Friday, July 29, 2016

REPORT: A Sunday with Hizb ut-Tahrir: 'forced assimilation' and what the media didn't report

Senior leader Ismail al-Wahwah pointed out that not a single Muslim army was occupying a Western capital while Western armies have occupied numerous Muslim capitals.

The Australian wing of Hizb ut-Tahrir (“Party of Liberation” or HT for short), an organisation ex-PM Tony Abbott wanted to proscribe under anti-terror laws, held its annual conference in Sydney’s Bankstown on Sunday. The theme of the conference was “Innocent Until Proven Muslim” and was promoted with a rather slick video, a Facebook page, another Facebook page, a Twitter presence and no doubt other social media.

The hall was packed with around 700 people, perhaps more. There were more women than men, and the crowd were from all different ethnic backgrounds. There was also a large media contingent, with most TV crews and journalists staying until almost the end. Even an Al Jazeera English crew covered the conference. The scribes enjoyed the free lunch, soft drinks and bottled water along with the rest of the crowd. John Safran was seated up the back and proved to be a huge hit with many outside the hall in the foyer. Two HT guys even posted a selfie with Safran on Facebook.

Outside, police vehicles were doing rounds of the adjacent car park. I had borrowed someone else’s car to get to the conference, and I hope they don’t receive a visit from any law enforcement officials.

Prior to the conference, The Australian took the unusual step of providing prominent space on its opinion page to HT spokesman Uthman Badar. I say unusual because the same newspaper harangued the ABC’s Q&A program for allowing a question from another “radical” Muslim Zaky Mallah. Fairfax also ran a column by Badar.

So how does one summarise in less than 1000 words the themes of the conference and all its speakers, as well as active Q&A sessions, all of which ran for around five hours? Media reports available online appeared to focus on a few key themes: singing the national anthem in schools; the alleged targeting of Muslim-looking people at airports; and the use of deradicalisation policies to bring about some kind of forced assimilation.

I understand it’s hard to cover so much material in a short space. But seriously, the reports I saw and read on the conference were disappointing, more for what they left out than for how they reported it. For instance:

One female barrister from the UK (also an HT spokesperson there) sent a recorded message in which she spoke about the impact of the latest changes to the UK government’s deradicalisation program, Prevent, which targets not only violent extremism but indeed any form of deemed extremism. Professionals such as teachers and doctors apparently now have a legal duty to report children showing “signs of radicalisation”. Apparently, even a child as young as three years old has been picked up by the anti-terror radar in this manner. Some of the case studies she cited, including cases involving children with intellectual disabilities, are horrendous. I was a bit sceptical of her claims until I noticed the mainstream British Press filled with reports of such cases.

An independent Victorian lawyer (who was once a New South Wales police officer) spoke at length about the impact of counter-terror laws including the practices of prosecutors. He also criticised the media reporting of terror cases.

The speech of HT senior leader Ismail al-Wahwah, who earned the ire of Jewish organisations for his remarks during a recent Israeli bombardment of Gaza, barely rated a mention.

Al-Wahwah made a point that seemed to resonate with the audience. He said not a single Muslim army was occupying a Western capital while Western armies (whether directly or through their puppets) have occupied numerous Muslim capitals such as Baghdad and Kabul. His message was that many young people are affected by events overseas, especially now that unfiltered information from war zones is widely available. Our government’s foreign policy inconsistencies and choices do potentially radicalise young people. They do compromise our domestic security. They also create a flow of refugees that no one benefits from except companies like Transfield. No amount of schoolkids singing the national anthem will change that.

In the quality and professionalism of their publications and online presence, HT can match any major media organisation. HT is the only Muslim organisation to have produced a comprehensive (if somewhat jaundiced) guide to the application of anti-terror law and policy for over a decade. But then, these days just about any group — “fringe” or “mainstream” — can do the same. Just about every primary school kid in Karachi or Bangalore is a whiz kid on the keyboard and can navigate multimedia platforms with ease. Meanwhile, if some media reports are to be believed, our Defence Force can barely keep up with the constant stream of Tweets from Islamic State.

HT can also match the most paranoid newspaper columnist or shockjock when it comes to generalising about the “other”. HT talks about “the West” and “Western leaders” in the same manner and with the same lack of nuance that a Rita Panahi or Andrew Bolt would talk about “Muslim leaders” or that mythical and near-mystical entity they call the “Muslim community”.

First published in Crikey on 2 November 2015.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

POLITICS: How Turnbull can avoid Howard's mistakes in alienating Muslims

A few imams do not represent Australian Muslims. Here are the people Turnbull should really be talking to.
A 15-year-old boy has murdered an adult in the geographical heart of Sydney. Police believe other teenagers are also involved, as are underworld figures. A 12-year-old is under surveillance. A 22-year-old has been charged with supplying the gun, and an 18-year-old has also been charged in relation to the crime. The appropriate response? Conventional wisdom is that we need to legislate. And we need to talk. In that order.

