Terror Strikes Sydney

As the world knows now, terror has struck Australia’s shores like a lighting bolt. As Australians woke up yesterday, most likely nobody could have predicted what would happen or could expect that by 10am the entire country’s attention would be focused on a hostage situation in Sydney.

What we know so far is fragmented and at times contradictory. However, from what we can gather, at 9:45am an unknown man entered the Lindt Cafe in Sydney’s Martin Place and took over 20 people hostage. The first images that emerged were of two terrified women holding a black Islamic Shahada flag up against the window.

1418601847601It was initially reported, incorrectly, that this was the flag of the Islamic State. Nevertheless, the presence of this flag at the beginning of the hostage crisis stamped the event with overtones of an Islamist extremist attack.

For most of the day, there were no developments in the hostage case. Police acted swiftly and sealed off most of downtown Sydney, with the news and social media lighting up as people sought out and traded what information they could find. The information was incomplete, inconsistent, and sometimes completely false. Then at mid afternoon we saw the dramatic images of at first 3 people and then later another 2 escaping from the cafe and running into the arms of police. For many, the defining image of the siege was a cafe employee running into the arms of a heavily armed tactical response officer

039905-ee7b8d36-8421-11e4-b7a3-5366c32c384aA hostage runs towards a police officer outside Lindt cafe, where other hostages are being held, in Martin Place in central Sydne

As night fell though, the siege appeared to settle down, as the hostage taker reportedly released a number of demands. These have not been confirmed by police, but have been reported to include the provision of an Islamic State flag to the hostage taker, along with the demand to talk to the Prime Minister.

What we know at this stage is that just after 2am, police seemed to storm the building. Witnesses report explosions plus several volleys of gunfire. Hostages then started streaming out of the building, some assisted by police. The confrontation ended with 3 dead, including the hostage taker, and a number injured, including a police officer who was shot in the attack.

It is far too early to speculate about what happened. There will be an immense media beat-up in the next few weeks and months, and the Police and security services will conduct their own investigation.

From what we can surmise so far though, police could have entered the building based on an imminent threat to the hostage’s safety. In hostage situations like this, the strategy employed by police is usually to wait out the hostage taker while the threat to the hostages is minimized. During this time hostage negotiators will attempt to contact the assailant and understand the situation more fully. There is often a dialogue back to forth. The best solution is for the hostage taker to reach some agreement with police and release some or all of the hostages. It is suggested that the exit of the 5 hostages earlier in the day could have been a negotiated release by police, though it is unclear if their escaped or were released.

Police will move in on a hostage taker if there is the belief that there is clear and present danger to the hostages, or if there is an open opportunity to defuse the situation quickly and safely. While we don’t know what sparked the attack, the gunman inside could have acted in a hostile manner towards the hostages or gave police reason to believe he was about to do so. This seems likely, as police had been content to wait out the siege for almost 16 hours previously, before moving in.

From watching the video of the live assault, at first one can hear a muffled shot, perhaps from inside the cafe. Police at this stage started to push into the building, leading to another single shot, followed shortly by a volley of shots as police opened fire. At around the 16 – 18 second mark the police seem to have thrown up to 4 flashbang like devices into the building, followed by bright flashes of light before they make entry and hostages are rescued from the building.

As expected the confrontation was over in seconds. My initial belief, based on the very limited amount of data which is available, is that the hostage taker could have fired a shot (the initial shot heard) which then sparked the police storming the cafe. It is hard to know what could have happened however, as the footage is not have a great quality, and down not show any other angles. More details will emerge shortly, and I will attempt to analyze these as they come to light.

Expect more shortly, and our thoughts and prayers go out to those affected by this terrible attack.

A Changing World

The last 60 years of the twentieth century may very well be seen as including some of the fastest and widest reaching changes ever to occur in human history. The main driver of these changes has been the idea of Globalisation. Globalisation can be defined simply as the decrease in the political and macroeconomic barriers which prevent a free flow of ideas, products, labour, and money between countries. It is a retreat from the traditional idea of a nation state, and a progress towards a more homogenous world.

