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The day terror hit our shores . . . or not

After achieving a resounding affirmation that, along with the majority of Australians, 40% of his own party want to get rid of him, Tony Abbott began Parliament by shamelessly using the Lindt Café siege, describing it as “the day terror hit our shores.”

We can expect to hear a great deal more made of national security (if that is possible) in the coming months.

Tony pointed out his huge funding boost to security forces and will no doubt use this situation to push for his unpopular metadata retention and anti-terror laws which have been widely described as human rights abuses.

A report by Human Rights Watch released this month was heavily critical of Australia’s new anti-terror laws including the “overly broad new offense” of ‘advocating terrorism’ and laws restricting travel to “declared areas”.

Attention is also drawn to the pending data retention laws, which would force telecommunications companies to retain metadata for a period of two years to allow for ASIO access.

And let’s not forget that if journalists report on a special intelligence operation, they face up to a decade in jail. There is no public interest exemption and George Brandis alone will make the decision as to whether the case is referred for prosecution.

One tranche of the new laws also allows the government to spy on what Fairfax’s Ben Grubb describes as “the whole internet” with a single warrant.

Law Institute of Victoria President Katie Miller said the Federal Government has “failed to demonstrate that mandatory data retention is in the public interest or necessary” and that the proposed scheme has many flaws.

“Rather than creating a scheme that targets offenders and would be terrorists, this scheme targets every user of a phone or the internet in Australia,” she said.

“The result is a scheme that will unreasonably intrude on individual privacy with no guarantees that it will achieve the objectives of law enforcement agencies, because there are too many gaps in the scheme to be effective at preventing, detecting and prosecuting serious crime and terrorism.”

During a Senate hearing on the Bill, Scott Ludlam pointed out the vast array of common services Australians could use to skirt around data retention laws.

Ludlam noted that only Australian telcos and ISPs “operating in Australia” would be required to store metadata, while overseas carriage service providers would not be subject to the same data retention obligations.

“So if my email account is an address, it will be within scope. And if my email address is an, it’ll be out of scope. So all I need to do to avoid mandatory data retention is just to take a webmail service…

Why is it more complex than that? If I use a cloud hosting provider or G Chat [Google’s web-based chat], or something like that, I won’t be caught. If I use an iiNet or an Internode address, I will be caught…

Are you trying to drive people away from Australian service providers?”

A submission to the hearing from Hugh Murdoch stated:

  1. It seems to me that there is little/no factual evidence to date supporting such a move in terms of effective clearance on crime rates. A recent German study of mandatory metadata retention indicated only an additional 0.006% of crime rate clearup [statistically = zero or, at best, insignificant for the costs and trouble involved]
  2. The proposed measure is likely to significantly impact costs for internet users – unless the Government picks up the whole tab for the significant costs to the Telcos of the additional data retention required.
  3. There is a high risk of such a huge database of information being compromised by criminals and hackers – leading to the loss of personal data and identity theft of many thousands of law abiding Australians.
  4. Point 3 places the Government of the day at huge financial risk exposure through class actions from such data loss and identity theft.
  5. All of the Telco’s have different methods of collecting data on their customers – this poses logistical and cost burdens on Telcos and their customers if a uniform compliance regime is required by the proposed law.
  6. Well over a billion internet users worldwide are anonymous to the system though incorrect geoallocation of IP addresses.
  7. Current methods of encryption and anonymity available to the public would render probably 30% of Australian internet users untrackable to the security services.
  8. None of the recent highly publicised terror attacks – UK, Australia, France would have been stopped by metadata monitoring. Furthermore, the present Government has offered NO statistical evidence of the possible crime clearup rate to be expected from such a monitoring scheme.
  9. The implementation of such a law would simply drive more users to adopt untraceable internet security measures – probably well in excess of 50% of the population in very short order. A law which can’t effectively be policed as per its intention is a bad law.
  10. The security services know that usage of virtual private networks {VPN’s} and of the Total onion router (Tor) renders such tracking useless. Much use is already made of these security systems to given individuals and business ‘commercial-in-confidence’ protection. Good providers of these services keep no logs so rendering metadata monitoring useless.
  11. The security services are themselves to blame for the failure of metadata monitoring Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Amendment (Data Retention) Bill 2014 Submission 40 through widespread, indiscriminate usage. Major service providers – Google, Facebook, Yahoo, Miscosoft, Apple etc are now working hard to protect their customers from further monitoring and internet users are becoming much more security conscious.
  12. Any terrorist worth their salt will already be using encrypted, non trackable services for internet usage.
  13. Any proposed legislation/regulation has no possible hope of keeping pace with the rapid developments of internet security technology which make the whole exercise somewhat pointless.

So back to the Lindt Café siege. Was it an ‘Act of Terror’ or just a terrible act, and should it be used as a reason to change our laws?

As the truth comes out, it raises many questions.

One thing Tony did not mention was the anger of one of the survivors who is furious over the police response when she phoned with the gunman’s demands.

The prime minister is a very busy man,” she recalls being told, and that he “couldn’t come to the phone.”

