A special unit in this prison houses Australia’s most dangerous extremists. We gain rare access and discover a ticking time-bomb
The Muslim yard at Goulburn SuperMax.
THE WEEKEND AUSTRALIAN MAGAZINE, APRIL 1-2, 2017
STORY: PAUL MALEY | PHOTOGRAPHY: GUY BAILEY
Five times a day, Goulburn’s SuperMax goes quiet. The din of jail life stops as the 30-odd Muslim inmates angle their bottle-green prayer mats towards Mecca. Standing alone in their narrow cells, they raise their arms in supplication and, with eyes closed, recite the holy incantations of the Surah Al-Fatiha, the first verse of the Holy Koran and the beginning of the Muslims’ Divine Communion with God. Bismillaahir Rahmaanir Raheem. Alhamdu lillaahi Rabbil ’aalameen…
A few hundred metres away, in the general prison, dozens more inmates are doing the same thing. Under a soggy grey sky, they kneel in the exercise yard and pray as guards carrying high-powered assault rifles patrol the 5.5m-high walls around them. There’s no trouble today; there rarely is during prayers.
Out in the main prison population, religion is a source of comfort or just another diversion from the drudgery of jail life. Not so in the SuperMax. Here, religion remains an obsession. It is the reason most of the inmates were locked up and, as the years tick over on their time here, it’s what’s kept them going.
Anyone who thinks Australia does not have a problem with prison radicalisation should visit SuperMax during prayer time. They are all here. The names and faces behind a thousand headlines heralding mayhem and death. And with a handful of exceptions, the entire population of the SuperMax observes this daily ritual. They all believe the same thing: “There is no God but Allah and this is where He wants me.” For now.
When Islamic State broke through the Syrian border in June 2014, annexing northern Iraq and declaring a caliphate, Australia’s prisons filled with a new generation of Muslim extremists ensnared by the ISIS ideology of do-it-yourself violence. In Australia, 62 people were charged after 27 separate counter-terrorism operations in little more than two years. A problem that once lurked in mosques, chat rooms and obscure prayer halls was transferred, en masse, into the prison system. That was the good news. The bad news is they are more dangerous than they have ever been, their radical beliefs entrenched in the same system that locked them up in the first place.
And soon, some of them will be up for release. A system that is supposed to remove threats from the community is, in fact, incubating them for future generations.
The first thing you notice about Goulburn’s High Risk Management Correctional Centre, to give the SuperMax its official name, is that it looks nothing like a prison. Built in 2001 in the NSW city 90km north-east of Canberra as a place to house the state’s most violent offenders, it is concealed behind the soaring walls and grim Victorian façade of Goulburn’s historic jail, a fortress within a fortress. The corridors are wide, the lights are bright and cherry-red doors with observation windows provide access to every cell. There is no mess hall, no shower block. No tattooed cons pumping iron in the yard. Common areas don’t exist in SuperMax. On some days it might be possible to walk the entire length of the prison without encountering a single inmate.
Glen Piazza, SuperMax’s manager of security, is our guide for this rare glimpse into Australia’s most secretive prison. Piazza is an affable 50-something who’s been working in Corrections for nearly 30 years, five in the pressure-cooker of SuperMax. He’s got a broad Australian accent and a black sense of humour. “Remember, if you get raped, it’s just jail sex,” he says, as we’re about to enter the prison. You get the feeling it’s not the first time he’s used this line.
Glenn Piazza speaks with a prison inmate.
SuperMax is divided into three units, Piazza explains. Unit Nine is where unsentenced prisoners are kept. Unit Eight holds convicted prisoners serving out long sentences up to 20 years or more. Unit Seven houses prisoners for the first 14 days of their sentence while they are being assessed. Nobody is sentenced to SuperMax. Everybody here has been sent because they were too hard to manage in other prisons or because of their link to terrorism. Thirty of the prison’s 48 inmates are here for terrorist-related offences.
We head first to Unit Nine, a horseshoe-shaped row of cells with an enclosed observation area in the middle where the prison officers huddle like soldiers in a pillbox. This is effectively a remand centre for NSW’s most dangerous men. We have been here just a few minutes and already the shouting from the banks of locked cells has begun. “Why don’t you tell them about the oppression inside SuperMax!”
In some countries, radical inmates are dispersed across the prison system, an approach that is supposed to make deradicalisation easier. But here in NSW they are grouped together, quarantined from other prisoners like patients stricken with a deadly virus. The idea is they can’t radicalise other prisoners and in practice it works well enough. They radicalise each other instead. The names of prisoners are written on cards outside their cells along with the details of their sentence. Virtually all are of Middle Eastern background.
One of the conditions of our visit is that we do not name inmates, but they are recognisable enough. Australia’s most notorious serial killer is here. The fearsome muscles and piercing black eyes that terrified his seven known victims in their last moments are gone. More than 20 years into his sentence, he’s an old man now. He is sitting at a concrete desk writing letters, something he does incessantly. He mops the floors for extra milk rations. In any other jail he’d be just another sad old crim seeing out the years, but here in the SuperMax he looks oddly out of place. It says much about the transformation of SuperMax from high-risk prison to holding pen for Muslim radicals that not even the serial killers fit in. Piazza says this prisoner would normally be up on Deck Eight, but they brought him down here because he’s been doing it tough. Some break.
In the cell next to him is a rangy Lebanese boy with a mohawk haircut and a chest full of tatts. I recognise him, too. In April last year he was moved from Kempsey Prison to the SuperMax after he bashed his cellmate, doused him in boiling water and carved “E4E” (eye for an eye) into his forehead. His victim was a former Australian army reservist and it’s believed this was an ISIS-inspired attack. Certainly it was enough to get him transferred to SuperMax, where he has since been charged with plotting a terror attack on Bankstown Police Station. He also allegedly threatened to cut off the head of Peter Severin, the NSW Corrective Services Commissioner. He sweeps the floor and glowers at us malevolently.
A few cells down is a young man at the centre of Australia’s biggest terrorism plot. He was arrested in September 2014 over an alleged conspiracy to abduct and behead a random member of the public. “Why don’t you report the truth and that’s the oppression of your so-called government,” he yells through the glass. There is a lot of this. In the minds of most inmates there is no difference between a targeted military campaign and cutting a bloke’s head off in Sydney’s Martin Place. If anything, they think the former is worse.
Visits like this are rare in SuperMax and already the prisoners are getting toey. Young men with bushy Salafist beards press their faces against the heavy safety glass in their cell doors. Before long the shouting starts. “Power to Islam!” “The truth shall set you free!” and “Allahu Akbar!” Piazza can feel the tension rising; you’d have to be made of granite not to. He doesn’t want the inmates too riled up – it creates problems for staff later in the day. We move on.
Deck Eight is quieter. The prisoners here are older and less excited by our visit. SuperMax rules allow prisoners to consort with no more than one inmate at a time so some are in pairs wandering in and out of each other’s cells. I peer through one cell door and see a man in his 40s sitting alone on his bed reading from a sheaf of papers. He tugs at his beard and makes notes with a pen. On the outside he ran a recruitment network for al-Qa’ida, funnelling dozens of young radicals into the maw of the Syrian jihad. To the cops he was an A-grade coward, content to send countless young Australians to their deaths but lacking the bottle to jump on a plane himself. I’m told he wept uncontrollably when he arrived in SuperMax. He sees us and raises a single hand in greeting.
Prisoners spend at least 16 hours a day in their cells. They eat in them, shower in them, defecate in them. They can have a radio, TV and kettle. No internet. Depending on their behaviour they might be allowed into the exercise yard where they can play handball, basketball or work out on the chin-up bars. If they’re really good they get access to the running track at the centre of the complex. The track’s small but hard to miss. It’s slathered in netting to stop contraband being hurled in – or a helicopter landing.
Security is an obsession inside SuperMax. When prisoners first arrive they are stripped naked and placed in an observation cell. Their entire body is x-rayed using a so-called “boss chair”, a throne-like device that fires x-rays at the head, feet, torso and rectum, the cavity of choice for those wishing to smuggle contraband past the officers. Piazza says that over the years staff have retrieved knives, drugs and phones, which are a valuable commodity in prison. “The best one I’ve seen is a phone and a charger,” he says. “That was in 2006. Imagine how big the phone was.”
Prisoners sit in the boss chair after every visit or court appearance. They move cells every 28 days and when they move through the prison they are accompanied by a minimum of two guards. When their relatives or solicitors visit they must sit, Hannibal Lecter-style, in sealed Perspex boxes, so-called “safe interview spaces”. Their mail is read, scanned and stored. Their conversations with visitors are live-monitored. Conversations in languages other than English are banned.
This is how SuperMax works. Not with muscle or threats but with a rigid adherence to rules and discipline. Strip a life down to its rudiments, take away a man’s contact with the outside world, his possessions, his freedom, force him to seek permission if he wants to hold his wife’s hand during a visit – narrow his life to the point where the most exciting thing that can happen in six months is a visit from a journalist – and you don’t need phone books or rubber hoses to keep order. All you need is extra milk rations.
A SuperMax cell.
It wasn’t supposed to be quite like this. When the Carr government opened SuperMax back in 2001, the plan was for a maximum security prison that would be used to house the state’s most difficult offenders. Escapees, psychopaths, crime bosses – this was SuperMax’s core business. Then came 9/11 and, more than a decade later, the age of ISIS. A prison that had been built to handle the system’s toughest crooks became a holding pen for Muslim terrorists, the most radical square mile in all of Australia. “We’ve got a completely different set of inmates than in the main jail,” says Scott Ryan, SuperMax’s head of intelligence. “There’s very little violence. They’re a lot smarter.”
Working in SuperMax is uniquely stressful for staff. The inmates hate them, calling them kuffars or dogs. Some won’t even talk to the female staff. As we are leaving, one of the officers tells us: “I don’t want my picture. I’ve got a family.”
But as dangerous as these men are, there is a growing view that many do not belong in the SuperMax. Increasingly, experts are questioning the wisdom of housing young offenders in the same facility as older, die-hard extremists. Australian National University deradicalisation expert Dr Clarke Jones says SuperMax is the right place for violent, difficult prisoners but the wrong place for younger inmates who might, under the right circumstances, be separated from their radical ideologies. In Victoria, he adds, radical inmates are spread throughout the system.“
There’s a long history of psychological evidence that it becomes more difficult to rehabilitate prisoners over the age of 25,” Jones says. “But under 25, there’s a good chance.” Vocational training, religious counselling and physical contact with their family – these are the elements that need to be in place if younger inmates are to be diverted from radicalism. “Virtually none of that is available in SuperMax.”
And SuperMax’s population is getting younger, much younger. Across the fence in Goulburn jail proper, the prison population is divided by race or religion. There is a Muslim yard, an Islander yard, an Aboriginal yard and an Asian yard. Multiculturalism might work in the real world but in Goulburn it is segregation that keeps the peace.