The conversation we need to have must involve “the Muslim community”. Some say we should talk with them. Others prefer to talk at them. Is it because in our imagination terrorism is necessarily Islamic, and Muslims are usually held collectively responsible? The point is that “we” and “they” need to talk.

Normally we don’t bother talking to them. They are sitting over there in mosques we rarely enter. We assume their women are at home or standing a few metres behind their men when in public. We read about them and their strange culture in our newspapers.

But now there is a greater urgency. Our security is threatened by their teenagers, possibly by their houses of worship and by their negligent parents. And of course by their terrorists. We therefore need to engage with their leaders. No, not academics or professionals or business people. Generally not their women (unless they are the type standing a few metres behind the men). We have to engage with their religious leaders. And we will choose who we speak to.

It’s a patronising narrative, but the fact is governments find it easier to talk to stakeholders and lobbyists. But the structured consultation model doesn’t quite work when you’re talking to 470,000 people coming from over 70 different countries and speaking languages at home that include Bangla, Urdu, Turkish, Arabic, Farsi, Tamil, Vietnamese, Russian and Croatian. Their understanding of religiosity varies. In a recently published book Coming of Age: Growing Up Muslim in Australia, the contributors included writers from at least three out of four Sunni schools of law, a Lebanese Alawi, a Turkish Alevi, a woman of Indian Gujarati Bohra background and an Iranian atheist of Shia heritage. And there was me.

So who represents the Islamic “them”? Malcolm Turnbull will be meeting with a group of people described as “Muslim leaders”. Almost certainly they will be limited to mosque management bodies or councils/federations of mosque management bodies. The Mufti and his interpreter will likely be there. There could be one or two women.
Few will have substantial experience in advocating for their communities to government in a meaningful way (apart from funding applications, and having their photos taken with the immigration minister). The organisations they represent will often have archaic rules. The Lebanese Muslim Association in Lakemba allows full membership only to men of Lebanese heritage. I cannot join, and neither can my mum. Keysar Trad’s Islamic Friendship Association meets each evening around his dinner table. Dr Jamal Rifi has a large medical practice, but then so does every third south Asian.

The main topic of consultation is deradicalisation of young Muslims. And perhaps a discussion on the latest round of anti-terror laws. There won’t be much discussion about the latter as the Prime Minister and Attorney-General have already made up their minds. The leaders (and their interpreters) aren’t capable of engaging with politicians on legal matters.

Former PM John Howard understood this well. After the July 7, 2005, London bombings he set up a round-table discussion with Muslim leaders. Virtually all were male. A fair few spoke little English and had little or no experience in lobbying, public affairs or political engagement. They were largely men of John Howard’s generation, whom he could easily manipulate.

This eventually morphed into a Muslim Community Reference Group (MCRG), which consisted almost exclusively of middle-aged male religious leaders and was chaired by Dr Ameer Ali, then-president of the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils (AFIC). In October 2005, Ali claimed the MCRG unanimously supported proposed new counter-terrorism laws before a single clause had been drafted. Howard would have been delighted with such compliant leadership. In fact, no one had any idea of the provisions of the proposed bill until ACT chief minister Jon Stanhope released the draft, much to the consternation of the PM.

Howard’s approach of focusing on religious leaders probably helped the cause of radicalisation. It made imams and religious leaders the public face of Australian Muslims. Mainstream Australians who identified as Muslim and who derived their income and status from mainstream engagement were left out of the picture

On March 26, 2008, the RN Religion Report reported that then-parliamentary secretary for multicultural affairs Laurie Ferguson said the Rudd government was considering reinstating the MCRG, though with
fewer imams, more women and young people, and it will also reflect the sizeable non-religious component of Australian Muslim community.

The focus on youth is natural. We’ve just witnessed a 15-year-old murder someone in broad daylight. We also know groups like Daesh (also known as Islamic State or ISIS) are using social media to actively recruit and influence young people of all ethnic and religious backgrounds. Yet the last time the self-appointed peak body of Australia’s Muslims made any public comment on an issue was to defend its conduct in relation to the lucrative halal meat certification market on Four Corners

Demographically, Aussie Muslims have a very young profile. The last three census figures show they are over-represented in younger age brackets (up to age 40) and under-represented in older ones. No prizes for guessing which age bracket religious leaders emerge from. They were largely from one denomination (Sunni). Apart from a few that ran independent schools, most had little knowledge of youth affairs.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull can take the cynical route and do a Claytons consultation. Or he can take a leaf out of Laurie Ferguson’s book and search for people of merit by perhaps even inviting applications.

