Friday, January 02, 2015

Mr Abbott’s Great Wall of Australia

Daily Telegraph

Neil Whitfield rightly pointed to the insanity of the Sydney Daily Telegraph front page.  There is evil among us and it’s called  The Daily Telegraph!

I doubt that the paper will be greatly concerned at my views, but it may be worthwhile spelling out the reasons for my own position.

History, what we discover as the present recedes into the past, is a great corrective. Throughout the 1950s into the 1980s, the left denied that the USSR spied in Australia. It is now clear that the USSR did.

In both the First and Second World Wars, the Australian Government interned what were defined as enemy aliens. The broad sweep of the laws, regulations and policies swept up many innocents. Now we apologise. We do so knowing that Government responses at the time had little practical impact on the war Australia was fighting. They were an emotional response to a what-if, a perceived danger.

By contrast, Malcolm Fraser’s decision to admit mass migration of Vietnamese boat people is now generally seen as a courageous decision based on principle. It was also a decision that has had, apparently at least, no negative impacts for Australia beyond settlement costs. Indeed, it is seen as having over-whelming positive results.

This is the new Australian Immigration Minister Peter Dutton.

I have no idea whether or not the photo was taken to show him in firm, even dour, pose. That’s possible. Still, he was just announcing the militarisation of  Australia’s custom service. I quote:

In his first announcement as Immigration Minister this week, Mr Dutton said customs officers would be able to carry guns and personal protection equipment at all Australian airports. The decision, which came into effect on Wednesday, was made to ensure officers could be resPeter Dutton as Immigration Ministerpond to a number of potential "border-related threats" across an "evolving transnational crime and national security environment".

"The government is committed to ensuring that the future Australian Border Force is as well trained and well equipped as possible, to ensure that the public is protected from the range of new and emerging threats our nation faces at the border," a spokesman for Mr Dutton said.

This emphasis on new and emerging threats is part of an evolving pattern, not one I like. The Australian Federal Police are armed. Previously, they were there to act in situations requiring the use of force. Now Australia has a new para-military organisation to provide additional protections.

immigration Department Secretary Pezzulo described the new role in this way. "I prefer”, he said, “to see borders in a very different way. I see them as mediating between the imperatives of the global order, with its bias towards the flow of people, goods, capital, data and knowledge, and the inherent territoriality and capacity for exclusion which comes with state sovereignty."

Mmm. If I read this correctly, the Australian Border Force has become the Great Wall of Australia, a device to protect the country from invading hordes. By all accounts, former Immigration Minister in the Howard Government Philip Ruddock was a humane man. Yet he is likely to be forever tarnished by some of the inhumane things that happened on his watch as he tried to enforce the policy of the Howard Government.

This is not an argument for open borders. It’s just a comment on policy and historical dynamics.

I do not feel safer for all the current rhetoric on border protection or the threats of terrorism. Just the opposite. I don’t think that terrorism is a significant threat to Australia as compared too, for example, death by shark attack or poisoned food in a local  cafe. I am far more likely to be killed by the second. However, I cannot help being affected by the rhetoric. Worse, I am worried about the solutions to the perceived threat. Both make me feel less secure when I walk the streets. Statistically, the chances of being shot and killed by a police officer because of an error on my part are far greater than my chances of dying in a terrorist attack.

Ah well. Time to move on.  



Evan said...

If they told us specifically what these new and emerging threats were then we could have a rational debate perhaps. Perhaps this is the reason they remain vague.

Is arming a customs officer really going to deter anyone smuggling drugs?

Jim Belshaw said...

Happy new year, Evan. To respond to your last question, I would have thought that the answer was no.

Maybe I'm paranoid, but I just don't like the pattern. I can't see the level of threat. There seems to be some element of mission creep in all this in the way that perceived threat leads to new bodies or laws that then have to be justified/justify themselves. Effectively, we now have a terrorism industry.

Evan said...

I very much agree.

Happy new year to you.