As the Herald Sun pointed out last night, the Endeavour Hills stabbing and shooting incident occurred in the electorate of Labor MP Anthony Byrne, the deputy chair (and former chair) of the Joint Intelligence Committee on Intelligence and Security.

Back in July, before the government decided to take us back to war in the Middle East, Byrne rose in the Federation Chamber to make a short speech intended to goad the government into action, urging it to bring forward national security legislation and clarify its plans on data retention so that they could be debated rationally and coolly outside of the febrile environment that would follow a possible terrorist incident.

In retrospect, Byrne’s statement has proved uncannily accurate — the government is now rushing through legislation in exactly the environment he predicted. Attorney-General George Brandis is still, commendably, asking JCIS to consider the bills as he introduces them. But rather than the cool and calm debate Byrne hoped for, we’ve had nonsense this morning like PUP Senator Jacqui Lambie using Parliament to repeat her disgusting attack on Muslims, and a proposal from PUP to dramatically increase the penalty for revealing the identity of an ASIO agent from one year to 10 — an absurdly over-the-top penalty that would lock up someone who revealed an ASIO officer’s identity for a longer time than many rapists, drug dealers and perpetrators of serious violence.

If the government had brought in these laws early in the year, we might have had a chance of debating them rationally and maybe without the asinine contribution of Clive Palmer’s motley crew. The time for rational debate has now passed.

Peter Fray

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