Australian politics, society & culture

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Friday, 19th September 2014

TERRORIST CHATTER

"Chatter amongst the terrorist support networks of an attack on government" was the reason given by Prime Minister Tony Abbott this morning for the ramping up of security at Parliament House in the wake of yesterday's unprecedented raids in Sydney and Brisbane. Taking the chatter seriously, the Australian Federal Police have responded, no doubt appropriately, by taking over security at Capital Hill. Indeed, "chatter" – on phones and the internet – is often the only sign authorities have that a crime of terrorism is pending.

The barrister acting for the 22-year-old man who was charged out of yesterday's raids submitted in Central Local Court in Sydney that the "chatter" which triggered the raids by 800 police officers may in fact have been a single phone call on Monday which referred to a random beheading in the name of the Islamic State. At this stage there's no way of assessing that claim, and it's unlikely we'll ever know. The timeline is worth noting: the Islamic State warns the west against taking military action; Australia announces military action; Australia raises its terror threat level to "high" on Friday with no "particular plots" in planning; a phone call is made to an Australian IS operative on Monday; 800 police conduct the biggest raid in history on Thursday.

It's obvious that Australia's military involvement against IS increases the risk of terrorism in Australia, though authorities seem determined to deny it. Were the government to acknowledge that going to war does entail risk, it could then more honestly make the case for war. Instead Abbott, who cynics have noted is easily most comfortable in the "strong leader" persona also favoured by his mentor John Howard, has promised a "modest information campaign" within weeks.

Russell Marks
Politicoz Editor

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Federal police take over Parliament House security after reported threat

"The Australian Federal Police have been put back in charge of security at Parliament House in Canberra, amid reports of a planned terrorist attack." (The Guardian)

Also: Arrests in terror raids in Sydney and Brisbane (John Kerin, AFR); Who is Mohammad Ali Baryalei? (Rachel Olding and Megan Levy, Fairfax); Hundreds protest in Sydney about counter-terrorism raids (AAP, The Guardian)

Comment: Mosques, Muslims and myths: overcoming fear in our suburbs (Kevin Dunn, The Conversation)

Greens offer to negotiate on Direct Action to preserve RET

"The Greens have offered the Abbott government its first chance to pass its Direct Action climate policy, but only if it agrees to toughen the scheme and preserve Australia's renewable energy target." (Lisa Cox, Fairfax)

Also: $22-trillion-strong investor funds call for climate action (Peter Hannam, Sydney Morning Herald)

Abbott refuses to back Noel Pearson's plan

"Tony Abbott has declined to endorse Noel Pearson's new direction on recognition of Indigenous Australians as Aboriginal leaders express alarm that the move could fracture Indigenous consensus on the issue." (Michael Gordon, The Age)

Also: Indigenous child removal in Victoria ‘highest since white settlement’ (Melissa Davey, The Guardian)

Bernardi under fire over burqa tweet

"As news of the raids broke, Senator Bernardi tweeted: ‘Note burqa wearers in some of the houses raided this morning? This shroud of oppression and flag of fundamentalism is not right in Aust(ralia).’" (Rosie Lewis, The Australian, possible paywall)

Frances Abbott scholarship: whistleblower pleads guilty

"A 20-year-old whistleblower has pleaded guilty to accessing restricted records linked to revelations that the prime minister’s daughter received an undisclosed $60,000 scholarship." (Michael Safi, The Guardian)