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Will Howard investigate seditious leaks on terror scare against his public wishes (rhetorical question)

tearing the flesh

G'day. I don't suppose anyone in the Opposition or the mainstream media will dare make these obvious points today, so here goes. Where did the newspapers get their information from of the supposed details of the specific intelligence which Howard claimed triggered his emergency amendments to terror laws yesterday? I've read the news stories linked in today's Daily Briefing and lots of detail, mostly stated as fact without naming any source - when a source was mentioned it was a 'government' or 'senior security' one - is there in black and white. I've set them out below.

Yet Howard himself said over and over at his press conference yesterday that he wouldn't, indeed COULDN'T go into any detail IN THE NATIONAL INTEREST, as did the unctuous Philip Ruddock on Lateline last night:

I'm not going to elaborate in relation to matters that I have been briefed on. It wouldn't be appropriate. I know it would be good for the program, but in terms of what we are dealing with, all of the advice is that we have put in the public arena is appropriate, but anything further would be distinctly unhelpful in operational terms...we deal with threats and they can come from many sources and I have no intention of offering comment that's going to suggest that a particular part of our community out to be identified with any of these matters.  

Some quotes from Howard's presser:

* I am not going to speculate on what the law enforcement authorities will do on an operational matter. I do not talk about operational matters.

* I don’t want to overstate the situation but I don’t want to understate it, I can’t say any more without straying into matters that are truly operational.

* Q: Prime Minister, is it reasonable for the Australian public to expect that some of our anti-terror laws, some of our response resources are now on stand by? PRIME MINISTER: Look I am not going to start answering questions, I am sorry... I know you want a word here and there that sort of provides this or that but it’s a bit too serious for playing word games.

* Q: Is the threat specific in nature Prime Minister (inaudible) or is it generally against Australia and Australians?  PRIME MINISTER: I am not saying any more - I am not saying any more…

* Q: Notwithstanding the operational sensitivities, do you understand Australians could be frustrated, even angry, that you’re drawing to our attention an alert, specific intelligence of a threat, but not giving any geographical -   PRIME MINISTER: David, I understand that but you’re damned if you do and you’re damned if you don’t. If you go into a lot of detail and you wreck the operation the Australian public will not forgive you... Now I can’t go into any more detail because if I do I might weaken the capacity of authorities to respond.

*

It's a classic Howard play - he act the statesman, then his minders in his office or his 'public service' do the rest. He washes his hands of the leaks, of course, if they're wrong he's not to blame, and no-one in opposition takes him on because then he'll say his questioners are impugning the good faith of his law enforcement agencies which are comprised of wonderful men and women doing their duty blah blah blah.

But take Howard and Ruddock at their word and what we've read in the papers this morning amounts to a grave and devastating breach of national security which could destroy the chances of success of an operation against potential terrorists on our soil. Take Howard at his word and he'd have already called in top investigators to track down the leakers and deal with them without mercy.  And on past performance, when a leak that DOESN'T suit his political interests happens, he'd get his AFP to drop everything to raid newspaper officers and have journos charged with contempt if they wouldn't reveal their sources. 

After all, if there are terrorist cells planning attacks on Australian cities, they'd be scarpering right now, wouldn't they? And Howard would be furious, wouldn't he, that his own people had treated his public statements with such contempt that they'd told reporters where, who and lots of other stuff. And remember, Howard made it clear there was no imminent threat, so we could well have lost a great chance of a preventative strike by these, well, SEDITIOUS leaks! And Ruddock would be desperate to prosecute all those newspapers for their SEDITIOUS reporting!

What purpose  is served by this obviously government authorised leaking pre-warning targets of what's to come, apart from Howard's political aim to get his still secret reign of terror laws through quickly and without fuss by scaring the bejesus out of Australians yet again? If any of what's been leaked and oh so confidently reported as fact by most papers this morning is true, of course.

One more point.Why is the media conniving in this two-face Howard game without pointing out the bleeding obvious nature of it? Why aren't the headlines 'Government leaks hinder terror arrests?" Or "Howard loses battle to keep anti-terror operations secret from targets?"

Surely the Australian people will wake up to Howard's media scams soon. Surely they won't keep falling for the same, perfectly timed tricks time after time after time.

And please, I'm not saying that there isn't anything in these stories of people planning terrorist attacks here. Maybe there is, but if so, Howard's play this week made it much harder to catch them. And the media's role as Howard propagandist is a stain on all of us. Howard has worked out the mainstream media news judgement and he's playing journos and editors for fools. From this morning's papers, some of them are just that.

The Oz

FEARS terrorists are moving closer to an attack on Sydney and Melbourne have forced the Howard Government to rush through an emergency law to make it easier for police to arrest suspects... The Australian has learned the intelligence relates to home-grown terror suspects in the country's two biggest cities who are believed to be building the capability to mount an attack.

The SMH

Security agencies are poised to swoop on alleged terrorist cells throughout the country once Parliament passes an amendment to the anti-terrorism laws today... A senior security source said the legal issues solved by the amendment had been the main barrier to the raids.

The Daily Tele

A TERRORIST plot targeting an Australian city has been uncovered by the Australian Federal Police and intelligence agencies...According to Government sources, the threat involves "a number of individuals" but is not linked to a public event or single location.  The group under surveillance is made up of Islamic extremists, sources told The Daily Telegraph. Investigators fear the plot is not confined to one place. It is something more general rather than just Sydney or Melbourne," one source said...  While no specific target has been identified, emergency services chiefs fear terrorists could strike any of a number of targets around the country, with both Sydney and Melbourne again featuring as likely targets. Other possible targets include Pine Gap spy facility in Northern Territory, the SAS barracks in Perth, the Victoria Barracks in Paddington and future sporting events such as next year's Commonwealth Games in Melbourne.

Herald Sun

Asio agents and police are poised to move aghainst an unnamed terorirst groups planning attacks in several states. The immediate and unspecified threat came from an Islamic extremist group centred on Sydney, Government sources told the Herald Sun.