“I couldn’t believe it. I was in disbelief. I think I actually said that I don’t care what he’s doing right now, whether he’s walking his dog with his mates.”

That was the moment “I lost hope”, Ms Mikhael said.

“It was then that I knew that there was not going to be any negotiation and we were just left there. No-one was coming for us.”

Counsel assisting the inquest, Jeremy Gormly SC, said as police moved in to end the 16-hour siege Katrina Dawson was struck by six fragments of a police bullet or bullets which ricocheted from hard surfaces into her body.

Security experts have asked why commandos, located at Holsworthy and who trained specifically for hostage situations before the G20 summit just weeks earlier, were not brought in. A former member of the Australian military’s elite domestic counter-terrorism unit has publicly questioned the choice of weapon used by police

Mitchell McAlister, who spent two years as a tactical assaulter with 2nd Commando Tactical Assault Group, said he had serious issues with the weapons used by the NSW Police Tactical Operations Unit (TOU), believing that the choice of weapons contributed to the death of Ms Dawson. The walls in the Lindt Café are lined with marble which meant a high chance of ricochet with the guns the police used. The ADF are specifically trained to choose the right weapons for the situation.

Tony Abbott said that the gunman, Monis, had been on an ASIO “watch list” in 2008 and 2009 but the security agency had ended the survelliance.

Monis was on bail having been charged with being an accessory to the murder of his ex-wife, and more than 40 sexual and indecent assault charges.

It would appear that our security forces and judicial system, whilst fully aware of this man, did not consider him a danger to the public.

Witnesses have said they saw Monis sitting peacefully inside the cafe in the minutes before he took 18 people hostage. He invited one barrister, whom he knew quite well, to sit and talk with him.

The 50-year-old had been known to frequent the area, having used the services of several barristers and solicitors for his numerous court battles nearby.

He is also known to have held resentment towards Channel Seven, whose newsroom is in Martin Place, posting on his personal website that the network incited terrorism.

The court was also told Monis had claimed that his actions were an attack by Islamic State (IS) but “seems he had not established contact with IS before siege”.

The flag he used was not an IS flag. Monash University senior politics lecturer Ben MacQueen, whose work focuses on the Middle East, said “If this was centrally organised from Syria or Iraq they would not be using that flag.”

This was no more a politically motivated act of terror than any other murder by a deranged individual – one who was well known to our security forces who seem to have failed on many levels despite this knowledge. Monis had personal grievances and none of the proposed new laws would have made one iota of difference in stopping him.

Tampa and the 9/11 attack in America saved both John Howard and Tony Abbott in the 2001 election. At this precarious point in his leadership it appears Tony will use his fall-back position in trying to instil fear and anger in the Australian population to save his own hide.

Perhaps if we spent less time and money demonising people and devoted more resources to helping them we could make the world a better place for all.

But sadly, that’s not the way Abbott works.


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  1. Ricardo29

    Tony Abbott has proven over many years he is an opportunistic grub. Expect him to abuse the Lindt Cafe siege to push his extended anti-terrorism agenda. Even at the risk of being accused of being soft on security Labor must oppose this new legislation. Scott Ludlam might have some useful talking points.

  2. Kyran

    I have many concerns about how the Martin Place incident will play out in the context of our “new” security laws. Many years ago, I was involved in draft papers on the Surveillance Devices Act in Victoria. The definition of privacy in that act was in direct conflict with the commonwealth Privacy Act. The draft act was also fatally flawed, as it attempted to describe technology by method, ie they defined the devices. At the time, the devices were changing on a weekly basis, so the act became redundant shortly after it was proclaimed. I have two problems with their current proposals (other than ethical). The first is practical; how can they possibly monitor, process and evaluate the volumes of information, just from the Australian sites? It is nothing more than appeasement of the masses they are trying to terrify. The second is more historic, the lad who kept crying wolf. At some point, people get tired of the hysteria and start looking at real issues. The focus of Martin Place isn’t, and can’t be, terrorism. It should be about the deranged individual and the far more pervasive threat of domestic violence. Thank you, Ms Lee. Take care

  3. stephentardrew

    Spot on Kaye:

    Fear is this mobs modus operandi and it has worked time and time again. They are not interested in facts all they want is maximum leverage to convince people that they need conservatives to protect them regardless of evidence or proof. I don’t really think they give a toss about meta data it is simply a means to an end. Brandis was so interested he had no idea what he was talking about.

    The media has not learned from children overboard. They still listen with bated breath to the lie that the conservatives are always better financial managers than Labor which is utter nonsense.

    The evidence is damning but off go the media with their big scary debt mantra. The number of journalist, including progressives, that still heap scorn upon Julia, after weathering the Abbott storm and effectively governing, is completely disingenuous.

    Unfortunately I feel the best way to counter this fear agenda is to be uplifting and positive but where is the positive message from Labor. Let the Conservatives weigh the population down with fear, and do not counter it, at your own risk.

    I want to hear some good non policy uplifting hope from Labor to negate this rubbish.

