Tag Archives: Sydney siege

Learning from Lindt Cafe siege

Generally speaking coroner Michael Barnes’s report on the Lindt Café siege has been well-received, but not everyone is happy. The Police Association of New South Wales pre-empted the report, calling it a witch hunt. Bernard Keane at Crikey thinks we now need a full judicial inquiry. ABC’s Four Corners provided a platform for the relatives of the victims (see The Siege Part One and The Siege Part Two who want adverse findings to be made, people within the police force to be charged, and the psychiatrist consulted at the time never to work for government again.However, Martin McKenzie-Murray in an excellent piece at Saturday Paper Making sense of the Sydney siege thinks it has a “deft balancing of respect and criticism”. [Saturday Paper allows one free view per week.]

As Mark Kenny points out, there is no nonviolent way of storming a venue. Collateral deaths are always to be expected. If police had stormed the cafe early, others relatives may now be saying that their loved ones died because the police blundered in.

In fact the police thought that Man Haron Monis had a bomb. They thought everyone in the cafe might die; they themselves expected to die. Some of them called loved ones to say goodbye before they went in. Continue reading Learning from Lindt Cafe siege

Saturday salon 31/1


An open thread where, at your leisure, you can discuss anything you like, well, within reason and the Comments Policy. Include here news and views, plus any notable personal experiences from the week and the weekend.

For climate topics please use the most recent Climate clippings.

The gentleman in the image is Voltaire, who for a time graced the court of Frederick II of Prussia, known as Frederick the Great. King Fred loved to talk about the universe and everything at the end of a day’s work. He also used the salons of Berlin to get feedback in the development of public policy.

Fred would only talk in French; he regarded German as barbaric. Here we’ll use English.

The thread will be a stoush-free zone. The Comments Policy says:

The aim [of this site] is to provide a venue for people to contribute and to engage in a civil and respectful manner.

Here are a few bits and pieces that came to my attention last week.

1. Distracted by tennis

The second week of the Australian Open tennis is always interesting. Unfortunately watching it is incompatible with blogging.

Tonight Novak Djokovic prevailed 7-6 (7-1), 3-6, 6-4, 4-6, 6-0 over defending champion Stan Wawrinka and will now meet Andy Murray who beat the Czech Tomas Berdych in four sets on Thursday night.

Although Wawrinka’s game fell apart in the final set, prior to that he showed that he had the game to mix it with the top players. Berdych, ranked at seven in the world, still looks on the fringe. The old guard looks like running the show for a while longer. By the way Wawrinka and Berdych are both aged 29.

I’m tipping Murray for the final. Wawrinka broke Djokovic’s serve five times in all and I suspect he isn’t in prime physical condition. He looked vulnerable. Only a fool would write him off, however.

The women have been playing during the day in the quarters and semis, so I haven’t been able to follow them. Earlier I did see something of the young American Madison Keys, who looks one for the future.

2. Sydney siege update

The coroner was told that gunman Man Haron Monis executed Lindt Cafe manager Tori Johnson after making him kneel on the floor. The killing was witnessed by a police marksman who called the control centre. The police immediately stormed the cafe. Six fragments of a police bullet or bullets, which ricocheted from hard surfaces, hit Katrina Dawson, causing her death.

A former member of the Australian military’s elite domestic counter-terrorism unit has publicly suggested that police used the wrong rifles during the siege, with heavy bullets posing a high ricochet risk in the enclosed space.

Mitchell McAlister, writing in the American online journal SOFREP, a magazine presenting news and analysis from former special forces operatives, said he believed the choice of the M4A1 carbine may have contributed to the death of Ms Dawson.

3. Morgan poll

ALP support rose to 56.5% (up 2%) on Australia Day weekend, well ahead of the L-NP 43.5% (down 2%) on a two-party preferred basis. If a Federal Election were held now the ALP would win easily according to this week’s Morgan Poll on voting intention conducted with an Australia-wide cross-section of 2,057 Australian electors aged 18+.

Primary support for the ALP rose to 39.5% (up 1%) now ahead of the L-NP 37.5% (down 1%). Support for the other parties shows The Greens at 12% (up 2.5%), Palmer United Party (PUP) 3% (up 1%) while Independents/ Others were down 3.5% to 8%.

Support for PUP is highest in Clive Palmer’s home State of Queensland (7%) – which faces a State Election this weekend and Western Australia (4%) with negligible support for PUP in other States.