Globalisation is often cited in an economic context, and indeed, economics has been, and remains, the main driver of the global movement. In the new world of globalisation, a business has access to a far larger number of markets and supply networks. Businesses can purchase supplies, assemble a product, and resell to a market, with all three operations in different time zones. Globalisation is seen as lifting less developed nations out of poverty, as foreign direct investment lifts the national earning, and invests infrastructure, educational resources, and increased skill sets to the economy.

To support the advance of Globalisation, many governments have made extensive policy decisions, including signing free trade agreements with neighbouring allies, removing restrictive tariffs and barriers to market entry, and improving international relationships between countries to enable ease of trade.

Legal and regulatory bodies, such as the IMF, the World Bank, and others have historically supported Globalisation, and seek to establish a cross border legal and appeals system which will support the international growth of foreign investment.

While businesses, governments, and world leaders may enthusiastically support and promote Globalisation, there also exists a strong and vocal opposing force which views Globalisation as breaking down national identity and sovereignty. The critics range from the nationalistic to the xenophobic to the academic. In their view, Globalisation is a tool of corporate bodies to gain greater power over state’s interests, and that the poorer and middle classes are the real losers. At times, these opposing world views have violently clashed, such as the infamous “Battle of Seattle”, and the Melbourne riots.

It is beyond dispute that Globalisation affects all citizens of a state, and that there will be a segment of the population that will not experience a benefit from Globalisation. National interests do become supplanted by regional or global interests. This paper seeks to analyse the rise of Globalisation in the Asia Pacific region and the future direction of the region. It also seeks to identify some of the criticisms of the Global movement, as well as the definite benefits gained by Globalisation.

Finally the author makes the argument that Globalisation is both a pacifying and an inflammatory position between nations. Globalisation can be used as a weapon by an aggressive state, giving states another offensive method rather than armed conflict.

Breaking down of Trade Barriers:

 In a speech in 2008, former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd stated that in our international dealings with the Asia Pacific region, “we need a strong system of global and regional relationships and institutions to underpin stability.

We also have to make sure that the open, rules-based system of global trade is maintained and expanded. It is the system that has underwritten our prosperity, just as it has underwritten the prosperity of the region”.[1]

By saying this, Mr Rudd was referring to one of the principal tenants of globalisation; lowered trade barriers between nations. Traditionally, countries have existed primarily on a protectionist basis. Protectionism is the belief that Governments should enact policies which “restrict or restrain international trade, often done with the intent of protecting local businesses and jobs from foreign competition. Typical methods of protectionism are import tariffs, quotas, subsidies or tax cuts to local businesses and direct state intervention”[2]. Protectionism is seen as a method of ensuring that local industries remain competitive by raising the barriers of entry for competing foreign firms. Examples of protectionism are seen in almost every major economy, even those which openly advocate a free trade and globalist approach. Australia engaged in protectionist policy until recently by subsidising the local automotive industry[3]. Both the United States and France engage in trade subsidies of local agricultural products to increase their competitiveness[4].

The long term effects of a protectionist policy approach are debated, however the majority view of the Globalists is that protectionism and government intervention in the market creates both inefficiencies of either an excess or shortage in the economy of the protected item. As a result of the Global Financial Crisis, protectionism gained new life, however. Governments, supported by demands of their citizens, turned to protectionism as a method of supporting threatened local industries. Economists were alarmed at this trend, citing the example of the Great Depression of the 1930s. During the Great Depression, the United Stated in particular withdrew from global trade and isolated itself behind protectionism. Many economists believe that this isolation both increased the severity and duration of the depression[5]. It is proposed that the reason the Global Financial Crisis did not become a new Great Depression was due to the concerted efforts of organisations such as the World Trade Organisation to encourage nations to uphold free trade.

Proponents of the Globalist idea point to the apparent benefits of lessening trade barriers between nations.

 The Business Argument:

From a business point of view, decreased trade barriers mean greater access to a wide variety of markets, both for supply and sale of goods. The modern business can now trade with the world, equally completing with a home grown business in another country. Profits can be increased by utilising lower cost labour or products in a foreign market, which in turn are translated into savings for the consumer.

