by Alan Thornhill
Australia is a deeply worried nation.
This is confirmed in the results of a major poll conducted by the Lowy Institute for International policy.
They show, for example, that feelings of safety among Australians have hit their lowest point in 11 years.
And our optimism about Australia’s economic performance in the world, has fallen sharply to the lowest level seen in the 11years in which the Institute has been conducting polls of this kind.
But that’s not all.
The poll also showed that most of us – 69 per cent – see Islamic State as a high risk to Australia’s security.
It also revealed that 69 per cent support Australia’s military participation in Iraq.
Yet only 20 per cent think that will make Australia safer from terrorism in the future.
The Poll also recorded the third consecutive rise in Australians’ concern about global warming.
The Institute said, when releasing the results of its latest study today, that it had built on its tradition of studying how Australians have responded to the year’s events,and how their views on the big international issues of our time have changed.
“After the Martin Place siege and Islamic State’s barbaric actions in Iraq and Syria, this year’s Poll finds that fewer Australians feel safe now than at any time in our history of polling,” it said.
“And terrorism ranks high in Australians’ threat perceptions,” the Institute added.
“When Indonesia signalled its intention to execute Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran early this year, we commissioned a series of additional short polls from Newspoll to better understand Australian attitudes to the executions and to the death penalty generally;” the Institute said.
“These polls show that Australian sentiment has mobilised against the death penalty for drug trafficking offences, but that the majority want their government to respond with quiet diplomacy rather than with harsh sanctions,” it added.
“After the executions, Australians’ feelings towards Indonesia – which have never been warm – and have at times been characterised by wariness – and even fear – have fallen to their lowest point in eight years,” it added.
The survey also dealt, in detail, with many other worries that are deeply troubling Australians, at present,
One felt very keenly is that of foreigners – particularly the Chinese – buying either residential – or farming – properties in Australia.
This has already led the Federal government to announce crack-downs in both areas, over recent weeks.
The poll showed 70 per cent of Australians believe the Government allows Chinese investors to buy ‘too much’ residential real estate in Australia.
It also found that 50 per cent nominated the Middle East as a source of too much investment.
Only minorities, though, objected to current levels of investment from Japan, Russia, the United States or Europe.
The Institute also said its 2015 Poll had recorded the third successive rise in Australians’ concern about global warming.
“Half the adult population – up 5 points since 2014 and 14 points since 2012- say ‘global warming is a serious and pressing problem’
“A solid majority, 63 per cent, say that in the lead-up to the 2015 UN climate change conference in Paris, ‘the Australian Government should commit to significant reductions so that other countries will be encouraged to do the same’, it added.
by Alan Thornhill
The Federal government moved in parliament today to prevent Australians with dual citizenship returning to this country if they join foreign terrorist forces overseas.
They would, effectively, be stripped of their Australian citizenship.
The Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, had described this – in a television interview earlier in the day – as a “modern form of banishment.”
He also said shortly before his controversial bill was tabled in Parliament, that the government is still discussing what should be done, in cases in which the person involved holds only Australian citizenship.
Mr Abbott originally wanted to give his immigration minister power to revoke citizenship without conviction, in such cases.
However that plan was revised amid concerns it might breach the constitution.
Under the government’s revised bill, Australians will automatically renounce their citizenship if they train, recruit or finance terrorists inside or outside Australia.
It will be examined by the Parliament’s security and intelligence committee.
by Alan Thornhill
Tony Abbott says he is “very, very concerned” about terrorist organisations using social media to recruit fighters and jihadi wives
Speaking on commercial television today, the Prime Minister also said that, at times, the ABC seems to be “on everybody’s side but Australia’s.”
However he refused to confirm reports that he had told Liberal party colleagues yesterday that the national broadcaster is a “lefty lynch mob.”
Instead he told his interviewer: “Karl, you know I treat the confidentiality of the Party Room very seriously.
He was speaking just hours before he was to introduce a bill into parliament which will allow his government to strip people with dual citizenship of their Australian citizenship, if they leave this country to fight with a terrorist organisation.
Mr Abbott said these people would not be allowed back into Australia and said his proposed legislation would set up “a modern form of banishment.”
He said community negotiations, on what the government could do, in the case of Australians without dual citizenship, are continuing.
by Alan Thornhill
Tony Abbott told Liberal party delegates today that his government is “repaying the faith” that voters placed in it at the last Federal election.
