Australia: Debacle over terrorism and citizenship is leak-based policy in its purest form | Lenore Taylor | Australia news | The Guardian

Lenore Taylor of The Guardian on the leak strategy being used to sell the proposed Australian revocation policy change for convicted terrorists:

One might ask what is to be gained from so many headlines galloping so far ahead of actual decisions, or indeed, actual facts.

Does it help the police and intelligence agencies with their very important task of “keeping Australians safe” either by preventing acts of violence in this country, or preventing dangerous foreign fighters from returning, or the strategy for countering violent extremism aimed at stopping people here from becoming radicalised and dangerous?

Or is it playing to a very different audience – with the much more political aim of keeping security threats at the forefront of the national conversation and, perhaps, goading Labor into disagreement so that they can be portrayed as “weak on terror”?

The prime minister’s most powerful advisor is taking a keen interest in the policy and politics of the issue – his chief of staff, Peta Credlin, told a recent meeting of Coalition staff she was spending at least 40% of her time on the issue.

Another clue might lie in yet more information from the prime minister’s office to the Daily Telegraph, this time in an article entitled “The first cracks in Australia’s bipartisan approach to terrorism could doom Bill Shorten” which revealed that the prime minister received 900 emails in the week after the budget expressing anger at the possibility that “repentant Australian jihadis” might be allowed back into the country.

The article praised the prime minister’s “instinctive” response that “If you go abroad to join a terrorist group and you seek to come back to Australia, you will be arrested, you will be prosecuted and jailed” in comparison with Shorten’s reaction that “There are laws in place, I’m not going to play judge and jury.”

But of course, there are laws in place, and they do have evidentiary requirements. Which means the courts may not in every case implement the prime minister’s “instinct”. Which is presumably where the new policy-thought about citizenship-stripping comes in. And Shorten has been pretty careful to make sure there are no “cracks” in the bipartisanship on these issues, no matter what the government proposes.

There is, of course, an alternative to slap-dash policy in response constituent-email reaction, or policy by cabinet-pre-empting, headline-seeking press leak, and that is that old-fashioned idea of policy developed to address a real problem, thought through and discussed by cabinet, before public announcement.

Debacle over terrorism and citizenship is leak-based policy in its purest form | Lenore Taylor | Australia news | The Guardian.

About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

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