For the consumer, it is also a benefit to have access to the world’s markets with ease. One of the accompanying drivers of globalisation, communication, enables buyers to inform themselves as to the best value of quality of product they desire.

In a global marketplace, businesses are also able to open up new income streams, including foreign currency trading, international investments, and export financing.

The Development Argument:

In a 2001 report, the International Monetary Fund stated that “contrary to popular beliefs, increased trade has strongly encouraged growth and poverty reduction and has contributed to narrowing the gaps between rich and poor worldwide.[6].

The paper analysed 24 countries which experienced globalisation since the 1980s. This list included well known examples such as China, Thailand, Argentina, and India. The IMF paper found that out of the three groups of countries, “Rich” countries, “Nonglobalizers”, and “Globalizers”, the 24 countries which experimented with globalisation experienced far greater average GDP growth in the 1980s and 1990s than any other group[7].

This growth rate accelerated from 1.4% in the 1960s to over 5% in the 1990s. Out of the 24 countries surveyed, 18 experienced real growth in per capita GDP.

The Moral Argument:

A more simple argument has also been presented in support of a breakdown in trade barriers. This argument simply states that protectionism provides an unfair advantage to one industry over another, creating an inefficient market place. A global market place should require all participants to trade and transact on their own merits and on an equal footing[8].

The Asia Pacific region has been a classic example of the rise of cross border trade. In the 1960s to 1980s, economic growth in the Pacific Region was fuelled by a post-war Japan and the rise of the Asian Tigers, Hong Kong, Taiwan, South Korea, and Singapore, who experienced gradual trade liberalisation[9]. In the 1980s, and 1990s, the economic rise of China began to dominate the Asia Pacific region, leading to what some called “open regionalism”[10]. This open regionalism gave way to a dramatic rise in Free Trade Agreements in the Asia Pacific region.

There have been calls to amalgamate these free trade agreements, of which Australia is a signatory to a number, into a giant free trade zone, covering 50% of the world’s economic output[11]. After the failure of the Doha round of trade talks, calls were made to implement this Asia Pacific Free Trade Area to both revitalize APEC and foster integration within Asia Pacific[12].

Globalisation and National Identity:

 As briefly discussed previously, globalisation definitely has its detractors. One of the major arguments against globalisation is that nations may lose their national and cultural identity and that ultimately nationalistic interests will suffer.

Critics argue that if nationalism and protectionist policies are abandoned, foreign investment in the country will supplant local business interests, with traditionally locally controlled and owned companies being controlled by international interests. This is seen as leading to a loss of jobs in the country, as businesses outsource manufacturing operations and services to a cheaper labour market. Combined with this, critics see foreign imports as being of less quality than locally produced products[13].

Opponents of Globalisation often adhere to a patriotic and nationalist view of society, opposing extensive immigration into their country, and either a “Westernisation” or “Islamisation” of their country. While Australian nationalists may condemn an decrease in “Western” culture and values in their country[14], nationalists in Malaysia or Indonesia may decry an increase in Western values and culture.

Various nations in the Asia Pacific Region have reacted to the threat to national identity by Globalisation in different ways.

Australia’s response has been to accept Globalisation and free trade eagerly in public policy. Prime Minister Rudd sought to strengthen economic and political ties with Asia, particularly with China while he was in office. This goal is being carried on by Prime Minister Julia Gillard, as evidenced by her recent statements at the G20 summit urging world leaders to embrace free trade and reject protectionism[15].

At a grassroots level of society, however, Australians have traditionally been wary of multiculturalism and Globalisation. In a 2003 survey, the Australian population was seen as being divided in response to questions such as “Should Australia increase economic ties with Asia” and “Should Australia increase cultural and political ties with Asia”. The final conclusion by the authors of the survey was “…Australians are comparatively ‘closed’ to globalisation on key subjective and objective measures, and Australian attitudes to global engagement are shaped by respondents economic security and views about the effect an open economy on jobs…Overall we find that many Australians are wary of greater economic, political, and cultural engagement.”[16]

China, on the other hand, while being the economic superpower of the Asia Pacific region, has openly stated that the first national priority is to protect national interests, economic, cultural, and political[17]. China is determined to maintain these, even at the expense of armed conflict[18].