Addressing the New South Wales Liberal Party’s State Council in Sydney, the Prime Minister said: “I can tell you that we are repaying the faith that you placed in us – that the Australian people placed in us – in September of 2013. ”
He named – and praised – several members of his ministry, then said:-
“We went to that election with a very clear message.
“We said we’d scrap the carbon tax, we’d stop the boats, we’d build the roads of the 21st century and we’d get the budget back under control.
“And that is exactly what we have done and what we are doing.
“The carbon tax has gone – and every Australian household is better off to the tune of $550 a year.
“The mining tax has gone – and Australia is once more a safe place to invest.
“No less than $1 trillion – $1 trillion, $1,000 billion – worth of new projects have been given environmental approval since the election by this Government and there could be no more clearer demonstration of the fact that this country is well and truly open for business than that.
“The boats have stopped.
“We all know what was happening under our predecessors.
“Under the Rudd-Gillard government, more than 50,000 illegal arrivals by sea, almost 1,000 boats.
“Shamefully, more than 1,000 deaths at sea.
“And yes, over $11 billion worth of border protection budget blow-outs.
“Well, I can say that under this Government, as far as we know, there have been no deaths at sea and for almost 12 months.
“There have been no boats whatsoever.
“We will keep this country safe.
“And keeping our country safe starts with keeping our borders secure.
“And that is exactly what this Government has done.
“That is exactly what this Government will always do,” Mr Abbott said.
by Alan Thornhill
Australians are deeply worried by the threat of Islamic terrorism.
So worried, in fact, that most support Australia’s military involvement in Iraq, even though they believe it raises that risk.
Both developments are evident in the results of a poll conducted by the Lowy Institute.
It found that 69 per cent of Australians rate the emergence of Islamic State in Iraq and Syria’ as a high risk to Australia’s security in the next ten years.
It also found that 55 per cent rate terrorist attacks on Australians overseas as a high risk, while 53 per cent regard domestic terrorism as high risk.
The poll found, too, that:” Most Australians (69 per cent) support Australia’s participation in military action against Islamic State in Iraq, even though a majority (55 per cent) believe that participation increases the risk of terrorism to Australia now, and only 20 per cent think it makes us safer from terrorism in the future.”
It also suggested that Australians will accept tighter security measures to offset these threats.
“Australians appear to accept some intrusions on their privacy in the interests of fighting terrorism and protecting national security”, Dr Michael Fullilove, the Institute’s Executive Director said.
Asked about ‘legislation which will require Australian telecommunication companies to retain data about communications such as phone calls, emails and internet usage, but not their content’, 63 per cent of Australians say this is ‘justified as part of the effort to combat terrorism and protect national security.
“Only one-third (33 per cent) say it ‘goes too far in violating citizens’ privacy and is therefore not justified,” Mr Fullilove added.
by Alan Thornhill
Tony Abbott hinted today that Australia might take a more active part in fighting Islamic terrorists in Iraq.
Addressing an anti-terrorism conference in Sydney today, the Prime Minister said:”We’ve sent a strong military force to the Middle East to hit Daesh from the air and to train and assist the Iraqi army to retake their own country.”
And he added:”We are talking with our friends and partners about how the air strikes might be more effective and how the Iraqi forces might be better helped.”
Mr Abbott also said:”American leadership is indispensable here as in all the world’s trouble spots.”
And he added:”At home, we are trying to ensure that Australians don’t leave this country to join the 15,000 foreign fighters already in Syria and Iraq.”
Mr Abbott was speaking after US President Obama, announced that he would send up to 450 more military advisers to Iraq, to help local forces.
by Alan Thornhill
Federal budgets are always eagerly awaited events.
And this year’s, which the Treasurer, Joe Hockey, will bring into Parliament tonight, is no exception.
But there is one important difference this time.
Interested parties usually wait until the budget is delivered before they comment on it.
But not now.
Kate Carnell, of the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, for example, has already welcomed “the government’s focus on small business in tonight’s budget.”
Ms Carnell, clearly, expects the government to live up to its pre-budget talk of tax relief for Australia’s enterprising small business men and women.
On the other side of the social fence, the peak welfare organisation, the Australian Council of Social Service, has also welcomed the government’s $350 billion child care package, meant to help mothers re-enter the nation’s paid work force.
Even though ACOSS did describe the package as “unbalanced.”
Perhaps the nation’s spooks will come out as well, to publicly thank the government for the extra $450 million they will get, to tackle “death cult” recruiting, on social networks.