Courier Mail

AN emergency terror law was pushed quickly through the House of Representatives last night to stop a suspected Sydney-based group launching attacks across Australia. The law was rushed into Parliament with bi-partisan support to enable authorities to take urgent action against the undisclosed threat. It is understood an Islamic extremist group is being closely tracked by a team of agents from ASIO and the Australian Federal Police.

The Advertiser

ASIO and federal and state police are set to move against an unnamed terrorist group centred in Sydney that is planning attacks in several states. According to Government sources the threat involved "a number of individuals" but did not focus on any event or single location and potentially affected a number of states. quot;It is something more general rather than just Sydney or Melbourne," one source said. A Government source confirmed that the threat came from an Islamic extremist group.

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re: Will Howard investigate seditious leaks on terror scare aga

Precisely. We are a lot further down the slippery slope than we were a week ago. The number of people being duped is beyond belief.

re: Will Howard investigate seditious leaks on terror scare aga

Exactly Margo, and I won't hold my breath waiting for the mainstream media to ask the right questions either. It was my understanding that the laws could not be applied retrospectively anyway, so what is the point of waiting for them to be passed before they 'swoop' down on all these suspects.

Unless they want to be able to provide the fireworks to satisfy the public, but not have to similarly provide the substance. Why are people so blind.

My father in law saw a documentary about journalists 'infiltrating' nuclear weapons plants in the US, and how easily this was accomplished in a country that is supposed to be the main target of these 'terrorists'.

Did this make him question the validity of the threat as presented by Bush & Co?

No, for him it enforced his view that we need these laws to protect us from 'terrorists' getting nuclear weapons and somehow using them on us in Australia.

Sometimes I feel so frustrated and helpless I could scream. Thank you for webdiary, which not only allows me to vent, but which provides such excellent and useful information.

re: Will Howard investigate seditious leaks on terror scare aga

Is anyone else as depressed as I am?

re: Will Howard investigate seditious leaks on terror scare aga

Once again Stanhope is the lone voice of sanity here:

(Stanhope) says the National Counter-Terrorism Committee was also not told of the issue.

"The National Counter-Terrorism Committee, which is the committee which essentially represents each of the states on the national infrastructure or arrangements to address terrorism or counter-terrorism issues in Australia, hadn't been notified of the threat and still has not been activated," he said.

"So around Australia, none of counter-terrorism infrastructure has been activated as a result of this announcement."

The Federal Government says on its national security website that "the National Counter-Terrorism Committee is the national coordinating body for counter-terrorism in Australia".

"It is co-chaired by the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet and a State/Territory senior official and comprises senior representation from relevant Australian Government agencies, premiers' and chief ministers' departments and police services from each jurisdiction," it says.

If NCTC and related agencies haven't been revved up you can guarantee it's a furphy.

re: Will Howard investigate seditious leaks on terror scare aga

Dear Margo, there is an abundance of grist for Media Watch! I agree with you - it all seeems too cute for words!

Bombard the nation with information and misinformation for days in order to dilute and distract the NATION from the two major concerns the IR (WORKERS POWER DILUTION BILL) and the Terror (ARBITRARY IMPRISONMENT) Bill.

Margo: Then let the Murdoch propaganda machine and your crony shock jocks get on with finishing the job for you. Sweet. And TOO easy.

re: Will Howard investigate seditious leaks on terror scare aga

I know you're not saying it Margo, but I will say something in a similar vein - I do not accept the overriding importance of "terrorist attacks" for our society, even if they are credible or even likely. I would be interested to hear an unemotional articulation of the significant majority's concern. Presumably it centres upon the risk or likelihood of violent death or injury.

If this is the crux, the same level of national attention should be devoted to road accidents - approximately 1700 deaths each year and approximately 14,000 injured. See here. If this is not the crux, what is, exactly? And if you seek to distinguish criminal violent deaths from accidental violent deaths, why don't the majority exhibit the same concern about annual murders and manslaughters (approximately 300 and 40 respectively)? See here.

I know this point has been made before on Webdiary, but I yearn for rational perspective on the subject. The mere appendage "terrorist" to a threat should not elevate it above other threats to our society .

re: Will Howard investigate seditious leaks on terror scare aga

Depressed and confused, S Marker.

This morning Robert Hill is generously offering to extend the inquiry into anti-terror laws, a significant change of the government's intention. But reviewing the various Webdiary terror archives I can't find any articles specifying the length of time intended for discussion/debate of the terror legislation (although I had a perception that only limited discussion was intended).

Margo: Gee, this is a turnaround - maybe true liberals must be finally getting through to these authoritarians. See Ramsey's piece 'Snide' sidestep on the fast way home:

Which brings us to the Government's latest atrocity in its manipulation of Parliament and evasion of legislative scrutiny.

First, you have to know about the 4.30 rule. This is a piece of Senate procedure that has been in effect for many years. It is a so-called standing order that forbids a Senate vote of any kind after 4.30pm on the Thursday of any sitting week. The cut-off used to be 6.30pm, but it was amended to 4.30pm after the Government got control of the Senate this year. And why was the cut-off introduced?

Well, for one simple reason. Thursday is the day your Parliament closes down for the week and MPs bolt back to their home states for the weekend. And, because there are always senators who like to get away a bit early on Thursday to ensure they get home that night rather than Friday morning should the Senate have to sit on a bit late, the Senate agreed to a Thursday cut-off time after which no party could call for a substantive vote. This ensured senators who wanted to get away promptly didn't have to sit around because their vote might be needed.

As I say, the Thursday cut-off used to be 6.30pm, amended recently by the Government to 4.30pm. And smack on the stroke of 4.30 on Thursday afternoon this week, the Government's Senate leader, Robert Hill, got the call and announced: "I move that upon its introduction in the House, the provisions of the Anti-Terrorism Bill 2005 be referred to the Legal and Constitutional Legislation Committee for inquiry and report by 8 November, 2005." Uproar ensued for the following two hours.