In SuperMax, the division is even simpler: al-Qa’ida and Islamic State. The older, sentenced prisoners support al-Qa’ida. The younger ones, energised by the Syrian jihad, support Islamic State. Two tribes. They don’t get along.
“They really have nothing to do with each other,” Ryan tells me. “They’ll be polite to each other. The older fellas will look at [them] as young punks – ‘they know nothing about the Koran, they know nothing about our struggles’ and all of this. The younger ones will look at the older ones, ‘Oh, these old has-beens. This is the new way. All that stuff’s out now.’ There’s a big division in that.” Al-Qa’ida supporters are held in Unit Eight, where the average age of prisoners is 35. Islamic State supporters are in Unit Nine, where the average age is just 21.
The al-Qa’ida terrorists sentenced after 9/11 are starting to come up for parole. A few are already out. Khaled Sharrouf did a brief spell in SuperMax after he was convicted over his involvement in the 2005 terror plot to bomb targets in Sydney and Melbourne. It didn’t do much good. In 2013 Sharrouf fled for Syria, where he was last seen brandishing severed heads and executing Iraqi officials in the sands outside Mosul.
In August this year, Bilal Khazal, a 46-year-old former baggage handler convicted of making a terrorist training manual, will chance his arm before the parole board. There is a reasonable prospect he will get out. In early 2019, Ahmad Naizmand, a 22-year-old convicted of breaching a terrorism control order, will do the same. The others will start dribbling out in the years after that. I ask Ryan how many remain hard-core radicals. He thinks for a moment. “You could probably put on the one hand the ones that aren’t.”
Inmates behind bars.
New federal government laws that would allow authorities to detain unrepentant extremists beyond the term of their sentence would, in theory, apply to many of SuperMax’s inhabitants. NSW Corrective Services Commissioner Severin says that, as it stands, virtually all of SuperMax’s sentenced terrorists would be candidates for the new sanction. But the legislation is untested. Besides, there are 30 Muslim extremists in SuperMax. Locking them all up indefinitely is not a realistic option, not if you want to avoid turning SuperMax into Guantanamo Bay. At some point they’re going to rejoin the community.
Corrective Services NSW offers a voluntary deradicalisation program, the Proactive Integrated Support Model or PRISM, but it is aimed at those at risk of radicalisation, not those already in its grip. Of the 13,000 prisoners in NSW jails, about 20 are signed up to the program. It is hard to know how effective PRISM is, but if it is like any other deradicalisation program the answer is, probably, not very.
The rise of Islamic State has spawned a multi-billion-dollar industry in so-called “countering violent extremism” programs. None claims a convincing success rate; most are abject failures. None of this is news to Piazza. “Nobody in the world knows what to do with these guys,” he says.
For the older terrorists, the point is moot. They’re too far gone. A few won’t talk to the staff anymore, let alone participate in deradicalisation programs. In the years he’s spent walking the corridors of SuperMax, Piazza has seen little evidence the men in his charge are ready to change. “When someone gets to that age of 40, they go, ‘F..k, you know what? I’ve had enough of this shit.’ Well, now we’re getting guys who are 50-51 years of age and they’re still going.” I ask Ryan what would happen if the older ones were thrown in with the general prison population. “They’d recruit. Simple as that.”
But for the younger ones, the picture is different. Ryan estimates that if all the unsentenced prisoners in SuperMax were released tomorrow, around half would never touch a Koran again: “They’re not that committed to the cause.” He thinks some of the younger prisoners might shed their extremist ideology if they could be separated from the older, harder ideologues early into their sentence. He describes what it’s like when prisoners first arrive in SuperMax. “They’ll be down in Unit Seven all by themselves and you can talk to them there,” he says. “After that initial shock, they’re polite. Then you get them up to the other deck with other influences and that’s when you lose them.”
Severin acknowledges the challenges of trying to rehabilitate hardened jihadis inside the SuperMax but to him the priority is clear. “For me, the responsibility to the rest of the system and the broader community, and national security for that matter, outweighs the negative effects that the concentration of those individuals might have.”
He has hinted this will change in the future. Last year Severin said Corrective Services NSW was examining a “differentiated” placement system, one that could see radical inmates separated. A report by NSW Inspector of Custodial Services Fiona Rafter, who was tasked last year with examining prison radicalisation, is likely to make similar recommendations. Corrective Services is also looking at a system that will allow radical inmates to be moved downward through the system prior to release.
Severin says that outside the SuperMax there is no widespread problem of radicalisation across the prison system, and by all accounts he is right. Of the 13,000 inmates confined in NSW, there have been just four confirmed cases where inmates have been radicalised, he says. That’s almost certainly an underestimate, but it’s hard to make the case that the prison system is teeming with murderous jihadis. When we visit the Muslim yard in Goulburn jail proper, the inmates make a show of praying but seem far more interested in horsing around for the cameras. This isn’t to make light of their beliefs or be naive about their crimes, but it seems anything but a hotbed of radical preaching. In two days wandering the yards of Goulburn they are the friendliest bunch of blokes we meet.
But as SuperMax starts disgorging its inmates, the risk to the community will be profound. None of this is the fault of Piazza and his staff. They are not social workers. They are prison officers whose job is to protect the community, something they do exceptionally well and under the most trying conditions. But thinking of the rangy Lebanese boy with the chest full of tatts prowling his cell like a caged animal, it is difficult not to believe we are kicking the can down the road. What happens when we get to the end?
65 per cent of Americans say their economic system “unfairly favours powerful interests”
Maurice Newman 14 Oct 2016 The Australian
In the late 19th century, Russia’s aristocrats adopted French as their preferred language. While the starving were forced to eat rats, the ruling class merrily decorated palaces in gilt and amber. Unsurprisingly, this splendid isolation resulted in revolutionary change.
In the US, Washington’s understanding of the plight of the average family suggests a similar sense of detachment.
While not eating rats, according to a February survey conducted by the Pew Research Centre 65 per cent of Americans say their economic system “unfairly favours powerful interests”. It is a view that crosses party lines.
Yet, listening to Barack Obama campaigning on behalf of presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, those Americans are just whingers. The President boasts of falling poverty rates and rising wages. He claims credit for economic growth. “Thanks, Obama,” he yelled, should anybody miss his genius. But a stump speech is one thing. In reality, racial division and the gap between rich and poor in the US has widened more under Obama than under any other president.
What he didn’t say is that real median household income is lower today than in 2007 and remains lower than the peak reached in the 1990s.
Actual unemployment is nearer 10 per cent than the advertised 5 per cent, and home ownership is the lowest since 1951.
This attrition of the middle class continues to leave behind increasing numbers of average Americans.
If the people on the street are hostile, Obama’s preferred successor, “business as usual” political insider Clinton, is the ruling class’s favourite.
Many senior Republicans prefer her and are united in their disdain for the blunt, vulgar, anti-establishment and erratic political outsider Donald Trump, who disrespects women and whose policies they fear will upset their supporters’ taxpayer-subsidised apple carts.
After the weakest expansion in history, the US economy is again slipping into recession.
Manufacturing capacity utilisation remains below 75 per cent. Profits have been in retreat for six straight quarters and show no sign of improving. Wage growth is slowing, productivity is down and gross domestic product growth for the past three quarters is the lowest outside of recession. Forecasts continue to be downgraded.
According to the Heritage Foundation, “over the last 10 years, federal government spending has been at the highest level it has ever been in American history”. Eleven states have more people on welfare than are employed. With monetary policy producing no noticeable dividends, Treasury officials will be tempted to run bigger deficits and rack up even more debt.
As Albert Einstein observed, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”
Not only will the next US president have to deal with social tensions and a weakening domestic and global economy, but a Federal Reserve chairwoman who believes social objectives are part of her role. Having fuelled the dotcom bubble and the subprime crisis, Janet Yellen’s Fed continues on its reckless ways, rewarding speculators and widening inequality as it goes.
The Fed is so in Wall Street’s thrall that keeping the market up has become an unquestioned mandate. No wonder average Americans think the system is rigged against them.
Yet the election campaign, the debates and media coverage scarcely deal with this. They concentrate on sizzle, such as Clinton’s scandalous neglect of national security, the Clinton Foundation pay-to-play allegations and her alleged forked tongue.
But it is Trump’s juvenile objectification of women, his alleged misogyny, racism and bigotry, and refusal to release his tax returns that dominate mainstream media headlines and send the Twittersphere into a twitter. The media and the debate moderators shamelessly favour Clinton.
Whatever the intention, the various claims and counterclaims simply emphasise the unsuitability of both candidates for the role of commander-in-chief. But, short of an unforeseen event, one of them will be president.
There is no doubt the international community would rather deal with a president Clinton than a president Trump.
Trump is seen as unpredictable and the US’s enemies would prefer Clinton who, as former secretary of state, knows how the game is played and will be easier to deal with. The Iranians will certainly prefer her.
A president Trump would renegotiate trade deals and require US allies to contribute more to defence arrangements. A Trump presidency would be more inward looking and less reverential to international bodies such as the UN. At home, he is the only candidate seriously talking cuts to federal spending, reining in the Federal Reserve, eliminating burdensome business regulations, reducing corporate tax rates and enforcing border security.
But the reality is, his economic plan falls short on spending cuts. To quote former director of the Office of Management and Budget, David Stockman, it is a “dog’s breakfast of some plausible ideas (and) really bad fiscal math”.
That said, it promises more hope than Clinton’s proposal, which is right out of an Obama-Bernie Sanders playbook: a mix of status quo and rank populism, including tax cuts for middle-income earners, means-tested “free” tertiary education, increases in the minimum wage and tax hikes for the rich.
Stockman’s overall assessment of the scene is dismal. He says: “After two decades of massive monetary stimulus and monumental expansion of global debt … we are now in the payback cycle.”
He believes “beltway magic has pushed the nation to the fiscal brink” and that “the nation’s sputtering remnant of a capitalist economy will be crushed by the welfare and warfare states on which the imperial city feeds”.
Clinton is a creature of the beltway and offers even more unaffordable magic. Trump is the heretic and only candidate who, given the opportunity, could rein in the corrosive, powerful interests that drive Washington and divide the US.
Voter turnout will be crucial but, despite the deplorable nominees, Trump may still be the US’s better bet.
Gradually, the masses are realising something is wrong
Maurice Newman 27 September 2016 The Australian
When your news and views come from a tightly controlled, left-wing media echo chamber, it may come as a bit of a shock to learn that in the July election almost 600,000 voters gave their first preference to Pauline Hanson’s One Nation party.
You may also be surprised to know that still deluded conservatives remain disenchanted with the media’s favourite Liberal, Malcolm Turnbull, for his epic fail as Prime Minister, especially when compared with the increasingly respected leader he deposed.
Perhaps when media outlets saturate us with “appropriate” thoughts and “acceptable” speech, and nonconformists are banished from television, radio and print, it’s easy to miss what is happening on the uneducated side of the tracks.