 Case Study: ASX and the National Interest

 The previous merger bid between ASX Limited (ASX) and Singapore Exchange Limited (SGX) is a perfect example of the challenges faced by globalisation and the benefits which can be experienced from it.

In October 2010, the ASX and the SGX announced a proposed $8.4 billion merger to create the premier international exchange in Asia Pacific to “enable customers globally to capitalise on listing, trading, clearing and settlement opportunities created through the expanded platforms, leveraging on the importance of Asia Pacific as the driver of global growth”.[19]

The proposed merger would provide customers to access over 2,700 listed companies, including over 200 Chinese listings. In addition, the merger would create the world’s second largest base on institutional investors and the second largest cluster of resource companies.

The ASX enthusiastically identified a number of benefits to Australia’s national interest from this merger.

The first benefit of the merger is the establishment of Australia as a leading financial services hub in the Asia Pacific. Many Asian countries are seen as being eager for foreign investment opportunities, and Australia could be seen as an attractive destination if it invested in the necessary infrastructure and groundwork to be an attractive investment destination[20]. An increased recognition of Australia’s role in the region would assure investors that Australia was determined and interested in integrating local and Asian financial markets. The report stated that “For Australia to have any chance of becoming a regional financial services hub, we must first demonstrate commitment to the region and a genuine willingness to engage”.[21]

An enhanced role for Australia in the Asia Pacific financial markets would also improve the quality and numbers of financial services professionals in Australia’s capital cities. Rather than attracting talent from Australia, the merger would facilitate skilled professionals to build careers in Australia.

Finally, the merger would reduce the cost of attracting foreign capital. Traditionally, the Australian economy has operated at a significant and increasing current account deficit, indicating a heavy reliance on foreign investment rather than domestic savings. Australia’s largest exports, resources, agriculture, and education, are dependant on Asia, particularly China and India. This dependence is expected to rise in the future.

The merger between ASX and SGX was seen as increasing the potential pool of foreign capital which Australia requires in order to remain an economic power.

Based on the above reasons, proponents of Globalisation see the proposed merger as a win-win situation for all involved.

However, the critics of Globalisation demonstrated their traditional opposition to decreased trade barriers. Immediately after the announcement, two of Australia’s three major political parties, the Greens and the Liberal and National Coalition, hit back at the merger. Both parties refused to support or permit the merger unless it was demonstrated that it was in Australia’s national interest. Bob Brown, leader of the environmentalist and leftist leaning Greens stated that “[The deal would] shortchange Australia and leave the nation vulnerable to the loss of control of a key financial institution. Ceding control now means opening the door to future predators. Once those protections are gone, future takeover attempts are a certainty”.[22]

From the other side of the political spectrum, MP Robert Katter denounced the merger as “lunacy on a grand scale”, and stated that “I have a desire some things in my country are left owned by my country. I do not wish to live in a country of serfs working for foreign landlords”.[23]

Mr Katter’s comments are a textbook case of protectionist and anti-globalist sentiment, which has found favour with many Australians.

The ASX warns, however, that “if ASX-SGX were disallowed, this could add to perceptions, especially in Asia, that Australia is not welcoming of foreign investment and/or was overly protectionist…Disallowing ASX-SGX would send the wrong message to foreign investors – particularly as similar exchange combinations have been approved in many jurisdictions around the world.” [25]

Cross Border Security Implications:

 National aggression has traditionally been carried out through armed conflict between nations for the purpose of establishing regional dominance, acquisition of land and resources, or for ideological purposes, such as during the Cold War.

Globalisation, however, is seen by its proponents as being an instrument for global peace and prosperity. The rise of bilateral free trade agreements has been identified as a contributing factor towards promoting the lessening of armed conflicts, and empirical research by Lee and Pyun aims to refute the charge that the result of globalisation is an increase in aggression between countries[26].