What the Government is doing is killing any meaningful scrutiny of its proposed anti-terrorism measures, in alliance with state police forces, to detain people for as long as a fortnight without charge and in complete secrecy. The detail is not known. The Government has not released the legislation. Parliament has adjourned for a fortnight. It resumes sitting on Monday, October 31. The new anti-terrorism bill will go before the House that week. What Hill was signalling on Thursday was a Senate inquiry - including a written report - restricted to, at most, eight days or, effectively, three days only.

Hill made a three-minute speech in support of his announcement, offered his "regret" that there had been "very little consultation", then quickly left the chamber as angry Opposition senators castigated the Government for its "slimy" behaviour. They couldn't even force a vote on Hill's proposal because the 4.30pm cut-off rule defers any vote "to the next day of sitting". With Parliament adjourned, that means October 31.

Tasmania's Bob Brown (Greens): "This is an absolutely black day for the Senate and for democracy in this nation. This is a manipulation of the rules in a snide and underhand way by a gutless minister, who has left the chamber, to totally override the democratic principles of the Senate and its review function by effectively abolishing the committee system on a major issue. I say at the outset that if the Government thinks it is in total control of the Senate and that this is going to be a painless dismissal of the right of the Australian people to have a full Senate inquiry into the draconian anti-terrorist laws that it will now sledgehammer through both houses of the Parliament in coming weeks, then there is a sting in that tail. The Greens, to the best of our ability, will not be giving in…"

Labor's John Faulkner (NSW): "What Senator Hill [has done] represents unprecedented arrogance and unprecedented discourtesy in this chamber. It is unheard of to have a situation where the Government, without any consultation, proposes a course of action such as this, with no reasons, no excuses, knowing full well [because of the cut-off rule] the question cannot be determined [by a vote] in this sitting week. The choice is, effectively, a totally inadequate inquiry or no inquiry at all. That is the situation we face. That is the sheer bastardry of the Government in relation to this matter…"

The Democrats' Natasha Stott Despoja (South Australia): "We are horrified by this process. Senator John Faulkner and Senator Bob Brown are spot-on in their criticism. There seems little dignity left in this place. The Senate is clearly a farce. The process we have seen today is shameful. The Senate is treated with little respect and no courtesy, no notification, by a minister who slinks in and slinks out. Those small-"l" liberal principles, where are they right now? Today is a low day in the history of this Parliament…"

Labor's Senator Penny Wong (South Australia): "This is just a continuation of this Government's abuse of this chamber. We saw on the Telstra legislation the extraordinary spectacle of a bill being considered by this Parliament, by this chamber's committee, for a single day. It was rammed through, not because it was time sensitive, not because there was any policy reason to get the bill out in time, but for base political purposes because they were worried about Senator Barnaby Joyce changing his mind…"

re: Will Howard investigate seditious leaks on terror scare aga

Yes, S Marker, I am depressed but not surprised. I was expecting Howard to pull a stunt like this as he has done so many times in the past. When is the media going to say he has cried "wolf!" one too many times? Jon Stanhope had put a spanner in his works and he and Ruddock could not stand the thought that they would have to water down these laws. So... before they lose too much more he has to pull something out of the hat! He has not been doing too well on the Industrial Relations Bill either so he had to deflect interest away from that. Is there no end to this man's deviousness and the media's gullibility for they go hand in hand. He would never have got this far if the media had questioned his statements years ago. I hate what he is doing to this country and I hate the way he is dividing communities through his fear tactics.

re: Will Howard investigate seditious leaks on terror scare aga

S Marker, Moi.

re: Will Howard investigate seditious leaks on terror scare aga

Some well-meaning people – lawyers, as I recall – have been warning in the press of the “danger” that all this heavy-handed lawmaking and political provocation of Australian Muslims might in the end have the “perverse” or “unintended” effects of goading young hotheads into terrorist actions.

What these well-meaning liberal-minded commentators perhaps don’t see – or are reluctant to say bluntly, as I will here say - is that such an outcome is precisely what Howard wants. All these warnings, all these leaks as Margo reports here, are actually intended as goads – red rags to drive the bull crazy.

Howard wants to lure out angry and humiliated young Muslim people into doing stupid things. He wants an angry, botched but “real” terrorism incident. He and his spindoctor and leaker friends and helpers are now trying very hard to provoke such an event.

People, please don’t give him what he wants! If there are any angry young Muslims (or anarchists, extreme deep Greens, Trotskyists, or whatever …) reading this letter, don’t give him his provocation!

People SHOULD go to jail under this legislation, as soon as possible, because it threatens our free speech and democracy. But the people who should first go to jail under this legislation are civil libertarians, peaceful protesters, dissidents in the spirit of Gandhi - not young men goaded into action by the manipulative schemes of Howard the coward.

Let this coward be exposed by making sure that it is the right people who go to jail first under these laws – people like you and me, who have nothing whatever to do with plans or acts of terrorism.

Sowing sedition and disaffection? Sowing disloyalty to this criminal government? Yes, absolutely – I Tony Kevin plead guilty as charged to those charges, which will be criminal acts under these criminal new laws. And if this legislation will send me to jail or preventive detention for those alleged crimes, so be it.

But please, people, don’t let any of you be tricked or goaded into doing anything stupid. Because it is just what Howard wants you to do now. It is what he is trying to make you do. You’re too smart and brave to fall for it.

There will be those of us who will go to jail for the right reasons, and then the Australian people will see how they have been tricked. And we will stand side by side with our Muslim fellow Australians who are being cruelly abused, humiliated and victimised by this man.

We remember the salami-slice history of Nazi Germany and their persecution of the Jews. One bit of freedom, one bit of public decency, is lost at a time. There is no defining moment: it it all lost bit by bit. We will fight for that history not to be repeated here. We will stand together.

re: Will Howard investigate seditious leaks on terror scare aga

Yes, S Marker, I am as depressed as you are.

As for the Australian people waking up to Howard's media scams, don't hold your breath. Actually, I think people know he's a liar, but he's doing it in their best interest so that makes it okay.