    Surely they have some understanding of the psychological impact of fear and negativity.

    So maybe Labor are afraid to stick their neck out thus playing into the Conservative fear based agenda.

    It takes courage to stand on your own feat and I am afraid Labor is remiss on this point.

    Now is not the time however Labor must move into positive territory or be swamped by more mendacious lying fear mongering.

  4. stephentardrew

    My point is, of course, the election is never won until it is won.

  5. Kaye Lee

    I agree we should be far more concerned about domestic violence Kyran.

    Man Haron Monis would never have been released on bail if domestic violence was taken more seriously in Australia, a prominent family violence expert and lawyer believes.

    Dr Chris Atmore, a senior policy adviser with the Federation of Community Legal Centres, said his repeated attacks on women should have been paramount when bail was considered.

    “If these offences had been labelled as seriously as terrorism charges, there’s no way he would have been free to do what he did in Martin Place,” Atmore said.

    “We reserve our greatest fear and shock and horror for a strange, international type of terrorism that we associate with groups like Islamic State, but don’t immediately make an association in this case between ordinary mundane terrorism, where men kill their wives.”

    In a series of high-profile recent cases, men with a history of physical and sexual violence against women have killed while on bail, parole or facing charges, despite being deemed a low risk of harming again.

    In 2013, Julie Grant was murdered by her ex-partner, Shannon Mahon, who was on bail for assault.

    In April, Fiona Warzywoda was stabbed to death by her de facto husband, who had a family violence order out against him.

    In February Kelly Thompson was stabbed to death by her former partner, who had frequently breached intervention orders.

    In the same month Greg Anderson murdered his 11-year-old son, Luke Batty, while facing 11 criminal charges, most of them domestic violence related. He also faced child sex abuse charges.

    Mental health, poverty, and gambling are also far greater problems facing our nation. What prompted Mersane Warria to stab to death 8 children in Cairns? Why was the Sydney siege worthy of mention in Parliament yet this tragedy goes virtually ignored?

  6. Kyran

    Didn’t mean to derail your article, but it annoys the whatchamacallits out of me. The Cairn’s incident is particularly troubling, more for its relegation to obscurity. In my opinion, the most disturbing fact is that our government thinks defunding so many support mechanisms is a “budget matter”. I will never understand that. Ms Batty did make mention of it to Tones, apparently. Also, apparently, “big ears” don’t mean you can listen. Mental health, poverty, and gambling are indicators. As is the big one I think you left out, drugs. Alcohol is a very big part of the drugs one. For what it’s worth, I believe those support mechanisms detect (as in, foresee) so many problems. If we have a terrorism problem in this country, it will be from disaffected youth. I wonder, where do they come from? Just a small part of the defence budget (you know, planes that don’t fly, submarines that don’t sink and boats that do), an eentsy teeny wee bit. I’ll stop now. Take care

  7. Kaye Lee

    I just heard a very well-spoken woman interviewed on Skynews about Tony Abbott’s plan to ban Hizb ut-Tahrir. She said if they have done something illegal then by all means deal with it through legal channels but where are the preventative programmes that Tony Abbott promised to help address the problem before it becomes one.

    $13.4 million will be earmarked to “support community efforts to prevent young Australians being radicalised”

    Apparently they are still waiting. In the mean time the heavy handed approach of raids, and taking passports and suggesting groups be banned (after speaking out so loudly about free speech) though we are yet to be told their crime, people locked up without contact who are later released with no charge – all these things are making disaffected youth angry.

    Tony is a head kicker and, as I have said before, you don’t make the head kicker captain.

  8. paul walter

    It seems to me that there is real trend toward the ignoring of the rights of hostages by law enforcement over recent times.
    If the cops “lose it”, the incompetence can be overlooked or explained away under the general hyped up mantra of “Terrorism”.
    If one thing defines what passes for conservative thinking this century, it is sheer laziness.

  9. Kyran

    So many points raised. I recall reading many articles relating to law, health, education etc based on economics. As far as my recollection goes, $1 spent early equates to $10 spent cleaning up the mess. As far as raids are concerned, if they are so feckin security conscious, why bring along MSM camera crews? Which feeds into Paul’s comments. As for Tones being a head kicker, it would have to be comatose on the ground, He wouldn’t dare otherwise. Cowards will always be cowards. Thank you

  10. Sad sack

    The crux of the matter is not his religion, he had personal problems, but the conduct of the police. What action was taken to negotiate with a man who wanted a flag and a phone call? Who did Ms Mickael contact? What were his actions in relation to standing orders? Why, during 17 hours, was a negotiator not sent in?
    Labor cannot win under billy backstabber, even abbutt’s worst quotes by TV commentators is qualified by ‘it is not an option too return to the debt mob’.
    Check the bogan trolls(I just heard the amoral twit say ‘I am not perfect’ ‘I have never been a skite’) they are believers in the terror of debt and oblivious to ‘stiglitzian’ truths unless some attack on Abbutt, hockey, corman and their debt lies is made high profile, labor is in for another lengthy spell in the current partial opposition.

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