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December 27th 2016 print

David Flint

Terrorism, Treachery and Treason

Even when the police foil massacres before they can happen and the prosecution obtains convictions, sentences are likely to be far less than what a reasonable person would regard as appropriate. Terror has changed the way we live. It should also change the way we think about punishment

car bomb canberraSome may find it reassuring that the car bombing of the Australian Christian Lobby headquarters in Canberra was ” not politically, religiously or ideologically motivated”. Most would not. This finding by the ACT police was the result of a short interview in hospital of the vehicle’s alleged driver. It is surprising that the Canberra police could have come to this conclusion on the basis of one brief interview conducted as the driver was lapsing into a coma. Even more astonishing, they chose to make this finding public. Are they ruling out the possibility, indeed the likelihood, that further evidence will be forthcoming in this case?

Some of us were similarly  surprised by the Canberra police on Australia Day 2012, when angry protesters from the Aboriginal Tent Embassy surrounded the Lobby Restaurant where the Prime Minister Julia Gillard and then-Opposition Leader Tony Abbott were attending a function. The protesters were angry because a member of Ms Gillard staff had told them, untruthfully,  that Tony Abbott had said in a media interview that he wanted to close the Tent Embassy. Instead of taking firm action to ensure there  would no riot, the police decided the Prime Minister should take flight.

As a result news broadcasts around the world showed the police half-carrying/half-dragging Ms. Gillard, who had lost one of her shoes, with her face almost scraping the ground.  At the  same time they dragged Mr Abbott towards his car. The cars then sped off.  When Australians saw how our country was being portrayed overseas, they must have wondered why the Canberra police decided to react this way.

There was a time when the  police would have reacted with firm resolve to calm the  situation, quelling what could have become a riot, just as there was a time when police would not, on the basis of one interview, so quickly come to a conclusion concerning the motivations of a suspect.

These are fortunately isolated instances. The police normally  perform superbly, as the Federal and Victorian police  did in thwarting a  Christmas Eve outrage at  St Paul’s Cathedral in Melbourne and its nearby precinct.

The problem remains that even when the police act as they did in Melbourne, when the prosecution is then able to present evidence to a jury and the jury convicts those who would commit or have committed appalling acts of terrorism, the sentence can be  far too light.

Take the case of one ”MHK” who was sentenced by Victorian Supreme Court Justice Lex Lasry on December 7, 2016. Born in Australia to Syrian parents,  he was planning to explode  bombs in the Melbourne CBD, on a train or a police station. The bombs were to  be filled with screws so that the explosions would kill and cruelly maimed large numbers of people.

In what Gerard Henderson notes is a disturbingly light sentence, he received a minimum term of five years and three months before he will be eligible for parole. Admittedly, he pleaded guilty and expressed regret and Lasry believing he had good prospects for rehabilitation.  The judge would also have been guided by rulings of the superior courts.

Apart from the almost universal trend towards lighter and lighter sentences, the public are also understandably concerned by the apparent over-generous availability of bail, which was not in issue  in this case. There is no doubt that the deaths at the Lindt Cafe would not have occurred had the terrorist Man Monis not been out on bail, something which for many of us remains inexplicable, given his record and the other charges pending against him.

The maximum penalty for committing a terrorist act, which includes planning one, is life imprisonment. This could be made mandatory by Parliament  so that  a judge would have no option but to impose one. It will be argued that, faced with a mandatory sentence, offenders would be less likely to plead guilty.  The solution could be  to involve the jury so that a mandatory sentence would only apply if the jury so recommends.  This would mean that in such matters a jury would always have to be empanelled, even where the accused pleads guilty.

It could also be made clear by legislation that such life sentences would only end with the death of the offender. At least in wartime,  we will also at some time  have to reconsider the abolition of the death penalty, at least for treason and similar  treachery . This should always be a decision for the people.  How can we possibly expect our soldiers, sailors, airmen and nurses  to risk their lives and not impose the maximum penalty for treachery directed against them at home?  It is, of course, elementary that a government has a fundamental duty to  act  against such treachery to the armed forces, something which did not always happen in the Second World War, as revealed by Hal Colebatch in 2013 in  Australia’s Secret War: How Unionists Sabotaged Our Troops in World War II

Attempted terrorist acts should also attract a minimum mandatory penalty — say, 20 years. Again, this could apply only if the jury recommends as much. During the serving of such a sentence the government would be in a position to determine whether Australian citizenship can and should be removed and the offender deported at the end of the sentence. It is also important that the government ensure that those in gaol do not have the opportunity to  convert others to their cause. Accordingly, convicted terrorists should be kept in an isolated and remote prison where they cannot infect the gullible.

The incidence of terrorism of course raises again the issue of the incompetent and, indeed, negligent administration of the immigration power by some governments and individual politicians. This is and always was totally unacceptable.