As someone posted on another thread yesterday, it was Hitler who said in Mein Kampf, "By means of shrewd lies, unremittingly repeated, it is possible to make people believe that heaven is hell - and hell heaven. The greater the lie, the more readily it will be believed."

Not feeling too positive at all, today.

re: Will Howard investigate seditious leaks on terror scare aga

Supposedly the 'terrorists' were filming locales. This doesn't augur well for anyone with a dark complexion or a sun tan and dark hair filming on their holidays with the new cheap digital cameras that are flooding the market.

Add a backpack and it could be deadly.

re: Will Howard investigate seditious leaks on terror scare aga

Yeah, classic Howard, he's a smart one alright. This kind of ploy is basically unattackable, the defenses are inbuilt, heaps of 'he said she said' and 'don't you love your country?' sort of stuff, so no one is going to call him on it. But is he missing something, are his famous 'mood' sensors failing to cut through the hubris?

Howard's claim that he was in a 'damned if you do, damned if you don't' position on this one has some currency, but would this have been the case if he wasn't dealing with a public already suspicious on the strength their own pattern recognition skills? Has he made a rod for his own back? This morning he spent a good few minutes at the beginning of an interview with J Laws in quasi-damage control, defending the assertion that the original statement about the 'specific' threat was a cynical ploy. Why is it necessary for the leader of our country to spend precious national exposure explaining how steps he had taken on the issue of national security were genuine? Why is this even in question? People aren't questioning the measure he introduced, they are questioning the government's motives. Accepting that the threat is real, the fact that so many questions were asked so quickly shows the sort of damage that the 'boy who cried wolf' syndrome can wreak on a political relationship. The timing and context of the announcement were enough to cast doubt on his now brittle 'Honest John' persona and enough questions were asked that they needed answering.

Now whether you are from the left or the right this is a sad development, that we can't rally as one behind whoever is in government on this issue is a weakness. We need to fight terrorism, not fight over terrorism. The fact that the leader of the opposition and state premiers were willingly enlisted in his defense - 'even they agree' - shows that he is aware of a growing scepticism in the electorate. His word is simply no longer enough. The question now is how many more times this sort of play can be used without the damage becoming terminal? How much trust is left?

It's a damn shame when security issues get diluted by political ones but this government can't simply blame the opposition or the electorate for that.

re: Will Howard investigate seditious leaks on terror scare aga

Margo: "Then let the Murdoch propaganda machine and your crony shock jocks get on with finishing the job for you. Sweet. And TOO easy."

I commend this article from Media Lens:

"Professional" journalism accepts that powerful interests - the political and economic allies of the corporate media - should be allowed to set the news agenda. Reporters are to channel the words of officialdom without expressing their own personal opinions. To express criticism of the powerful in news reports is deemed "unprofessional" - that is, "crusading", "committed", "polemical" and "radioactive".

Curiously, the myth of professional "objectivity" exists alongside the clear fact that expressing support for the claims and actions of the powerful is not considered unprofessional.

It's not just the "crony shock jocks" who are responsible for uncritically presenting government propoganda as news.

re: Will Howard investigate seditious leaks on terror scare aga

Could the 4.30 rule have anything to do with the changes to the terror legislation going to the Senate today, even though the ALP offered to have senators available yesterday?

re: Will Howard investigate seditious leaks on terror scare aga

A small light in the darkness?

An update posted on SMH website at 10:58 am today:
PM ‘tipped off’ terror cell
“The Prime Minister may have warned off would-be terrorists and compromised investigations after yesterday's terror warning, Labor says...”

Plus Peter Hartcher’s piece, Howard deflects nation's gaze away from the ball

“By announcing the existence of a specific terrorist threat yesterday, John Howard successfully shifted attention away from Labor's favoured focus and onto the Government's.

“But in the process he used a megaphone to give suspected terrorists notice of raids. With two big, transformative bills coming before the Federal Parliament, Labor wanted to focus debate on one of them - the proposed changes to Australia's industrial relations system...”

re: Will Howard investigate seditious leaks on terror scare aga

We are truly dealing with masters of spin here. I agree with other comments I’ve heard that there is probably something in the ‘specific intelligence’ Howard received, but the urgency and the timing of the announcement? Not convinced.

Notice how cagey Herr Ruddock was on Lateline about when he was informed of the ‘intelligence’: “Well, I don't intend to go into when exactly I received it. In the last day or two. We acted on it immediately.” Well, not quite immediately. Or Howard: “the Government has received specific intelligence and police information this week”. If it was important enough to call a press conference why did Ruddock and Howard wait until just after the damaging IR debate? Coincidence, of course.

Margo, good call on Howard’s blatant hypocrisy in calling the conference in the interests of ‘national security’. He may as well have just said: “We know who you are and we’re coming for you – after we get the legislation through.” It was all about media manipulation and it worked; the headlines are all about the ‘impending’ terrorist threat, pushing IR down the page. The cynical manipulation of public fear by this Government is breathtaking. It’s still working, though – witness the broad public support for the legislation.

But not all the media is eating it up. For example the 7.30 Report’s Michael Brissenden highlighted Labor’s scepticism, suggesting Beazley had initially directly challenged Howard about the timing. SBS News carefully deconstructed the critical phrase, “specific intelligence … gives cause for serious concern about a potential terrorist threat”, which Howard followed up with “the immediate passage of this amendment would strengthen the capacity of the law enforcement agencies to effectively respond to this threat”. Easy to mix up those adjectives to read it as a warning of an imminent terrorist threat, but of course that’s not what Howard actually said.

Goebbels would be envious.

re: Will Howard investigate seditious leaks on terror scare aga

Well, I'm not depressed - I love a good fight and it's just starting to get interesting. Howard has no capital left to squander - even those who voted for him don't accept the changes to IR. If we keep the pressure up, they won't accept AT either.

Let him explain how, in Bali, for example, (an enormously emotive issue with his own electors) his new Bill would have averted the result.