Some pundits are suggesting the Abbott has six months to turn things around. That makes the 2015 budget rather crucial.

The only demographic preferring the LNP is now the 65+ group.

4. Greek election

(Reuters) – Greek leftist leader Alexis Tsipras promised on Sunday that five years of austerity, “humiliation and suffering” imposed by international creditors were over after his Syriza party swept to victory in a snap election on Sunday.

With about 60 percent of votes counted, Syriza was set to win 149 seats in the 300 seat parliament, with 36.1 percent of the vote, around eight points ahead of the conservative New Democracy party of Prime Minister Antonis Samaras.

Paul Mason has the background in The Guardian: ‘Hope begins today’: the inside story of Syriza’s rise to power. He says:

Syriza’s victory has electrified the left in Europe – even moderate social democrats who have floundered in search of ideas and inspiration since the 2008 crisis. Now there is talk everywhere of “doing a Syriza” – and in Spain, where the leftist party Podemos is scoring 25% in the polls, more than talk.

I heard Tsipras say he wants discussion about Greece’s debts, not negotiations. The market’s have not taken fright, so I guess the sky won’t fall in. It is said that David Cameron’s hopes of achieving a “full-on” re-writing of the EU’s governing treaties have suffered a severe blow.

5. Birdman

On Australia Day we went to see the film Birdman, which I am informed was one of the better films of 2014.

Here’s a reviewer that liked it. The plot is unprepossessing – a washed up actor is directing and starring in a play, which in preview looks like one disaster after another.

It’s rivetting, funny and serious, with layers of meaning, beautifully acted and shot. Given the violence from time to time, it can’t end altogether well, but to tell would be a spoiler. Highly recommended.

Awkward questions about the Sydney siege

While we await an internal police review and coroner’s inquiry into the siege of the Lindt Café by gunman Man Haron Monis last month evidence has been seeping into the press and questions are being raised about police tactics and what happened. Earlier media reports are reflected in the Wikipedia entry:

It was reported that hostage Tori Johnson’s attempt to wrest the gun from Monis may have triggered the police response.[41] However, a survivor told his family that the shot that prompted the police response was a warning shot fired when the hostages kicked down a door in an attempt to escape. Video evidence appears to show that Johnson was shot by Monis after police stormed the café. Police said they would not be commenting until the investigation was over.[42]

Hostage Katrina Dawson was killed by a police bullet, probably a ricochet,[43][40] although initially a police spokesman reported that she died of a heart attack on the way to hospital.[44]

Last Saturday Nick Ralston in the SMH advised that “multiple police sources have told Fairfax Media that Ms Dawson, 38, was struck by police fire that was not a direct shot and possibly a ricochet, when they stormed the cafe…” (emphasis added).

On Monday Rick Feneley reported that there was division over police tactics.

Early in the piece police devised a direct action plan to storm the building and take Monis by surprise. The suggestion is that this was countermanded, with such action to be reactive only.

Despite the risks, the advantage of a direct action plan is that police seize control and decide the time rather than react in split seconds to the gunman’s action.

Fairfax Media has learned there is some anger among police at the front line of the siege about the decision not to proceed with the direct action plan.


Police rejected the offers of many in the Muslim community to help them negotiate with the gunman. It is understood they would be loath to allow third parties, with no experience in hostage negotiations, to talk to a gunman – because they may be unable to control what they say or how the hostage taker might react.

Among those to offer their services were the Grand Mufti of Australia, Dr Ibrahim Abu Mohammad, but he was not called in – neither to help negotiate nor to advise police.

Feneley further reports that the police had little or no contact with Monis – “in fact we’re not dealing directly with him” and “At this stage we do not have direct contact with the offender.”

Guy Rundle at Crikey takes up these and other issues.

Rundle is concerned that the apparent lack of effort to communicate with Monis may have stemmed from his self-proclaimed status as an IS representative. Police may have taken a “we don’t negotiate with terrorists” attitude, in effect militarising the situation.

Were any professional hostage negotiators even summoned? How many of these do Australian police forces have, and how good is their training? Are there clear protocols for hostage situations in place and do they categorise purportedly political events differently to “civil” situations? Do they differentiate between rational, purposeful violent political acts, and disorganised and confused political or pseudo-political acts and actors?

