Tag Archives: terror

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

More murder and mayhem

Nice_5d442ae46d1ba4d41823fee1db758ede_250While the biggest terrorist attack in recent days was in Kabul where at least 80 were killed and 231 wounded in a suicide attack on a Hazara minority crowd who were demonstrating against inadequate power infrastructure in their home villages, we worry more about attacks in France and Germany, because their societies are more like ours.

We need to look at the evidence in each case, to see what we can learn. To take the last first, police believe the Munich killings were linked to the Norwegian mass murderer Anders Breivik rather than to IS: Continue reading More murder and mayhem

Saturday salon 16/7

1. Bastille Day

The 14 of July commemorates the storming of the Bastille prison in Paris, which is considered the flashpoint for the French Revolution.

It was the mother of many things, including the principles of liberté, égalité, fraternité, the concept of human rights, the notion that everyone was born equal, and the secular state.

To the French it is their national day, but it has universal significance. Here is an 1790 etching done by Charles Thévenin depicts the storming of the Bastille now in the British Museum: Continue reading Saturday salon 16/7

Saturday salon 16/1: late edition

1. Essendon players pinged

    The Court of Arbitration for Sport has upheld WADA’s appeal of the AFL anti-doping tribunal’s Essendon verdict, with 34 past and present Bombers players banned for 12 months, which means they will miss the entire 2016 season.

The key thing in the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) system is that the individual athlete is finally responsible for what goes into his or her body. That runs counter to the ethos of how teams operate. Continue reading Saturday salon 16/1: late edition

Paris attacks

No place is safe. You can be hit anywhere where people gather. This seemed to be the message of the six co-ordinated attacks in Paris on a sports stadium, a concert hall, three restaurants and a shopping centre. As the Paris metro ground to a stop, as air and sea ports were closed, as the streets emptied, as France closed its borders, and as the army fanned out onto the streets of Paris the terrorists’ strikes seemed to be successful. Continue reading Paris attacks

Abbott’s war on terror


The tricky thing about Man Haron Monis and the Lindt Café siege, is that he acted alone and was taken rather as a harmless buffoon by the security agencies. The terror threat from random actors is very real. Annabel Crabb says that

It’s clearly an escalating threat situation. Anyone carrying on today about how Tony Abbott is just cooking it all up to save his own skin is thinking wishfully.

She says that there are now:

Four hundred current investigations by ASIO, sixty-two new biometric screening gates to catch people travelling on false passports, forty-nine extra AFP officers across Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra working on the problem of Aussie jihadists abroad, and so on.

Certainly Abbott is playing to a political strength. Newspoll tells us that 51% think Abbott is best at handling the nation’s security, whereas 31% go for Shorten. 7% say neither, and 11% are uncommitted.

What the Government intends to do was spelt out on Radio National’s PM:

  • There will be a national counter-terrorism co-ordinator “to bring the same drive and focus to this as we’ve brought to Operation Sovereign Borders.”
  • On immigration a harder line will be taken to “keep out people with security questions over them.”
  • “The Government will develop amendments to the Australian Citizenship Act so that we can revoke or suspend Australian Citizenship in the case of dual nationals.”
  • The Government is looking at “suspending some of the privileges of citizenship for individuals involved in terrorism.” Privileges susceptible to suspension could include “the ability to leave or return to Australia”, “access to consular services overseas” and “access to welfare payments”.
  • The Government will take action against hate preachers by “enforcing our strengthened terrorism advocacy laws” including “new programs to challenge terrorist propaganda and to provide alternative online material based on Australian values, and it will include stronger prohibitions on vilifying, intimidating or inciting hatred.”
  • Muslim community leaders should speak up more. When they talk about Islam being a religion of peace that they should mean it.

All this doesn’t actually amount to much, according to Annabel Crabb, apart from enforcing existing laws and some blowhard (my term) urging.

Bill Shorten offered bipartisanship, saying that Labor would “engage constructively” with the government but counselled:

Haste and confusion is never the friend of good, sensible security in the future.

Abbott had also said quite explicitly that individual liberties might have to be sacrificed to ensure the safety of the community.

According to Grattan:

Shorten said there always should be a strong presumption in favour of individual liberty. “This presumption should only be reduced, rebutted or offset to the extent that current arrangements are proven to be inadequate.”

I’m concerned about what Abbott and Brandis might do in returning to section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act. Frankly I’m concerned about anything Brandis does after getting out of bed.

I’m concerned about revoking citizenship. Once people are Australians, we should take responsibility for them rather than shunt them to a different jurisdiction, or virtually render them stateless.

Sangeetha Pillai argues that there’s more to be lost than gained in stripping citizenship. She says that most of what is proposed that is achievable can already be achieved by other means. In other words existing laws suffice. She says “commentators have been quick to note that amendments along these lines carry the risk of exacerbating feelings of social disaffection that can underpin extremism.” Her bottom line:

The limited potential effectiveness of the proposed measures, combined with the challenges of implementation and the possibility for them to be counter-productive, suggests that the losses may outweigh the gains.

I’m concerned also that there might be hassling of Muslim’s and consequent increased radicalisation.

Abbott’s words about Muslim community leaders were, according to Michelle Grattan:

“I’ve often heard Western leaders describe Islam as a ‘religion of peace’. I wish more Muslim leaders would say that more often, and mean it.”

Shorten and Julie Bishop were quick to distance themselves from these remarks. One Muslin community leader suggested that Abbott should engage in anything he chose except politics. I understand that some community leaders declined to attend a special briefing.

Randa Abdel-Fattah has a fine piece on the ABC religion and Ethics site:

Flanked by a row of Australian flags, Tony Abbott, like a priest performing a rite of passage, formally inducted Australian Muslims into the category of Australia’s primary Other.

The Prime Minister’s stated intention was to provide the nation with clarity and reassurance – just in case the decade-long stream of moral panic, manufactured fear and Islamophobic sentiment had left Australians in any doubt as to who successive governments deem as “un-Australian.”

In a way, the Prime Minister has done Muslims a favour. For he has made explicit what is at the heart of this government’s war on terror (picking up where previous governments left off). It has never been about targeting a radical minority or national security per se. The real struggle is to re-configure our social, discursive and symbolic relations around a politics of us and them.

There are many tragic consequences to this state of affairs. But at least the government has now laid bare the fact that it is prepared to hold social cohesion, justice and national security to ransom in its war on terror.

I’ll finish with this Wilcox cartoon from August last year:


I’m sorry, Annabel Crabb, the problem’s for real, but Abbott isn’t – not entirely. Guy Rundle says Abbott should act like a statesman. It seems to be beyond him.

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.