23 March 2023
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War Frames

As Prime Minister Tony Abbott oversees Australia's deployment of troops to Iraq from his temporary office in the Garma Knowledge Centre on the Gulkula plateau, politicians and observers are looking for the right frame to describe the military operation. The Labor Party has fallen into line behind the government, accepting Abbott's assertions that the mission against the Islamic State is unlike others in the Middle East and that while this mission is essentially humanitarian, there's also a national security component: if allowed to expand, the Islamic State would inevitably pose a threat to Australia. Mark Kenny reports in the Fairfax press that "sources close to" Abbott insist that he's acting on a clear moral sense of duty, which flows from the simple characterisation of the Islamic State as "evil". This perhaps explains his eagerness to involve Australia, which has been much quicker off the mark than Britain.

The Greens and others, on the other hand, worry that Australia's eagerness looks too much like its traditional deference to its "great and powerful friends". Christine Milne yesterday pointed to the lack of a time-frame or even clearly-defined objectives to Australia's mission, and raised the concern that Australia's involvement will only encourage the radicalisation of disaffected and alienated young Muslims. Although Abbott and ASIO's outgoing Director-General of Security David Irvine have denied any such correlation, ASIO's own report to parliament in 2012-13 acknowledged that Australia's military operations in the Middle East do raise the risk of domestic terrorism.

In Washington, journalist Paul McGeough points out that the US-led mission lacks clarity. Those urging military action in the US, Britain and Australia are particularly animated by the potential dangers posed by "returning Jihadists", but those governments are rarely asked to quantify that threat in any way. Meanwhile there appears disagreement on either side of the Pacific as to whether the mission should even be described as a "war".

Russell Marks

Indigenous recognition timeframe to emerge by week’s end

"Tony Abbott said he hoped to achieve similar levels of support for an Indigenous constitutional recognition to the unprecedented 90% ‘yes’ vote for the 1967 Indigenous referendum." (Gabrielle Chan, The Guardian)

Also: Warren Mundine savages plan for dedicated Indigenous seats (Patricia Karvelas and Rosie Lewis, The Australian, possible paywall)

Tony Abbott warns Australians fighting for Islamic State could be targeted by RAAF bombs

"Mr Abbott has moved to scale back expectations of the Iraq foray, arguing military intervention is not an attempt to establish a pluralist democracy in the war-torn country but merely to defeat an enemy that would come looking for Australia if left unchecked." (Mark Kenny, Fairfax)

Also: Australia's involvement in Iraq: your questions answered (Daniel Hurst, The Guardian)

Analysis: Threat hype for Islamic State doesn't match its capabilities or reach (Paul McGeough, Fairfax)

Bill Shorten led AWU "training fund" according to former colleague

"Labor leader Bill Shorten faces his biggest test yet before the trade union royal commission with claims he oversaw an employment deal that lowered wages for hundreds of mushroom pickers in return for unusual payments to the union he led at the time." (Royce Millar and Nick Toscano, Fairfax)

Comment: Murky slush fund saga signals labour must clean up (Royce Millar, Fairfax)

Joe Hockey says Arthur Sinodinos should return to frontbench

"Federal Treasurer Joe Hockey wants Arthur Sinodinos to eventually return to the frontbench, saying the former assistant treasurer is ‘a man of great personal integrity’." (Nicole Hasham, Fairfax)

European Union surprised Tony Abbott will not attend high level climate summit

"World leaders including US president Barack Obama and UK prime minister David Cameron will attend the UN secretary-general's Climate Summit on September 23. Mr Abbott will not be attending, despite the fact that he is due to attend a UN Security Council meeting in New York the next day." (Jake Sturmer, ABC News)

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