Nation at Crossroads

  1. 18,063 Posts.
    Simon Benson really hits the nail on the head in this article:

    The nation is surely at a crossroads

    THERE are defining moments in a nation’s history that by necessity, determine its future. We now find ourselves in one of them.
    Whether we realise it or not Australia has reached another crossroads in its social, economic and political evolution.
    We can choose to ignore the dilemmas that confront us by circumstance and past failures or consider how to engineer the institutional and civil changes that will shape what sort of country we want to and will inevitably become.
    The debate pivots on the two foundation issues of national security and economic security.
    The policy questions can no longer be put off.
    But as our own history demonstrates, the greatest barrier to reform is us. We are the problem.
    Australians seem ill- prepared, either through collective apathy or a naive and misguided disbelief, to deal with these matters beyond the scope of our own individual self-interest.
    The national security architecture of this country has and is changing dramatically. But there is still a view among many that the terrorism fears raised by intelligence agencies are in fact the confection of a government beating a well-worn political drum.
    Apathy in this case has also been a benefit, as it has helped enable the government to enact unprecedented legislative changes without protest — the detail and effect of which would be unquotable by most Australians despite the significant powers they have conferred to policing and spy agencies.
    The delinquency inherent in this apathy, however, is also one of the greatest concerns shared among officials in the intelligence and counter terrorism agencies.
    And that is: Australians are psychologically unprepared for a terrorist attack, despite the likelihood of an event now greater than it has ever been and despite the fact that at least two have occurred in the past six months.
    Domestic terrorism is no longer a concept or theory, it is a reality.
    There are about 200 people in Australia that are now under active surveillance by ASIO.
    Omar al-Kutobi and Mohammad Kiad weren’t among them.
    This is what has counterterrorism officials deeply disturbed. There are those they know about who pose a risk and there are those they don’t know about.
    But the national security debate continues to be regarded in isolation of “events” and success or failure in preventing them with the intervals between them seemingly determining our level of indifference.
    The debate of course is much broader than this. And its outcome will determine the legislative framework for decades to come on immigration law, border security, policing powers, privacy and freedom of the press. It will also influence over time the very fabric of social cohesion, the concept of multiculturalism and the principle of religious tolerance.
    So far the government has enjoyed bipartisan support from Labor leader Bill Shorten.
    But there is much more to come.
    The government yesterday gave a hint as to where it might steer this political debate when it raised the issue of the former Rudd/Gillard government’s running down of national security and defence funding in the context of opening up borders to asylum seekers.
    Labor has a poor record when it comes to this. It knows it is vulnerable to a political wedge because of the unease with which the Labor Left is now being corralled into supporting laws it otherwise never would have.
    The most contentious of all the laws proposed is the two year data retention legislation likely to come to the Parliament next month.
    It is not apathy as much as it is a communal disbelief however, that threatens our economic security. And on this there is only partisan politics. Not since the 70s has there been such a divide between Labor and the Coalition on how to achieve prosperity.
    That was until the PM’s near death experience this week when 39 of his MPs unsuccessfully voted to spill his leadership.
    This has introduced a new paradigm into the economic struggle, with the Prime Minister now finding himself governing without a safety net. Any misstep now will result in political death.
    The risk of policy timidity is great. And it now threatens to undermine our long-term economic security perhaps more than perhaps the economic parameters themselves.
    The government is now stuck between a rock and a hard place. To abandon the austerity narrative as seems likely will happen, in favour of a soft touch Budget borne of political necessity, says to the electorate that they might as well vote Labor. We will never see another surplus in our lifetimes anyway.
    Yet most of us are also indulging a collective incredulity. Whether we choose to believe it or not, our way of life is in the process of being irrevocably changed under the new economic and national security realities.
    And there aren’t too many chances left to get this right.
    It is a test of the nation’s psychological resilience.
    Australians will have no one to blame but themselves if the open, generous, decent, prosperous and secure country we would like to think ourselves of, becomes a dream lost to self-interest and cowardice.
    We will get the future we deserve based on the decisions we make today.

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