In 2007 Gerard Henderson wrote a monograph for UK conservative think tank Policy Exchange entitled Islam in Australia: Democratic bipartisanship in action. His qualifications to write such are monograph are dubious to say the least, and the document has mysteriously disappeared from the Policy Exchange website. But one valuable point Henderson made in his report was that Australian Muslims are, by and large, as secular and irreligious as most Australian Christians, correctly noting: “Many Australians who regard themselves as followers of Islam do not attend a mosque.” 

Consultations shouldn’t just be with religious Muslim men and imams, most of whom have little influence over kids at risk. Younger people (and not just the relatives of religious leaders who are all too often employed to run government-funded projects for their family fiefdom organisations) should be consulted. Lawyers, doctors, psychologists, journalists, youth workers, sportsmen and women, teachers, entrepreneurs, student leaders, etc. With a focus on people under 40 and people born here and who engage outside the religious square.

When mainstream Australians of Muslim heritage are involved in the process, it will show that with all this talent there are no shortage of role models. It will also show that the hateful mantras of those insisting Muslims “refuse to integrate” are just a load of tabloid refuse.

First published in Crikey on 16 October 2015.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

OPINION: The rhetoric of madness over terrorism vacillates with little logic

In January 2009, a Melbourne "cleric" known as Abu Hamza had his face splashed across the front page of the Herald Sun. The headline above his image read:
Muslim cleric blasts Aussies on gambling, booze
and in huge letters
The trigger was some YouTube recordings that had been made six years earlier. It must have been a slow news day.

Not reported was that this allegedly radical cleric (whose real name was Samir Mohtadi) had been the prosecution witness in the Benbrika case in 2006. As the then editor of Crikey, Jonathan Green, wrote:
He became a key Crown witness in the Benbrika case and gave evidence about a meeting he had with Benbrika in 2004 in which he said to Benbrika that he had heard Benbrika was planning a terrorist attack in Australia. Benbrika denied it. Mohtadi said he would go to the government if he got wind of any plan.
Green continued:

Richard Maidment, SC, the lead prosecutor for the Crown, said in his closing that 'you saw Mr Mohtadi and he was a credible witness, in our respectful submission'. 

The fact is that major terror plots have been thwarted and prosecution cases succeeded thanks to information from ordinary Muslims. ASIO, the AFP and the Commonwealth DPP know this all too well. So do state law-enforcement authorities.

Muslim "dobbers" know their loved ones and friends have just as much chance as anyone of being killed or maimed in a terrorist attack. Australian woman Dr Gill Hicks lost both her legs in the 2005 London bombings. Twenty-year-old Shahara Islam, an English bank clerk of Bangladeshi heritage, lost her life.

Our security agencies have been begging our politicians to calm the rhetoric down. They know better than anyone that words matter and that what political leaders say can make the work of police and prosecutors that much harder.

Sadly, certain sections of our media are making the job even harder by reinforcing the narrative of groups like Islamic State and convincing Muslims that they just don't belong. Condescending cultural warriors are happy to marginalise 500,000 Australians who tick the "Muslim" box on their census forms. In an editorial dated October 6, The Australian said:
when attacks such as this happen the broad Islamic community has a choice. It can do its utmost to help police prevent extremism or it can retreat into a defensive insularity.
Tell that to Samir Mohtadi.

The same editorial described the killing as a
jihadist murder
the latest chapter in the struggle for the soul of Islam
despite acknowledging that
the investigation is in its early days but it's understood his parents were not in Sydney on the day of the attack; the family context is unclear. It is thought that Jabar may have come under the influence of fringe elements at the Parramatta mosque.
So what does Islam's soul and the highly contested concept of jihad got to do with it?

The irony is that the same newspaper editorialised on July 24, 2008 that heavy reporting of child sex abuse allegations against Catholic priests by the ABC and Fairfax during the Pope's tour would be an affront to World Youth Day pilgrims and ordinary Catholics.

So it's OK to patronise one faith community over terrorism but it's not OK to report abuses taking place within a preferred religious hierarchy. Of course, out in the real world, Muslims and Catholics and Hindus and Buddhists and Sikhs and others of faith and no faith are horrified by any form of violence or abuse in their communities.

Some reporting descended to surprising levels of idiocy. On October 5, the Daily Telegraph quoted one Sydney GP of Lebanese heritage as saying the teenage killer wore black because he was from Iran and that Shia Muslim men in Iran always wear black. It then compared an image of the killer to that of Islamic State killer Jihad John. So the young man wanted to dress both like IS and a country at war with IS. Further, one wonders if Foreign Minister Julie Bishop came across any Iranian men not wearing black during her recent visit.

