It is not often that I disagree with Greg Sheridan. But in today’s article (below) he is being too timid. Counter-terrorism policy is part of National Security policy and I doubt that Abbott’s statement was interpreted as being intended as a comprehensive NS policy. Similarly, it is nonsense to criticise Abbott for asking Muslims to spread the “peace” word because “a national leader’s first role is to bring the nation together”. A leader should show leadership by identifying major problems even if they come from a particular group. That is undoubtedly the case with the Islamic group and the fact that a proportion is not the source doesn’t mean the group should not be identified, all the more so as the religious derivative is followed in the group albeit with different interpretations.
As to whether Australia should have a single bureaucrat responsible for counter-terrorism, I think we have reached the terrorist-threat stage where there needs to be a single Minister responsible for counter-terrorism. At present many Ministers deal with possible terrorist activity. That will continue but there should be a Minister who brings the issue/activity together where there is judged to be a major threat. He would obviously need advisers.
The media is struggling to interpret the new Treasury Secretary, John Fraser, and these reports from The Australian, the AFR and the SMH/Age indicate what the Australian community and Federal governments have been missing for some years. Fraser’s reference to the potential for a debt problem to emerge reminded me of the assessments of the risk of a large external debt which I published after I left Treasury in 1987. When I later identified a serious Victorian debt problem under Labor in the 1980s that led to Victoria losing its AAA credit rating but the State government was badly advised and its slowness in responding led eventually to Kennett winning government and adopting what would now be called “austerity” measures. Nobel prize winning economist, James Buchanan (now deceased) has advocated that governments should not borrow at all except in wartime, when such borrowings are justifiable as helping benefit the next generation as well as the existing one.
Note the report in the AFR article of a derisive statement by Labor’s Dastyari about anyone who supports former President Reagan’s policies. This suggests a need for Treasury to publish an analysis of the use of debt by the public sector.