After all, members of the better educated and morally superior political class use a compliant media to shelter us from the dangerous, racist, homophobic, Islamophobic, sexist, welfare-reforming, climate-change denying bigots who inhabit the outer suburbs and countryside — the people whom Hillary Clinton calls “the deplorables”.
They must be vilified without debate, lest too many of us waver on the virtues of bigger governments, central planning, more bloated bureaucracies, higher taxes, unaffordable welfare, a “carbon-free” economy, more regulations, open borders, gender-free and values-free schools and same-sex marriage; the sort of agenda that finds favour at the UN.
Yet history is solid with evidence that this agenda will never deliver the promised human dignity, prosperity and liberty. Only free and open societies with small governments can do that.
Gradually, the masses are realising something is wrong. Their wealth and income growth is stagnating and their living standards are threatened. They see their taxes wasted on expensive, ill-conceived social programs. They live with migrants who refuse to integrate. They resent having government in their lives on everything from home renovations to recreational fishing, from penalty rates to free speech.
Thomas Jefferson’s warning that “the natural progress of things is for liberty to yield and government to gain ground” is now a stark reality.
The terms “people’s representative” and “public servant” have become a parody. In today’s world we are the servants and, if it suits, we are brushed aside with callous indifference.
Like the Labor government’s disregard for the enormous emotional and financial hurt suffered when, overnight, it shut down live cattle exports on the strength of a television show.
Or like the NSW parliament passing laws banning greyhound racing in the state. There was no remorse for the ruined lives of thousands of innocent people, many of whom won’t recover. Talk of compensation is a travesty.
Or like the victims neighbouring Williamtown and Oakey air force bases, made ill from toxic contamination of groundwater. Around the world it’s known chemical agents used in airport fire drills cause cancer, neurological disease and reproductive disorders, yet the Australian Department of Defence simply denies responsibility. The powerless are hopelessly trapped between health risks and valueless properties.
Similar disdain is shown for those living near coal-seam gas fields and wind turbines. The authorities know of the health and financial impacts but defend operators by bending rules and ignoring guidelines.
If governments believe the ends justify the means, people don’t matter.
When Ernst & Young research finds one in eight Australians can’t meet their electricity bills, rather than show compassion for the poor and the elderly, governments push ruthlessly ahead with inefficient and expensive renewable energy projects.
This newspaper’s former editor-in-chief Chris Mitchell reveals in his book, Making Headlines, how Kevin Rudd, when prime minister, brazenly attempted to use state power to investigate “the relationship between my paper and him”. Rudd’s successor, Julia Gillard, wanted to establish a media watchdog to effectively gag journalists.
None of this is fantasy and it explains why people are losing confidence in the democratic system. Australians feel increasingly marginalised and unrepresented. They are tired of spin and being lied to. They know that data is often withheld or manipulated.
As they struggle to make ends meet, they watch helplessly as the established political class shamelessly abuses its many privileges.
It appears its sole purpose in life is to rule, not to govern. This adds weight to the insightful contention by the Business Council of Australia’s Jennifer Westacott that Australia is in desperate need of a national purpose.
It’s no wonder, to paraphrase American author Don Fredrick, that a growing number of Australians no longer want a tune-up at the same old garage. They want a new engine installed by experts — and they are increasingly of the view that the current crop of state and federal mechanics lacks the skills and experience to do the job.
One Nation may not be the answer, but its garage does offer a new engine.
This is Australia’s version of the Trump phenomenon. Like Donald Trump, Hanson is a non-establishment political disrupter. However, unlike Trump, who may soon occupy the White House, Hanson won’t inhabit the Lodge.
This leaves Australia’s establishment and the central planners very much in control. It means we will remain firmly on our current bigger-government path, financed by higher taxes and creative accounting.
Nobel laureate economist FA Hayek observes in his book The Road to Serfdom: “The more planners improvise, the greater the disturbance to normal business. Everyone suffers. People feel rightly that ‘planners’ can’t get things done.”
But he argues that, ironically, in a crisis the risk is that rather than wind back the role of government, people automatically turn to someone strong who demands obedience and uses coercion to achieve objectives.
Australia is now on that road to tyranny and, with another global recession in prospect and nearly 50 per cent of voters already dependent on government, the incentive is to vote for more government, not less.
The left-wing media echo-chamber will be an enthusiastic cheerleader.
It does make you wonder whether some journalists ever talk to ordinary Australians. Five minutes in any pub in the country will render such polling unnecessary.
By Chris Mitchell The Australian 26 September 2016
How to walk a mile in another’s shoes? That is the question great reporters seek to answer when they interview their subjects.
In a time when there has never been more media but it is light years wide and only atoms deep, there is little reward for doing what great newspapers seek to do: provide their readers with genuine understanding of issues and people’s views and motives.
This is a shouty, shallow and callow media age in which young Lefty tyros are rewarded for sharp opinions and violently executed tweets. Their opponents in the right-wing blogosphere too easily drift into hate and conspiracy over genuine inquiry.
So on a range of issues the Left and Right yell at each other in what psychologists refer to as “different emotional languages”, like a husband who really cannot understand what his wife is saying about why their marriage is going awry.
I got that feeling very strongly last Tuesday morning when I heard Andrew Bolt being interviewed by Fran Kelly about Tuesday night’s very interesting program with Linda Burney on Aboriginal recognition. Kelly was perplexed Bolt seemed not to agree with all the received Radio National wisdoms she was trying to get him to concede.
And yet the thinkers behind recognition, people such as Noel Pearson, have always known Andrew — with his ability to articulate the honestly held and genuine concerns of his readers — was the biggest danger to any potential referendum, even if it was first proposed by Andrew’s confidante Tony Abbott.
Just as with same-sex marriage and Muslim immigration the megaphones of the Left show no understanding of, or even empathy for, the great middle ground of Australian public opinion, which is where these issues will be decided.
Those in the maximalist camp on Recognition give every indication of preferring a loss to a win on slightly less ambitious terms. Wiser heads in the movement know proponents who argue for a treaty now would be smarter to take it one step at a time.
Still, I had real admiration for Bolt, who showed tremendous courage to expose himself to a full tilt ABC ideological crusade with newly elected federal Labor MP Burney. The Twittersphere was a feral sewer about him that night and next day.
Having been into the ABC’s Ultimo fortress in inner Sydney several times lately I can say the pursed-lipped tut-tutting is almost overpowering when a critic of the corporation crosses the threshold. Good on Bolt for doing it I reckon.
It was also gutsy of diminutive Burney to front a couple of conservative, and physical, giants in Bolt and Liberal Party federal MP Cory Bernardi in the latter’s Adelaide electoral office.
It is unlikely Bolt or Burney will ever persuade each other but viewers may have sensed an increased recognition on the part of each of the participants of the other’s genuine passion.
An Essential Media Poll published in The Guardian on Wednesday highlighted this sort of hyper partisanship and the inability of many in journalism even to understand how their own country feels about issues.
Given what has happened in Europe since German Chancellor Angela Merkel opened the nation’s borders to Syrian refugees a year ago it should have been no surprise to The Guardian or the ABC that half the nation wanted a ban on Muslim immigration.
The poll showed 49 per cent supporting a ban and only 40 per cent opposing. John Barron, hosting The Drum on ABC TV, seemed shocked that even large numbers of Greens and Labor voters supported such a ban.
It does make you wonder whether some journalists ever talk to ordinary Australians. Five minutes in any pub in the country will render such polling unnecessary.
The ideological and media divide is just as wide for same-sex marriage. The sheer brutality of the Left’s reaction to any Christian spokesperson either opposing change or supporting the plebiscite promised by the Coalition elected less than three months ago is vile.
This is not just a challenge for journalism. It is also a problem for the body politic.
If journalists don’t understand how their audiences feel and the media and politics become ever more sharply partisan, how will reformers ever bring about social, economic and political change?
This Balkanisation of social attitudes and the subsequent prioritising of opinion over reporting that seeks to explore and understand is making Western countries increasingly difficult to govern. Even something seemingly uncontestable such as repair of the federal budget now elicits sharply partisan divides among journalists and politicians.
I support recognition but would never think a referendum should even be held if a proposition was so ambitious it was guaranteed to fail.
A libertarian on same-sex marriage, I would nevertheless defend to the death the freedom of Christians, let alone Muslims and Jews, to stick to their religious convictions.
I think a ban on Muslim immigration would be the most dangerous thing the country could do if it really is interested in preventing young men from self-radicalising online.
After all, teenagers feeling so alienated from mainstream society today that they seek solace in the websites of Islamic State would only feel more like outsiders were all Muslim immigration banned. But it should sure as hell be obvious to any thinking journalist why in the face of so many attacks on Western targets during the past two years many Australians would be attracted to such a proposition.
If we try to walk a mile in another’s shoes, we might begin to see why Aboriginal kids would think it unfair to suggest they should just be happy to forget about their heritage and history and again accept what is being offered them. But we might also understand why Bolt believes people today should not be atoning to people many generations and multiple ethnicities away from the brutalities of white settlement.
We might understand the complexities of race from the position of the other person, as Stan Grant has so eloquently tried to explain.
Labor Senator Sam Dastyari pledged to respect China’s position on the South China Sea at an election campaign press conference he held with a Chinese political donor who had previously paid his legal bills.
He has also urged Australia to drop its opposition to China’s air defence zone in the contested region.
The comments, reported in the Chinese media, conflict with Labor’s official position on the issue which is that Australia should oppose China’s stance and authorise our navy and airforce to conduct freedom of navigation exercises in the South China Sea.
Experts say the ultimate aim of Chinese soft power is to shift Australians toward’s China’s position on the South China Sea. On Wednesday, outgoing US Ambassador to Australia John Berry warned of growing interference by countries such as China, Russia, North Korea, and Iran, and urged Australia to increase transparency around political donations.
Senator Cory Bernardi on Wednesday labelled Senator Dastyari the “Manchurian candidate” after he admitted in the Senate that he was wrong to ask an Australian-Chinese donor, Top Education Institute’s Minshen Zhu, to pay an expenses bill of $1670 for him when he exceeded publicly funded travel entitlements. Senator Dastyari told the Senate he had donated a similar amount to charity.
Labor has taken a much stronger position on the South China Sea than the Coalition. After China rejected The Hague’s ruling against its claims to sovereignty over disputed islands in the South China Sea, Labor’s previous defence spokesman Stephen Conroy accused China of aggressive bullying and urged Foreign Minister Julie Bishop to authorise the Navy to join the US and sail over the areas China claims.
Now it can be revealed that on June 17 in the lead-up to the July election this year Senator Dastyari assured the Chinese community he would respect China’s stance on the South China Sea, according to articles in the Chinese media.
“The South China Sea is China’s own affair. On this issue, Australia should remain neutral and respect China’s decision,” he said.
Mr Huang has previously paid a legal bill for Senator Dastyari.
Senator Dastyari urged Australia to drop its opposition to China’s “Air Defence Identification Zone” (ADIZ) over contested islands in the East China Sea, according to an article from 2014 – a stance which saw Julie Bishop publicly rebuked while on a trip to China by the nation’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi.