On second thoughts, let's not let him explain, let's make him explain. Let's get the grieving rellies out on the lawns of Parliament House with "Please Explain" signs.

Let's target the shock jocks.

Let's get the ex-SAS officers to explain how it would help.

Let's analyse the crime statistics on a racial basis (some interesting results methinks - lots of assault by footballers and Merchant Bankers on Friday nights and bad luck Aboriginals). Even in sexual assaults, it would be about 50/50 Lebanese and Footballers. Not many potentiaal terrorists to be seen I expect.

Let's take the fight right up to the enemy. Let's fight with our brains because that's the area where we have a significant strategic advantage.

re: Will Howard investigate seditious leaks on terror scare aga

The parrots were at it again on Melbourne radio this morning. Reliable Liberal apparatchik Neil Mitchell began with a editorial that canvassed the terror issue of yesterday, no mention of the Industrial Relations, and issued a valedictory for Howard's character, "this is not a stunt, Mr Howard wouldn't do that" its too serious blah, blah. Given his audience is at the lower end of the educational scale and is probably inclined to see politics through the lens of personalities it was good spin.

Over on the ABC Jon Faine had Barry Cassidy in. They had a more sophisticated way of supporting the basic deceits in the PM's actions. Turns out that Howard couldn't really get away with a stunt when he'd shown the stuff to Beazley (a half bright student doing year 12 clear thinking would demolish that one) and they repeatedly used the word "cynical" to describe those who would espouse what might reasonably be called a skeptical, or probably more correctly, reasonable view regarding the PM’s behaviour.

In part we can see this as just two ABC types covering their asses after continual bollacking from the government. Soviet style we might suggest they were cryptically directing us to the reality that it is the PM who is being cynical, not those who doubt him. But it remains that, as Margo alluded re all the press listening to the PM and thinking (but not saying) bullshit - total bullshit - that they have accepted the frame.

So, outside the frame and in the real normal world:

(a) there is no "war on terror." The phrase is a logical nonsense, but works as a powerfully resourced propaganda tactic to justify and keep in power incumbent leaders and channel vast amounts of money into the American Military-Industrial Complex;

(b) there is at least as much likelihood that any "terrorist act" that occurs in Australia will result from government policy and/or be unconnected to Islamic fundamentalist issues;

(c) the evidence of terror being a danger in Australia is thin at best. Those actually convicted appear to be dysfunctional loners of high incompetence;

(d) war and secrecy are bread and butter to incumbent leaders and put security forces in their element. Within the security services mindset accountability is always impossible. Indeed nothing can be proved or unproved, thus one must, as Ruddock keeps telling us, trust the “competent agencies”. Moreover, historically secret services are more danger to their citizenry than the threats they supposedly oppose;

(e) current events support historical narratives that Australians are basically a cowardly group. From the great skedaddle from Darwin to the notion of the Brisbane line, to the desperate sucking up to the Great Powers that has always gone on, the convict culture of giving the boss the finger when his back is turned but cuddling up when facing him is a recurrent aspect of Oz culture. Of course this is only one aspect of Oz culture, probably one of the worst, but Howard's career is built on playing to the worst aspects of people's characters. And the longer he is there the more this side of Australian character will be nurtured and grow.

In short the emperor has no clothes and we need to say it and keep saying it, no matter how many leaks, persecutions of disaffected Muslim adolescents, and crap about secrecy followed by strategic leaks of innuendo.

I am not afraid of the chimera of terrorism, but I have reason to be afraid of the government, but I'm not going to back down to them either.

re: Will Howard investigate seditious leaks on terror scare aga

The SMH is reporting here, Wayne Swan's comment that there were enough Senators in Canberra last night to actually pass the Anti-Terrorism amendments.

Which begs the question... What's JWH's real intention? Wait a day, pass the terror laws and slam dunk the IR legislation as well after guillotining debate on the basis that "the matter has been discussed enough"??

I shudder to think...

re: Will Howard investigate seditious leaks on terror scare aga

Tony Philips: "Neil Mitchell began with a editorial that canvassed the terror issue of yesterday, no mention of the Industrial Relations, and issued a valedictory for Howard's character, 'this is not a stunt, Mr Howard wouldn't do that' it's too serious blah, blah."

I sincerely hope that Tony is right, and that this is not just a paean to Howard's character but also a valedictory ;-) ;-) ;-)

re: Will Howard investigate seditious leaks on terror scare aga

So this must be the democracy the Howard apologists of Webdiary refer to. A totalitarian state with the uptmost contempt for it's citizens. Funny, my definition, and that of other, more enlightened souls, of democracy is far different to this.

Where are the checks and balances? Where is the scrutiny? Where is decency? Where is the accountability? All failures of Howard.

This terrorist threat is nothing but a lie. Pure and simple. A diversonary tactic like this is a method utilised by scoundrels and pirates - acute definitions of this government. The parliamentary process displayed over the last 24 hours is possibly the mose shameful display of procedural perversion offered in the 100+ years of parliament.

I challenge any Howard lover to offer a succinct explaination as to the government's behaviour, and why they feel the government can treat the People's House with the highest of contempt.

re: Will Howard investigate seditious leaks on terror scare aga

Jenny, the Federal ALP would do well to consult with Stanhope before offering to do ANYTHING with Howard. He seems to be the only one who has the little man's measure. How "clever" of the Federal ALP to be duped and buy into "we'll help to get this enacted". Howard is rolling on the floor laughing.

Sick.

re: Will Howard investigate seditious leaks on terror scare aga

Michael, not just the tourists. Consider the case of the guy a while back who was working for NSW government on photographing key infrastructure for anti-terrorism purposes. Someone had forgotten to inform the local constabulary of what he was doing and who he was so imagine his surprise when he was briskly rounded up in no uncertain terms. Then of course had to prove who he was and what he was doing.

