Events in Britain, the New South Wales coroner’s report on the Lindt Cafe siege, and a new attack in Australia have given a much sharper edge to the debate about how to handle Islamist terrorism.
Amid the hype, ANU security expert John Blaxland provides a reality check. He says while there’s an escalation of and change in the nature of terrorist attacks, collaboration between Australian police and intelligence services is world class.
On the Lindt Cafe siege, Blaxland says that although in hindsight the police could have done things differently, it’s “preposterous” to insist the special forces were required to resolve it. “We actually need to be very circumspect about over-committing our military.”
He’s sceptical of the push for a homeland security department, saying a “refined set of arrangements” is in place for interdepartmental co-operation.
On the question of the local Muslim population, he says most don’t subscribe to a fundamentalist, expansionist Islam – violent jihadists are outliers. “They’re people that have been on the edge, if not mentally then certainly socially.”
Speaking about this week’s revelations of Chinese influence in Australia, Blaxland says the scale is enormous and unprecedented. “We have had an ongoing growing tension emerge between our security and strategic consciousnesses and our economic consciousness.”