“The Australian government must abandon its hostile stance on the ADIZ,” Senator Dastyari is quoted as saying.
Further, a staffer to Senator Dastyari, Paul Han, who resigned from his office to run for a Senate position in NSW for the Labor Party in the recent election, effectively echoed the Chinese government’s position on the South China Sea in a statement he sent out to the Chinese community in July which was then reported in Chinese media.
“[The dispute] in the South China Sea should be settled between neighbouring countries through friendly consultations. External interventions will not solve the issue and will only complicate the issue.
“The Australia government should keep a neutral stance on this issue and urge neighbouring countries in the South China Sea to solve the differences between these countries by friendly consultation.”
Rory Medcalf, head of the National Security College at the Australian National University, has previously told The Australian Financial Review that the ultimate aim of Chinese soft power and donations was to shift Australia’s government away from the US and make us less likely to oppose China in the South China Sea.
“The long-term goal is to make Australia less likely to oppose China in regional confrontations,” he said.
In a statement to The Financial Review Senator Dastyari said he supported Labor’s position on the South China Sea.
“There is no difference between my position and Bill Shorten’s position on the South China Sea – the best outcome is one where the rule of law is recognised. That was also the position of Senator Conroy when he was previously the shadow defence minister.”
He said he did not agree with Mr Han. “Paul’s comments are in his own capacity as a Senate candidate. They are not my views.”
Ambassador Berry said he was worried countries which did not value a free press were increasingly involved in media in Western countries.
“They do not share a core value of freedom of the press and yet somehow they’re getting involved in the United States in terms of acquiring papers and acquiring television and playing roles that we have to be careful of,” he said at a National Press Club address.
“If that money directly is coming from the Russian government and being funnelled through a Russian-American then we might have some issues … nothing is ever hurt by increased transparency and increased sunlight and disclosure.”
Every one of Australia’s national security agencies advised against allowing NSW power asset Ausgrid to be leased by Chinese state-owned company State Grid Corporation, or Hong Kong-based Cheung Kong Infrastructure, sources have revealed.
It is understood the agencies, ranging from the Department of Defence to ASIO, recommended separately to both Treasurer Scott Morrison and the Foreign Investment Review Board that the bids be blocked on national security grounds.
“It was not a contested issue,” said a source.
Mr Morrison has taken flak domestically over the decision on Thursday to veto the bids because they were contrary to the national interest.
Mr Morrison said both parties had a week to try again but there is little sign he will change his mind. However, both CKI, which is a private company, and State Grid are understood to be considering linking up with local infrastructure investors to keep their $10 billion-plus acquisition ambitions afloat.
They would, however, walk away if they are required to give up on operating control to get foreign investment approval.
Both CKI and State Grid have been locked in talks with advisors and the NSW government as they struggle to decipher Mr Morrison’s decision.
But the question of operating control has rapidly emerged as a potential deal-breaker, with neither bidder willing to cede on that point. Their respective bid prices – rumoured to be up to $13 billion or more in the case of State Grid – would also no longer be valid without the benefit of being able to control the assets.
The NSW government is understood to be in close communication with the bidders and with the federal government as it tries to push forward with the auction.
Several local pension funds and infrastructure investors are thought to have approached CKI and State Grid to discuss the possibility of partnering up on their offers.
There was blowback from China Friday with state-owned Xinhua News Agency opining that the decision could lead to a “toxic mindset” of “Chinaphobia” in Australia.
“To suggest that China would try to kidnap the countries’ electricity network for ulterior motive is absurd and almost comical, since it is widely recognised in the world that business reputation is critical to any corporate activity,” said opinion writer Luo Jun.
Mr Morrison claimed the decision was not “country specific” but related to “very specific characteristics of this asset and then how that related to the structure of this transaction”.
“Both the structure of the transaction, the fact that control of operations was a factor here, accentuated those risks and then on top of that you have just the broader national security issues that relate to the asset as a whole,” he said.
He and Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull both pushed back at allegations that the decision was driven by domestic political pressures, given that Pauline Hanson, Bob Katter and Nick Xenophon opposed any sale to the Chinese of such a critical asset.
“This was not a political decision. This is a decision that was taken with the utmost seriousness by the government,” Mr Turnbull said.
“A decision of considerable gravity, I can assure you, but it was taken based on the unequivocal advice of our national security agencies.”
To underscore his point, Mr Turnbull said the Opposition would be given a classified briefing by the security agencies.
Other security agencies included the Department of Foreign Affairs, the Australian Signals Directorate and the Office of National Assessments.
One of the fiercest critics of the decision came from former Labor foreign minister & China investment Lobbyist Bob Carr, who now heads the pro-Beijing Australia-China Relations Institute.
Mr Carr accused the government of succumbing “to the Witches’ Sabbath of xenophobia and economic nationalism”.
Mr Morrison said Mr Carr was spouting “complete nonsense”.
NSW Premier Mike Baird, who faces a shortfall of up to $4 billion in his infrastructure plans, said he was frustrated he was not told sooner that the two bidders faced major security concerns.
“My main frustration in this process is that I believe the decision should have been made much earlier,” Mr Baird said.
“There were a number of milestones along the way. I think it’s an opportunity to deal with this many months ago. Having said that, it’s complex. It is not easy. There are different structures, different formats and in that context, you know, we need to get to make sure we get it right and I accept that.”
NSW took the highly unusual step of accepting final bids from the two bidders before receiving Foreign Investment Review Board approval, apparently confident that it would not pose a problem.
China’s patriots among us: Beijing pulls new lever of influence in Australia
Chinese spies at Sydney University – China spreads its watching web of surveillance across Australia
As Malcolm Turnbull prepares to embark on his first official visit to China as prime minister, some 60 Chinese community leaders in Australia gathered in Sydney urging him to watch his words when discussing the South China Sea in Beijing.
Unfurling a large red banner declaring the need to “Firmly Safeguard the Sovereign Rights of China in the South China Sea”, the forum was organised by the overseas Chinese patriotic association Australian Action Committee for Peace and Justice.
“Australia’s political elite should have a clear understanding,” the committee’s chair Lin Bin said at the Saturday meeting. “[They] ought to talk and act carefully on the sensitive issue on the South China Sea, and not make ‘irrational’ or incorrect signals to the international community.”
The rhetoric of freedom of navigation, freedom of overflight, international arbitration, changing the status quo and “militarisation” of the South China Sea, it said, were all mere buzzwords utilised by the United States as part of its strategic pivot back to the Asia-Pacific – “naked hegemonic behaviour” aimed at containing China’s rise.
What were previously fringe nationalistic and patriotic Chinese associations in Australia are now emboldened in the search for greater domestic political influence with the implicit backing of a rising China and its increasingly assertive foreign policy.
The action committee has close ties with the local Chinese embassy and consulates, as well as the Australian Council for the Promotion of Peaceful Reunification of China, an organisation under the umbrella of China’s United Front which rails against independence movements in Tibet, Taiwan and Xinjiang. The council is chaired by Huang Xiangmo, a prolific donor to both major Australian political parties, as well as the founding donor of the Australia-China Relations Institute at the University of Technology, Sydney.
“I can see in Australia, in the United States, even Europe, very strong lobby groups who work very closely with the Chinese government,” said Feng Chongyi, an associate professor of Chinese Studies at UTS. Dr Feng is not attached to ACRI.
In Australia, patriotic associations coordinated protests outside Japanese diplomatic missions at the height of the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands dispute.
They rallied crowds to counter pro-Tibet and Falun Gong protesters at the Australian legs of the Beijing Olympics torch relay and most recently, outside Parliament House as Xi Jinping delivered a speech to both houses during his 2014 visit.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull at the Chinese New Year Lantern Festival in Sydney. Photo: ACETCA
Dr Feng said some leaders of patriotic associations were businesspeople keen to ingratiate themselves with mainland officials – behaviour that would never hurt someone with business interests straddling Australia and China.
“They would use the term national interest but it’s really their own corporate interests that they can bind together with the [soft power ambitions] of Chinese authorities,” he said.
There are signs the nationalistic rhetoric is targeting a wider mainstream – and younger – audience in the Chinese community. One of the first and most widely spread reports of Saturday’s Action Committee meeting was carried by the Chinese-language WeChat news outlet Australia Today and affiliate Sydney Today.
The news outlets consistently reach a large, young audience via the ubiquitous Chinese social media application with its blend of news and light entertainment tailored for young Chinese students and professionals living in Australia.
All WeChat news outlets, or “official accounts” are registered in China and by extension are subject to monitoring from mainland censors, and while many articles are translated from mainstream Australian media outlets, reports critical of the Chinese government are invariably avoided.
The lengthening arm of Chinese soft power in Australia also extends to cultural events.
Fairfax Media has learned that Sydney-based media group Nanhai Media received tens of million of yuan in direct funding from the State Council’s Overseas Chinese Affairs Office to help put on the colourful Chinese New Year lantern display at Tumbalong Park in Sydney in February.
Bo Zhiyue, director of the New Zealand Contemporary China Research Centre at the Victoria University of Wellington, says the size of the contribution was unheard of. “They probably can go back and say now we have won over the hearts and minds of the Chinese community in Sydney,” he said.
While the Communist Party has long sought to cultivate “loyalty” among overseas Chinese communities, the influx of recent mainland migrants and residents means for the first time it has a potential critical mass to lobby for its strategic interests, including on the South China Sea and greater acceptance of state-owned investment in Australian assets.
But the shifting demographics have also created a schism in Australia’s Chinese communities. Many naturalised Chinese-Australians who migrated in the 1980s and 90s did so with the spectre of the Tiananmen Square crackdown of 1989 fresh in their memories, and continue to harbour critical views of China’s Communist leadership. It jars with more recent mainland migrants, many who have been enriched by China’s economic miracle of the past two decades, and university students bankrolled by their parents buying up inner-city apartments.
“If you follow those analyses that some of those overseas Chinese students come from very rich backgrounds – Communist Party officials and businesspeople – they are naturally linked between them and the regime back home,” Dr Feng says. “And of course they feel they are not treated very well overseas by those ‘hostile forces’ or the foreigners; that increases their criticism of the West and also the western media.”
Compradors are sometimes described as those who help a foreign country exploit their own. I was reminded of this when I read that the ALP Caucus had compromised its concerns over jobs for Australians and was prepared to waive the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement through the parliament with only a ‘diluted’ list of demands as the AFR put it.
If this agreement proceeds, Australian workers are likely to be much more vulnerable. Not surprisingly the President of the ACTU, Ged Kearney said that ‘this is about Australian jobs so we will keep fighting for those jobs’. No wonder the unions are unhappy about the attitude of Labor parliamentarians.
There is a problem; a large Labor elite with fellow travellers whose careers outside parliament as consultants and lobbyists depend on Chinese connections and largesse. They are cultivated with money, travel and entertainment. They cling like limpets to the relationship with China. They have a lot to lose if they upset China. And it shows.
