Sep 12, 2014

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

Tony Abbott's announcement that the terrorism threat level has been raised is correct -- after all, he has taken a deliberate decision that will make Australians less safe, and done so for political purposes.

Bernard Keane — Politics editor

Bernard Keane

Politics editor

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. The broader point of all this is, well, duh. As Crikey has noted repeatedly, this isn't about gormless politicians endlessly repeating the mistakes of their predecessors. They, and security officials, know perfectly well what perpetuates the War on Terror, which is such a boon for large companies, security agencies and politicians. That's why they keep on perpetuating it.

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

  1. GF50

    Thanks Bernard, my comment on your “who benefits from the return to Iraq.”

  2. Paul Day

    It’s not Abbot or any Western government that has made the world unsafe. It is the evil, backward religion whose ideology is found in its most extreme form in IS (ISIL or ISIS) and al Qaeda. When are people going to understand this fundamental fact. THEY WANT TO DESTROY US AND RID THE WORLD OF ANYONE WHO IS NOT MUSLIM. You and all those like you are only making things worse by insisting that it is the West and not this insane religion which are at fault. You are damned, along with all who think like you until you open your eyes and see them for what they are.

  3. Mali Edon


    Oh dear! Some reading of history and of religious traditions would not go amiss.

    The Arabs are still pretty sore about the Crusader invasion.

  4. Paul Day

    @Mali. Oh dear! here we go again. The crusades too place so long ago they may as well have occured on a different planet. It was a different time when evil existed in every country during a very dark period of world history. bringing it up is just making excuses for an evil religion who is trying to destroy us today. They need no excuse. They have murdered, raped, tortured and terrorized on every continent in recent times. They exist today as a very real threat. The crusaders don’t. Anyone who uses such historical facts as an excuse for current world tensions is completely ignorant of what is actually taking place. It’s simple. Muslims holding extreme views (of which there are many) want to rid the world of anyone opposed to that ideology. It wouldn’t matter in the slightest how we treat them. They will still hate us. They do hate us. Any arguments about who is to blame for making them hate us is irrelevant. WAKE UP!

  5. SusieQ

    How depressing this whole situation is.

  6. Suzanne Blake

    Bernard, most of our help against ISIS is humanitarian help. Whats wrong with that?

    We have no troops on the ground.

    If we let ISIS flourish, that will cause more problems.

    Our problems here are because we have let in too many undesirable people over a few decades and not cracked down harder on their teachers and gatherings

  7. ab gunter

    You are forgetting the white male Islamist terrorists, Bernard Keane. Islamist fascism isn’t a race it is a dogma that is both evil and dangerous.

    But that’s not what this is about – the terror ‘threat level’ is going up so ASIO can get its massive power grab Bill through Parliament.

    it is up for debate on the second reading about now.

    It gives ASIO spies:
    – immunity from prosecution when they break the law
    – the right to force courts to accept illegally obtained evidence
    – the right to hack anybody’s computer and tamper with the data
    – the right to put tracking devices on people without a warrant.

    They want Parliament to vote in this bill without the politicians even reading it properly. See this story:


    It’s not about Islamist fascists – though they are a massive threat. ASIO might even let an attack through just to get their laws through parly.

    If they were serious about getting rid of Islamist fascism from Australia they would target them and enforce the limits to multiculturalism. You should not have absolute religious freedom when that religion involve a fascist totalitarianism that tells you to kill gays and impose gender apartheid. But the new laws do not target them at all.

    If they were serious, then Hizb-ut-Tahrir would be on the banned terror groups list. It isn’t. only 19 groups are and Hizb isn’t one of them. Hizb is banned through the middle east. Hizb wants the Caliphate under Sharia.

  8. Paul Day


    When evil men carrying a black flag one day come knocking on your door demanding that you display their flag in front of your home or suffer the consequences, I hope you remember fondly that you helped create a world where this was allowed to happen through your ignorant support of this evil regime. Tony Abbot is only doing what he has to to help destroy an evil and barbaric cause hell bent on killing all who stand in their way. I have had enough of the PC do-gooders who support a religion which denigrates women, instills fear in its followers and forces its members to do unspeakable things.It’s time ordinary people were given a voice without the fear of being labelled racist. This has to stop. People are dying. People are being tortured and murdered and all you are doing is facilitating this by shifting the blame from where it should rest to those who did not bring this about. You are actually showing no respect to what our government is trying to do and making the situation worse by giving yet more fodder to this wicked religion and its evil men.

  9. Marilyn Shepherd

    Our spooks have had billions extra to achieve not one thing in the last 13 years except fit up the innocent Dr Haneef.

  10. Marilyn Shepherd

    Paul, you sad little dickhead. Judaism still makes orthodox women wear wigs in public, walk 10 paces behind their husbands who never work, breed until they drop dead.

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