Monday, 11 August 2014
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.
Gerard Henderson on the, er, Australian terrorist threat to the world
The trouble with understanding the growing chaos in the government is that the starting point is always wrong – looking at the government itself, and its personnel, rather than the context in which it is operating. This is especially important for this government as, even more than the previous one, it appears completely oblivious to it.
If there is one thing that best sums up that context is one government blunder of recent weeks that has actually been rarely discussed in the media, despite its importance – the UN Resolution for securing the MH17 crash site. It will be recalled that Australia’s success in getting the UN Resolution passed unanimously in the Security Council last month was hailed as a coup for the government. All attention was on Russia and whether it would give approval which, after some wording changes, it did.
But no one thought to check with the Ukrainians, who appeared to have ignored the Resolution’s call for the cessation of military action around the site and renewed their attack on the area, so preventing the Dutch and Australian investigators from getting access to the site.
Curiously, despite all the chest beating about Operation Bring Them Home, this violation of the UN Resolution has gone largely unremarked. Phillip Coorey, who on Insiders immediately following the crash, was chest beating with the best of them, raised the fact that investigators were prevented from getting access to the site on the program last Sunday, but skipped over why.
Whoever was responsible for preventing the investigators from getting to the crash site, the lack of follow through by the media is striking. If it is because the Ukrainian forces ignored the Resolution or, even worse, used the truce as an opportunity to recover lost ground, or both sides are equally to blame, the upshot is the “goodies and baddies” narrative has clearly gone wrong – leaving the uncomfortable feeling that all of the media and political interest on the human angle was merely subordinate to geopolitical concerns – and dropped when the geopolitical narrative didn’t pan out.
The lack of any clear geopolitical framework is behind what has the potential to be a much more serious mess over counter-terrorism proposals announced last week. As we saw with the Budget, the stuffing up of what was such a well-worn media ritual finally brought home to the press that something was seriously wrong with the government. But for a Coalition government to stuff up a national security initiative is something else entirely.
It’s probably more likely that Abbott’s decision to drop the repeal of 18C was not just due to the unlikelihood of it getting through the Senate, but that it was undermining relations with backers for what is likely later to be a much greater priority for Abbott, the Constitutional changes on so-called “indigenous recognition”.
Nevertheless the government decided to cover the embarrassment over the back down by upping the ante through linking it, in a fairly crass way, to counter-terrorism initiatives as a means of getting Muslims on side for “Team Australia”. But in upping the ante and restore some purpose, the government exposed that there was no clear framework to carry it.
The irony of the government’s metadata proposals is that in a sense it is a non-event. Security forces have been monitoring and using metadata for years, as have the telecoms been retaining such data. The legislation was more to reinforce the existing situation on fears that the telcos would shift to a more cost effective means of storing data. It was the government that decided for political reasons to make a big deal out of it, but then discovered the politics behind it was not what they thought.
The issue is not that Brandis (nor Abbott) was not up on the details of metadata – but that they had to explain it in the first place. Normally where the security threat is clear, whatever needed to be done would be accepted, no questions asked – just as the government would unquestioningly accept the initial request from the security services.
But what exactly is the national security threat here? In pushing it on Insiders last Sunday, Gerard Henderson only showed how confused it was. This is not how a national security would normally be discussed: as one emanating from overseas – but is instead home grown.
In effect those going overseas to fight for those like ISIS are carrying on what began with our home town loon, David Hicks, who was bizarrely such a cause célèbre for the left a few years ago. For Hicks, at least, it looked less like a profound conversion to the Muslim faith but simply a cover for nihilism. As Henderson said, we are talking not about a threat from overseas, than Australians going overseas to spread their chaos in other countries. Understandably, trying to make goodies and baddies out of that is not clear cut.
The chaos is, of course, being writ large with the latest round of US intervention in Iraq. The US and the UK spent over a decade trying to build a viable state in Iraq, only to see it collapse from a rag-tag army with patchy local support. It is hard to believe that more bombing from the sky will achieve the order that that so eluded them after a decade on the ground. Just as for the Ukraine, which has seen ineptness from both sides, the latest round of US actions look more driven by a lack of idea of what else to do than clear purpose.
This chaos is clearly difficult for the left to deal with. While moral causes like Israel’s bombing of Gaza are easy to target, responding to chaos and lack of clear intention is harder. If the Coalition needs goodies and baddies, so does the other side of politics – resulting often in an ascribing of bad motives that reached probably its moronic low in claiming the Iraq war was all about oil. In the latest round of US intervention, the self-interested motives are even less clear, even if the result is much the same, more chaos.
Posted by The Piping Shrike on Monday, 11 August 2014.Filed under State of the parties, The Australian state