As Upton Sinclair put it so succinctly ‘It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on his not understanding it’.
Chinese interests play increasing role in Australian political donations
The many ways political donations buy access
A Chinese government-backed propaganda unit and a swag of companies that stand to gain from the China Australia Free Trade Agreement have made more than half a million dollars of political donations in Victoria, raising concerns about the influence of foreign donors.
Companies linked to Chinese conglomerate Yuhu Group made a donation to then trade minister Andrew Robb’s fundraising entity the day the trade deal was clinched.
Chinese money has become so important to Australian political parties that, at a recent glitzy fundraiser, Victorian Liberal president Michael Kroger made sure there was an interpreter to translate the auction.
Donors with strong links to China contributed $555,000 to the two major parties and fundraising entities in Victoria, a Fairfax Media analysis of Australian Electoral Commission data for 2014-15 reveals.
At least three donors failed to disclose their contributions to the Australian Electoral Commission.
Bayside Forum, which supports the federal Liberal candidate in the seat of Goldstein (where Mr Robb is set to be succeeded by former Human Rights Commissioner Tim Wilson at the July 2 federal election), accepted $100,000 in donations from executives of Chinese agriculture, property development and infrastructure company Yuhu Group.
At the time, Mr Robb was negotiating both ChAFTA and the 12-country Trans-Pacific Partnership.
Mr Robb has a long relationship with Yuhu and its chief Xiangmo Huang. He met with Mr Huang and other senior company executives in Hong Kong in March 2014 to discuss trade and economic co-operation, and to hear Mr Huang’s view on the obstacles to Chinese enterprises in Australia, such as working visas and foreign investment restrictions.
Mr Robb also endorsed Yuhu’s $2 billion investment in Australian agriculture in a joint-venture with a Chinese state-owned enterprise at its launch on September 15, 2014.
According to AEC disclosures, Chaoshan No 1 Trust (of which Mr Huang is a director) made a $50,000 donation to Bayside Forum two months later, on the same day ChAFTA was finalised and details announced by Mr Robb and then prime minister Tony Abbott.
Another $50,000 donation to Bayside Forum, this time by Fu Ocean Pty Ltd (whose director Zhaokai Su is reportedly Yuhu’s office manager), was undated. And two months after the Hong Kong meeting, $30,000 was donated to the New South Wales division of the Liberal Party. It is illegal for property developers to donate to the NSW branch, but a loophole permits it if the funds are intended to contribute to a federal campaign.
The free trade agreement, which came into force on December 20, 2015, has been criticised by the opposition and unions for threatening Australian jobs – particularly a provision that allows Australian-registered companies with 50 per cent Chinese ownership to bring in Chinese labour to work on infrastructure projects of $150 million or more.
Mr Huang and his associates have donated millions of dollars to the Labor and Liberal parties over recent years, and in 2015 stepped in to pay a legal bill on behalf of NSW Labor reformist and fixer, Senator Sam Dastyari.
Mr Robb was Mr Huang’s guest at the Melbourne Cup in 2013, when Mr Huang also presented the trophy. Mr Robb reportedly attended Mr Huang’s daughter Carina’s wedding in Sydney in January 2016, as did Opposition Leader Bill Shorten.
As trade minister, Mr Robb also attended the “Yuhu 2015 Giving Day” on February 6, 2015, held in part to celebrate Mr Huang’s election as President of the Australian Council for the Promotion of Peaceful Reunification of China. That organisation’s activities include hosting Chinese government officials in Australia and lobbying against independence movements in Taiwan, Hong Kong and Tibet.
At the time of the donation, Mr Robb was still negotiating the Trans-Pacific Partnership – a 12-country trade deal which does not include China or Taiwan, but that Taiwan had sought to join.
On February 1, the NSW branch of the ALP revealed its biggest donor, Eng Joo Ang, had given $110,000. The next day Mr Eng told media he couldn’t recall it and later that he had not made the donation. On February 12, a late return was quietly published on the AEC periodic disclosures as an “update”.
Mr Eng is executive vice chairman of the Australian Council for the Promotion of Peaceful Reunification of China.
Mr Robb declined to answer Fairfax Media questions about Bayside Forum’s protocols for handling potential conflicts between fundraising sources and his responsibilities as a minister.
“There were absolutely no conflicts of interest,” he said.
Mr Huang was contacted for comment but did not respond.
Meanwhile, the Victorian Liberals received $15,000 from the China Australia Media Group, believed to be an arm of the Chinese government. The group has twice been outed for hiring Western journalists at news conferences to ask soft questions of government ministers and officials with the aim of spreading Chinese propaganda.
Chinese property developers have also emerged as generous supporters of political parties. In 2013-14, a pair of Brighton property investors with import-export interests Jianping Fu and Min Zhang, donated $200,000 to the Victorian Labor party. Melbourne-based property developer the Ever Bright Group donated $200,000 to the federal Liberal party and Glen Waverley developer Jiandong Huang donated another $100,000.
Richard Gu’s AXF Group, whose development projects include a massive 5500-home project in the city’s west, donated $150,000 to the Victorian Labor party. ZJF Investments, a company owned by property developer Zheng Jiefu (who sought refuge in Melbourne after facing embezzlement charges in China), donated $20,000 to Labor’s state branch.
Both AXF Group and ZJF failed to make their own donations disclosures to the AEC. Fu Ocean disclosed its $30,000 contribution to the NSW Liberals, but failed to disclose the $50,000 Bayside Forum donation.
The AEC said it was following up outstanding returns.
Governance expert Ken Coghill says foreign donations to Australian political parties should be illegal, as they are in many countries including the United States and Britain.
“The Australian political process ought to be something that is not manipulated or distorted by foreign interests,” says the former state Labor MP, now director of the Parliamentary Studies Unit at Monash University.
Australia requires a radically new approach in waging the war on drugs.
Despite the Government’s best efforts, both international and domestic statistics demonstrate that Australia is currently awash with illegal narcotics and that Australians have globally the highest or close to the highest per capita illicit drug usage across several categories including cannabis, opioids, cocaine, amphetamines and ecstasy.
This is demonstrated by the Australian Crime Commission’s recent illicit drugs report which stated that Australia, in FY 14, recorded the highest number of illicit drug related arrests (in excess of 112,000), the highest number of drug seizures and the largest amount of drugs seized.
According to the ACC, sophisticated organised criminals are at the centre of the Australian illicit drug market.
Moreover, 42% of Australians, according to the 2013 National Drug Strategy Household Survey, have used illicit drugs during their lives demonstrating that Australia has an entrenched illicit drug culture.
Disturbingly, the toxicity of the current supply of illicit substances across several categories has never been stronger.
Long-term cognitive, psychological and physical damage, the deterioration of social capital and the lost labour productivity resulting from illicit drug use is both real and undeniable.
The current ice epidemic sweeping the nation has devastated the lives of many Australians including in several rural, remote and very remote communities.
On any possible objective measure, Australia’s current approach to the war on drugs is an example of gross public policy failure.
Billions are being consumed in drug law enforcement, tens of thousands of traffickers and users are languishing in Australian jails, violent crime is being waged on Australian streets and precious health care resources are being consumed dealing with the consequences of illicit drug use.
Australia’s current policy posture projects weakness to international criminal narcotics syndicates in Asia and South America.
We are seen as a soft target and therefore illegal drugs flood the country.
Despite the issue not dominating the national conservation, it is incumbent on policy makers to investigate alternative policy solutions that best provide pathways to resolving the current crisis.
The collective harm that currently arises from illicit drug use discredits the drug legalisation community’s argument that an individual’s personal use should not be the concern of the Government as it does not cause harm to others.
Developments in neuroscience and psychology demonstrate that, as social animals, an individual’s consumption of illicit drugs can significantly influence on behaviour of others.
The alternative is to consider radically different policy frameworks such as Singapore’s, which has a comprehensive approach to meeting its openly-stated policy objective of having a ‘drug free’ Singapore.
The Singapore model includes a multi-pronged strategy consisting of strong preventative education in schools, mandatory drug rehabilitation for first and second time caught users involving family and community networks as well as the mandatory use of the death penalty with a reverse onus of proof for individuals caught with a prohibitive substance above a legislatively prescribed weight. Singapore’s policy approach is brutal, but it works.
Singapore enjoys one of the lowest per capita rates of illicit drug use in the world, its streets are safe, organised drug crime syndicates do not have a stronghold and, because of its projection of resolute strength, Singapore’s use of the death penalty is sparing.
The effectiveness of Singapore’s policy approach over two decades has resulted in the halving of arrest rates from approximately 6,000 to 3,000 annually as well as the rate of recidivism from 60 percent to 30 percent.
Given the seriousness of Australia’s illicit drug crisis, examination and potential adoption of the Singapore model should be considered by policy makers, including the re‑introduction of the death penalty.
Australians must be willing to acknowledge the seriousness of the current crisis and be accepting of tough unconventional measures coupled with determined and unwavering leadership.
He declined a request to give examples, citing operational reasons, but revealed many on the list were from prominent families and included provincial mayors and police generals and military figures.
The extraordinary development comes a day after Mr Duterte issued a “shoot on sight” order for Mayor Rolando Espinosa of Albuera and his son Rolando “Kerwin” Espinosa after three mayoral staffers were caught with ice, known as shabu in the Philippines.
The Radyo Inquirer said that the mayor surrendered on Tuesday after police shot dead six bodyguards during an early morning raid at the heavily fortified family compound.
Authorities have vowed to hunt down and kill his son, who vanished weeks ago after learning Duterte was coming after him.
Kerwin is said to have undergone plastic surgery while on the run in a desperate bid to elude capture.
Father and son are being investigated for allegedly protecting drug traffickers. Espinosa is the first local executive linked to the narcotics trade under the Duterte administration, according to The Philippine Star.
The officials about to be unmasked in the “executive kill list” can consider themselves dead men walking unless they turn themselves in and confess.
‘I’M OKAY WITH YOU KILLING MY SON’
Espinosa, who was not present at the raid on his home, surrendered to authorities on Tuesday before the expiration of a 24-hour ultimatum given by Mr Duterte.
He reportedly met with the president at Malacañang Palace before presenting himself to Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Director General Ronald Dela Rosa.
Chief Dela Rosa paraded Espinosa at a press conference last night, telling reporters the order to shoot on sight was still active for his son, who is the subject of a massive manhunt.
“Kerwin, you better surrender or die,” he said in a message to the younger Espinosa.
Chief Dela Rosa said Espinosa had admitted to him that Kerwin was involved in drug dealing and was in business with convicted drug trafficker Peter Co — an inmate at the maximum security New Bilibid Prison.
The top cop told reporters that he had twice asked Espinosa “if it would be okay if police killed Kerwin if he tried to resist arresting officers”.
“Rehab is no longer an option,” Mr Duterte told a cheering audience in Davao City.
“So those of you in your neighbourhood, feel free to call us, the police, or do it yourself if you have a gun. You have my support.”
