Welcome to McCarthyism 21st century Oz-style

Time to read The Crucible afresh?

Danforth: What is it child?
Abigail: Why do you come yellow bird?
Proctor: I see no bird!
Abigail: Oh Mary, this is a black art to change your shape. No I cannot stop my mouth; it is god’s work I do…
Mary: Abby, I’m here!
Abigail: Oh please, Mary! – Don’t come down…
Danforth: Have you ever compacted with the Devil? Have you?
Mary: never, never!
Proctor: Mary, tell the Governor what they…
Mary: You are the Devil’s man!
Danforth: He bid you do the Devil’s work?
Mary: I’ll murder you, he says, if my wife hangs! We must go and overthrow the court, he says…!
Danforth: Marshal, take him to the jail!


Not for a moment underestimating the reality of terrorism or the undesirability (to say the very least) of ISIS, Boko Haram, and similar groups. But where are we going at the moment? It worries me. Rarely has a policy position been so Telegraphed – literally, one could say – as the one to be put to Parliament at 11 am today.

Full-on McCarthyist is the Tele front page this morning:


Now the man in the picture undoubtedly committed a dreadful crime. On the other hand the thousands “like him” apparently have not.  We used to have this quaint idea that “thought crimes” were not actually something we outlawed, and presumption of guilty intent not a concept we encouraged. In fact, I was naive enough to think these were things we rather were defending against terrorists, fascists, and sundry totalitarians. Or was I wrong? As for the many-named murderer Man Moris, a Walter Mitty among jihadis, his trajectory is well summarised, based on the Lindt Cafe Siege report, in today’s Herald. Isn’t is rather post-hoc to argue that the system let us down when presumably in thousands of other cases over the relevant 19 years it evidently has not?  It strikes me that this is what was missing in our security armoury in the case of Moris:


There will no doubt be some matters addressed today that most of us will go along with, and from what I see the Lindt Cafe report, as distinct from the political use being made of it right now, seems to have been well enough done. What worries me about our current counter-extremism extremism is its reluctance to take seriously what seems to me rather good advice from many, such as the Grand Mufti of Australia. It seems likely that the group Hizb ut-Tahrir will be proscribed.

Abbott will make a national security statement on Monday where he is expected to announce plans to strip dual citizens convicted of terror offences of their Australian citizenship.

He has also promised to “crack down on Hizb ut-Tahrir and others who nurture extremism in our suburbs”.

Hizb ut-Tahrir has about 300 members and campaigns to create an Islamic state. It has distanced itself from Isis and declared its opposition to violent political change.


That’s a set of Sydney Hizb ut-Tahrir  spokespeople. I have actually met the one in the middle. For more on that see my posts under Wassim and also God is diminished and the Prophet traduced…, my response to the Paris outrage. My view is that outlawing this group is rather like the idea of outlawing the Communists in the 1950s – not exactly a good idea. You want even more radicalisation? Simple: ban them.  Sure, watch them – you have to. Really then I have agreed with the Grand Mufti:

…The strong comments by the Grand Mufti Ibrahim Abu Mohammed come amid other signs of a serious breakdown in relations between the Abbott government and large elements of Australia’s Muslim communities, ahead of the expected announcement of new security legislation on Monday.

Abbott criticised the grand mufti on the Bolt Report last Sunday for suggesting it would be a political mistake to ban the Islamic group Hizb ut-Tahrir, saying his comments were “wrong-headed” and unhelpful.

Mohammed was interviewed on Friday for the online TV program, Spot Light, run by the Islamic production company OnePath Network.

Asked if he had any advice for the prime minister, the mufti said: “I respect the presence of Tony Abbott as a political leader of his party and I respect the Australian community’s choice in electing him.

“I personally elected him in the previous elections. But believe me, I will not repeat this mistake again,” he said….

Meanwhile there was a grinning Fred Nile in the front rows at that protest meeting in Penrith. Figures… 

This is sad too: Australians think Muslim population is nine times greater than it really is.

Australians believe the proportion of Muslims in the country is nine times higher than it really is, according to a new international survey comparing public perceptions with actual data…

Swedes were found to most accurately perceive their society, ahead of Germany, Japan, Spain and the UK. Australia came in sixth, while Italians, Americans and South Koreans ranked worst in the survey’s index of ignorance.

Australians said that Muslims made up 18% of the country’s population, far higher than their actual proportion, just 2%.

Similar overestimations were made by Americans, Canadians, Belgians and the French. The latter believed nearly one in three of their compatriots were Muslim, when the real figure is 8%…

Just for the record: Islam in Australia is a minority religious affiliation. According to the 2011 census, 476,291 people, or 2.2% of the total Australian population, were Muslims. The number the Tele front page referred to today was “thousands” – I seem to recall it was 4000, of whom 400 had a top priority. Hizb ut-Tahrir apparently has about 300 members.

And talking numbers:  15 Famous Australians You May Not Have Known Were Muslim:

Debates over the rise of Islamic extremism have made life pretty tough for Australian Muslims, who have copped their unfair share of abuse, stereotyping and prejudice in recent years, as fears and tensions heightened.

Many don’t realise Islam is the fourth largest religious grouping in Australia – after Christianity, irreligion, and Buddhism, accounting for 2.2% of the country’s population, according to the 2011 census.

And while many Australian Muslims have emigrated from Lebanon, Turkey, Bangladesh and Fiji, over a third are Australian-born.

Business Insider has pulled together a list of 15 notable Australians you may not have realised were Muslim. Irrespective of their religion, what they have in common with their fellow countrymen and women is an enormous contribution to society through their professional careers, which range from sport to the military, politics and the top of the corporate ladder….


Central Adelaide Mosque, South Australia. 1888.


Compare Jim Belshaw today. We come from somewhat different directions and experiences but coincide in concern:

I do wonder just what price we have to pay “to keep our country safe” and indeed just what the existential threat is that justifies the level of rhetoric. None of this makes me feel any safer. I just feel threatened. Am I wrong to feel that the core threat that I face is not terrorism but governments themselves?


I took the Review of Australia’s Counter Terrorism Machinery out to lunch. That was an error. Quite spoiled my appetite. This is the PM’s Statement on National Security. In reading the Review, focus not on all the recommended actions but on the threat analysis and the measures already taken, including the way that increased activity indicators are in fact directly connected with previous  actions. Look to at the language used.