Why were the offers from Muslim community leaders to speak to Monis rejected, when it is a common practice to use in that way figures whom a hostage-taker might respect? Did police distrust the bona fides of Australian Muslims, believing their loyalties would be to Muslims, including Monis, rather than to the wider community?

Rundle also asks whether there was any political interference in the operation, formal or informal.


Political opportunists tried to enrol Johnson as a “hero” who had tried to grab Monis’ gun, and died for it. He may simply have been executed — and that may have occurred because of compromised or incompetent police procedure. That Dawson died laying her body over that of a pregnant fellow hostage appears established. That she died from a police bullet does not alter that. But if it resulted from needlessly compromised procedure, then the police are partly culpable for a needless death. To turn anyone killed into a “hero” is a denial of the possibility of victimhood, of innocence, and thus of unconditional worth of any human being. To do so on the basis of clearly false information is an act of disdain. To use it as a means by which future such crises will be shaped and distorted, is actively evil. The unscrupulous love to wrap themselves in a flag whatever the event. They’re happy to use it as a shroud for any number of us, if that’s what it takes.

As you can see Rundle really bores in, but he is demanding that the facts be established by meticulous examination of the details of the last minutes before wider meaning is assigned to events.

Our earlier post on the siege is here.

Sydney siege

By my count we are now going to have four inquiries into the Lindt Cafe siege – a coroner’s inquiry, internal incident reviews by the NSW and Commonwealth police and a federal-state review undertaken by the Prime Minister’s department and the NSW Premier’s Department.

The latter will include an an investigation of how gunman Man Haron Monis slipped through state and federal security and legal nets, at his arrival in Australia, the decision to grant him of asylum, permanent residency and citizenship, as well as the social security support he received. I can’t see what social security support has to do with anything. I’m more interested in how he came by a pump-action shotgun.

Greg Barns believes bail laws are already an infringement on our liberty. The possession of personal freedom and the presumption of innocence are important principles in our society. New laws in NSW appear to contain a presumption against bail.

It is inappropriate for us to be second guessing what the magistrates had before them and we tend to be wise after the event about the risk that Monis constituted.

New Matilda details what we know officially. Listening to media reports there is a fair bit we know beyond that, but I’m happy to wait for the official reports.

I’ve yet to get a clear idea of what the gunman’s motivation was. What demands was he making to police, or was he just creating an incident and waiting to be shot one way or another? It’s possibly significant that the cafe was opposite Channel 7. There is a suggestion this morning that he wanted to talk to the Prime Minister. What were we supposed to make of the banner held up to the window?


Rachel Kohn discusses the inadequacy of the lone wolf theory. Monis was bad as well as mad and had a record that should have given concern. It does seem as though Monis may have written off as a harmless fruitcake when he was dropped from the watch list. It has been pointed out that resources to monitor individuals are always limited, so judgements need to be made.

Randa Abdel-Fattah asks whether we take crimes against women seriously enough. I gather here she is referring to the fact that he got bail for being an accessory to his wife’s murder and, separately, 40 sexual assault cases. Others have pointed out the weakness of the prosecution case for accessory to murder, also that both charges can vary from the relatively trivial to the extremely grave, depending on the specifics. We are in no position to know.

Also from Abdel-Fattah:

There is another issue though, too. And that is whether Australian Muslims will be entitled to grieve the deaths of the two hostages and the trauma suffered by the survivors in a way that does not make their empathy and grief contingent on condemning, apologizing and distancing themselves from the gunman.

David Connery reviews security aspects of the case:

While it’s still early to be analysing a situation that’s just concluded with two of our compatriots dead, the Martin Place siege this week shows that Australia’s high-level arrangements for responding to a terrorist attack are largely effective.

Still, we can expect to see a few near-term changes to our counter-terrorism arrangements in areas like public alerts and compensation for victims.

If the attack had occurred overseas, and was declared a terrorist attack, the Commonwealth government would offer compensation payments to victims and their relatives.

There is a need to resolve the long-running negotiations between the Commonwealth and the states over the allocation of dedicated broadband spectrum for emergency services.

The incident highlights how vulnerable we are to a lone actor.

Elsewhere Rachel Jacobs tells how #illridewithyou began.

Yes, I know that #illridewithyou is not enough in itself but I think it indicates how far we’ve come from the general islamophobia that was rife after the Twin Towers event in 2001.