Lee and Pyun in a later research article identified two ways that globalisation is promoting peace worldwide. Firstly, an aggressive trading partner may be shunned by other partners in a region, leading to economic downturn within the country, as foreign investment will be hesitant to invest in a nation engaged in aggression against another[27]. Secondly, increased information flow, international investment, and communication abilities provided by globalisation enable dissidents under an autocratic regime to successfully gain international support for their cause. The current regime challenges seen in the Middle East have been linked to a globalist movement[28], which demands greater economic development within Egypt. Globalisation seems to be accomplishing in the Middle East what Neoconservatives in the United States hoped would occur due to the United States military intervention into Iraq.

However, while trade agreements and economic interdependence between nations may lessen the occurrence of armed conflict, they have also provided aggressive nations with opportunities to manipulate trading partners to promote national interests.

An example of economic Globalisation being used for aggressive purposes can be seen in the rise of China in Africa and Asia Pacific. In order to accomplish their goals of economic expansion, Chinese intelligence and military services have become dedicated to infiltrating and targeting business competitors to Chinese interests, rather than political competitors. A recent report on Chinese investment in Africa identified The Ministry of State Security of the People’s Republic of China working in conjunction with the Economic Intelligence Unit of the Ministry of Economics to ensure the competitiveness of Chinese companies and gather intelligence on opposing companies[29].

In addition, there have been numerous alleged cases of cyber attacks on Australian businesses by China for the purpose of gaining business intelligence[30]. Globalisation may have reduced armed conflict between nations, but it has also given nations the tools to engage in greater economic aggression.

Many countries, however, are still resolved to protect national interests by any means, including armed aggression. China’s openness regarding this has prompted the Australian Defence White Paper to identify China as a possible regional threat in the future[31]. In a 2008 speech, the Director of Australia’s National Security Project stated that nationalism was possibly on the rise in the Asia Pacific. He included India and China as examples of countries willing to engage in territorial disputes[32].

Conclusion

 That Globalisation has redefined and changed the Asia Pacific region is not disputed. As the region moves into the twenty first century, it is inevitable that Globalisation will continue to remain the dominant driving force of economic development. In is the opinion of the author that Australia has much to gain from embracing Globalisation and by integrating itself into Asia Pacific.

It is also inevitable, however, that continued nationalist sympathies will continue to oppose Globalisation. Governments within the region will be forced to confront the delicate task of balancing appropriate national interests with regional and global ones. As migration and trade increases, however, the cultural and economic disparities within the region will lessen, leading to stronger links between nations in Asia Pacific.

[1] Rudd, K, “It’s Time to Build an Asia Pacific Community” Speech at the Asia Society held 04/06/08 , transcript at http://www.asiasociety.org.au/speeches/speeches_current/s55_PM_Rudd_AD2008.html

[2] Investopedia, “Protectionism Definition”, http://www.investopedia.com/terms/p/protectionism.asp , accessed 15/02/11

[3] Kerr, C., 2010, “Call to Slash Auto Aid”, The Australian, 15/12/10 , http://www.theaustralian.com.au/national-affairs/call-to-slash-auto-aid/story-fn59niix-1225953470158 accessed 16/02/11

[4] Griswold, D., Young, B, “Online Debate – Should the United States Cut Its Farm Subsidies?”  Council on Foreign Relations, http://www.cfr.org/trade/should-united-states-cut-its-farm-subsidies/p13147 , accessed 17/02/11

[5] Stoler, A., “Trade Protectionism and the WTO: A New Challenge under the Global Financial Crisis, Eigth Forum on the WTO, Shenzhen, China, 19/10/09. Presentation by the Institute for International Trade

[6] Dollar, D., Kraay, A., 2001, “Trade Growth and Poverty”, Finance and Development, IMF, September 2001, Volume 38, No 3

[7] Dollar, D., Kraay, A., 2001, “Trade Growth and Poverty”, Finance and Development, IMF, September 2001, Volume 38, No 3

[8] Ikenson, D., Lincicome, S., 2011, “Beyond Exports: A Better Case for Free Trade”, CATO Institute, Free Trade Bulletin no 43, January 31, 2011

[9] Drysdale, P., 2006, “India, East Asia, and Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation”, Paper presented at ARC Asia Pacific Futures Research Network Conference 2006. www.sueztosuva.org.au/south_asia/2006/Drysdale.pdf accessed 17/02/11

