Self- in­ter­est the en­emy of ac­tion

Townsville Bulletin - - DEFENDERS -

ONLY some­one who has at­tempted to take a large bone from a small ter­rier un­der­stands the fury it can gen­er­ate.

Mul­ti­ply that by sev­eral ter­ri­ers and bones and the fury in­creases ex­po­nen­tially.

Larger dogs usu­ally, but not al­ways, tend to be less pos­ses­sive, par­tic­u­larly if they have taken con­trol of all the bones.

Aus­tralia’s state and fed­eral bu­reau­cra­cies mir­ror that fa­nati­cism with depart­ments jeal­ously pro­tect­ing their in­de­pen­dence while re­sist­ing what they re­gard as gra­tu­itous in­ter­ven­tion in their af­fairs.

When it comes to coun­ter­ing Aus­tralia’s real and present ter­ror­ism threat such bu­reau­cratic in­de­pen­dence can be counter- pro­duc­tive.

Aus­tralia’s co- or­di­nated re­sponse to ter­ror­ism grew from the 1977 Hil­ton bomb­ing when Mal­colm Fraser un­der­stood the need to de­velop a co- or­di­nated re­sponse be­tween those agen­cies likely to be given that re­spon­si­bil­ity, state po­lice forces and the ADF.

Fraser estab­lished a stand­ing com­mit­tee to ad­vise on ap­pro­pri­ate re­sponses to acts of ter­ror­ism, with the ad­di­tional re­spon­si­bil­ity of co- or­di­nat­ing those re­sponses.

The prob­lem then and since has been the mul­ti­ple agen­cies in­volved with their com­pet­ing agen­das but more sti­flingly their com­pet­ing bu­reau­cra­cies.

Bu­reau­crats are like those small ter­ri­ers, fiercely pro­tect­ing their de­part­men­tal bones when a col­lec­tive need to act is para­mount.

Only those who have not been in­volved in ex­er­cis­ing those pro­cesses could ar­gue against a cen­tralised su­per se­cu­rity min­istry with re­spon­si­bil­ity for the dis­parate, com­pet­ing parts.

This in­cludes many of the Aus­tralian me­dia com­men­tariat who mostly have no idea but ex­press their ig­no­rance exquisitely and vac­u­ously.

Al­though other na­tional de­part­men­tal amal­ga­ma­tions have had their dif­fi­cul­ties – think the De­fence De­part­ment – most crit­ics of a su­per se­cu­rity min­istry are sim­ply de­fend­ing parochial self in­ter­est.

The in­tol­er­a­bly ar­ro­gant Can­berra bu­reau­crat Sir Ar- thur Tang over­saw the amal­ga­ma­tion of sep­a­rate ser­vice depart­ments.

The small ter­ri­ers pro­tect­ing their bones snapped at his heels but the uni­ver­sally de­spised Tang sim­ply ig­nored their plain­tive protests.

Like­wise the es­tab­lish­ment of a joint de­fence force academy which, for all its many faults, has now trained gen­er­a­tions of se­nior ADF lead­ers who un­der­stand each other and their in­di­vid­ual strengths and weak­nesses.

While sin­gle ser­vice agen­das can and still do arise, it’s hard to ar­gue Aus­tralia’s de­fence in­ter­ests haven’t been bet­ter served by a sin­gle de­part­ment.

The main weapon for de­feat­ing ter­ror­ism how­ever is de­tailed and timely in­tel­li­gence.

While each of the agen­cies pro­posed for the amal­gama- spon­sored by tion has its own in­de­pen­dent in­tel­li­gence gath­er­ing and in­ter­pret­ing ca­pa­bil­i­ties, their prod­uct is not au­to­mat­i­cally avail­able to other agen­cies.

As im­por­tant as this pro­posed de­part­men­tal amal­ga­ma­tion could be, the pro­posed Of­fice of Na­tional In­tel­li­gence within the De­part­ment of Prime Min­is­ter and Cab­i­net as rec­om­mended by former diplo­mat Michael L’Es­trange is even more cru­cial.

Get­ting that in­tel­li­gence to those who need to use it in a timely man­ner is also crit­i­cal.

If a sin­gle home af­fairs min­istry im­proves in­ter- agency co- oper­a­tion it will prove its crit­ics wrong.

If it re­duces bu­reau­cratic hes­i­ta­tion and ob­fus­ca­tion, de­ci­sion mak­ing and re­sponses will be en­hanced.

If it al­lows gov­ern­ment to shave off lay­ers of du­pli­cated pub­lic ser­vants, even bet­ter.

CA­PA­BIL­ITY: Sol­diers from 2nd Royal Aus­tralian Reg­i­ment dis­em­bark LCM- 8 L

Sol­diers from 2RAR make their way up the beach as part of Tal­is­man Sabre.

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