Black and white and Reds all over: My last 2014 post about The Australian

December 29, 2014

It must be some sort of ignorant bliss to be a columnist or leader writer with The Australian and to live in the certain knowledge that Chris Mitchell’shair is always right about everything.

Not having to think abstractly or go outside the rectangular box of its pages to find something as subtle as flux, contradiction and 50 shades of grey must make for an easy life of absolutes without the worrying niggles of nuance and self-doubt.

Mitchell's hair

The superbly talented and all-round whisky-loving cartoonish genius, Mr Onthemoon drew this.

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Why giving ASIO and the police more powers might be a bad idea

September 25, 2014

The first terror-related death on Australian soil tragically occurred on Tuesday night this week in Melbourne. A young man shot dead after attacking two officers with a knife outside a suburban police station. Police say the dead youth was known to them, and that his assault of the officers was unprovoked. Less than 24 hours later new laws giving the nation’s security forces additional powers were “bullied” through Parliament with barely any dissent.

However, the circumstances of Numan Haidar’s short life and his tragic end have been the subject of much ill-informed speculation, including the allegation – not confirmed by Victorian police – that he planned to “behead” the officers he attacked.

Interestingly – and to me quite shockingly too – when you google “Numan Haidar Melbourne” there is very little scooped up by the usually voluminous search engine (see first image below). But when you put “terror shooting melbourne” into the search engine there are thousands of results. [click images to enlarge and see detail]

An interesting comment on how the national security media is framing Mr Haidar’s death. He is constantly referred to by police and government as “this person”, Numan is dehumanised so that he can be posthumously demonised as well.

In the days before the fatal incident in Melbourne, television footage of federal police officers armed with automatic rifles guarding Parliament House in Canberra made for a discomforting sight.

This unprecedented move is, we are told, based on some overheard telephone “chatter” that may, or may not, relate to a real and credible threat to the lives of politicians or visitors to the nation’s capital.

In the past two to three weeks the Australian public has been slowly, but surely boiled like a frog to the point that our worst imagined fears seem all too real.

Now, in the wake of the Melbourne shooting of what the media seemingly delights in calling a “known terror suspect”, even though the young man was guilty of no crime, we can expect to see more calls for more police powers and further new surveillance and data retention powers will almost certainly pass through Parliament unopposed in coming weeks.

Tony Abbott and several of his senior security officials have drip fed the idea of a clear and present danger to Australian lives into a compliant media. The stories have been duly repeated; the raids orchestrated for the cameras and the serious press conferences held. The national security media has been briefed; it has recorded the messages; downloaded the talking points and repeated them back to us with a suitable tone of fear and loathing (aimed squarely at Australia’s tiny Middle Eastern Muslim population).

I don’t doubt for a minute that there are Australians serving with Daesh and al Qaida or its offshoots in Syria and Iraq. No doubt others wish to emulate their mujahedeen brothers and sisters and become ‘shaheed’ [martyrs] to the cause of fundamentalist Islam. There are others here, at home, whose passions have been roused by the attention they are getting from ASIO – passports being cancelled, constant visits from the AFP and round-the-clock surveillance of their movements and their phone calls.

But I also don’t doubt for a minute that there are similarly deranged members of Abbott’s “Team Australia” who habour similar murderous thoughts and are capable of issuing death threats and perhaps even carrying them out.

What I worry about is that the overwhelming police response is aimed at members of Australia’s Middle Eastern, Muslim minority and that the white supremacist, bigoted racist wallies who want to burn mosques and attack young Muslim women in the street are being left to foment their own special kind of trouble.

The police response so far – 800 heavily armed officers to arrest a couple of handfuls of suspects, most of whom have been released without charge – seems more than a little disproportionate to the actual threat level.

It also seems, looking from the outside, that current operational and intelligence gathering powers are adequate to protecting the population from any threat that home grown jihadis might represent. The idea that Daesh can attack Australia from its bases in Syria and Iraq is just a fantasy; or worse, it is deliberate scare mongering by the government aided and abetted by the national security media.

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