[10] Garnaut, R., 2004, “A New Open Regionalism in the Asia Pacific”, Paper Presented at the International Conference on World Economy, Colima, Mexico, 25 November, 2004  http://www.rossgarnaut.com.au/Documents/A%20New%20Open%20Regionalism%20in%20the%20Asia%20Pacific%202004.pdf accessed 18/02/11

[11] Australia Network News, 2010, “Asia Pacific Plans Huge Free Trade Zone”, http://australianetworknews.com/stories/201011/3065878.htm?desktop , accessed 14/02/11

[12] Bergsten, C. F., 2006, “The Case for a Free Trade Area of the Asia Pacific”, Peterson Institute for International Economics, http://www.iie.com/publications/papers/paper.cfm?ResearchID=687   accessed 17/02/11

[13] Worthington G., 2001, “Globalisation: Perceptions and Threats to National Government in Australia”, Research Paper, Parliamentary Library  http://www.aph.gov.au/library/pubs/rp/2000-01/01RP27.htm  accessed 18/02/11

[14] Sydney Morning Herald, 2011, “Morrison, Muslims, and Multiculturalism”, SMH February 19, 2011, http://www.smh.com.au/opinion/editorial/morrison-muslims-and-multiculturalism-20110218-1azl1.html accessed 19/02/11

[15] Shanahan, D., 2010, “Resist Protectionism, Julia Gillard urges Leaders at G20 Summit in Seoul”, The Australian, November 12, 2010

[16] Wilson, S., Meagher, G., Gibson, R. Denemark, D., Western, M., 2005, Australian Social Attitudes: The First Report, UNSW Press September 2005

[17] Bezlova, A. 2009, “National Interest First – Wen Jiabao”, IPS News, http://ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=46099,  accessed 14/02/11

[18] The Times of India, 2011, “China Ready to Go to War to Safeguard National Interests”,  http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/politics/nation/china-ready-to-go-to-war-to-safeguard-national-interests/articleshow/7482654.cms  accessed 17/02/11

[19] ASX Joint News Release, 2010, “ASX and SGX to Combine”, 25/10/10 http://www.asxgroup.com.au/asx-sgx-merger.htm  accessed 18/02/11

[20] ASX, 2010, “ASX-SGX: Why the Combination is in Australia’s National Interest” 06/12/10, http://www.asxgroup.com.au/asx-sgx-merger.htm  accessed 18/02/11

[21] ASX, 2010, “ASX-SGX: Why the Combination is in Australia’s National Interest” 06/12/10, http://www.asxgroup.com.au/asx-sgx-merger.htm  accessed 18/02/11

[22] Steger I, 2010, “SGX-ASX Merger Still Faces a Number of Obstacles”, Wall Street Journal,  http://blogs.wsj.com/exchange/2011/02/17/sgx-asx-merger-still-faces-a-number-of-obstacles/ accessed 18/02/11

[23] Pannett R., 2010, “ASX Takeover by Singapore Rival Hits Political Hurdles”, The Australian, October 26, 2010

[24] ASX Joint News Release, 2010, “ACCC does not propose to intervene in ASX-SGX merger proposal”, 15/12/10 http://www.asxgroup.com.au/asx-sgx-merger.htm  accessed 18/02/11

[25] ASX, 2010, “ASX-SGX: Why the Combination is in Australia’s National Interest” 06/12/10, http://www.asxgroup.com.au/asx-sgx-merger.htm  accessed 18/02/11

[26] Lee J, Pyun, J., 2009, “Does Trade Integration Contribute to Peace?”, Working Paper Series on Regional Economic Integration No 24, January 2009, Asian Development Bank

[27] [27] Lee J, Pyun, J., 2009, “Globalisation Promotes Peace”, VOX, March 21, 2009,  http://www.voxeu.org/index.php?q=node/3316 , accessed 18/02/11

[28] Steinbock, D., 2011, “Egypt After Mubarak: New Era of Modernization?” The Globalist, February 15, 2011,  http://www.theglobalist.com/storyid.aspx?StoryId=8991 , accessed 18/02/11

