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Loving the Bollard: Turnbull’s Anti-Terror Tool Kit

It has been a week of bollards. And defence barriers. And hedges and vegetation. No, not the radio garden hour, or the herbaceous borders special featured on prime time television, delivered by a bearded man with a facial forest so vast it could regenerate several lost species.

This is the anti-terrorist flick of the week, and given that Australia’s Turnbull government is nearing its next blow, awaiting another stroke in the aftermath of the citizenship crisis, a suitably urgent package filled with alarmist goodies to distract the public was in the offing.

The Prime Minister was grave in his August 20 statement introducing the “toolkit” to reduce terrorist threats, part of an investigation solicited last year after the carnage witnessed in Nice along the Promenade des Anglais. “As we have seen from tragic events in Paris, London, Berlin and Barcelona, terrorists continue to target crowded places.”

With each murderous adventure, often culminating in the shooting death of the perpetrator, the security doyens are asked what can be done. The behind-closed doors approach varies between overexertion and inactivity. An entirely secure strategy would entail abolishing freedom of movement and basic civil liberties. What matters for the public is the reassurance, the placebo effect.

The public face of such an approach must seem splendidly busy, putting more personnel on the streets, increasing awareness among members of the population, and getting various defences at the ready.

In Sydney, Turnbull made a special point of appearing in a manner that only gave the impression he was overegging the pudding. (Is Australia waiting for its own variant of the Intifada?). Alongside him were the New South Wales Minister for Police Troy Grant, the NSW Minister for Counter-Terrorism David Elliott, the Federal Police Commissioner Andrew Colvin, the NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller, and the Commonwealth Counter-Terrorism Coordinator Tony Sheehan.

The strategy, released last Sunday (always good to get people on their day of rest), emphasised the threat posed to areas frequented by the humble civilian: sports stadia; pedestrian malls; shopping centres. “Offenders with guns or knives or bombs or chemical devices are also a threat, it’s a full range of threats. But what Nice demonstrated was the lethality of somebody using a truck in a crowded place.”

A response fashioned on various structural and “resilience” measures was considered vital, including those traditional intrusions such as closed-circuit television. (Surveillance always goes down well as a seller when attempting to foil the next attack). Importantly, Turnbull insists on casting the language differently: assessing a site’s vulnerability and then “see how they can make it safer”. Terms like “militarise” or a “ring of steel” are ignored.

At the same press conference with Turnbull, NSW Police Commissioner Fuller recapitulated those usual fragmentary pointers that may say nothing about a potential terrorist attack but furnish a tick-list for the paranoid and concerned. “It’s about looking for a person that may be suspicious, maybe sweating profusely for the time of year, dressed inappropriately, carrying a bag that doesn’t fit within the environment.”

What impressed Turnbull was the need, in various cases, to adopt a somewhat different take: “You can obviously have bollards, you can have seating… you can have works of art, you can have steps, planter boxes.”

There has been no criticism of these measures, virtually no protest, and certainly no disagreement. The state is flexing its muscles, and the critics are on holiday. The fear factory has become a factory of acceptance.

Papers sport resounding measures of support; everyone, it seems, wants a hand in perpetuating the national security state against threats of inflated potency. Never mind their inchoate nature. Members of the business community were reported in the Australian Financial Review as approving of “subtle” barriers – architectural or natural – that would speckle the city landscape.

For Ken Morrison, chief of Property Council of Australia, intelligence, security and police forces might well be shouldered with the primary responsibility in terms of anti-terrorist measures, but “there is a lot that owners can do.”

Peter Allen of the Shopping Centre Council of Australia was also willing to add a supporting voice to the latest anti-terror strategy. Those involved in the shopping centre industry were keen to work together with “relevant security agencies”.

So, no demurrals, minimal scepticism and a conspicuous lack of comment about the drumming nature behind this latest anti-terrorism response. The sheer school-boy eagerness in wishing to be relevant in a world of cruel and sudden killings, in wanting to fear, is gratingly apparent. “Our agencies,” stated Turnbull before the gathered journalists, “are the best in the world.” Such comments are only ever made to render smaller threats significant, the lesser enemy rigorously dangerous.

