Stop the collusion Bourke St attack demands rethink of migration vetting
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.