Australian politics, society & culture

Thursday, 18th September 2014


This morning's largest-ever raid on terrorism suspects in Brisbane's south-east and Sydney's north-west unfolded against a debate about new national security legislation and the deployment of troops to Iraq. More than 800 police officers participated in the raids which resulted in the detention of 15 people, one of whom has been charged with "serious terrorism-related offences" and will appear in Central Local Court in Sydney today. The AFP is expected to allege that this person was involved in planning to kidnap a random person in Sydney and then behead them on camera.

In an AFR report today, analysts warn that the risk of terrorist attacks in Australia increases with Australia's involvement in Iraq. That correlation has been denied by Tony Abbott and ASIO, but the intelligence organisation's reports to parliament confirm it, and Australia's threat level is now set to "high". Meanwhile a joint parliamentary committee has approved the new anti-terror laws ASIO wants, subject to the inclusion of oversight and public interest provisions. The committee supports Abbott and George Brandis's preference that journalists not be exempt from the new laws, which would among other changes allow government agents to torture suspects.

We might pause to remember that Dr Muhamed Haneef was also arrested by the AFP in 2007 on the suspicion that he had been somehow involved in the planning of a terrorist incident. Dr Haneef was then detained for nearly a month without charge before being released. ASIO had told the government two days after his arrest that there was no evidence that Dr Haneef was guilty of any crime, but Immigration Minister Kevin Andrew immediately cancelled his visa on character grounds. Dr Haneef later appealed that decision successfully, and the AFP was heavily criticised for its "completely deficient" case in the report of a subsequent inquiry. The intelligence organisations argue that they've successfully prevented terrorist attacks in Australia to date, but the question remains as to whether they sometimes cast too wide a net.

Russell Marks
Politicoz Editor

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George Brandis' new anti-terror law allows ASIO to torture

"I've spoken to two legal experts and one outraged senator about this bill and it is obvious that allowing torture, by government security agents, lies within the scope of the draft law." (Paul Sheehan, Sydney Morning Herald)

Also: Journalists ‘should not be exempt’ from national security rules (Daniel Hurst, The Guardian)

Comment: ‘Team Australia’: a nationalism framed in terms of external threats (Shaun Crowe, The Conversation)

Tony Abbott: recognition referendum will not be held alongside 2016 election

"Tony Abbott has rejected the advice of the Liberal Party’s first Indigenous lower house member Ken Wyatt to hold a referendum to recognise Indigenous Australians at the next election in 2016 – making a 2017 poll more likely." (Gabrielle Chan, The Guardian)

Also: Noel Pearson and Greg Craven unite on constitutional reform proposal (Patricia Karvelas, The Australian, possible paywall)

Comment: Arguments run both ways on timing of Indigenous referendum (Michelle Grattan, The Conversation)

Labor rules out making changes to scale down Renewable Energy Target

"Labor has ruled out negotiating with the federal government to scale back the Renewable Energy Target. The government is believed to be searching for a bipartisan compromise to scale back the green scheme, which was put in place by the Howard government." (Jake Sturmer, ABC News)

Police in charge of assessing threats to Campbell Newman's safety keeping files on protesting unions

"The threat assessments compiled by Queensland's Security Intelligence Branch were obtained under right to information, with many of the documents heavily redacted. But uncensored sections spell out the ‘tactics and motivations’ of unions and environmental groups demonstrating against issues..." (Mark Willacy, ABC News)

Also: Queensland to sell power network (Mark Ludlow and Jenny Wiggins, Australian Financial Review)

Tony Abbott gives top marks to ministers, saying all deserve As or A pluses

"Mr Abbott said it was ‘perfectly normal’ to examine the performance of senior MPs, and 12 months after forming government was an appropriate time to do it." (Lisa Cox, Fairfax)