But what is even more troubling – far more than this urchin enthusiasm – is the sense of permanent emergency, its normalised footing. As the “threat is constantly evolving”, it follows that Australian authorities must make sure that they, too, “are constantly improving and updating the measures we have to keep Australians safe.” This will mean more obstacles: more barriers; more bollards and, of course, more surveillance.

Dr Binoy Kampmark is a senior lecturer in the School of Global, Urban and Social Studies, RMIT University. He was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, University of Cambridge. He is a contributing editor to CounterPunch and can be followed on Twitter at @bkampmark.



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  1. AnnaMargaret

    “…a person that may be suspicious, maybe sweating profusely for the time of year, dressed inappropriately, carrying a bag that doesn’t fit within the environment.”

    Pretty soon we are all going to be this ‘suspicious looking’ anxious person as we worriedly look for him/her everywhere we go. And please define inappropriate dress. And if we all carry backpacks in this tourist paradise – I take it we won’t need to worry about that last.

  2. Shutterbug

    As usual Turnbull speaks a load of old bollards.

  3. Michael Fairweather

    The problem is insecure people will fall for his bullshit lies, we all know whats possible but him ramming it down our throats wont make the threat go away. He is deliberately stirring it up to take our minds of his inability to Govern Fairly for all Australians, the only ones who get treated fair are the rich who are getting richer.

  4. susan

    I can’t believe that Turnbull is considered intelligent. Did he not notice the defiant voices in the crowd in London where they have actually had real terrorist attacks? Why would Australians be more scared than English people?

  5. Max Gross

    You can bet that Turnbull and his far-right minders are praying for a London-style terror attack!

  6. totaram

    “Why would Australians be more scared than English people?”

    Because the English had years of it during the “troubles” in Northern Ireland. Australians have actually had no experience of it and are therefore much more gullible. Sad, but true.

  7. Frank Smith

    So-called PM Mal, we must have an immediate referendum with a simple “Yes or No” answer to the question:
    “Should any person injured by tripping over or being injured by a bollard whilst gazing at their mobile phone be entitled to sue the Council who approved their construction?”

  8. John

    Turnbull made a special point of appearing with the New South Wales Minister for Police Troy Grant, the NSW Minister for Counter-Terrorism David Elliott, the Federal Police Commissioner Andrew Colvin, the NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller, and the Commonwealth Counter-Terrorism Coordinator Tony Sheehan.

    What, no peter ‘Big Brother’ dutton?

    Reminds me of a song; Bruce Cockburn – ‘If I Had A Rocket Launcher’

  9. Harquebus

    I fear our government, law enforcement and security agencies more than I fear terrorists.

  10. Cara Clark

    Perhaps a row or two of concrete tents could be erected – terrorism and homelessness fixed in one go!

  11. Kronomex

    This continual talking up of “terrorists and terrorism” by the LNP is just a giant load of bollards!

  12. Adrianne Haddow

    I wonder if the compliant supermarket and commercial enterprises have realised the effect these ‘security measures’ have on business.

    Newcastle City is being terrorised by developers, at the moment.
    In preparing for the takeover of our public foreshore and much of the inner city by the Supercar race, the council has erected bollards everywhere. Where there aren’t bollards there are huge piles of dug up concrete and man proof ‘security’ fencing.
    Added to this are the huge building projects, envisioned by the paper bag bandits, who were named and shamed for corruption. Sadly, the fruits of their corruption haven’t gone away.

    The result is that cafes, restaurants and retail businesses have had to close due to lack of business and profits, as people avoid the un-negotiable footpaths and road ways.
    Many doctors with practices in the inner city, have experienced a drop in their patients’ attendance because aged and infirm people are unable to negotiate entry to their practices.
    The iconic Nobby’s Beach is fenced and bollarded. The car park for that beach is a mound of builder’s rubble surrounded by a man-proof fence, so the public are deterred from using the beach.

    It looks the terrorists have won. Both the ISIS crowd and the Capitalist crowd.

    When Malcolm Turnbull spouted ‘jobs and growth’, did he mean jobs turning our cities into fortresses and the growth of super surveillance in our country?

    Every action this illegitimate government takes, makes me feel less safe.

