“Calm, clinical, professional, effective.”

Those were Malcolm Turnbull’s words in describing his government’s response to the Paris attacks, as part of his national security statement this afternoon. And, in what might have been a reference to backbenchers demanding Australia dispatch ground troops to Syria, “this is not a time for gestures or machismo”.

The Prime Minister again made it clear that there would be no military intervention in the Middle East — noting there was no interest for it among our allies and the broader international community — and certainly no request for Australian involvement. “Unilateral deployment of our combat troops not feasible or practical,” he added. Moreover, Australia’s contribution on the ground in Iraq, much of which remains controlled by Islamic State, was limited by the Iraqi government’s refusal to approve any greater role for our troops.

Turnbull again made a point of emphasising the anger and hostility of Muslims around the world to IS and its attacks, and spoke of the importance of maintaining strong relations with Australia’s Muslim communities as part of “the world’s most successful multicultural society”. And, he added, better human intelligence in dealing with terrorism was necessary in the face of greater use of encryption.

The contrast with his predecessor was striking. There was no hyperbole (throughout, the Prime Minister referred to “ISIL”, not “the Daesh death cult”), no flags, no partisanship, no military posturing, no attacks on Muslims, no promises of ever greater surveillance and ever more extensions of national security laws.

“Calm, clinical, professional, effective” is an entirely apt description of a government focused on responding to terrorism effectively and in a way that unites Australians, rather than divides us and leaves us at ever greater risk.

Peter Fray

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