Ideas about nations matter – especially when those ideas shape the attitudes and actions of those in positions of authority.
This the chief implication of the stunning revelations made in evidence to the inquest into the Lindt Café Siege.
According to the report in today’s Australian: “Ms Burn [Deputy NSW Police Commissioner] and Mr Scipione [NSW Police Commissioner] said they placed huge weight on community stability during the siege, fearing a backlash from — they implied but did not state — right-wing anti-Muslim groups, with the Deputy Commissioner describing this concern as’“paramount’.”
Paramount? This is to allege that the army wasn’t called in to kill the terrorist Man Haron Monis, free the hostages, and — possibly — save the lives of Tori Johnson and Katrina Dawson, because the police supposedly feared that Australia’s ‘vast network’ of Muslim hate groups would rise up and create havoc.
What kind of mindset (and sentiment towards the Australian community) does this reveal?
The implication, once again, is that Australia is an inherently ‘racist’ society — a view that has been taught in our schools and universities for a generation, and is the more or less accepted wisdom among many journalist, bureaucrats and members the political class in general.
This is also the mindset behind the official policy of capital-M Multiculturalism promoted by the likes of Race Discrimination Commissioner Tim Soutphommasane, who believes that altering Section 18C could “unleash a darker, even violent, side of our humanity.”
This is all nonsense, of course, refuted by any fair reading of our history. If the underlying attitude of Australians towards ‘others’ was inherently racist, how has Australian become one of the most successful and peaceful multi-racial societies in the world?
On any rational analysis, the fear that a tiny number of anti-Muslim fanatics in the community would threaten public order is ridiculous and exaggerated — especially when right at the time an armed ISIS sympathiser was holding Australians captive in the middle of Martin Place.
I wonder whether perhaps the police commanders, with impeccable multicultural sensitivities, were more worried about a different backlash, and feared that using the army to kill a Muslim man in downtown Sydney would provoke the ‘Muslim Street’ to rise up in protest — in a repeat of the violent Hyde Park Riot by local Islamist-sympathisers in 2012?
It will be fascinating to see what Inquest finds about the factors — and what role political calculations and multicultural sentiments might have played in shaping the operational decisions made by the NSW Police during the siege.
Jeremy Sammut is a Senior Research Fellow at The Centre for Independent Studies.