Prime Minister Abbott, having decided upon new anti-terror legislation, decided to hold much publicized “consultations” for an hour or two with the Muslim leadership in NSW and Victoria. This would have no impact on an already decided course of action but would serve a political purpose. As Stacks the Law Firm pointed out in a recent article about these proposed laws:
Bills before parliament … grant immunity from prosecution to intelligence officers engaged in special operations, and open the possibility of jailing journalists and whistle blowers for publishing information about a terrorism investigation. Foreshadowed are new laws under which anyone who travels to certain locations will have to prove they weren’t involved in terror activities – reversing the traditional legal onus of being innocent before being proved guilty.
What caused great offense was his announcement, with specific reference to the Muslim community, that the changes to the Racial Discrimination Act were being dropped to strengthen these proposed anti-terrorist measures. As Australia’s Race Discrimination Commissioner Tim Soutphommasane pointed out: “As far as I am aware there was never any suggestion, from any community, that retaining racial vilification laws was necessary to fighting domestic terrorism.” And he explained that the law does not protect religion as an attribute anyway. [The Guardian 25/8.2014]
Muslims feel that their loyalty to the nation is being unfairly questioned.
Just what Prime Minister Abbott sees as “Team Australia” is fascinating. He obviously sees himself as its captain and in charge of its composition. That would make for some very interesting play.
For a start he is the inheritor of the ideology of B.A. Santamaria, described in an article by Paul Collins in Eureka Street, a Jesuit publication , as “the most divisive man in the history of Australian Catholicism”. [Eureka Street 17/8/2010]
At the January 2007 launch of Santamaria’s Selected Letters, Tony Abbott said,” ‘I was lucky to know B. A. Santamaria for the last 22 years of his life, to have attended diligently to his writing and speaking.’ Santamaria, he says ‘left Australian Catholicism more intellectual and less politically tribal’, by which he presumably means there are now Catholics in Coalition as well as Labor ranks.”
As well as numbering Cardinal Pell amongst his disciples, Santamaria earned fame in the 1930s for his support of Franco the fascist who overthrew the democratically elected Spanish Republic, and Benito Mussolini, who tried to recreate the Roman Empire in bloody campaigns in Libya and Ethiopia.
Paul Collins wrote: “Essentially Santamaria embraced a form of theological integralism which sees everything in the world as tainted unless it is ‘integrated’ or brought into the orbit of Catholicism. Integralism assumes that the Church has an unchallengeable, complete and accessible body of doctrine that gives guidance in every possible eventuality — social, political, strategic, economic, familial and personal.”
This philosophy is a very dangerous one which does not in any way fit in with Australian values, as they are commonly conceived. Indeed Collins adds: “Integralism has much in common with Italian Fascism, Franco’s Spain or Salazar’s Portugal. It is also at odds with the Vatican II Declaration on Religious Freedom: ‘Freedom means that all are to be immune from coercion … in such wise that no one is to be forced to act in a manner contrary to his own beliefs.’ It is a real threat to democracy and to the freedom that Catholics have to make their own decisions on a whole range of issues, particularly political.”
The Race Discrimination Commissioner suggested if “Team Australia” “is simply shorthand for an Australian liberal democratic community, for a community of equal citizens, I don’t think any one of use would have an issue with it….But if “Team Australia” is meant to suggest something else we are entitled to ask for an explanation. Manufacturing patriotism can sometimes do more to divide than to unite.”
The echoes of Santamaria, reactionary European Catholicism and integralism do not seem to fit well with what most of us would see as democratic Australian values. Just what is Abbott demanding of those he demands should belong to this team he talks about?