In another well-received speech, he told the crowd: “In an arrest, you must overcome the resistance of the criminal. You must really overcome it. And if he fights, and he fights to death, you can kill him.
“Then I’ll give you a medal.”
Activist group Human Rights Watch says 600 suspected drug dealers and users have been killed in street executions since May 10.
The murders have occurred in several parts of the country including Manila, Bulacan, Cebu, Rizal, Abra, Bataan, Pangasinan and Cavite.
Mr Duterte has dismissed the images as “melodramatic”.
“International drug control agencies need to make clear to President Roderigo Duterte that the surge in killings of suspected drug dealers and users is not acceptable ‘crime control,’ but instead a government failure to protect people’s most fundamental human rights,” Human Rights Watch Deputy Asia Director Phelim Kine said a statement yesterday.
A former mayor of Davao, on Mindanao, he is credited with creating one of the safest cities in the country with his tough-on-crime approach, although critics have denounced his vigilante-style methods.
In a recent speech, Mr Duterte summed up his stance: “If you destroy my country, I will kill you. If you destroy our children, I will kill you. If I am asked by anybody, including the Commission on Human Rights, I do not know you”.
Not only legal and human rights organisations, but ordinary Filipinos who voted for him are alarmed by what they see as a war on drugs, that is also a war on poor people.
A taxi driver, Bobby, says he voted for Mr Duterte, but told me:
“We have courts for a reason. You can’t let cops be judge, jury and executioner.”
The local media refer to these as vigilante killings, often aimed at silencing potential informers. But according to Linus, not all of them deploy the “salvage job” approach.
“They can’t be bothered wrapping them in plastic. They just shoot them and say there was a shoot-out,” he said.
Once again we are speeding through the traffic, heavy for this time of night. This is actually the most dangerous part of the job, as usually the press and police photographers arrive after the killings and there is not much risk.
But the rush to get to a crime scene and document it before police cordon it off and remove the body and the evidence, is the riskiest part, as I soon discover.
Changing lanes in light rain, a taxi brakes hard in front of us and suddenly we are fishtailing and nearly slam into buildings on the sidewalk.
At that point, it is after 3:00am and back at the station I decide to call it a night, leaving the photographers waiting for the next macabre scene, as the bodies in Mr Duterte’s drugs war keep piling up.
Speaking at a press conference on Sunday in the southern city of Davao, Mr Duterte is also quoted as saying that he wanted to forge closer relations with China, and that he was open to direct talks over territorial disputes in the South China Sea.
The Philippines has taken one of its claims to a court of arbitration at the Hague.
Mr Duterte’s record as the crime-crushing mayor of the southern city of Davao, once notorious for its lawlessness, has earned him the moniker The Punisher.
“What I will do is urge Congress to restore death penalty by hanging,” Mr Duterte told reporters. The Philippines abolished capital punishment in 2006.
Duterte: From ‘Punisher’ to president
Born in 1945 into a political family but with a more modest background than many Philippine politicians
Married twice but now single, he says he has several girlfriends
A lawyer, he became vice-mayor of Davao in 1986 and mayor in 1988. He has also previously held a seat in congress
Built a reputation fighting crime, militancy and corruption. He has promised to continue his tough stance as president, but has offered few specific policies
Well known for incendiary comments, such as saying he would kill thousands of criminals without trial
“If you resist, show violent resistance, my order to police (will be) to shoot to kill. Shoot to kill for organised crime. You heard that? Shoot to kill for every organised crime,” he is quoted by the AFP news agency as saying.
Rights groups say hundreds of criminals were killed by so-called “death squads” in Davao during Mr Duterte’s stewardship of the city. In 2015, Human Rights Watch described Mr Duterte as the “death squad mayor” for his strong-arm tactics in Davao.
Whether Mr Duterte is able to persuade Congress to back such policies remains to be seen.
Last week his spokesman put forward a series of proposals such as a ban on alcohol in public places and a “nationwide curfew” for children.
Mr Duterte was not afraid of courting controversy throughout his election campaign. He vowed to give himself and members of the security forces immunity from prosecution after leaving office, saying: “Pardon given to Rodrigo Duterte for the crime of multiple murder, signed Rodrigo Duterte.”
Duterte in quotes
On vowing to kill criminals
“Forget the laws on human rights… You drug pushers, hold-up men and do-nothings, you better go out. Because I’d kill you. I’ll dump all of you into Manila Bay, and fatten all the fish there.”
On the rape of a female missionary
“I saw her face and I thought, son of a bitch. what a pity… I was mad she was raped but she was so beautiful. I thought, the mayor should have been first.”
On the Pope’s visit holding up traffic
“We were affected by the traffic. It took us five hours… I wanted to call him: ‘Pope, son of a whore, go home. Do not visit us again’.”
On taking Viagra
“I was separated from my wife. I’m not impotent. What am I supposed to do? Let this hang forever? When I take Viagra, it stands up.”
Many criticise using the death penalty against those in the drug trade, but our strategy has saved thousands from addiction
Drug abuse blights modern societies.
That is why many governments are focused on tackling addiction, preventing drug-related crimes and ultimately protecting their populations.
Singapore’s tough stand and use of strict laws and stiff penalties against those involved in the drug trade, including capital punishment, have sometimes come under criticism.
The comment by Patrick Gallahue and Rick Lines of the International Harm Reduction Association prompted by the trial of a drug trafficker, Yong Vui Kong, and the imposition of the death penalty on him, is a recent instance.
Singapore pursues a comprehensive national strategy to combat the scourge of drugs, comprising a high-profile public education campaign, treatment and rehabilitation of drug offenders, as well as strict laws and stiff penalties against those involved in the drug trade.
Public education against drug abuse starts in schools.
For abusers, our approach is to try hard to wean them off drugs and deter them from relapsing. They are given two chances in a drug rehabilitation centre.
If they go through counselling, kick their drug habit and return to society with useful skills, they will not have any criminal record.
Those who are still addicted go to prison, where they are put on general rehabilitation programmes to help them reintegrate into the community.
Strong community support against drug abuse has been critical to our fight against drugs.
Singapore society resolutely rejects drug abuse.
Several voluntary welfare organisations run halfway houses to help recovering addicts adjust back into society.
Many employers also come forward to offer reformed drug addicts employment opportunities.
Drug traffickers are a major part of the problem on the supply side.
They make drugs available in our communities and profit from the human misery they help create.
This is why tough laws and penalties are needed, including capital punishment for trafficking in significant amounts of the most harmful drugs.
This sends a strong deterrent signal to would-be traffickers.
But unfortunately, attracted by the lucrative payoffs, some still traffic in drugs knowing full well the penalty if they get caught.
With all these efforts, Singapore has one of the lowest prevalence of drug abuse worldwide, even though it has not been entirely eliminated.
Over two decades, the number of drug abusers arrested each year has declined by two-thirds, from over 6,000 in the early 1990s to about 2,000 last year.
Fewer than two in 10 abusers released from prison or drug rehabilitation centres relapse within two years.
We do not have traffickers pushing drugs openly in the streets, nor do we need to run needle exchange centres.
Because of our strict laws, Singapore does not have to contend with major drug syndicates linked to organised crime, unlike some other countries.
According to the 2008 World Drug Report by the United Nations office on drugs and crime 8.2% of the UK population are cannabis abusers; in Singapore it is 0.005%. For ecstasy, the figures are 1.8% for the UK and 0.003% for Singapore; and for opiates – such as heroin, opium and morphine – 0.9% for the UK and 0.005% for Singapore.
Singapore’s use of capital punishment has come under criticism.
However, contrary to the assertions of anti-death penalty campaigners like Gallahue and Lines, Singapore laws that specify the death penalty for certain drug offences do not contravene international law.
Notably, at the United Nations general assembly in 2008, 46 countries, including some of the world’s largest democracies, voted against a draft resolution proposing a moratorium on the death penalty. Another 34 countries abstained.
In the recent case of Yong Vui Kong, the court of appeal acknowledged that the mandatory death penalty is constitutional, and the high court expressly found that Yong Vui Kong knew he was carrying the drugs.
Every society strikes its own balance between the rights of the individual and the rights of society.
Capital punishment is an integral part of our successful comprehensive anti-drug strategy.
Our tough stance against drugs has saved tens of thousands of lives from the drug menace.
It is therefore not surprising that the majority of Singaporeans continue to support the death penalty. ”
Grand Mufti’s links to banned Egyptian sheik stir up tensions
CHRIS RAY THE AUSTRALIAN 16 DECEMBER, 2015
Australia’s Grand Mufti Ibrahim Abu Mohamed.
Australia’s Grand Mufti, Ibrahim Abu Mohammed, has visited and is recorded as publicly supporting a Middle Eastern sheik who urged the world’s Muslims to fight in Syria, approved suicide bombing and has been banned from the US, Britain and France.
Dr Mohammed visited exiled Egyptian sheik Yusuf al-Qaradawi at his base in the Arab Gulf state of Qatar in April 2013.
They discussed “the role of Islamic communities in Australia”, according to Qatari media, which published a photograph of their meeting in the capital, Doha.
Dr Mohammed’s name and his Australian National Imams Council are also listed on a petition calling on Interpol to remove Qaradawi from its wanted list.
He is sought by Egyptian authorities on charges including incitement to murder and aiding a prison escape.
The petition says the charges are politically motivated. The 89-year-old Qaradawi is considered the spiritual head of Egypt’s banned Muslim Brotherhood and is a prominent opponent of the Egyptian government.
He sanctioned suicide attacks on Israeli civilians as “heroic martyrdom operations”, described the Holocaust as “divine punishment” of Jews and has appeared to justify the killing of apostates. He was denounced as a “theologian of terror” in a statement against the use of religion to incite violence signed by 2500 Muslim intellectuals from 23 countries in 2004.
However, the petition that lists the name of Dr Mohammed and ANIC as supporters describes Qaradawi as a “moderate imam”.
News of the statement was published in Arab media and by Reuters on December 15 last year — the day gunman Man Haron Monis took hostages inside Sydney’s Lindt cafe while claiming allegiance to Islamic State.
Another Arabic news website, Al Hiwar (The Discussion), listed the names of those who supported the statement. It listed the names of Dr Mohammed and ANIC in a report dated December 22, 2014.
Sahn Thaman, an Islamic research and study centre, also recorded the names.
Egyptian-born Dr Mohammed is widely seen as a Muslim Brotherhood supporter.
Like Qaradawi, he is a graduate of Cairo’s al-Azhar University, the seat of Sunni Islamic learning.
Dr Mohammed did not reply to written questions put via his spokeswoman.
Asked for confirmation that the Grand Mufti signed the petition or consented to it, a spokeswoman declined to comment yesterday.
A few weeks after he met Dr Mohammed, in May 2013, Qaradawi called on Sunni Muslims around the world to travel to Syria to fight Shia Muslims and other “infidels” supporting the secular Assad regime.
He told worshippers at the Umar bin al-Khattab mosque in Doha: “Everyone who has the ability, who is trained to fight … has to go. I call on Muslims to go and support their brothers in Syria.