The same paper spoke of the young man having access to online Islamic videos which were "extreme". How so? Apparently the videos describe ...
... the end of days ...
and called US President Barack Obama
... treacherous.
The paper also condemned the ABC for allegedly stating that the Parramatta attack was not necessarily a terrorist attack on the basis that
... police [were] not yet commenting on what motivated the sickening attack.
Let's throw caution to the wind, shall we? One columnist wrote that
the instant response of our leftist friends
acts of Islamic terrorism
is a
desperate attempt to play down or outright conceal any Islamic component to these acts of terrorism.
The same columnist failed to mention the far-right political motivations of a gunman in Oregon in the United States who, around the same time as the Parramatta tragedy, identified 10 students as Christian before brutally murdering them. Right wingers can't engage in violent extremism.

After the tragic events at Parramatta, our political leaders are working hard to mend bridges with various communities. Our allegedly conservative media outlets now have a choice. Do they report the facts? Or do they allow their sectarian prejudices to marginalise these communities even more that? Do they wish to work in Australia's interests or the interests of Islamic State?

Irfan Yusuf is a PhD Candidate at the Alfred Deakin Research Institute for Citizenship and Globalisation, Deakin University. First published in the Canberra Times on 7 October 2015.

LAW: Will treating an innocent teen like a terrorist convince him to become one?

Australian police have a control order for Harun Causevic, who has not been found guilty of terrorism.

Teenager Harun Causevic has not been found guilty of terrorism. But with police monitoring his every move, he is still far from a free man.

Causevic, 18, from Hampton Park in south-east Melbourne, was arrested in April 2015 under suspicion of being one of the “Anzac Day terrorists” and charged with one count of conspiring to do an act in preparation or planning for a terrorist act, as well as other less serious weapons charges. The alleged plot involved killing police officers and/or members of the public attending Anzac Day services.

Police were concerned Causevic might be a close friend of Numan Haider, a young man who was shot dead by police after he attacked them with a knife. Some police officers had seen Causevic carrying a black-and-white flag with Arabic writing on it. Similar writing appears on the Islamic State flag, though it also appears on the flag of Saudi Arabia.

Conventional wisdom tells us that extremists who look like “us” — white Anglo Christian types — can never be terrorists. But when it comes to Muslim suspects, popular paranoia is such that it’s easy to generate a media circus, to turn the crazed words from the tweet of some IS twit (or pseudo-IS troll) into prophecy and to superimpose on the actions of any young man or woman a death-cultish intent to decapitate. In such an environment, only a brave magistrate would grant Causevic bail

Denied bail, Causevic was placed in a maximum-security unit 23 hours a day with some of the most dangerous and violent prisoners in the state. He had no criminal record. After more than four months of harrowing detention, the Commonwealth Department of Public Prosecutions announced that
there was insufficient evidence to continue the prosecution of Mr Causevic for this offence
and that the charge would be dropped.

Just how weak was the prosecution’s case is something we are unlikely to find out. But it must have been very weak if even the guilty pleas of two teenagers in the UK who were part of a plot couldn’t nail Causevic. The police brief was given to Causevic’s lawyers, who insist the evidence against their client was “flimsy”. Harun pleaded guilty to the two minor charges, and the matter was adjourned to November, after he was granted bail.

Magistrate Jelena Popovic clearly understood the consequences of a young man spending over four months in maximum security, and wanted to check in on how he was going. The Guardian reports Her Honour as telling the young man:
I really want to see how you’re going [back in the community] ... My concern is you’re going to be released into the community, and I want to ensure you’re properly supported and things are going well. It’s not about making your life more difficult, it’s about actually trying to assist you with the readjustment.
The court’s intention in checking in on Causevic might not have been about making his life more difficult. But the Federal Police had no such qualms. The Herald Sun recently reported that the AFP had applied for and been granted interim control orders for a period of 12 months. The orders are based on the same “facts” and flimsy evidence that were withdrawn by the AFP at the trial. Which, under our extreme terror laws is just fine. The evidentiary threshold for control orders is based on some vague notion of protecting the community.

The orders are extensive and include barring Harun from visiting his local RSL club as well as travelling overseas. Quite a few of the conditions make sense and are already included in bail orders made by the court, so why the AFP require them beyond Causevic’s next court date is anyone’s guess.

The strangest condition is barring Harun, whose family is Bosnian, from visiting any mosque other than a Turkish mosque in Dandenong. This Thursday the Causevic family would likely be attending the biggest religious and cultural festival of the year (called Kurban Bejram in Bosnian). There is a Bosnian mosque in Noble Park and another in Deer Park. It would probably have made more sense to allow the young man to spend time in familiar surrounds with his family and people of his ancestral culture.

But what if Causevic wanted to attend a Sufi Muslim class at Coburg Mosque? Or what if he were in the city attending counselling organised by the Islamic Council of Victoria and, while there, attended prayers at the mosque downstairs? There are over 100 mosques in Melbourne, but only one is deemed “safe” enough for this young man. His religious freedom is being restricted in a manner that reflects not just on him but on hundreds of mosques he has never visited.

