The article below is not exactly the same as the one actually printed in today’s Herald Sun but both versions include some important statements by Abbott (highlighted) about the implications of the charging of two Muslims with plans to behead “blonde people” in support of the Islamic State.
Surprisingly, The Australian did not refer to those statements although it did report, under the heading “All guns blazing in fight over security”, various exchanges in Parliament including one by Immigration Minister Dutton attacking Labor and implying that supervision/screening of refugees was deficient during its reign. The Australian also published a photo of Abbott addressing Parliament “in full flight during question time yesterday, when he said a terrorist was able to leave Australia because of bad systems inherited from Labor”. The SMH’s article on the incident also quoted Abbott as saying Australia needed to question whether it was giving the “benefit of the doubt” too often to people who were granted residency or citizenship after arriving as asylum seekers.
The Age similarly reported some of Abbott’s statements, including his “I don’t think it would be possible to witness uglier fanaticism than this … monstrous extremism than this”. It also questioned the risk of stopping the use in court evidence of the video because Abbott read out to Parliament parts of the video message from the two. However he was apparently given the OK by AFP Commissioner.
As mentioned in yesterday’s commentary, Abbott appears to be trying to recover his political status by taking a more aggressive approach to handling policy issues. His comments on this terrorist incident were certainly indicative of a preparedness to take a strong(er) policy position on immigration and counter-terrorism. Whether it would be practical to start screening those who acquired visas under Labor is unclear. But an exposure of the acquisition of visas by potential Muslim extremists would raise the question of whether a more rigorous check should be undertaken on Muslims seeking to migrate to Australia. Even if past visa holders could not be analysed, recent developments in Islamic extremism both here and overseas would warrant establishing a more sweeping screening system.
Abbott’s decision today to sack his Chief Whip, Philip Ruddock, presumably indicates that he (Abbott) was not warned of the likely extent of the vote favouring a spill. It has inevitably raised the question of whether more sackings will occur and whether Abbott will make changes in his office. The situation remains fluid.