We haven’t heard a lot, though, from the 30 big international companies, that Mr Hockey believes have been minimising their tax payments in Australia, through complex profit shifting arrangements.
Perhaps they have been too busy, searching for the Tax Office moles in their ranks, who have dobbed them in.
Overseas companies selling digital products and services into Australia have also been silent, on Mr Hockey’s threat to make them collect GST, on their sales into Australia, as their locally based competitors already do.
Overall, though, early responses to the still unseen budget, though mixed, have been fairly favourable.
That might be because the government has been more active than usual, in stage managing the traditional pre-budget leaks.
Especially in letting us look at what it believes are the good bits, first.
Perhaps that’s how a “dull” budget is made to look exciting.
With a slow strip tease act, over several days.
by Alan Thornhill
There can be no room now for doubt about the importance of national myths.
Not after the huge turn-outs we saw, on ANZAC Day, marking the centenary of our invasion of Gallipoli.
Yes, it was ill-judged.
A military disaster.
But it has become an occasion for reflection, too.
The most eloquent, perhaps, dates back to 1934.
It was the work of Mustafa Kemal, now better known as Atatürk.
In a tribute to the ANZAC troops who died at Gallipoli in 1915, he wrote:-
“Those heroes that shed their blood and lost their lives … You are now lying in the soil of a friendly country. Therefore rest in peace. There is no difference between the Johnnies and the Mehmets to us where they lie side by side here in this country of ours … You, the mothers who sent their sons from faraway countries, wipe away your tears; your sons are now lying in our bosom and are in peace. After having lost their lives on this land they have become our sons as well.”
These words are inscribed in the Kemal Atatürk Memorial, on Anzac Parade, Canberra.
Very few of the estimated 120,000 Australians who turned out in Canberra for the Dawn service on ANZAC day, would have seen that inscription.
Not in that stormy weather last Saturday,
Those words are particularly poignant now, though, with fresh contingents of ANZAC troops being sent to the Middle east.
Not to fight this time.
But to train the “Mehmets” – in Atatürk’s words – to fight each other.
There has to be a better way.
One analyst was asked, in an ABC interview last week, if anything good ever came of war.
His reply was both unhesitating and surprising.
“Big government,” he said.
That was certainly true, in Turkey’s case.
Mustafa Kemal was born Salonika, which is now Thessalonika, Greece.
He pursued a military career with the Turkish Army in Syria.
As a member of the Young Turk revolutionary movement which deposed the Sultan in 1909, he took part in the war of 1911–1912 against Italy in Libya.
He returned to Gallipoli in 1915 as commander of the 19th Division, the main reserve of the Turkish Fifth Army, and opposed the Anzac landing in April 1915.
Kemal was to be Turkey’s first president, when that country became a republic in 1923.
His vision of Turkey, as a modern nation, was realised.
During Kemal’s 15-year rule, many sweeping political, legal and socio-economic changes were made.
Modern Turkey had been born.
In 1933, Kemal said:”I look to the world with an open heart full of pure feelings and friendship”.
In 1934, he accepted the title “Atatürk,” which means “father of Turkey,”
Last week, the Prime Ministers of Australia and Turkey announced that they will unite in the fight against terrorism.
Tony Abbott, was in Turkey to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the landing of Australian soldiers at Gallipoli, when that announcement was made.
The Australian PM said he – and his Turkish counterpart – Ahmet Davutolu had agreed to enhance bilateral cooperation to counter terrorism, tackle terrorist financing and mitigate threats from foreign fighters.
“Turkey is on the front-line in the fight against DAESH and plays a crucial role in these efforts,” Mr Abbott said.
He said, too, that Australia welcomed Turkey’s renewed efforts to prevent young people from using Turkey’s border as the entry point to joining DAESH and other terrorist organizations through tougher border controls and increased information sharing.
“Both parties underlined the importance of identifying and stopping foreign terrorist fighters travelling to conflict zones, at their country of departure,” he added.
Perhaps big government has its uses, after all.
Especially as the current alternatives, in the Middle East, are far from enticing.
Weathercoast by Alan Thornhill
A novel on the murder of seven young Anglican Christian Brothers in the Solomon Islands.
Available now on the iTunes store.
Alan Thornhill is a parliamentary press gallery journalist.
Private Briefing is updated daily with Australian personal finance news, analysis, and commentary.
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