We’ve far too often seen politicians bringing in immigrants who do not contribute, who will not assimilate, who will be a burden on the taxpayers and many of whom will engage in crime. This was certainly not the case in the exercise of the immigration policy down to the latter part of the 20th century. It had nothing to do with colour or race; it had to do with ministers exercising their powers with a degree of professionalism. The first significant failure was that by Malcolm Fraser in the so-called Lebanese concession. The results were so appalling that the government had to withdraw this. In addition, citizenship should be earned and not distributed like confetti. Its award could even involve public participation, as in Switzerland, where such applications are determined at a public meeting in the relevant local government area.

We do have to quell the need on the part of politicians to use immigration to make themselves feel good, particularly in relation to problems overseas. When a photograph of the sad little body of a drowned boy went around the world, there was a knee-jerk ill considered reaction by  too many politicians to increase immigration from Syria. A few days later it was revealed that the family was not in fact composed of refugees and that the father, who had already obtained refuge in Turkey, was attempting to move to Germany because of their free dental services and for other economic reasons. The point is surely that a politician’s first duty is to Australia and to Australians.

In a recent discussion about the increasing lack of confidence in the politicians revealed in the Australian Election Study, it was seriously proposed that federal parliamentary terms be extended to four years. The argument – no doubt presented with a straight face – is that this would increase the quality of government. If we learned anything from increasing the terms of state parliaments to four years, it is that  this clearly did not improve the quality of government. In fact, it may well have had the opposite effect .

What is needed is for governments and individual politicians to be made more accountable, as they are in Switzerland and in some American states. This is especially achievable through voters being able to put proposals for legislation to the people directly though citizen initiated referendums.

David Flint presents ‘Safe Worlds -Conversations with Conservatives’ on Safe Worlds TV and You Tube. This includes an interview with Jack Hammond QC on superannuation and the election

Comments [16]

  1. Richard H says:

    The point about lenient sentences for such grave crimes is well taken. Fortunately, the federal Parliament recently enacted a law – the Criminal Code Amendment (High Risk Terrorist Offenders) Act 2016 – that enables the continued detention of convicted terrorists who remain a threat to the community.

    Such detention requires an order of a Supreme Court and is only for three years maximum, but successive orders can be made so that the effective term can be life imprisonment. It applies to any person convicted of a terrorism-related offence carrying a maximum penalty of seven years’ imprisonment or more, irrespective of the actual sentence imposed. The new law applies to anyone who is 18 years or older at the end of the sentence for the original offence (the offender doesn’t have to have been 18 at the time of the offence).

  2. padraic says:

    “.. not politically, religiously or ideologically motivated ..” My mind boggled when this appeared in the media. So what is the reason? There appears not to be too many options left. Oh, I know – he just happened to be passing by the Australian Christian Lobby with a van full of gas bottles and decided to stop and light up a cigarette, as one does in the early hours in Canberra. On the other hand he may have stopped to say hello to Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy who had were having a meeting about how much to give to the kiddies over the Christmas period.

  3. Salome says:

    Why not two mandatory minimums? One quite long one if they plead guilty, one just longer enough to provide an incentive for a guilty plea if they don’t. It would appear that the difference between guilty plea and no guilty plea sentences isn’t all that great (the judges are now obliged to say how much the perp would have got without the guilty plea). In the case of MHK it would have been 11 years (where life is the maximum possible), and the head sentence was 7 years. Working from a statutory minimum of, say 25 years, reducible to as low as 20 years with a guilty plea (i.e., first possible opportunity, no stuffing around) and a good behaviour parole discount of 25%, then he would have been in for a minimum of 15 years and then on parole (and watched) for another 5. Guilty pleas save not only time and resources, but also the risk of the perp getting off on some technicality or other. A discount is worthwhile as an incentive.

  4. Keith Kennelly says:

    No it was more likely he was a hardworking delivery man, supporting his aged parents and in laws, his family and his unemployed brother, his family and assorted homeless mates. He’s obviously doing a second job and naively making a delivery to a client in the dark of night to a closed establishment, and when they didn’t show he decided to have a smoko and kabooooom.

    Hell isnt it as obviouse as that.

  5. Keith Kennelly says:

    And he probably told the police he was making a delivery to the Christian barbarians so they could achieve their ultimate peace and destiny.

    • padraic says:

      The truth (or is it “post-truth” these days – I get confused) is that he probably was an outlier supporter of a powerful activist lobby group that has a lot of clout among politicians, business, the media etc and can’t be touched because it has become such a sacred gender neutral bovine and whose sharing and caring victim image would take a hit if the truth came out.

  6. Bill Martin says:

    This timely, poignant article is, unfortunately, a cry in the wilderness, unlikely to to have any effect anywhere where it would count. The underlying attitude of most politicians, the judiciary and law enforcement agencies – at least at the leadership level – is that all reaction in response to actual or attempted terrorism must be, above all other considerations, scrupulously free of prejudice toward any and all religious and ethnic minorities, lest they are offended and further alienated, thereby motivated to commit more terrorism. Such attitude is further emasculated by cosying up to prominent members and organisations of those minorities in the vain hope of them informing on their own kind in return. Such is the tyranny of political correctness, cultural equivalence and the poisonous, misguided emotion of white guilt. The handful of people in positions of power and influence who are aware of these follies mostly lack the courage to stand against them.

