillard 31 January 2013

The Labor Party was formed to represent the workers, the Liberals to represent business, the Nationals to represent people in rural and regional Australia. But Palmer United was formed simply out of hatred for Campbell Newman.

Senior Coalition member talking to Laurie Oakes

We have got situation normal.

T Abbott

If this is situation normal, why doesn’t it feel like it?

As commentators have said, dealing with tricky players in the Palmer United Party isn’t new. Steve Fielding and Nick Xenophon weren’t exactly a barrel of laughs for the Rudd government either. Even the Australian Democrats on their high horse could give Howard headaches.

The difference is not so much Palmer, but the weak position of the government that is negotiating with him. Read more …


What a technocracy looks like

Friday, 30 May 2014    

The entire gamut of Australian politics. From A to B.

The entire gamut of Australian politics. From A to B.

The South Australian Labor Party is so clearly out of talent it has to reach into the ranks of the Liberal Party to fill its Ministry.

Liberal MP Jamie Biggs’s response to Hamilton-Smith’s defection. Perhaps not quite thought through.

If Queensland continues to show with its latest product that it remains the home of anti-politics, on Tuesday South Australia showed, in fairly spectacular fashion, that it remains the home of its flipside, the political class’s response of technocracy.

Hamilton-Smith’s defection is, of course, not the first seen in Australian politics, nor is it the first time this state Labor government has had political opponents in the cabinet, with ex-Liberals like Rory McEwan and National MP Karlene Maywald in the Rann Labor Cabinet. Yet there are some features of not only the defection, but the response to it, that make it illustrative of the curious state of politics today. Read more …


Budget panto goes wrong

Monday, 19 May 2014    

If there is one thing that sums up the contradiction in the government’s position that is behind what is turning into a political disaster, is that a few weeks before the Budget came out, the Commission of Audit proposed one of the most radical overhauls of the Australian economy in fifty years – to one of the weakest governments capable of implementing it. Read more …


The ties that bind

Tuesday, 22 April 2014    

Cutting funding to ICAC would be a coward’s response to the most important accountability mechanism in the state.

John Kaye, Greens Upper House NSW MP

It’s perhaps understandable that an Upper House MP may be unaware, relying as they do on the benefice of party machines, that the “most important accountability mechanism” in NSW remains the electorate, which in the last election did a pretty good job of making a tawdry and corrupt Labor government accountable by removing not only the Premier, but the entire Ministry and over half of the government MPs from their jobs. Beat that ICAC! Read more …


A hollow debate

Monday, 7 April 2014    

There are some important issues arising from the government’s move to repeal 18C in the Racial Discrimination Act. Unfortunately they are obscured by posturing anti-racism on the left and posturing libertarianism on the right when in reality it is about neither. Read more …



Monday, 24 February 2014    

David Rowe, AFR

David Rowe, AFR

This is a breach of our sovereignty and the Indonesians need to understand that, instead of a lot of pious rhetoric about the Australian Government breaching their sovereignty

Lord Downer, just a few months ago

We will decide.

From happier times.

The panic about asylum seekers is primarily a panic of the political class, that politicos on the left and right continually project onto the public, but for whom polls show it remains no more than a middling concern. It is a panic out of all proportion to its real impact because asylum seekers capture two concerns that the political class has no solution for: a declining social base (Labor) and authority and “sovereignty” (the Coalition).

During the Rudd-Gillard period we saw asylum seekers become a political football between Rudd and Gillard centred on Labor’s insecurities about its lack of social base. Under the Coalition, asylum seekers are now becoming a political football over an even more sensitive issue, sovereignty. Read more …


Politics of the void

Monday, 20 January 2014    

Don’t worry. He’s not looking at you.

I firmly believe the battle of ideas is an important one for politicians to engage in.

Senator Cory Bernardi

#dearcory why is it that you just hate people so much? Did the other kids make you eat slugs when you were at school?

Senator Hanson-Young

Cory is deluded. He is one of the least effective or important members of the parliamentary team. Cory is a person without any intellect, without any base, and he should really never have risen above the position of branch president. His right-wing macho-man act is just his way of looking as though he stands for something.

Liberal “colleague” quoted in The Monthly

Happy is the country which is more interested in sport than in politics because it shows that there is a fundamental unity,

New Prime Minister Tony Abbott

You have to be tough to get to the top. Read more …


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