The control orders contain even more stringent conditions than those orders made by the court. He has a midnight to 5am curfew in the family home, and is to wear an electronic tracking device at all times. As Fairfax observed:
The restrictions comprehensively control Mr Causevic’s movements, both in the real world and online.
It’s almost as if an attempt is being made to bait Causevic into being radicalised. Is this what control orders were supposed to do?

Control orders were perhaps the most controversial provision introduced by the Howard government in late 2005 following the London bombings. Harun Causevic is the fifth person to be subject to such orders. Should he breach any order, he could face up to five years’ imprisonment, no doubt in a maximum-security unit. We don’t see such restrictions placed on convicted murderers or rapists after they are released..

According to the court, this young man is not a terrorist. But for at least the next 12 months, he is to be effectively treated like one.​

First published in Crikey on 23 September 2015.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

COMMENT: Guns don't kill people. Terrorists do.

Imagine it’s your lunch hour at work. You are standing up finishing your coffee. A man comes out of nowhere and produces a gun. He looks very young and very very angry. He orders everyone to stand still. He then goes up to people one by one and asks them about their religion.

Anyone who says “Christian” is ordered to stand at a nearby wall. Once he has 10 persons, he walks past each one by one and shoots them in the head at close range, screaming something about God. A nearby police officer also on his lunch break shoots the gunman dead.

Not a very nice scenario. I’d hate for anyone to experience such an event. I’d hate such an event to happen (though I am sure my hopes will be dashed somewhere in the world). You would feel absolutely terrified. It would be a terrible experience. The terror of having to witness or experience this.

Police and detectives are immediately on the scene. The gunman is arrested and taken into custody. The bodies would be taken away. You would receive counselling. After seeing so much terror, you’d need it.

The shooting is a major media event, with saturation coverage and politicians and pundits asking questions about who would do such a thing. There are scenes of weeping family members paying tribute to their lost loved ones. It’s just too hard to see.

Some days later, you turn on the news. A police officer you say at the scene is giving a press conference. It appeared the man had been self-radicalised on the internet. Police has strong suspicions the shooting was ideologically motivated. They had followed his Facebook page, his twitter feeds and had also found a hand-written manifesto on his desk at home.

It all makes sense. This was a terrorist attack. You expected this to be the case. You had witnessed the terror, seen the hatred in the man’s eyes.

But he wasn’t found to be a terrorist. He had an ideological motivation. He was a neo-Nazi with extreme far-Right beliefs. He became known as the “lone gunman”, a “violent deranged madman”.

Now let’s change the scenario for a moment. You’re finishing your coffee. The gunman approaches. He shoots and is shot.

He was suspected of being self-radicalised. However, his Facebook and Twitter feeds show nothing. There is no manifesto.

Now answer this question honestly - which one of these two would be more than likely to be considered a terrorist? Which would be charged under normal criminal laws had he survived, and which one under counter-terrorism laws?

It seems extraordinary that two shootings can occur within 24 hours of each other, both involving young deranged and angry men killing innocent people for apparently ideological motivations. The one in which one poor innocent man was killed is deemed a terrorist attack by media, police and politicians. The one in which 10 innocent people were killed isn’t. Are some victims less important than others? Are some murderers more murderous than others?

The Parramatta shooting was a shocking event. The actions of a 15 year old - carrying a gun and shooting a random person - could only be described as radical. But only slightly less shocking was the ignorant speculations made the boy’s clothes. And his invocation. “Allah, Allah”, he was supposed to have shouted. “My God! My God!”

Why did he invoke his creator? I’m not sure. The kid’s dead now, so we can’t ask him. Perhaps he was inspired by some desire to avenge Allah and Allah’s people. Perhaps he was shocked by what he had just done or where he was and realised there was no turning back. No one really knows. What we say is all speculation.

Writing for Fairfax Media, Inga Ting attempts a distinction.

Gun violence has killed 428 times more Americans over the past decade than terrorism. 

And that's using a narrow definition of gun violence, which includes homicides but excludes suicides, accidents and other kinds of gun deaths. It also uses a wide definition of terrorism, including attacks in which doubt exists about a terrorist link and crimes by anti-abortion assailants. 

Even US President Barack Obama is beginning to have doubts about all the media focus on terrorism.

In the wake of the Umpqua Community College massacre on Thursday - the 294th mass shooting in the US in the past 274 days – Barack Obama issued a challenge to news media outlets.
"Have news organisations tally up the number of Americans who have been killed through terrorist attacks in the last decade and the number of Americans who have been killed by gun violence, and post those side-by-side on your news reports."
The following chart says it all.

Perhaps Australians should have the chance to view a similar chart about terrorism deaths and those from domestic violence.

