Today’s The Australian has published my letter (see below) arguing that the Abbott government should spell out in detail the case for giving a minister the authority to cancel the citizenship of those who pose a terrorist threat. I also suggest that we (Australia) face the equivalent of a wartime situation.
Yesterday was also the first day of a two day regional conference in Sydney initiated by the Abbott government on countering violent extremism. Attached is the opening address by Abbott to inter alia representatives of 30 nations. Note in particular that, in referring to Daesh (IS), Abbott concludes that “you can’t negotiate with an entity like this”. Note also that Abbott’s address has been reported in the US by JIHAD WATCH, the leading web-based anti–Islamist publisher in the US.
The start of the conference follows the announcement by Obama that the US is sending an additional 450 military “trainers” to Iraq, bringing the total to around 3,600. Earlier, Obama had made absurd statements , such as that he was waiting Pentagon recommendations for enhancing Iraq policies and that “we don’t yet have a complete strategy” for handling IS. It appears that the negative public response this received may have led to his decision to send the additional trainers and establish a fifth training base, which is at a place the US had occupied before the withdrawal which Obama has claimed as one of his achievements. It also reflects a decision to bring Sunnis directly into the fight against IS.
The re-iteration by Abbott that he is prepared to send more Australian military to Iraq is a further (informal) signal to Obama that Australia would join with the US in a full scale attack on IS. Almost as importantly, Abbott’s sponsoring of the regional conference, and his comments to it, has brought attention to the seriousness of the threat from IS and other similar groups.
For example, the article below (see “Jihadist PR aims to direct terror plotters”) contains a warning to the conference by the Australian Federal Police Commissioner Andrew Colvin that “the past six months had seen a dramatic shift in Islamic State’s formidable propaganda techniques. They were once aimed at merely attracting recruits, but now actively assisted jihadists in planning domestic attacks”. Most importantly, counter-terrorist expert Henning warns of the failure to recognise the seriousness of the threat (see We are blind to threats among our own). He points, in particular, to more than one instance in which “dirty” nuclear bombs have been found and to the limited action taken to protect important “Places of Mass Gathering”.
I have also included what I judge to be an excellent analysis in an article by a political scientist entitled “You Can’t Be A Jihadist and a Good Citizen”. This outlines what is described as the blueprint of the jihadists battle plan and what characteristics would justify the removal of citizenship. The article highlights however the difficulty of legislating to provide the basis for such action. In effect it provides the justification for making a minister responsible for judging that a de-citizenising case has been made: it would be almost impossible, in practical terms, to leave the interpretation to the courts. To the extent that the government can present convincing argument that we are in the equivalent of a wartime situation, that would justify the ministerial involvement.