Strange times indeed... and that was before the Draconian measures being proposed. Just normal (legitimate) jumpiness and classic lack of thought and communication. But hey, it was OK... thankfully they didn't have shoot to kill being rammed down their throats as a main policy.

re: Will Howard investigate seditious leaks on terror scare aga

This whole callous theatre reeks of Vogon Bureaucracy:

"They are one of the most unpleasant races in the galaxy. Not actually evil, but bad tempered, bureaucratic, officious and callous. They wouldn't even lift a finger to save their own grandmothers from the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal without orders signed in triplicate, sent in, sent back, queried, lost, found, subjected to public enquiry, lost again, and finally buried in soft peat for three months and recycled as firelighters."

Wait until "The" changes to "A" before saving civilization as we know it?

As if!

re: Will Howard investigate seditious leaks on terror scare aga

David: "Goebbels would be envious."

Indeed, these guys have learned the lesson well: get one false premise established as "true" and then build the entire universe (of spin) on it. And if the parrots never question the premise it all just spins beautifully forever.

Shameful failure of the media, media barons, and so-called journalists to catch the fundamental lie. In these dark moments it is ever so refreshing to be associated here with a REAL journalist! Gooooooooooo Margo!

re: Will Howard investigate seditious leaks on terror scare aga

Andy, well spotted. I find myself hoist on the petard of my subconscious wishes.

Further to my earlier post I note all three Murdoch tabloids used the phrase "Islamic extremist group" while the Oz plants the all-important phrase "home grown terrorists" providing the "link" to London. Good indication of source as a government press release leak.

My guess is the "Islamic terrorist group" is probably a bunch of pissed off boys hanging out a kebab shop and speaking English, which meant the ASIO bozo in the corner with the babagnoush dip could understand them. Moreover, they were probably talking about burnouts not blowups.

The guys down at SBS's Pizza should also be alert and alarmed.

Raises an interesting question: How many Arabic, let alone Turkic, Indonesian or the languages of Pakistan, speakers does ASIO have? My guess is close to bugger all. However, it would be (another) state secret by now. Presumably language competence is not one of the competencies of the competent agencies.

re: Will Howard investigate seditious leaks on terror scare aga

Seems MSN are even better informed: exactly what does Dr Clive Williams do, other than lecture at the ANU? How does he know so much about the 'specifics' of this if no-one from the government, ASIO or AFP is openly talking about specifics for fear of compromising national security?

Terror suspect trained by Kashmir separatists: expert
By ninemsn staff and wires
[extract]

A suspect under surveillance by Australian counter-terror operatives has trained overseas with Kashmir separatists Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET), terrorism expert Clive Williams has told the Nine Network's Today.

Two terror suspects in Sydney have been liaising with others in Melbourne over potential terrorism targets, he said.

re: Will Howard investigate seditious leaks on terror scare aga

Ellie Most likely it was deliberately fed to Clive as he appears to be an "independent" expert...fed carefully no doubt. I would hope that Clive and other would be experts wouldn't fall for the plant. It is all just too convenient.

re: Will Howard investigate seditious leaks on terror scare aga

I think the events of yesterday have done exactly what Howard wanted - changed the focus to AT instead of IR. The best example is Webdiary itself - I wonder how many comments have been on AT and how many on IR over the past 24 hours?

re: Will Howard investigate seditious leaks on terror scare aga

Strike me pink Margo! That's surely the ultimate in rhetorical questions! Of course the leak(s) will be investigated. Absolutely and said investigation prosecuted with as much vigour as the Bolt/Wilkie investigation. Now, let's just see… where are we up to there? Oh, okay, "enquiries are continuing…."

Yeah, right.

The real problem here? The AT legislation. Those answers to reporter's questions? Best get used to them. They'll be pretty much the same when a "detained" person asks why he/she is being held. The same response I'd wager will be given to any legal counsel acting on said person's behalf.

"Can't go into specifics: operational you know. Need to know basis. Divulging that information is not in the public interest."

Senator Hill described the accusation that yesterday's abuse of parliamentary procedure and terror brief was a tactic to distract from the IR legislation and ramp up support for the AT legislation as "an insult to the Prime Minister and to the government" (to paraphrase).

Wrong. That the PM and his government treats Australians in this fashion is the insult and a disgrace.

How soon before we start the ludicrous colour alerts? Are we yellow, orange or red? Did yesterday's public relations exercise take to puce?

re: Will Howard investigate seditious leaks on terror scare aga

It looks like anti-depressants for all eh, but I don't think it will help the despair we are all feeling. One small point that could be a small ray of hope is the ability to apply the laws retrospectively. Therefore the penalties of disclosing information about an ASIO operation (imprisonment) should be imposed on the News Ltd reporters and editors responsible for printing the stories today. Surely this leak is more important than the leaking of the Veterans affairs package last year. Journalists and a public servant are looking at a jail term for that little adventure. I wonder if they would go right to the top and put Rupert in jail as he owns the papers that have printed not only this story but all the other leaks regarding Scott Parkin, the 800 facing invesigation, the 80 that ASIO are ready to sweep off the streets as soon as the laws are passed and other operational stories. Even Kerry Packer could be in trouble if there are any reports on tonight's news. I'm not holding my breath. Does anybody want to share my anti-depressants with me. After watching the abomination that is question time, why wouldn't anybody want to bomb it? They would be nominated for Aust of the year, not a jail term. (That is a rhetorical question and not an incitement to commit a terrorist attack.)

re: Will Howard investigate seditious leaks on terror scare aga

Tom Ridge, the former Secretary of the US Department of Homeland Security cried 'wolf!' so often that many Americans grew contemptuous of the endless terror warnings. The recent NYC subway scare which proved to be just that and no more also annoyed New Yorkers. I derived some small comfort from flicking around the Sydney talkback stations this morning. I heard a (genuine) caller actually questioning Howard’s motives. Laws admitted America had lied about Iraq’s intentions. It could be that the depressing Ruddock and his patron, Howard, will eventually overplay the terror threat.

And what is that ugly on-line Australian cartoon all about?