Ting continues:

But even when we expand the dataset to include September 11, 2001, the deadliest terrorist attack in history in which more than 2900 people died, gun homicides account for 50 times more American deaths than terrorism.
Between 2005 and 2014, gun violence (homicides only) killed almost 12,000 Americans a year on average, according to figures from the University of Sydney website and the Gun Violence Archive.
Terrorism killed an average of 28 Americans a year, both on US soil and abroad, according to figures from the University of Maryland's Global Terrorism Database and the US State Department. In all, gun homicides accounted for about 119,000 American deaths.
If we widen the definition of "violence" to include suicides, accidents and other gun deaths, that figure swells to more than 300,000 deaths.
Over the same period, 55 people (including 53 US citizens) were killed in terrorism-related attacks in the US and 225 private US citizens were killed in terrorist-related attacks overseas.

TERRORISM: Balancing security and individual liberty - when radicalisation becomes a threat to government thinking

We were all radicals in one way or another. Some of us become more radical with age. Tony Abbott's views on abortion (at least as expressed in his book Battlelines) were quite radical for a man who once wanted to become a priest. It's unlikely that today's Murdoch tabloid columnists would have shown as little respect for an official war narrative Keith Murdoch.

Radical ideas are needed for individual and social reform. But sometimes radical thinking is seen as a threat to all of us, especially when they turn violent. The consensus these days is that the most dangerous form of radicalism is radical Islam. This consensus has a ring of truth to it, though it is also used by anti-Islam radicals with a distinctly sectarian (and at times violent) agenda.

Notwithstanding the rhetoric of former Prime Minister Tony Abbott and his media allies, the Commonwealth has tried its best to avoid pointing the finger. Funding for "deradicalisation" projects has been awarded to a range of organisations from the ethno-religious Lebanese Muslim Association to the non-sectarian People Against Violent Extremism (PAVE) to Centacare in Cairns.

Emphasising the non-sectarian nature of counter-"radicalisation" measures can get you into some trouble, as the Turnbull government recently discovered following the release of its Preventing Violent Extremism & Radicalisation In Australia kit which has been sent to school teachers across Australia.

The criticism hasn't just come from the "usual suspects" – civil libertarians, Muslim community advocates and the Greens. Some professional education groups have been critical of the idea that one kit can solve all teachers' problems. Instead, as the Global Learning Centre stated in a recent press release:
Preventing violent extremism and radicalisation in our students is not about targeting individuals. It's about creating a more cohesive and connected community. This is a challenge that involves us all … Australian teachers are more desperate than ever to develop globally-ready classrooms.
Teachers cannot counter a narrow view of the world unless they have a broader and more cosmopolitan view. Kids need to be taught that being good citizens of Australia and of the globe are not mutually exclusive. The "kit" (which, according to one of its main authors Emeritus Professor Gary Bouma of Monash University, was never meant to be used as a kit) has also been ridiculed for the examples it gives of "radicalised" young people "cured" of their radicalism.

The booklet distinguishes between mere "radicalisation" ("[w]hen a person's beliefs move from being relatively conventional to being radical, and they want a drastic change in society" and which isn't necessarily bad) and when "it becomes a concern to everybody, including families, communities and law enforcement, if a person begins to advocate or use violence to achieve a political, religious or ideological goal".

The definition of advocating or using violence has been the butt of many jokes on social media, especially the hashtag #freekaren on Twitter, named in honour of the case study "Karen". Karen's interest in environmental protection led her to attend a forest camp where she and others would "disrupt logging activities by barricading areas that were being logged, spiking trees, and sabotaging machinery". Scuffles broke out between her group and loggers, and she was arrested.

The scenario may sound laughable, but the booklet's authors were obviously trying to show that violent extremism can take many forms and may not harm everyone. Unlike Islamist terrorist groups like ISIS and Boko Haram whose targets of choice are almost exclusively Muslims.

But you wouldn't believe it if you believed everything you read about terrorism fed to a tabloid by the former prime minister's office. Tony Abbott just loved talking about the "death cult" that was coming to get us all. It made his government look tough, even if it was accompanied by ridiculous stunts such as the recent Australian Border Force fiasco in Melbourne. It also gave oxygen to far-Right extremists who were rarely seen as a threat.

The Abbott government's policies might be described as a case of "militant democracy", when democracy compromises itself and its values in order to fight its perceived existential enemies. Abbott told Australians they would need to be prepared to enjoy less freedoms to fight terrorism. He used this reasoning to justify citizen stripping and other laws.

At least in his rhetoric, then Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull expressed discomfort with where all this was going. On July 7, 2015, Turnbull lectured the Sydney Institute on "balancing security and individual liberty".

"It is a balance our Government has, I believe, got right," Turnbull remarked. But the expression was wrong. And those with dissenting views were dismissed.

