Michael Burrill

Current Affairs Wrap: Foreign Fighters Bill, Bill “Shorten-Ideas” and “no-burqas” Lambie

Image: AAP



From the Foreign Fighters Bill, to Bill Shorten and Tony Abbott in “agreeance,” with a bit of Jacquie Lambie-ism thrown in for not-so-good measure, so was the week in Current Affairs…


As bombing missions moved into Syria, and IS for the first time called for supporters to kill Australians due to the government’s participation in the action this week, intellectual colossus George Brandis introduced the Foreign Fighters Bill to parliament. Aiming to allay fears over the Foreign Fighters Bill, which allows the government to declare anywhere outside Australia a “no go zone” and detain people on suspicion alone, Brandis announced a 10-year sunset clause – which should be perfect timing for the government of the day to use the troubling results of this current war to justify renewing or expanding the legislation. Brandis also added a “no torture” clause to legislation regarding Special Intelligence Operations and also said that immunity would not apply if the person caused death or serious injury, was involved in a sexual offence or caused significant damage to property. So, just everything up to “medium” violence and power abuse then? With the Foreign Fighters Bill, Brandis invoked “reds under the beds” as he compared the situation to cold war. Some may say this is an earlier example of governments using a supposed and evil and constant hard-to-detect threat to justify increased repression. Others, I’m sure, will point to the incident in Melbourne in which two police officers were stabbed and an 18-year-old alleged terror suspect was shot dead as proof that in this instance, the evil geniuses are there, ready to kill us after all. The kind of hard to detect evil geniuses who post pictures of themselves holding jihadist flags on social media and whose plans, matched only in their ingenuity by their deviousness, consist of knife attacks on cops…armed with guns…outside a police station…

In a week where the PM told the UN that IS had declared war on the world, Tony Abbott and Bill Shorten found it even more difficult than usual to find things to disagree on. They essentially agreed on on all “national security” issues, although Shorten did try a few limp “saving lives at sea” style attempts at appearing in opposition, like claiming his support for military action was not based on “jingoism or nationalism” but “a calculation of conscience and national interest,” while Abbott calmly declared, “I can’t promise that hideous events will never take place on Australian soil, but I can promise that we will never stoop to the level of those who hate us and fight evil with evil.” So that’s a supposed moral high-ground from both of them and a battle between good and evil from Tone – definitely not jingoistic at all, and exactly the same sort of justifications I expect to hear when the inevitable civilian deaths in Iraq or Syria occur.

Another thing Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Bill “Shorten-Ideas” (I’m available, tabloid editors) agreed on was the lack of connection between the supposed extremist threat and Australia’s involvement in Iraq…whatever IS said. A view not endorsed by, it seems, sometimes the “actual” leader of the Opposition, MP Melissa Parke, who explained, “We are foolish if we fail to think through the consequences of our words and actions. One of these consequences is the fertile ground such issues provide for the recruitment of new members to the extremist cause.” Parke also claimed rational debate has been silenced by “the beating of the drums of war,” while independent MP and ex-intelligence analyst Andrew Wilkie has placed a large amount of blame for the rise of IS on the 2003 Iraq war (which, during the lead up to, he quit his intelligence job in protest of). Wilkie went on to say that John Howard should be charged with conspiracy to commit murder. But what would they, an ex-UN lawyer and intelligence analyst respectively know, right? Just like Howard before them, Tony and Bill are champions of good in an evil world.

Palmer United Party senator Jacqui Lambie has been taking some time out from warning the nation of the real and present danger of both Chinese and Indonesian invasions to disprove Melissa Parke’s assertions about the hysterical nature of the debate. Lambie declared war on sharia Law (though she wasn’t really sure what it is) and burqas (which she saw as both a security threat and symbol of oppression), despite an early misstep when it was revealed an anti burqa photo she posted (which was originally posted by a British far right group) featured a woman killed by the Taliban…who not only chose to wear the burqa, but according to the photographer, worked to advance women’s rights. Unfazed, Lambie continued with her calm and considered commentary labelling “supporters” of sharia (despite still not really being sure what it was) “maniacs and depraved humans.” While I’m sure in these tense times some people agree with Lambie, I’d guess they probably aren’t really sure what sharia law is and may even think eating halal can lead to catching Islam.


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