It’s been sitting there for a couple of days.

re: Will Howard investigate seditious leaks on terror scare aga

Tom Ridge, the former Secretary of the US Department of Homeland Security cried wolf so often that many Americans grew contemptuous of the endless terror warnings. The recent NYC subway scare which proved to be just that and no more also annoyed New Yorkers. I derived some small comfort from flicking around the Sydney talkback stations this morning. I heard a (genuine) caller actually questioning Howard’s motives. Laws admitted America had lied about Iraq’s intentions. It could be that the depressing Ruddock and his patron, Howard, will eventually overplay the terror threat.

And what is that ugly on-line Australian cartoon all about?
It’s been sitting there for a couple of days.

ed Kerri: I'm with you on the cartoon, Christopher - a dark eyed, dark hair and bearded man wearing thongs and green/gold Australia t-shirt with a belly wrap of explosives, his finger on the button and singing 'I still call Australia home' is neither insightful nor humerous. I thought Nicholson could do better - or maybe his irony is supreme... whatever, it's a little tiresome by now...

re: Will Howard investigate seditious leaks on terror scare aga

I wish people would stop crediting Howard with terms praising what is seen to be his political ability. He is not smart, clever or any similar term. He is an open book and very reliable in his actions. He is predictable and I am constantly amazed by the lack of perception and/or anticipation shown by Beazley et al.

Rather you should be pointing out how thick the Opposition and Coalition members are to keep following this man. Call him Chief Lemming if you like but he displays no cleverness.

He uses the same ruses and tactics that bullies used against him when at school. That is called politics apparently. It's not clever, it's just lying, bullshit, bullying and fear.

Most people outgrew those behaviours in their teens but not those that occupy our Parliaments.

re: Will Howard investigate seditious leaks on terror scare aga

There's a top cartoon from Pryor in the Canberra Times here, Christopher and Kerri.

re: Will Howard investigate seditious leaks on terror scare aga

A serious question to all of the Webdiary's contributors who usually side with government policy - What are your feelings on the Anti-Terror Legislation and the changes to the Industrial Relations Legislation now that the fine print is starting to come out? The usual contributors of a more conservative bent have been conspicuous by their absence on this thread. Would anyone like to comment?

re: Will Howard investigate seditious leaks on terror scare aga

Damn those Kiwis:

"Helen Clark said through the spokesman she could not disclose details of the information provided to the Government since the announcement was made.

"Australian officials have confirmed that there is no imminent threat of terrorist attacks in Australia," she said. "

Source here.

The stench of this all just gets worse.

re: Will Howard investigate seditious leaks on terror scare aga

Tony phillip states "In short the emperor has no clothes and we need to say it and keep saying it".

Music to my ears Tony. When Howard was first appointed leader of the Liberal Party I said exactly this in a letter to the editor at the time. It has taken a long time for me to finally hear soemone else express the same sentiment. You only have to look back at his career from the time he entered parliament. He hasn't really changed his tune even though he pretends he has by putting a different spin on the ideology from time to time.

I feel enormously sorry for the majority of the workers in this country if the IR changes go through. Just look at what is happening in America at the moment. Workers in some industries are being forced to reduce wages from $22.00 per hour to $11.00 and to forego other long held conditions or move on. These IR laws will create the climate for this to happen in Australia, maybe not this year or next but they will happen if there is the slightest down turn in profits or greater pressure from shareholders.

re: Will Howard investigate seditious leaks on terror scare aga

Wow, Senate just passed terror laws and Paul Bongiorno just given a scoop that there is a dire threat - wonder where he got that info from? Thought that was secret? This is a message to the main stream media... Baa, baa, baaaaa. I'd really like to know how they can verify their sources when anything to do with this dire threat is a state secret? Doesn't the Aussie media ever get sick of being used?

re: Will Howard investigate seditious leaks on terror scare aga

To Ellie Mahon and Russell Darroch, re Clive Williams.

I've had the pleasure to meet Clive on several occasions and listen to academic papers by him. He strikes me as a solid and independent academic and among the more reliable in the slightly dubious new area of security and terrorism studies.

I note Clive's interesting comment, I think on ABC Lateline news last night, that specific unspecified threats (or was that the other way around), of the type Howard is referring to, are generated regularly from routine surveillance by the security organs. (Ruddock calls them agencies but I much prefer the Soviet term, "the organs", it captures the black absurdity so well.)

What Clive was saying, though we got no elaboration in the sound grab, was that such threats can easily be found and waved around in public whenever it suits. They are always there, as part of the monitored chatter of the disaffected if nothing else.

Though now being disaffected is about to become a reason for having state force applied to one's person. After all the whole logic of each of these new laws is to keep reducing the burden of proof, and burden of process, required by the state to lock people up. The phrase given to this pattern in the history of East European communism was salami tactics, death of freedom and autonomy via a gradual whittling away.

I look forward to Howard's next press conference taking place under the Cone of Silence. Kill the light Hymie...

re: Will Howard investigate seditious leaks on terror scare aga

I'm with you on the Nicholson cartoon in the Australian today. Most unfunny and rather insulting to those with dark complexions whilst making little sense. I'm with Ross Chippendale on the thinking that Howard does not play clever politics, merely uses dirty tactics that more ethical politicans would refrain from. Those in the Liberals who support his success with these tactics should be ashamed of themselves.

Kevin Andrews continues his bogus claims that Australia has a worker shortage. Qantas, Telstra, Fairfax and now Medicare along with other large corporations are winding down thousands of jobs. The thinking behind this IR legislation is crazy. Lower wages and more jobs will be created. It just doesn't work like that in the real world but what would the spongers in the Canberra sheltered workshop we call Parlaiment know, most never having existed in the outside business climate.

Of course Howard will not investigate 'leaks' about our security. He's never asked our security services to explain why they dished up the bogus WMD evidence.

re: Will Howard investigate seditious leaks on terror scare aga

Tony Kevin, my interpretation is that the government has been forced into this by public opinion, to stave off vigilantism and protect social harmony as best it can. The flaw in its policy approach is to over-personalise the issue, which will more likely than not only act as a provocation, as particular individuals or groups start to feel as if they are being pin-pointed specifically. I second your call for all to remain calm, as calmness is the only way forward here. I think that the government is sophisticated enough to be able to see the difference between a real threat and a manufactured indulgence, however the audience they are addressing may not.

