On national security

Joe Boswell writes:  Re. “Going home: risky national security push comes from Turnbull’s weakness” (Tuesday)

Bernard Keane underplays the greatest risk in the proposed single integrated national security agency. Such an agency is extremely dangerous The proposed push combines control of all intelligence agencies, their operatives and their files, command of police and Border Force paramilitary units, powers to override civil rights including detention without trial, secure (including secret) facilities across the country and no meaningful oversight; the push before the putsch. For as long as the functions are divided between different agencies and independent commands each tends to be a check on another running amok.

This was the reason the UK in the 19th century organised its police into separate constabularies answerable locally and emphatically not one national force commanded by the Home Secretary. When all these functions are unified under one command the path is wide open to undermine or overthrow the constitution and seize power. No matter how much confidence we have in Dutton’s respect for independent checks and balances and his dedication to constitutional propriety in both letter and spirit, sooner or later someone with this immense power will find the temptation to abuse it irresistible — either behind the scenes like an Australian J. Edgar Hoover (though Hoover only had the FBI), or blatantly by declaring an emergency and launching a coup d’etat. Who then will defend Australians? It’s not as though we haven’t been warned: these people hate our freedoms.

On Malcolm Turnbull’s remaining time as Prime Minister

Margaret Handasyde writes: Re. “How long does Malcolm Turnbull have left?” (Tuesday) 

Turnbull commenced as a Prime Minister with worthwhile credentials and stature. Then the Abbott loyalists, religious zealots and far right conservatives applied sufficient pressure to ensure he had to compromise, and theseto compromises, of course, diminished him. It’s fair to say that Malcolm should have stood his ground but these malcontents play dirty. In the end they will gain nothing but disdain —  as they should. Australians are the losers but what do they care? The malcontents will go on the claim their pensions. They will never own their plotting or gain any insight.


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Peter Fray
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