[29] Institute of Developing Economies, Japan External Trade Organisation, 2009, “China in Africa: A Strategic Overview”

[30] Hewett J., 2010, “Miners Fear Secrets Stolen by Chinese Cyber-Spies”, The Australian, http://www.theaustralian.com.au/business/mining-energy/miners-fear-secrets-stolen-by-chinese-cyber-spies/story-e6frg9df-1225855718533 accessed 18/02/11

[31] Australian Government, Department of Defence, 2009, “Defence White Paper 2009”,

[32] Ungerer C, 2008, “The International Drivers of Australia’s National Security”, Speech to the Security in Government Conference, Canberra, 18 September 2008

Border Security or Broarder Security Part 2

After discussing last weeks a very brief introduction to the concept of internal and external security, and the value of an immigration and customs service, we will turn our attention to the dangers facing Australia through a completely open border policy.

The year was 1990, and Abdul Benbrika was demanding entrance into Australia as a political refugee from Algeria. Claiming that he was facing persecution in his home country, and would be killed if he returned, Benbrika entered Australia illegally and dodged multiple attempts to remove him for up to five years. Finally marrying an Australia, Benbrika secured a permanent VISA to Australia, moving here permanently.

Benbrika began to teach in both Melbourne and Sydney at local Mosques, including the Brunswick Mosque in Melbourne. His teaching and preaching became more and more radical against Australia, especially following September 11. In the years following September 11, Benbrika began to form a network of radical elements in both Sydney and Melbourne with the express purpose of “killing a lot of Australians” to punish the country for entering Iraq.

He and his loyal disciples identified a number of targets including the Melbourne city rail network, the Grand Final, or the then Prime Minister John Howard. His group attempted to acquire weapons, and built explosive devices which they detonated in a test run while with an undercover police officer. Benbrika had a volunteer in his group for a suicide attack, and he talked earnestly about the beheadings by Al Qaeda in Iraq of American forces, and he stated that his group needed to learn from this.

Benbrika and his group were arrested before the attacks could occur, and were sentenced for what amounted to a slap on the wrist, with Benbrika possibly walking after a 6 year sentence.

Reports have indicated that Benbrika has not been the only illegal immigrant to seek refuge in Australia, who turned out later to be a supporter of violent extremism. During the years leading up to September 11, there was an influx of individuals with militant ties who flooded to Australia to seek protection from the autocratic regimes in their country, including countries such as Egypt and Algeria. Many of these individuals were given asylum in Australia.

The issue that has arisen is that, while autocratic, many of these regimes have been, and continue to carry out a war against Islamic extremists. Fleeing this war, the extremists have found refuge in a more hospitable location – where the people and the government have had a history of welcoming those less fortunate.

The process of security vetting for refugees entering Australia requires security assessments by ASIO (The Australian Security and Intelligence Organisation). As Australia’s primarily internal security agency, ASIO will provide a ruling on a refugee’s security suitability to enter Australia. These tests look at both the background of the person entering Australia, and the reason for their attempt. As the background of many refugees is either difficult to uncover and check, a lengthy time will often take place before a security assessment is given. This length of time, during which the refugee is detained, is what has caused the uproar from the pro refugee camp.

However, the question must be asked – “Do we err on the side of caution or humanity?” The refugees are not treated inhumanely while in detention. While they are not free to go, they have access to medical care, educational materials, housing, and conditions most likely better than what they fled from. This is not to say that the conditions are ideal, however in Australia they are held by a country which upholds Human Rights, will not torture them, and in which there is a large support for them.

ASIO security assessments must be conducted to ensure the security of the Australian people, and of the country itself. Extremist organisations, such as Al Qaeda, have long seen Australia as a target. It is not beyond the realms of possibility that such groups would seek to place operatives into Australia to carry out future attacks. Indeed, this has already been attempted, with known Al Qaeda senior operatives prevented from entering the country by ASIO. Political theory states that a state’s primarily function under the social contract theory is to provide a safe and secure environment for it’s citizens. To fully provide a safe and secure environment, a secure border must be maintained.

