It’s now clear that the “government in exile” — Tony Abbott, disgruntled ex-ministers like Kevin Andrews and Eric Abetz, and backbenchers like Andrew Nikolic — have decided that the terrorist attacks in Paris are an opportunity to begin undermining Malcolm Turnbull.

In the view of Abbott last week and, today, Kevin Andrews, the West needs to send troops to Syria to defeat Islamic State. The implication is that anything short of this is being “soft on terrorism”. Andrews assiduously avoided mentioning the Prime Minister in his op-ed today, but instead attacked Barack Obama — and Turnbull has said his thinking on Syria is in line with the US President’s.

Sending troops to Syria will make a hideous situation worse — it will reinforce IS’ narrative about the West’s hatred of Islam, spur recruitment to their ranks and do nothing to address what Turnbull correctly called the oppression and disenfranchisement of Sunni Muslims, which has been so crucial to the rise of IS. Abbott and the restorationists understand this. They know how the disastrous 2003 invasion of Iraq not merely caused the deaths of hundreds of thousands but led directly to the emergence of Islamic State. But still they push the military option.

Why? Because for the hard right, national security is always a political weapon. It was Abbott who accused Labor of “rolling out the red carpet for terrorists” earlier this year, who attacked Islamic communities for a fictional failure to condemn terrorism, who gave the green light to blatant Islamophobia among his own backbenchers. It was Abbott who made national security the centrepiece of his efforts to recover politically by “fighting Labor” rather than leading the country.

Now, his target and that of his allies is not Labor, but Turnbull, as part of what is increasingly clearly a plan to mimic Kevin Rudd’s destabilisation of Julia Gillard. As part of this plan, national security is yet again a plaything for political purposes.

Peter Fray

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