“We cannot ask our brothers to be killed while we watch.”
The Syrian war soon became a magnet for would-be jihadists from the West.
An estimated 110 Australians were fighting with extremist groups — mostly Islamic State — in Syria and Iraq last month, the Attorney-General, George Brandis, said. At least 41 have been killed.
Rodger Shanahan, of the Australian National University’s National Security College, said Dr Mohammed and ANIC — which claims to represent most of Australia’s Sunni clerics — should have condemned Qaradawi’s influential Syria sermon for “advocating violence in the name of religion.”
“Here was a leading Sunni scholar calling on people to go to Syria to kill people on the basis of their religious faith, and Australia’s Sunni leadership did not call him out — no press release, no newspaper article, nothing,” Associate Professor Shanahan said.
He described ANIC and the Grand Mufti’s support for Qaradawi as hypocritical given their response to the Paris terror attacks.
They cited Western foreign policy, military intervention and “Islamophobia” as “causative factors” of terrorism but failed to also blame religious motivation.
Professor Shanahan said ANIC and Dr Mohammed were “happy to rail against the policies of Australia or the West” but failed to criticise Qaradawi’s “intolerant views on Christians, Jews and Shia Muslims” and his call to arms in Syria.
This showed ANIC’s “complete unwillingness to confront the issue of Islamic violence and those who advocate it,” he said.
Qaradawi reaches a huge global audience via his website and his long-running “Sharia and Life” program on Al-Jazeera Arabic television, with an estimated 60 million viewers including in Australia.
Chairman of Sydney’s Parramatta Mosque Neil El-Kadomi said Qaradawi’s rhetoric might have encouraged young Australians to go to fight in Syria.
“When Qaradawi called for jihad in Syria, how many lives were lost because of his speech?” he asked.
Mr El-Kadomi described Dr Mohammed’s support for Qaradawi as “a stupid move” that would divide Muslims in Australia. “Qaradawi did a lot of wrong things.
“We should be encouraging peace, not supporting people who tell people to go and fight and kill.”
Mr El-Kadomi argued publicly with Dr Mohammed over his perceived failure to support Mr El-Kadomi when he found himself in the media spotlight following the murder of police employee Curtis Cheng on October 2. He was shot by a 15-year-old boy who prayed at Parramatta Mosque.
Australian National University lecturer Raihan Ismail said Qaradawi was notorious for his rhetoric against non-Sunni Muslims.
“Some Muslims would naturally be unhappy if the Grand Mufti acted in a way that could be seen as political in nature, especially concerning a divisive figure like Qaradawi,” Dr Ismail said.
“However, if you are sympathetic towards the Muslim Brotherhood, you will also be sympathetic towards Qaradawi.”
The deputy chairman of the Islamic High Council of Australia, Sheik Ibrahim El-Shafie, said Dr Mohammed’s support for Qaradawi risked creating a backlash against Muslims in Western societies.
Dr Mohammed was “only speaking for himself and maybe a small group around him. Most Muslims in Australia and around the world would disown such extremist views,” Sheik El-Shafie said.
The Islamic High Council, a Sunni organisation that distances itself from the larger ANIC, has called for intensified efforts to fight terrorism, including banning “extremist views which promote terrorist acts.”
Dr Mohammed and ANIC were among more than 300 names on the Qaradawi petition. Leading members of Islamic organisations in Western countries including Britain, Ireland and Canada also signed.
Turkish President Recep Erdogan also criticised the Interpol Red Notice.
He is an outspoken Brotherhood supporter and Qaradawi has condemned Turkish public protests against Mr Erdogan as foreign conspiracies.
Urging Interpol to remove its “Red Notice” or wanted alert on Qaradawi, the petition condemns Egyptian charges as the product of a “politicised judiciary”.
Qaradawi has called on Egyptians to revolt against the military-backed government of President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. An army coup ousted the Brotherhood’s Mohammed Morsi in 2013.
It is desperately saddening to see the terrified population of the Middle East fleeing for refuge towards a Europe that has utterly forgotten what the region looked like just a few decades ago. Yet nobody can hope to understand the disaster that is unfolding if he knows nothing of the events that shaped the modern Middle East.
Through an accident of family history, I was born in the Syrian city of Aleppo 72 years ago, my father having been one of the few French army officers stationed in Syria at the time – 12 out of 500 – to have sided with the Free French forces of Charles de Gaulle, rather than with the Vichy regime of Philippe Pétain.
How can I possibly describe the Syria of my birth? It was a marvel of diversity, a true kaleidoscope of races and religions. All the great empires of the past – from the Mesopotamians to the Ottomans – had passed through, and all had left their traces. Clustered around the citadel of Aleppo, the oldest continuously inhabited city in the world, one found the Armenian quarter, next to the Jewish district, itself next to the Greek settlement. All were surrounded by Muslim areas, variously inhabited by Druze, Kurds, Alawites, Sunni, and Shia. And for the most part all these various peoples lived peaceably together, doing business with each other in good faith. Education was provided by the religious orders. Boys attended schools run by the Jesuits, and the girls were taught by Christian nuns – regardless of denomination.
Before the Conquest
Really “Most of the Christian sects had lived in the region since long before the Moslem conquest, and felt a perfect moral right to live in what was, after all, their home. In the Iraqi capital Baghdad, for example, half the 18th century population was Christian. The Assyrians of Northern Iraq claimed to have been converted to Christianity in the 1st century by Saint Thomas. In the mid-20th century they were a strong community – a true nation. Today there are almost none left. The survivors are in Sweden. In Egypt, the minority Copts, descendants of the original Egyptian population, held important positions in trade, the universities and in politics, with more than a few appointed ministers.
Throughout the region, the Jews were absolutely essential to society and commerce. Of course, Jews had lived in Iraq since the time of Nebuchadnezzar II. But they had also made up much of the population of Alexandria in Egypt ever since it was founded by Alexander the Great – it was in Alexandria that the Old Testament was first translated from Hebrew to Greek. Elsewhere, in all the great historic cities of the region – Cairo, Istanbul, Damascus, Aleppo – Jewish communities made up the network through which different peoples traded with each other.
Each community was an intrinsic part of the social system, and the result was a diverse and resilient society. Of course, once in a while there were problems, such as the Damascus pogroms at the end of the 19th century. But the authorities had little patience with trouble-makers, and quickly restored order.
Today, however, for the first time in history, there are no longer any Jews on the southern shores of the Mediterranean and, outside Israel, few in the Levant. Christians of all denominations have either disappeared, or are under severe pressure, with the Egyptian Copts facing daily attacks. The old social order has broken down completely. The question is: Why?
To answer, it will be necessary to highlight two historical missteps that have been slowly destroying the Middle East since at least the middle of the 20th century. The first concerns my family history. My grandfather, Ernest Schoeffler, was governor of the predominately Alawite province of Latakia during the French mandate. The Alawites, who are concentrated in north western Syria, are an offshoot of the Shia branch of Islam. Today, they control the political power in Syria, or whatever is left of it.
Conscious of the extreme diversity of the local population, my grandfather promised the Alawites that when the mandate ended they would have their own independent, or at least autonomous, state. Indeed, he lobbied hard in Paris for each Middle Eastern population to have its own “state” as far as possible. He envisaged a Kurdish state, a Christian state centered on Beirut, a Jewish state around Jerusalem, a Druze state, an Armenian state and so on. The idea was that none of these mini-states would be powerful enough to dominate the others. And if there was trouble, the regional policemen – France, Britain, or even Turkey – would step in to re-establish order.
However, in 1936, the leftist Front Populaire was elected in France. My grandfather was summoned to Paris by the Minister of the Colonies, who informed him that thenceforth French policy would be to create a “Greater Syria”. And of course this Greater Syria would be a secular state, because the French left had one overriding obsession: to destroy religion. In response, my grandfather did something few people do today: he stuck to his principles and resigned.
The French government proceeded with its plan to create a unitary state in Syria, with centralized institutions for the army, police, civil administration, justice, education, and health. The consequences of this policy were all too foreseeable. The main goal of each and every different community became to seize control of the apparatus of the state in order to protect its own community. In Syria, by far the largest community, at 60% of the population, was Sunni. To prevent the Sunnis, with their strength of numbers, establishing total dominance over the country, the Alawites, with the tacit approval of the other minority groups, established their own control over the state, which they have ruled ever since.
I have no doubt at all that the refugees fleeing Syria today are minorities terrified that the Alawites will lose power, which up until the Russian intervention looked highly likely. They know full well that if the Alawites were to fall, the Sunni reprisals would fall on all Syria’s minority communities, not just on the Alawites.
The fundamental historical error here was the attempt by the French and the British to create centralized states in the Middle East, states which both the Quai d’Orsay and the Foreign Office believed would, with a little diplomatic maneuvering, do their bidding. This was a total break with the Ottoman tradition. The Turks generally took a hands-off approach to running their empire, intervening only when someone did something especially silly. When that happened, the Janissaries were quickly sent in, and the old order promptly restored. By imposing centralized structures on communities with little in common, the European powers ensured that every local lunatic would attempt to take control of these structures and use them to impose their vision on the other minorities, all too often through “ethnic purification”. It was a recipe for chaos and civil war if ever there was one.
A Wahhabi Project
This brings me to the second historical misstep. For most of their history the Sunnis of Syria and Egypt were peaceful, tolerant people, who lived in tribal groups under the authority of elders who did a reasonable job of maintaining order. This tradition crumbled in no time in the face of the pan-Arab socialism propounded by Egypt’s President Gamal Abdel Nasser and Syria’s Baath Party.
As a result, the Sunnis were easy prey for the puritan Wahhabism exported by Saudi Arabia in reaction to the rise of pan–Arab Socialism.
Wahhabism is by far the most retrograde of all the different sects of Islam. When Ibn Saud created Saudi Arabia by federating the tribes of the Nejd and Hijaz, he did so with help of the Wahhabi clergy. Now, for the last 50 years, money has flowed in a torrent from Saudi Arabia to the rest of the Middle East, Africa, South East Asia, and Europe to build Wahhabi mosques: “schools” where the only things taught – and only to boys – are the Koran and religious extremism.
The goal of this project is to “purify” the Middle East, returning the region, and eventually the rest of the world, to an “original” form of Islam unpolluted by non-Wahhabi religion, or indeed by any influences from the last 1,400 years. Isis is nothing but a Wahhabi project.
Extraordinarily, this project has enjoyed the unstinting support of French diplomacy under the guidance of Jacques Chirac, Nicolas Sarkozy, and now François Hollande. I cannot imagine that this support for the most regressive of Sunni religious movements is due to the fact that close to 10% of the French electorate is Sunni, and that 90% of those vote for the left. That may explain French policy under Hollande, but it cannot account for the policy stance under Sarkozy and Chirac. There can only be two explanations: sheer stupidity, or that French presidents, both of the right and left, have been “captured” by France’s arms exporters.
