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National Security Statement « Previous | |Next »
December 8, 2008

The Rudd Government's National Security Statement was pretty bland, announced little by way of policies apart from rejecting a department of homeland security, and had little impact in the media. It kinda came and went with few noticing.

But it is significant in that it talks in terms of an agenda beyond terrorism and counter terrorism as it includes traditional statecraft and classical military capabilities. Hugh White observes that one of the most interesting things about the statement :

is the way in which, the language used to describe terrorism, because he [Rudd] was I think surprisingly and if I can put it this way impressively modest. For a long time we've been used to politicians really since 9/11, describing terrorism in apocalyptic terms as a challenge to our whole way of life, the whole international order and so on. By contrast I thought Kevin Rudd's words talking about it as a serious ongoing threat were accurate, correctly expressed the fact that it is a serious ongoing threat but didn't overstate the nature of a terrorism challenge. .....One of the big challenges we've all had in the last few years is recognising that terrorism is a serious challenge but not letting it take over, have a bigger place in our overall national security thinking than it deserves and I think that's one balance that the statement today got just about right.

The National Security Statement talks in terms of Australia being proactive about shaping the strategic environment in the Asia-Pacific; creative middle power diplomacy, energy security as well as border integrity; thinks in terms of the relationships between China, the US and Japan and India; and understands that climate change represents a most fundamental national security challenge for the long term future.

The demotion of terrorism and the promotion of climate change as security issues is a welcome rupture from the neo-conservative position of the Howard Government in which the national security state placed terrorism front and centre. Disappointingly, Rudd made no mention of reducing the excesses of the national security apparatus or easing the way that it encroaches on, and subordinates, legal and civil rights and individual freedom--the liberties of citizens--- to national security.

Geoffrey Barker in the Australian Financial Review comments on the inflated language of the national security state:

The trouble with Rudd's view of national security "challenges" [as distinct from threats] is that it seems to include everything and involve everyone. He even managed to drag" "business and the general community" into the national security machine. Rudd defined national security as freedom from attack, the maintenance of territorial integrity and political sovereignty and the preservation of freedoms. He did not distinguish fears, concerns and inconveniences from existential threats.

Most of the "challenges" do not threaten Australia's existence as a nation and many concerns do not constitute national security. The paranoid, insecure perspective of the Australian national security state is still there.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 7:59 AM | | Comments (5)


Something to look forward to. The National Security Statement would be the first of a regular, even annual, series.

There are going to be lots of white papers in the near future---a Defence White Paper, a Foreign Policy statement, a Counter-Terrorism White Paper and a National Energy Security Assessment.

It's inevitable after Howard that much of what Rudd does is interpreted as what he does not do. Not being hysterical about terrorism would be a hard sell anyway.

Never fear. The opposition are on about refugees and the Australian will figure out some way to work that into a Rudd soft on terrorism line.

the national security statement sank without a trace. Probably good news for Rudd + Co as few were jumping up and down that Labor was soft on terrorism. and that we should bomb Iran.

Where have the neo-cons gone?

the wedge on homeland security is still "being soft on refugees and sending the wrong messages to refugees that Australia is a soft touch.

No matter that the recent refugees are from Afghanistan which Australia has invaded to continue the eternal fight the "war on evil terrorists" who hate us for being a freedom loving people willing to stand up for what is right, true and beautiful.

I have a proposal--lets privatise national security and do away with big bureaucratic government. We all know that the government is the problem.