Howard/Beazley are in the unenviable position of trying to articulate all this to the sophisticates, with a nod and a wink, whilst riding the bull of public opinion. Next on the agenda should be to open a way out for people that are on the margins, to give them an opportunity to voice their regrets, for past indiscretions, which would help satiate the beast. All this needs to be done in such a way that no-one loses face.

re: Will Howard investigate seditious leaks on terror scare aga

S Marker: "The usual ... conservatives have been conspicuous by their absence on this thread."

Perhaps they are both on holidays.

re: Will Howard investigate seditious leaks on terror scare aga

There are a few important points in the ongoing debate on IR and AT. There is no opposition in Australia, the media are practically all Howard's yes men and women, and the population at large simply aren't aware of how all the new laws will affect them until it will be too late.

No new legislation is required as far as national security is concerned - the government has had for many years - since the Hilton bombing of 13 February 1978 in fact - all the legislation it has needed. And, as yet, 28 years after the Hilton bombing and several prison terms served by those innocent of any involvement in the bombing, no one has been apprehended and charged - and jailed - for that act!

The South African apartheid police state learned a great deal from Goebbels and the Nazi propaganda machine and the Nuremberg race laws, and the Howard government has learned these as well.

They are playing the race card for all it is worth - the Hanson legacy - and it all ties in with the Howard plan to turn Australia into a dictatorship where opponents are locked up.

And if you still think there will be elections in a few years time and the government can be got rid of, remember that if a state of emergency is declared, then a ban on further elections can be instituted because it would be against the national interest and security and we can all be locked up as subversives. Remember what Hitler did after February 1933! I came from the South African police state and I know how these things can happen.

And yes, it is very depressing! I left South Africa in 1978 believing I would never again live in a police state - how wrong can one be!! And at 79 I don't think I can have another such upheaval in my life! However, to be positive about it, most of the regimes have collapsed in the end and the leaders have - mostly - been called to account.

re: Will Howard investigate seditious leaks on terror scare aga

Margo, the "leaks" that you are concerned about are far from specific, in fact the most specific speculation seems have come this morning from Clive Williams on Radio National. The simple and obvious point you and your readers don't address is this - what would Labor and the Media have said if the government, with no explanation, suddenly announced "we have to do this amendment now. Within 24 hours"? Peter Hartcher in the SMH today claims that it could have been done "unobtrusively in the usual course of business." In the current climate, particularly that reflected in your own site, I find this impossible to believe. Even if Howard had a word in Kim's ear, and they both agreed to say nothing to the media, a sudden amendment to any terror legislation is sure to have been noticed, and the speculation about why it was being rushed through would have been rife. I would have expected several terrorism experts on the evening news speculating that new intelligence on a terrorist threat would be the likely explanation.

In short, assuming (which I know your readers are never going to do) that Howard was genuinely concerned to do the amendment urgently because of a specific need, it would have been impossible to do the amendment so quickly without the talk of terrorist threat being all over the media anyway.

Do your readers also all believe that one day's distraction is all that it is needed to make the public lose interest in the IR reform bill? There was never going to be all that much useful commentary last night anyway - we are talking 700 pages of legislation to digest!

The idea that there must be a dishonest and deceitful motive behind absolutely everything John Howard does is an item of faith on this site, while people like me who are unwilling to make that assumption are often derided as gullible fools. Must be good to have such perfect and infallible ability to know the mind of a politician. That this attitude is so rampant here is why you have a handful of conservative voices; it is clear there is simply no convincing, oh let's say, 90% of your readership of any alternative view. (I am allowing a 10% occasional readership, like me, who come to marvel as how it attracts so many who seem to live on the edge of hysteria all of the time. Watch out for those missile carrying helicopters over Canberra... they're coming to get you...)

re: Will Howard investigate seditious leaks on terror scare aga

S Marker: "The usual contributors of a more conservative bent have been conspicuous by their absence on this thread. Would anyone like to comment?"

Perhaps they're all too busy in the office - of National Assessments, Dept of PM and Cabinet, Workplace Relations, DIMIA.

I would also give up trying to infiltrate Webdiary if I were sent to do that, especially this week with all the cheering for Mr Howard's wins and wedges. Webdiarists are just incorrigible anyway.

Conspiracy? Remember that Ruddock in his time had 300 folks over several departments "monitoring" activists and advocates organising protests and dissent with his terrific Boat Stopping Policies.

re: Will Howard investigate seditious leaks on terror scare aga

Malcolm, what has happened to the referral issue you raised in all of this fiasco? I would find your update on that helpful.

re: Will Howard investigate seditious leaks on terror scare aga

Tony, I have met Clive too. I normally have time for his comments. In this case I think, if he was indeed fed anything, it was a crock. Of course what he said in general terms is true - that is the daily function of DIO, ASIO, JIO and ONA among others... that still does not make what has been claimed this week true.

re: Will Howard investigate seditious leaks on terror scare aga

Sometimes I wonder why I bother. Is no-one listening? How many links to the Constitution have to be posted here before some of you actually go and read the frigging thing. Why do so many Australians think our Constitution is the same as the US Constitution? It isn't.

Why is it that so many of you reffos come here without any course in civics and just assume that it works here the way it did in the old gulag? My favourite story is the Headmaster of Vaucluse High having to explain to Russian emigres after the collapse of the Soviet Union that it was not actually necessary to bribe him to get their children into the school.

Now, Mannie De Saxe, gotcha. Read s28 of the Constitution for pity's sakes. It provides for a maximum term of three years for the House of Reps. We HAVE to have an election at least every three years.

State of Emergency my fat aunt (only got one left). This is Australia not South Africa. Now can I get on with something useful?

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