Over the past few months we have seen Australia leading the coalition and the alliance of the willing in the MH17 air disaster over Ukraine and the recent initiatives by our government towards reacting to Islamic State’s (IS) acts of barbarism on a savage scale. In addition to these overseas incidents, we have also led the world on combating alleged terror threats on our doorstep which has attracted a worldwide positive reaction.
These initiatives by Tony Abbott are a welcome change from the world leaders who appear to pontificate and procrastinate in the face of the rise of IS in the Middle East. Top marks to Foreign Minister Julie Bishop and Minister for Immigration and Border Protection Scott Morrison who have also come out on top in securing our borders and overseas image. Australia has finally come out on its own and world leaders are looking closely at our government responses to the acts of terrorism on our doorstep.
Tony Abbott will become one of our greatest prime ministers and will rise to the occasion in the face of challenges facing this nation and that of the world. Also, not since World War II have both sides of the political fence come together in a bipartisan manner to combat this rise in world terrorism and it warms my heart to see Prime Minister Tony Abbott and the Labor Opposition Leader Bill Shorten jointly denounce the barbarous acts of violence and terror that threaten our Australian way of life.
However, despite our success on the world stage, I am becoming somewhat concerned at the domestic scene and the enthusiastic responses to alleged terror threats by our law enforcement agencies. I wonder what kind of alleged threats were made to bring this type of reaction. People make veiled threats against politicians all the time without really carrying it out. It’s called letting off steam. In this case I am referring to the recent anti-terror raids in Brisbane, Sydney and the alleged threats against Prime Minister Abbott in Melbourne.
One can assume rightly that our security and defence organisations, with their analysts, have been working diligently overtime in massing information. Information that has been gleaned from human intelligence, various department feeds and organisations, overseas data, domestic community feedback and that of our own eavesdropping techniques. Attorney General George Brandis’ proposals to beef up our anti-terror laws and the collection and storage of meta data will also help. All of this is funnelled, filtered, checked, analysed and scrutinised for any potential threats or anomalies that appear out of place or threaten our way of life.
Therefore, when we see our law enforcement agencies reacting to an alleged plot or threat, we become alarmed as the event has startled us out of our normal life patterns and reacted accordingly. Whether we have strong feelings of privacy, justice, right or wrong, we are still affected by the sudden impact on our immediate environment and that of our way of life.
Therefore, when such incidents occur, I do hope that coroners and investigators conduct a thorough job in reviewing the evidence and all the information and whether the force being used was equal if not more to the alleged act or threat of terror being made, and that the after incident report does not become a white wash, leaving the public in the dark.
I say this because I question whether these counter terrorism tactics are the kernel of things to come. If that is the case, then I fear for our Australian way of life and good old Aussie humour and banter. I love having a joke just like anyone and will on the odd occasion make a remark that may appear to offend someone but in the knowledge that there is no malice and/or intent in my remark.
I never want to see a climate of fear replace the good old Aussie way life where we call a spade a spade, where everyone has a fair crack of the whip, looking out for that little Aussie battler and never kicking a bloke when he is down. This way of life is precious and nowhere else in the world with the exception of Canada and New Zealand can citizens feel free to live free from bigotry, racial tensions and fear of their neighbours. We are so fortunate that we take things for granted, so much so that we the public at times may overreact to the tactics being used by our law enforcement agencies.
However, I am sad to say that the terror threats being made online by IS are to be taken seriously and we the public must be prepared to change and adapt to the changing fortunes of our own environment without those changes impinging too much on our way of life. What those changes are is far too early to tell, but I am of the opinion that they are on their way.
Therefore, I do hope that our law enforcement agencies are educated in the diverse community behaviours and attitudes and do not become cocky, overzealous and take matters into their own hands without any obligation to those they target. I am aware that some 20 years ago, if not more, the Victorian Police Force in their wisdom implemented community policing programs to educate their ranks in understanding diverse communities, their cultures, behaviours and way of life along with programs in understanding mental health issues.
I am also aware that within the Australian Defence Force there are some good initiatives being taken up by military commanders in educating the personnel under their command in diverse cultures, with emphasis on understanding the Islamic culture and way of life.
Furthermore, we must not forget that serving to look after Australia’s interests are military and law enforcement officers of the Muslim faith, who live
amongst us and contribute to our way of life. Let us not judge those of that faith harshly in light of the recalcitrant and evil extremist followers of the discredited IS followers. Muslim leaders throughout the world are uniting against IS as they have come to realise that it has nothing to do with the Islamic faith, but is an abomination to world peace.
By all means, keep our streets free of fear and terrorist threats, but I do hope that the groundwork has been conducted prior to taking out any alleged plot, threat or act of terrorism. There are far too many unanswered questions at the moment, but in the absence of those unknown questions, all that I can see is a climate and an environment of unwarranted shock, horror, awe, harassment, fear and intimidation.
I also hope our law enforcement agencies are answerable to a higher authority, if not then they can over time become a law unto their own and answerable only to the elite. That would be a sad state of affairs and un-Australian. Having said the above, I would like to add that I have always been of the belief that we have amongst the most highly trained and educated law enforcement and military personnel in the world. Personnel who strive for the best in their fields and always with the best interests of Australia first.
As Australians we should be thankful that there are safeguards built into the systems that identify recalcitrant members who, when found, are soon dealt with expeditiously in an effective manner, with steps taken to overcome any misuse of power. After all, these men and women entrusted with our security and safety take their duties and responsibilities seriously. However, going by the recent scandals and abuse in certain Australian Defence Force circles, this sadly was not always the case.
We should not live in a state of fear, however. We must adapt to meet the challenges in order to maintain our Australian way of life. If that is to mean that some privileges are to be curtailed in the short term to safeguard our interests in the long term, so be it. To achieve all of the above, we must have faith in those whose job it is to safeguard our economic security, institutions, and way of life.
We who live in this country we call home, Australia, must always remember that no matter what our origins, faith, colour and community standards are, we are all Australians.
*Peter Adamis is a journalist/commentator and writer. He is a retired Australian military serviceman and an industry organisational and occupational (OHS) and training consultant.