Thursday 20 Sep 2018 | 04:17 | SYDNEY
Thursday 20 Sep 2018 | 04:17 | SYDNEY

The counter-terrorism edifice


Graeme Dobell

3 March 2010 07:27

Potential jihadists have quite a few Canberra careers to support. A large edifice is being erected, based on the claim in the Counter-Terrorism White Paper that the jihadist threat is 'persistent and permanent.'

At the centre of this counter-terrorism edifice stands the Prime Minister. The White Paper is another moment that demonstrates the shift of power to the PM's Department. The centralisation process launched by John Howard is being pushed further by Kevin Rudd. The two leaders may differ on the presentational niceties, but they run a unity ticket on this policy.

To marvel at their works, stroll out the front of Parliament House down Kings Avenue to see the new headquarters of the Australian Federal Police in the renovated Edmund Barton Building.

Then carry on across Kings Avenue Bridge towards the enormous building site on the rising land between Parkes Way and Constitution Avenue, next to Anzac Park East and within the Parliamentary Triangle. The ASIO building (to house 1860 staff) will be a magnificent monument to what jihadists have achieved for the spooks in the last decade. The ASIO HQ is a tribute to the one of the truths of modern history: triumphant bureaucrats always crown their rise in concrete.

Both the ASIO and AFP buildings pay homage to a central Canberra reality: if your department is a big beast in the jungle, its building sits within sight of the flagpole that flies over Parliament.

Australia is no longer as apoplectic or apocalyptic in the discussion of jihadist terrorism. The less colourful official language is more akin to the technospeak that comes naturally to Kevin Rudd. It is the patois of the substantial counter-terrorism machinery that now throbs in Canberra.

To get a brief glimpse of the official web, look at the glossary that accompanies the concluding chapter of the Paper. There you'll find 25 Australian institutions, departments or bodies that have some role in the effort to fight terrorism. The web stretches from ASIO to the Office of Transport Security. The count goes higher if you add in the off-shore efforts which have a distinct Australian flavour, such as the Jakarta Centre for Law Enforcement Cooperation.

The previous column noted the change in tone from the previous Terrorism White Paper in 2004. Note also the bureaucratic shift. Six years ago, Foreign Affairs produced the White Paper and the foreword was signed by the Foreign Minister. This time the report was produced by the Prime Minister's Department and the picture and signature are those of the PM.

The publication change follows the power shift that is already in place. Alexander Downer presented the paper last time. Now Rudd fronts the press conference flanked by his Foreign Minister and Attorney-General.

Australia's evolving counter-terrorism web, centred on the Prime Minister and his department, certainly looks 'real and enduring'. That phrase — used by the White Paper to describe the threat of jihadists — applies equally to the counter-terrorist edifice.

Photo by Flickr user PDR, used under a Creative Commons license.