Abbott, Governance, Terrorism & Related Matters

It is passing strange to find the ABC/SBS quoting critiques by Andrew Bolt, Rupert Murdoch and Alan Jones of Abbott’s knighthood decision. One waits with bated breath to hear those institutions quote the next observations by these gentlemen – let alone by experts who question policies like those on global warming.

Bolt’s article below rightly concludes that, although trivial, Abbott’s decision is politically dangerous and that “he must show he really does listen to something more than a voice in his head”. Yesterday Niki Savva wrote in The Australian that there is no guarantee Abbott would perform better if he changes his chief of staff.

Abbott would not be the first PM here or elsewhere to make boo-boos. But this one and one or two others do suggest the need for at the least a change in advisory/consultatory arrangements.

First, without detracting from the ability of Abbott’s current chief of staff, there seems to be too chummy a relationship with her and other advisers in his office. He needs in his office advisers whose responsibility it is  to question every major proposed decision by the PM in the strongest possible fashion.

Second, one gets the impression that there is  insufficient contact and checking with the public service. It is understandable that Abbott may have judged  that close contacts would have risked producing advice and decisions contrary to the stated policies of the Liberal/National parties. But the public service is an important component of our political system. It has the potential to offer a check on policies which may seem desirable when in Opposition yet have flaws in practice, either in substance or in timing. Except in circumstances where on the spot decisions are essential, Abbott should resolve not to determine changes in policy either on his own or in conjunction with his advisers without first checking the views of relevant departmental heads. A third opinion can be helpful and avoid cock ups such as knighting of a prince.

Third, it is obviously important to check looming decisions with other relevant Ministers, preferably with Cabinet as a whole or Chairmen of Cabinet Committees However, there are only 3 of the 5  committees which deal with policy issues. Abbott also has two Parliamentary Secretaries but the extent of contacts by him or his staff is not clear.

It is reported that Abbott is scheduled to make an important address to the Press Club next Monday. That provides an opportunity to announce major changes in the advisory/governance arrangements, not simply a “I won’t do it again”.

Obama & Terrorism
I have written about the absurd attitude and policies of the White House on terrorism and the influence of Islam. Now we have a report that the White House has denied that the Taliban are terrorists! (see report below on  White House Spokesman: Taliban Not a Terrorist Group).

The Spread Of Islamism
The US Administration has also been attempting to play down the influence of Islam by asserting that the Islamic State is a kind of “lone wolf”. Yet this report by respected analyst Stratfor indicates just how far the IS approach has come already by 2014. With the today’s report that Islamist Honis shot the proprietor of Lindt while he was keeling in front of him, Australia should be added to the Stratfor list of where IS type extremists operate. That list of what are described as “franchises” (!) includes Arabian Peninsula, Egypt and North Africa, Iraq and the Levant, South Asia, Somalia, Nigeria, East Asia, Caucus and Central Asia.
The author’s conclusion  is scarcely encouraging  – “the West must continue to fight jihadist groups with all the counterterrorism tools it has available — military, intelligence, law enforcement, diplomatic and financial — but such tools can only serve to mitigate the jihadist threat, not eliminate it”.

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