If, as Prime Minister, Turnbull wishes to sell Mr Abbott's militant democracy to us, he needs to appreciate that counter-terrorism isn't just an issue affecting "vulnerable groups". He also must be prepared to be ridiculed. Australians no longer take their liberties lightly.

Irfan Yusuf is a PhD candidate at the Alfred Deakin Research Institute for Citizenship and Globalisation at Deakin University. First published in the Canberra Times on 1 October 2015.

POLITICS: Cory Bernardi gets in touch with his inner conservative

Tony Abbott is gone. Malcolm Turnbull is in power. This apparently means conservatives in the Liberal Party have or soon will be vanquished. The "wet" or small 'l' liberals have won the day.

Little wonder the likes of South Australian Senator Cory Bernardi are making noises of leaving the Liberal Party and forming a new conservative party, perhaps similar to Britain's Conservatives.

But things have never been so cut and dried. The "Right" don't see each other as all being Right, let alone right. The Liberal Party founded by Menzies represented a political compromise, a somewhat uncomfortable marriage of liberals and conservatives.

 But what does it mean to be conservative in Australia anyway? Does it mean you worship God on Sunday and the free market every other day? Does it mean you support traditional values but insist they can only be Judeo-Christian?

In my final years of law school, a friend and I were invited to dinner with John Howard. It was 1993, and Mr Howard was the opposition spokesman on industrial relations. John Hewson had just lost the unlosable election, and had stunned many colleagues by "coming out" as a social progressive. I asked Mr Howard whether he thought the Liberal Party was or should be necessarily more conservative than the ALP. In those days I was thinking with my undergraduate binary political brain, typical of many in the highly factionalised NSW Young Liberal conservative faction.

In those days, the 'Group' (as the small 'l' liberals were known) had a winner-takes-all mentality, refusing to share power with any but a handful of conservatives. My education as a conservative young liberal included recognising dangerous 'wets', among them Marise Payne, John Brogden, Robert Hill, Christopher Pyne and George Brandis. That's right, campus left-wing activists. Christopher Pyne and George Brandis were on the Liberal left. No doubt many current Young Liberal lefties would be wondering what on earth happened!

Back to dinner with Mr Howard. From memory, Mr Howard's reply to my question was that the essence of conservatism is respect for tradition and the status quo. Change needs to be done gradually, not hastily or in a radical manner. Evolution always works better than revolution.

In that respect, Howard said the Liberal Party was a "broad church". He admitted that many policies pursued in his own portfolio in those days could hardly be called conservative. Indeed, the idea of seriously curtailing the dominance of the union movement and the award system in Australia was regarded as revolutionary. For decades, centralised wage fixing through an independent umpire was the norm.

Howard had a much clearer understanding of what the role of conservatives in the Liberal Party was. He realised you had to take the electorate with you, and you had to use big events to your advantage. The rule was respecting things as they are and making minor changes here and there (or at least major changes when no one was watching). Events like the Port Arthur 'massacre' (conventional racialised wisdom won't allow us to label this an act of terrorism) gave Howard the catalyst to introduce gun laws against the wishes of many in the National Party.

But there was one lesson Howard and other self-styled conservatives today have not learned. When conservatives are guided by prejudice instead of reason, they risk giving birth to a political monster that could go out of control and come back to bite all of us.

The free market is built upon people acting in rational self-interest. This means looking out for commercial advantage regardless of linguistic, ethnic, religious and other differences one might have with others. There's no point accusing the ALP of anti-Chinese xenophobia for having reservations about the proposed preferential trade agreement with China when there are people on your own side using the existence of violent Muslim extremists in the Middle East as an excuse to punish cattle farmers and put our export markets at risk.

And if refugee policy is built upon ease of integration, do we really think an Arabic-speaking Christian refugee named Nabil Youssef tortured by Islamic State and/or Assaad will find it easier to integrate than an Arabic-speaking Sunni or Alawite refugee named Nabil Youssef traumatised by IS and/or Assaad?

John Howard would have wished his last press conference as prime minister could be devoted to his long record of achievements. Instead, he had to deal with a fake pamphlet of racial and sectarian content distributed by members of the Liberal Party (including a NSW State Executive member) in a Western Sydney marginal seat. He went on to lose not just the election but his own seat.

Conservatives who dabble in irrational prejudice will never succeed in the long term. If Mr Bernardi and his fellow travellers wish to establish a conservative party on narrow foundations, they might consider doing so in North Korea.

Irfan Yusuf is a PhD candidate at the Alfred Deakin Research Institute for Citizenship and Globalisation, Deakin University. First published in the Canberra Times on 20 September 2015.