  13. wam

    It has great slogan potential for the sheep to bleat:
    terrorists liberal strong ‘labor weak’ illegals liberal strong labor weak economy liberal strong labor weak

    ps precursorblunderbuss unless you are an Aborigine, Torres Straight Islander, a woman, a centrelink attendee, a cafe hostage, a refugee, suffer from a mental condition or tint your hair, your words are just trite tripe.

  14. helvityni

    Got to love someone or at least something, why not BOLLARDS.

    If you don’t have any compassion for long- suffering asylum seekers or jobless youngsters; send the one lot where they came from, and punish the latter for not finding a job, because there are none.

    Punish them extra by drug-testing, and send them to non-existing rehabs…

  15. Kyran

    So, we are meant to believe there is a clear and present danger and we should trust those in charge to protect us. Is that it?

    There is the AFP. They are the ones who bring TV crews on raids, splash photo’s of gruesome plastic swords and horrific homemade flags, reassuring the public they have broken up a ‘dangerous cell’.
    That they often release these ‘monsters’ a few days later (thanks to anti-terrorism laws allowing people be detained without charge for longer periods) without charge is usually not reported by the ever supportive media.
    As for the AFP prosecuting any case, they seem only slightly more successful with terrorists than they are with politicians.

    Then there is Border Farce. Ok, their boss is on leave for ‘indiscretion’. The second in charge, Michael Pezzullo, the architect of the Homeland Security super department, is currently weeding out corruption in Border Farce. Presumably, his brother, charged, convicted and incarcerated on fraud charges, will tell him how to detect corruption in the department. It is not surprising that Dutton now seeks to persecute the most weak and vulnerable. After all, he would never win a fight otherwise. That he has had more than eight ministries/shadow ministries is, apparently, testimony to his versatility rather than his incompetence.

    Then there are our politicians, forever demonising, belittling and disparaging the very community they rely upon for assistance in ‘keeping us safe’.

    It is not a permanent emergency. I suspect it will go away at the next election. After all, you gotta have a dream.
    Thank you Dr Kampmark and commenters. Take care

  16. diannaart

    Bollards, security cameras, odd little army independent of Australia’s military colloquially known as Border Farce…

    … meanwhile…

    Key points

    Climate change is influencing all extreme rainfall events. The warmer atmosphere holds more moisture, about 7% more than previously. This increases the risk of heavier downpours.
    Extreme rainfall events are expected to increase in intensity in Australia.
    For Queensland and New South Wales, the two states most badly affected by ex-Tropical Cyclone Debbie, extreme rainfall events are likely to worsen. For example, maximum one-day rainfall is expected to increase by up to 17 and 18% for New South Wales and Queensland respectively.
    It is critical that communities and emergency services have access to information about rainfall in a changing climate to ensure they can prepare for the future, particularly when rebuilding damaged infrastructure.

    …and because climate change effects are global:

    As Tropical Storm Harvey continues to batter Southeast Texas and floods the Houston area, everyday Texans are trying to keep their heads above water. Their homes are inundated, their neighborhood streets are under chest-deep water, and many roads and highways are completely impassable. Some are waiting for rescue, others are wading out on foot, most are bracing for massive rains that are expected to continue for days.

    Apologies, what was the topic again?

  17. guest

    Denial of the reality of Climate Change (or Global warming or AGW) is not the only denial expressed by the Coalition. Remember how Turnbull once upon a time Turnbull recognised the problem, now sets it aside.

    The on-going security excuse for tougher and tougher laws that impinge on everybody is excused by the beat-up on fear because they, Muslims/ISIS etc, hate us for our way of life, our freedom, our wealth, our everything.

    What they do not mention is the fact we have been hand in hand in beating up the Middle East (was it for the oil?), especially after 9/11.

    So we might well ask, why is it that Brasil, for example, is not petrified with fear of terrorists of the Muslim kind? Because it was not one of the Coalition of the Willing?

  18. diannaart

    Because it (Brazil) was not one of the coalition of the willing.

    Terrorism is real, it is not our greatest problem and we can take action – without banging on and on about it.

    Where our attention is vitally needed is taking action to mitigate climate change.

    What is ironic, is, if we do replace the need for massive quantities of oil by investing in sustainable technology (requiring far less oil), we eliminate any reason for the ‘Coalition of the Willing’s obsession with the Middle East.

    Stop the need for fossil fuels, stop the need for the unwanted intervention in the Middle East.


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