The Greens, including poster child Sarah Hanson Young, are calling strongly for a 30 day turnaround period for refugees entering Australia before it is referred to judicial review, and out of the hands of ASIO. Frankly, this requirement is unreasonable and impossible to reach, given the complexity of the background checking process required. Demanding an adequate security review of an unknown person in the same time that an average commercial invoice must be paid in shows an appalling ignorance of the situation and the threats facing Australia. ASIO does not devote full resources to processing refugees, nor can it. In addition to this task, ASIO is tasked with investigating internal threats to Australia, liaising with businesses to ensure their security, carrying out counter intelligence operations against Australia’s foreign competitors, and cultivating sources and leads from within immigrant communities and the general public to prevent terrorist attacks upon Australia.

If such a time frame were imposed, either one of two things would happen: ASIO would either rush through a security assessment, which may or may not be accurate, or they would as a matter of course deport any individual which had a potentially murky background. Thus, the entire purpose of this time frame would be defeated, with less refugees successfully entering the country.

The argument will be given by the pro refugee supporters that there is a minority of “boat people” entering the country, compared to other immigration channels, and that the majority of these are legitimate refugees. This I do not doubt, nor contest. It is not my belief that Australia is under siege by immigrants, nor does the thought of a diverse and multicultural country frighten me. I work for a foreign company, and before that worked in the office of a foreign government. I grew up in a foreign nation, and am proud to have studied with, worked with, dated, and been friends with a number of immigrants to this country. I am not some wild eyed Nationalist, terrified of the lack of national identity or “Australian values”.

However, the Australian government has a moral obligation, not only to help those in need, but to ensure a secure nation.

Another argument which supports the regulation of immigration is that of organised crime. Whatever way you want to look at it, the smugglers bringing refugees into Australia are not doing it out of the goodness of their heart. They are not humanitarians, and frankly do not do it for the refugees. They are paid, often quite well, for their services by those entering Australia illegally. This makes them an organised criminal element, and one which Australia is obligated and required to regulate and control. Suppose the cargo was different? Instead of smuggling in humans, what if they were to smuggle in heroin from Afghanistan? What if, instead of refugees, the smugglers were to bring in a boat of young girls for prostitution in Australia?  It does not matter to the smuggler, as long as he is paid. The smuggling network is one that has existed before “boat people”, but that has blossomed and increased dramatically, especially since the increasing support for refugees in Australia has begun. Australia cannot, and should not, support a criminal network which is operating illegally on our borders.

There is no simple solution to the “boat people” dilemma. The current situation is unsustainable, as there is no political will to take a decisive course of action. The current wait times do need to be decreased for legitimate refugees. And there have been abuses in detention, some of which could have been prevented.

But is the answer to either have a revolving door for illegal immigrants where they are processed directly into the country? Should they be given immediate temporary VISAS upon arrival and then released into the community while their application is processed (as is argued by some supporters)? The answer is, no! Such a course of action will make it almost impossible to maintain the whereabouts of illegal immigrants, and will drastically decrease Australia’s security, not only from terrorist elements, but from foreign agents, international criminals, and other undesirables.

Sitting in our ivory tower, on the sunny streets of Melbourne in a cafe sipping on a latte, it is very easy to condemn the Australian government for cruelty in mandatory detention. And in an ideal world, where every person was innocent, every person was good at heart, and every refugee was legitimate, this would be a correct denunciation. However, the world is not perfect. There is no perfect solution.

All sides and parties to this debate have to change their approach. The government must take a firm and decided stance on the issue, and cease to use the issue as a political football. The anti refugee party must concede that legitimate refugees entering Australia should have the right to asylum and protection. The pro refugee lobby needs to hang up the protest banners, stop demanding the impossible, and accept the reality of the situation. And the refugees would help their cause a lot more by not burning their quarters, rioting on Christmas Island, and giving the government reason to detain them further.

That something needs to be done is evident. What the answer will be is not in the scope of this article, nor does the author pretend to have a solution. However, I do believe that for the security of Australia, proper and complete security assessments must be completed before illegal immigrants can be released into Australia. And however long this would reasonably take should be the period of detention.