At the end of this little historical survey – very much influenced by the family history of the writer – the reader must ask what can be done to stop the rot. The answer is simple. First, the West must clearly identify the enemy, which is not the Muslim religion, but the Wahhabi sect. And it must immediately break off all relationships with the states, such as Saudi Arabia and Qatar, which are exporting this virulent form of extremism.
That means closing western embassies in those countries and expelling their citizens from ours. Of course we will have to stop accepting donations from these countries to finance our electoral campaigns, which require ever-increasing amounts of money to win votes for candidates of ever-decreasing legitimacy. That would be very bad news for our media industry, so it may never happen. And needless to say, we must also stop selling these countries warplanes, helicopters, missiles, radars, tanks and other weaponry. That might be sad for our defense industries, but one does not prosper by selling weapons to one’s enemies. As Lenin said: “The Capitalists will sell us the rope with which we will hang them”. Plus ça change…
Inside ISIS – By John Maudlin
I must confess, I do not know how human beings can commit the atrocities we see from ISIS fighters. I can’t conceive what happens inside their heads. Do they do it for the pre-teen slave girls they get? (The slave trade in girls and women is a major funding component of ISIS) The money? They are paid well. Are they just twisted SOBs? Yet understanding their motives is critical if we hope to end the terrorism threat.
The Guardian ran this Nov. 16 story by Nicolas Hénin, a French citizen whom ISIS held hostage for 10 months. To me, that is a much stronger credential than the supposed “expert” talking heads we see on the news channels. Some of his description:
They present themselves to the public as superheroes, but away from the camera are a bit pathetic in many ways: street kids drunk on ideology and power. In France we have a saying – stupid and evil. I found them more stupid than evil. That is not to understate the murderous potential of stupidity.
It struck me forcefully how technologically connected they are; they follow the news obsessively, but everything they see goes through their own filter. They are totally indoctrinated, clinging to all manner of conspiracy theories, never acknowledging the contradictions.
Everything convinces them that they are on the right path and, specifically, that there is a kind of apocalyptic process under way that will lead to a confrontation between an army of Muslims from all over the world and others, the crusaders, the Romans. They see everything as moving us down that road. Consequently, everything is a blessing from Allah.
“The perpetrators of the attacks are Europeans, Belgians and French,” says French-Iranian sociologist Farhad Khosrokhavar, author of ‘Radicalisation’, and director of studies at Paris’s EHESS (Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales).
“They come from the “banlieues” (suburbs) in France and their equivalent in Belgium. They are motivated by an unquenchable hate for the Europe that has given birth to them, and more or less badly educated them.
“This is the Europe of terrorists and in a perverse sense these terrorists are more European than the Europeans: they have created the Europe of Jihadists when Europe cannot even equip itself with a police force and a unified intelligence agency.
“This hate encompasses all of Europe. It knows no national borders, making all Europeans a target in their will to punish.”
Khosrokhavar, who makes these arguments in an article in Le Monde available only to subscribers and in French, writes that Europe is home to a “jihadist reserve army whose members are the young underclass of the suburban centers or the poor inner-cities.”
These young people identify with Jihadism less for religious reasons than for reasons of identity. Islam has become a symbol of resistance for them when no other ideology can supply the same kind of “soul” or notion of the “sacred,” especially when the appeal of other ideologies such as the extreme left’s has been exhausted.
How do you reverse the hate drilled into these young heads? I don’t know, but we had better find a way soon.
The Threat Is Here
Rosa Brooks, a Georgetown law professor and former Pentagon official, has a Foreign Policy article that throws cold water on just about everyone.
By now, the script is familiar: Terrorists attack a Western target, and politicians compete to offer stunned and condemnatory adjectives. British, Chinese, and Japanese leaders thus proclaimed themselves “shocked” by the Paris attacks, which were described variously as “outrageous” and “horrific” by U.S. President Barack Obama; “terrible” and “cowardly” by French President François Hollande; “barbaric” by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi; “despicable” by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon; and “heinous, evil, vile” by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who possesses a superior thesaurus.
The Paris attacks were all these things. One thing they were not, however, was surprising.
Occasional terrorist attacks in the West are virtually inevitable, and odds are, we’ll see more attacks in the coming decades, not fewer. If we want to reduce the long-term risk of terrorism – and reduce its ability to twist Western societies into unrecognizable caricatures of themselves – we need to stop viewing terrorism as shocking and aberrational, and instead recognize it as an ongoing problem to be managed, rather than “defeated.”
Politicians don’t like to say any of this. But we’re not politicians, so let’s look at 10 painful truths.
You can follow the link and read her 10 truths for yourself. I saved this article for last because it leads right to my own conclusion. If Brooks is right that terrorism has to be managed instead of defeated, there are huge implications for everyone’s investment strategies.
I said last week that the Eurozone cannot long survive as presently configured. That’s only the beginning. There’s a good chance the West may shortly find itself embroiled in yet another Mideast incursion.
Persistently low oil prices could make the present instability spread. The US economy will shortly find itself dealing with higher interest rates and possibly a recession.
Russia under Putin is getting more aggressive. China’s growth is decelerating. Most of these drastic shifts weren’t on the radar screen even six months ago. I may be wrong on this, but I really think we are about to enter a new stage of history. It is more than technological transformation. The world in which those wonders are being created is changing in radical ways, too. Surviving the change with your assets intact will likely take a different approach from the one you are used to.
I’m not turning into a doomsayer, and I’m not heading for the hills. I am simply saying that we need some new thinking in this environment. Following the money flows won’t be enough. We’ll also have to follow a much more twisted – and harder to predict – geopolitical logic in the coming years.
As the expressions of shock and solidarity subside after the Paris killings, the challenge to understand will remain.
Much commentary of the past week has situated these atrocities in opposition to values familiar to Western people. Seen in this light, the attacks appear senseless and even insane. US Secretary of State John Kerry called the killers “psychopathic monsters”.
However, the first step in understanding a cultural system alien to one’s own is to describe it in its own terms. We can and must love our neighbour, as Waleed Aly urged this week on Network Ten’s The Project, but this need not prevent us from understanding our enemy, and to do this we need to grasp that this latest slaughter was shaped by religious beliefs.
In July, an Islamic State militant vowed on video to “fill the streets of Paris with dead bodies”, boasting that his terror group “loves death like you love life’’. Yet for Islamic State these attacks were not pointless nihilism. Nihilism is a belief that there are no values, nothing to be loyal to and no purpose in living, but these killings were purposeful. They were designed to make infidels afraid, to weaken their will to resist and to render them self-destructive through fear.
This strategy is made explicit in an Islamic State celebratory post put out after the carnage, which quoted the Koran: “Allah came upon them from where they had not expected, and He cast terror into their hearts so they destroyed their houses by their own hands and the hands of the believers” (Sura 59:2).
The taunt that Islamic State jihadis “love death like you love life” is not simply a life-denying death wish. It references multiple passages in the Koran in which Jews (Sura 2:94-96, 62:6-8) and non-Muslims in general (Sura 3:14; 14:3; 75:20; 76:27) are condemned for desiring life.
On this basis, Islamic State considers Europeans morally corrupt, weak infidels who love this life too much to fight a battle to the death with stern Muslim soldiers whose hearts are set on paradise.
The Islamic State post also referred to the French victims as “pagans”, by which it made clear that the victims were killed for being non-Muslims.
Many commentators have rightly lamented ‘‘civilian casualties”, but the point is that Islamic State rejects the Geneva Conventions and has no use for the modern Western concept of a civilian. Islamic State fighters are taught that non-Muslims, referred to as mushrikin (pagans) or kuffar (infidels), deserve death simply by virtue of their disbelief in Islam.
For Islamic State, killing disbelievers is a moral act, in accordance with Sura 9:5, “fight and kill the mushrikin wherever you find them”, and Sura 9:29, “fight (to kill) the People of the Book”.
Some, such as Australia’s Grand Mufti, Ibrahim Abu Mohammed, have spoken in this past week of Muslim grievances. However, Islamic State needed no appeal to grievances to justify its genocidal killing and enslaving of the Yazidis, whom it targeted solely because they were “pagans”. It has the same fundamental objection to the people of France.
Islamic State objects to Europeans because they are not Muslims, and to European states because they do not implement sharia. Its goal is to dominate Europeans as dhimmis under a caliphate. It claims to follow Mohammed’s instructions to offer three choices to infidels: conversion, surrender, or the sword. Or as Osama bin Laden put it: “The matter is summed up for every person alive: either submit (convert), or live under the suzerainty of Islam, or die.”
It may seem fanciful for Islamic State to set its sights on the surrender or conversion of Europe but, mindful of the history of Islamic imperialism, it thinks in timeframes which extend to centuries.
It believes Europe stands on the wrong side of history, and a final act of conquest can be preceded by decades, or even centuries, of military raids.
To combat this ideology it is necessary to prove Islamic State wrong on all counts. France — or any nation that believes in its own future — must show strength, not weakness. It must have confidence in its cultural and spiritual identity. It must be willing to fight for its survival. It must show that it believes in itself enough to fight for its future. It must defend its borders. It must act like someone who intends to win an interminably long war against an implacable foe.
There is a great deal Europe could have done to avert this catastrophe, which Islamic State has declared is “just the beginning”. It could, long ago, have demanded that Islam renounce its love affair with conquest and dominance. It could have encouraged Muslims to follow a path of self-criticism leading to peace. Instead, the elites of Europe embarked on decades of religiously illiterate appeasement and denialism.
There is still much that can be done. European armies could inflict catastrophic military failure on Islamic State as a counter-argument to its theology of success. This will not eradicate jihadism or bring peace in the Middle East but it would make the terror group’s supremacist claims less credible and hurt recruitment.
Europe also needs to act to suppress incitement of jihadi ideology by its clients, including the jihadism of the Palestinian Authority. It must put more pressure on the militarily vulnerable Gulf states to stop funding radicalism throughout the Middle East and exporting jihad-revering versions of Islamic theology throughout the world.
For Europe, the challenge within will be more enduring and intractable than the challenge without. An opinion poll last year found that among all French 18-24-year-olds, Islamic State had an approval rating of 27 per cent.
While many of the millions of war-weary Muslims now seeking asylum in the West will have had enough of jihad, it seems likely that Muslim communities already established in the West may be the last to challenge Islam’s supremacist take on history, because they have not had to suffer firsthand the harsh realities of life under Islamist dystopias such as Islamic State and the Iranian Revolution.
Nevertheless, European states could still do much in their own backyard. They could ban Saudi and other Middle Eastern funding to Islamic organisations, including mosques. They could stop appeasing Islamists in their midst.
They could, even at this late hour, insist that the large and rapidly growing Muslim communities now well-established across Europe engage in constructive self-criticism of their religion, for the sake of peace.
If this fails, then according to Islamic State’s jihadi mindset the alternatives are conversion, surrender or death.
Mark Durie is the pastor of an Anglican church, a Shillman-GinsburgWriting Fellow at the Middle East Forum, and founder of the Institute for Spiritual Awareness.