Abbott Needs a Substantive Policy Response

Abbott’s decision to award Prince Phillip a knighthood (I thought Princes were already higher than Knights!) has rightly been subject to extensive criticism and will make it difficult to resist pressure to test support for another “round” on whether to move to a republic when the framework of our existing political system is probably the best in the world.  Whether Abbott is now able to make an effective policy statement to help recover lost ground must be doubted. His attempt today to use the winner of the 2015 Australia Day award to help formulate a national policy on domestic violence came across as unconvincing. But he has another opportunity when he addresses the Press Club next Monday.

One subject that has the potential to have an impact would be for Abbott to present an indication of the extent of the Islamic threat and of action under consideration to reduce that threat. To date the government has not made any comprehensive statement on this important issue and that failure has allowed  misinterpretations, in some cases because of attitudes deliberately designed to mislead. This is illustrated in the comment in today’s SMH editorial on freedom versus security that “their outrage seems less a product of their religion than of their poverty, their marginalisation and the difficult lives they lead in many places”. This is of course nonsense.  There will be no freedom unless strong security is established.

The government needs to counter such views by making it clear that even “peaceful” Muslims give in principle support to the idea that religious dictates over-rule government laws: sharia law should clearly be stated as not acceptable in Australia.

Concern also needs to be expressed about the seriously inadequate action being taken to deal with the threat at the international level. A major problem here is the policy adopted (or rather not adopted) by Obama, but it applies to other western countries too.

The article below, reporting a public address by the former head of the US Defense Intelligence Agency, claims that the Obama Administration did not want to hear advice about the seriousness and extent of the threat. That may sound improbable. But when in Treasury I experienced the same response to allegedly “unacceptable” economic policy advice I gave then to the Labor government.

If it is correct that a large number of revealing documents were uncovered in the killing of bin Laden, but have still not been “exploited”, that is extremely worrying.

Beyond that, Australia faces a situation in which the US and most other western countries are making a half-hearted response to IS. The US decision not to put troops on the ground but use air strikes instead is now being claimed as successful because almost all of the parts of the Iraqi town of Kobani captured by IS are reported to have been recovered. But they have only been recovered by troops on the ground, in this case Kurdish forces interested in establishing a separate nation.

As I have written before, the US has also (incredibly) argued that IS is the only terrorist threat and has even denied the connection of such groups with Islamic beliefs. Yet as Bishop has indicated following an intelligence briefing in Washington  (see report below), the Taliban in Afghanistan ( a terrorist group with Islamic beliefs) appears to be investigating a link with IS. A number of other such groups exist, of course.

Another report indicates that Obama cut short his visit to India in order to visit Saudi Arabia to “welcome” the 79 year old successor to the recently deceased King (who Obama had visited too). A number of other political leaders have done the same. While Saudi Arabia is the most important oil producer, it is difficult to see the need for rushed visits to a country that is financing Islamic bodies around the world, including Australia. Also, as Obama noted in his State of Union address, with developments (by the private sector) in its shale oil and gas industry, the  US is now much less reliant on the import of oil.

The article below (see The Real Fight Against Isis Begins in Saudi Arabia) points to other reasons why visits  to SA by top US and other democracies should NOT be carried out

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