Governments love the concept of “terrorism” because it acts as a repellent to scrutiny and transparency. To try to subject terror law, and our terrorism apparatus, to the sort of scrutiny that other laws, and other parts of the bureaucracy, receive through the parliamentary process and the media is always to risk being accused of letting the terrorists win. That’s why Malcolm Turnbull has now accused Labor of abandoning “bipartisan commitment to keeping Australian’s safe from terrorism”, because shadow Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus dared to quibble with the idea of arbitrarily detaining 10 year olds for extended periods.
The Coalition has been annoyed by Labor’s refusal to allow even the slightest differences between it and the government on national security and stretches and strains for anything it can represent as Labor going soft on terror. In 2015, Tony Abbott used Dreyfus’ suggestion that, instead of leaving Australian dual nationality (retrospective irony alert) terrorists roaming the world, we should bring them home and jail them, as “rolling out the red carpet for terrorists.”