Stop the col­lu­sion Bourke St at­tack de­mands re­think of mi­gra­tion vet­ting

The Sunday Mail (Queensland) - - NEWS -

LETHBRIDGE’S VIEW I WAS on air on Fri­day evening as news broke about the ter­ror at­tack in Mel­bourne that took the life of much-loved lo­cal restau­ra­teur Sisto Malaspina (pic­tured) and put two oth­ers in hospi­tal.

Then, of course, we ref­er­enced the well-re­hearsed line from the po­lice me­dia con­fer­ence – “no known links to ter­ror­ism but we are keeping an open mind”.

And while po­lice did not want to use the “ter­ror” word pre-emp­tively, it had all the hall­marks of the sort of crimes that are re­shap­ing life in Western coun­tries like ours.

Now we can call it for what it was – yet an­other ter­ror at­tack on Aus­tralian soil by those that hate who we are, and our way of life.

More than once on air, other com­men­ta­tors kept re­fer­ring to the fact that there were no other sus­pects – that this ap­peared to be a lone-wolf type of at­tack. But again, and again I kept point­ing out that while the po­lice, as they said, may not be look­ing for other of­fend­ers at this time, you can bet they haven’t ruled out other sus­pects.

The very na­ture of th­ese at­tacks here, and around the world, of­ten in­volve oth­ers to help co-or­di­nate the at­tack, pro­vide lo­gis­ti­cal sup­port on weapons or bomb-mak­ing (of­ten re­motely I might add, over the in­ter­net), and as would ap­pear to be the case in Fri­day’s at­tack, other as­so­ciates.

When th­ese events oc­cur, beyond the al­most im­me­di­ate pres­ence of uni­form po­lice on the ground try­ing to pro­tect civil­ians and bring or­der to the crime scene, a team of other se­cu­rity per­son­nel in Mel­bourne would have been

scour­ing data­bases to see what else they could find out about the man at the cen­tre of this at­tack.

In Can­berra, in­tel­li­gence ser­vices would have sup­ported this ef­fort and, as we now know, our chief do­mes­tic agency ASIO has con­firmed the So­mali-born at­tacker, Has­san Khalif Shire Ali, was known to them.

Re­ports also say he had links to Islamic ex­trem­ism and rad­i­calised mem­bers of the So­mali com­mu­nity.

On Fri­day night, Myer was launch­ing its fa­mous Christ­mas win­dows. The city was still caught up in the tail end of Cup Week with tourists and lo­cals alike mov­ing around the re­tail precinct and on into bars to start the usual end-of-week wind­down. And to­day, it is Re­mem­brance Day as we pause to re­mem­ber the lives lost in the Great War that was meant to de­liver us a last­ing peace.

Did any of the com­mem­o­ra­tive events this week­end in­spire this hate? Was the ve­hi­cle primed with gas-cylin­ders meant to act as a bomb as it hur­tled down Bourke St to­wards the ped- es­trian precinct and the chil­dren mass­ing for the win­dows and their mes­meris­ing au­toma­tions?

None of this is yet known. But what I do know is that we in Aus­tralia, as in the wider West, face a chal­lenge of great mag­ni­tude as we deal with the scourge of Is­lamist ter­ror­ism.

It is real, it oc­cu­pies enor­mous band­width in­side our se­cu­rity and in­tel­li­gence agen­cies, it makes us re­think our sup­posed suc­cess as an in­te­grated im­mi­grant na­tion and it in­vites yet an­other fight with the suf­fo­cat­ing in­flu­ence of po­lit­i­cal cor­rect­ness.

Next week, this is how it will pan out. More will be found out about this at­tacker, news­pa­pers will print dossiers of his known as­so­ciates who have raised con­cerns with po­lice, we’ll look into his mi­grant past, and we’ll pose the­o­ries as to what caused his rad­i­cal­i­sa­tion and won­der why the mil­lions spent on de­rad­i­cal­i­sa­tion pro­grams have such a poor rate of suc­cess. Some will look for on­line con

nec­tions to over­seas ter­ror groups and oth­ers will see if there’s any link to lo­cal mosques or preach­ers known for in­spir­ing hate against the very com­mu­ni­ties in which they live.

All the while, a vo­cal me­dia arm will speak out against com­men­ta­tors like me want­ing to talk about rad­i­cal Islam, or why some rad­i­cals here and over­seas hate as they do.

Com­mu­nity lead­ers will praise our re­silience and maybe light up a build­ing or call for a peace vigil.

The au­thor­i­ties will keep their up­dates as bland as they can for fear of of­fend­ing any­one, and Vic­to­rian Premier Daniel An­drews, des­per­ate to win an elec­tion this month, will be all over this is­sue but at the same time, as a man from the left of pol­i­tics, he’ll try to strad­dle the fraught lan­guage so pre­cisely he ends up with a back­side full of splin­ters.

I don’t know to what ex­tent this man was vet­ted by se­cu­rity agen­cies be­fore em­i­grat­ing to Aus­tralia.

We know he’s come to their at­ten­tion at some time, and that’s to the great credit of our in­tel­li­gence ex­perts but it is, sadly, nee­dle-in-ahaystack stuff once they are here.

Th­ese events chal­lenge ev­ery­thing that sits at the very heart of our Western democ­ra­cies and should de­mand a se­ri­ous re­think about the way im­mi­grants are in­te­grated (or not), ter­ror­ism in the guise of re­li­gion, hate preach­ers, on­line ac­cess to over­seas ter­ror pro­pa­ganda and our abil­ity to speak openly and hon­estly about all of this, be­cause it is too late to do any­thing to avert the col­lu­sion course we’ve em­barked on.

I’m back on air to­mor­row night, and let’s see if I am right.

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