  7. Jody says:

    Thanks to the regressive Left we now have lenient sentencing for just about every crime – except if you’re white and middle class; watch out if you fall into this category.

    I’ve long advocated the withdrawal of judicial discretion in sentencing and suggest this needs to be replaced by a community panel, much like a jury, who decides sentencing based upon guidance from a panel of lawyers. Until that time we will continue to get what we have now; the revolving door of ‘justice’ (which is no justice at all), recidivism, the privileging of victimhood and the blaming of our capitalist system.

    For all the social engineering which is manifest in this kind of legal system we haven’t been offered a better society; a more aggressive, violent, coarse and dysfunctional one where children are no longer safe. This is the price we’ve paid for the encroachment of Lefty social engineers and their unstoppable march through the institutions.

    You go to a country like Austria and this just doesn’t happen; the people take law and order seriously and you are (or you were, before the ‘migrant’ arrived) completely safe on the streets any time of the day or night.

  8. en passant says:

    What all this misses is that these are ‘after the event’ solutions. I heard that the government has promised an extra $1.5Bn to ‘make us more secure’ (in addition to the $Bns, bollards and resources already allocated that we never needed 40 years ago pre-Grassby & Fraser).
    Umm, if time travel was possible we could go back to a time when we did not need to pay $Bns for security, when a trip to the beach was to admire bikini clad girls and on the way home pick up a 6-pack of beer at the Lakemba Bottle Shop for the BBQ for the pork-on-the-fork BBQ with the neighbours.
    Compare that laid back boring lifestyle to now.
    Today we are asked to celebrate CHRISTMAS in the city with our tiny tots wide-eyed at all the lights, while naturally, we adults remain even more wide-eyed and alert for signs of bombers, snipers, wayward trucks and rampaging ethnic gangs. This is the new normal in Oz.

    A regular attack on our society, a few deaths and maimings’ and a sense of unformed fear does of course, create ‘strength through diversity’ as Dopey Dan and ‘Chinese’ Stuart Robert proclaimed.
    Matthew GUY (can we still say his name without a trigger warning and giving prior directions to the Play-Doh Safe Place Centre where carers will suck your thumb for you?) says nothing for fear (I suspect) of offending someone, somewhere, somehow at some time.

    Bring on the Oz BREXIT-Trump-Le Pen-Wilders in 2017 as nothing short of a radical conservative revolution will save Oz from its current crop of treasonous politicians.

  9. Lacebug says:

    Irrelevant to this discussion,so apologies, but is there anywhere on the Quadrant site we can air our grievances, apart from in response to feature articles?

  10. Trog says:

    Canberra Police recently attended a domestic stabbing resulting in a fatality. The deceased’s husband was taken into custody and later released after interview. The suspect informed officers that his wife was subject to fitting from an epileptic condition she suffered and, whilst chopping up salad, had unfortunately stabbed herself 57 times. Police are satisfied there are no suspicious circumstances and a report is being prepared for the coroner.

    Makes as much sense as the gas bomb driver incident being accidental for mine.

    Couldn’t agree more with judicial accountability. We should be electing judges we feel reflect our community standards.

    MHK 5 years for plotting mass murder. Eddie Obeid 5 years for backhanders. MHK a great likelihood of rehabilitation (Yeh right) and Eddie 73 old (prior unblemished character at law) and likely to die in gaol. How these two have parity makes no sense to me.

  11. Keith Kennelly says:

    While Trump et el will bring about change I have heard no one talk about changing, or reverting back, to what we used to teach our kids in Aussie. One time we used to teach kids to think rather than to do things, in our schools.

    The old English Liberal Education of Maths B Maths C English, Physics Chemistry and Latin. (With a touch of the Greek Heritage), for the more able, in the senior years. Leidseplein were streamed but all understood basic maths, English, science in the lower years,with those less competent streamed into commerce or trades.

    Quite radical but it maintained the society that produced pretty reasonable adults.

    Today we have generations of muddleheaded idiots who learn only prescriptions to be inconsiderate, insular, self absorbed, hyprocritical, judgemental and shallow and who have little idea of why our society functions well (compared to all others) and of the origins.

    We also have focused only on our history of reason and logic and tend to disdain mysticism, dynamic thinking, critical thinking and intuition in arriving at decisions.

    We no longer adopt philosophies as lived by the individuals in the wider community and rarely read the great 20th century philosophers Bertrand Russel and Jaques Barzun.

    These things are no longer done these days except within a few families

  12. padraic says:

    Totally agree, Keith. Three generations of our family went to the same school where we were taught HOW to think and to be proud of our cultural heritage. These days kids are taught WHAT to think and to despise our cultural heritage.

    • Jody says:

      I’ve just been through my bookshelves and was alarmed to discover “British Cultural Studies” still left there from decades ago at university. Flipping through it I discovered the usual Marxist suspects and the book was quickly consigned to the recycling bin. “British Cultural Studies” would enjoy a much more useful existence as toilet rolls.