The Australian has continued to give considerable attention to new policies regarding unacceptable behaviour by some Muslims in Australia, including the publication of suggestions made in my letter (see below) along with those made in several others. Most importantly, however, Abbott has announced that the Minister for Justice, Michael Keenan, will also become a Minister for Counter-Terrorism and that former ambassador to Indonesia and Iran, Greg Moriarty, will take on the new role of commonwealth counter-terrorism co-ordinator, leading a new counter-terrorism office within the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet. The transcript of Keenan’s interview on 7.30 is available here.
While the announcement of a counter-terrorist minister and co-ordinator does not specifically refer to threats from Muslims, it was made in a context in which Abbott referred specifically to increased Islamic terrorist activity and the need to deal with radicalisation. At the same time as Abbott’s announcement, the inquest was started into the deaths of two of those sieged by a Muslim at the Lindt cafe. And the appointment was announced of a new chief commissioner of Victoria Police who has had experience in handling terrorism and who stated that home-grown terrorism is likely to get worse. In short, it has been made clear publicly that the behaviour or threatened behaviour of a section of the Muslim community is unacceptable and requires responses.
This initiative by Abbott is welcome but needs to be taken further with the publication of a discussion paper on what is not acceptable behaviour, whether physical or oral. While the new policies (there are more to come) are necessary, they come at a time which should help the Coalition politically. As mentioned in previous Commentaries, church and business organisations should also participate.
Abbott’s initiative comes at a time when the situation in Iraq has deteriorated to the point where he also, justifiably, has indicated that Australia is prepared to increase its involvement if the US did so too (see article below on “Abbott leaves door open to military action”). To my knowledge there has so far been no comment from Obama on Iraq after the IS “victories” and slaughtering, but the new US Defence Secretary, Ashton Carter, was quick to condemn the failure of Iraqi forces to prevent the “capture” of Ramad (it appears the Iraqis considerably outnumbered the IS). Whether Carter is a new broom prepared to push for an increase in US involvement remains to be seen, but it seems at present that Iraq’s survival requires an alliance with Iran.An increase in the power of Iran would not be helpful.