LAW: Terrorism legislation highlighted as Harun Causevic released on bail

During the pre-dawn of April 18, 2015, police raided a number of homes in south-western Melbourne. To say the raids were a media circus would be an understatement. Charges were laid against five young men pursuant to anti-terror laws. The men were accused of plotting to attack police officers as well as citizens gathering to commemorate ANZAC Day. The plot was allegedly inspired by remarks by leaders of Islamic State for young Western men to randomly kill civilians.

In Britain, charges have been laid against two adolescents who have since pleaded guilty to involvement in the thwarted Melbourne attack.

Local media had a field day circus after being fed by police information and allegations against the arrested men. The nerves of Australians were on edge over attacks on the larger-than-usual turnout to the 100th anniversary of the Gallipoli campaign. Pundits, terrorism "experts" and politicians appeared in newspapers and on TV screens confirming the narrative of fear. Some months later, Prime Minister Tony Abbott even declared to delegates at a summit on countering violent extremism that

... as far as the Daesh death cult is concerned, they're coming after us. 

In this environment of hysteria, it would have been a sacrilege to suggest that one of accused, 18-year-old Harun Causevic, perhaps wasn't the best candidate for placement in a maximum security isolation unit. A young man with no criminal record might be spending 23 hours each day in the company of hardened criminals? Still, in tabloid terror terms, the man is already guilty as charged. Human rights aren't an issue.

But now it seems the major terrorism charges against Causevic have been dropped. Causevic wasn't part of Tony Abbott's "death cult" after all. At worst, he was a young man in possession of knives and other weapons. Causevic is now out on bail.

It is easy to blame the police for pursuing these matters. But we must remember police are under enormous pressure to protect us from enemies whom they – and we – barely understand. To think that terrorism experts are still arguing over whether the actions of Man Monis constituted terrorism.

Police are expected to use an arsenal of vague, often poorly drafted and draconian laws repeatedly reinforced over more than a decade and which represent a massive departure from the criminal justice system. And if that isn't enough, the Abbott government is hoping to give them even more powers.

Following Causevic's release on bail, Federal and Victoria Police stated they could legitimately take "overt" action if they had reasonable grounds to suspect someone was planning a terror attack. Defence lawyer Rob Stary sought an apology and an ex gratia payment for his client, claiming there was no real evidence against Causevic. Victorian Police Commissioner Graham Ashton refused to apologise on the basis that

... no one acted in bad faith here … With the nature of terrorism offences it is inevitable you will see these types of cases occur.

So police will frequently prosecute terror cases where the evidence is so minor that charges will have to be withdrawn. Meanwhile a young man with no criminal record will remain in the worst form of custody, arrested and then released following a media circus. There are likely to be more young men in Causevic's situation, men whom the community will find guilty until proven guiltier.

The powers given to police and intelligence agents have been abused. In the 2003 case of Izhar Ul-Haque, a 21-year-old medical student, the trial judge described the conduct of ASIO agents as "grossly improper" and "reminiscent of Kafka". The agents were found to have "committed the criminal offences of false imprisonment and kidnapping at common law". The charges against eventually dropped.

Repeatedly reinforced vague laws exist because we have been convinced that death by terrorism is somehow more evil and nasty than death by murder or dying in a road accident with a drunken or stoned driver. Women dying at the hands of their partners weren't deserving of the same protection before their death as potential victims of death by death cult.

Further, the way we define terrorism says a lot about how we view ourselves as a nation. Harun Causevic is of Bosnian heritage. He is European. He is white. Imagine if he had driven up to police carrying not a black flag with white Arabic writing. Imagine if it was a flag of the Australian Defence League or some other white extremist organisation whose members are known to bring weapons to Reclaim Australia rallies and who carry out violent attacks on women. Would he have subjected to a dawn raid? Would he have spent four months in the company of some of the most dangerous men in Victoria?

Before 9/11, our police and intelligence services already had an arsenal of laws to help them keep us safe. Even if it could be argued that the hyper-legislation against terrorism was necessary, imagine how difficult it must be for agencies to do their job properly when under pressure from incompetent poll-driven governments act on the basest (often sectarian) instincts.

Irfan Yusuf is a PhD candidate at the Alfred Deakin Research Institute for Citizenship and Globalisation at Deakin University. First published in The Canberra Times on 2 September 2015.

SPORT/RELIGION: We can slap away Eddie McGuire's 'mussie' comment. The real problem is the use of 'footy'

Australian Muslims have a sense of humour and no problem being likened to insects; what gets me is calling Australian rules "footy". 

What on earth was Collingwood boss Eddie McGuire on about when he described Victorian Sports Minister John Eren as a "Mussie"? Or should that be "Mossie"? Or is this the new slang for "Muslim"?

And why should non-AFL people like myself care?

Because apparently McGuire was being racist. And racism affects us all. Apart from Muslims, of course. Muslims aren't a race but rather some invading alien species from the Planet Gsjhtr%$hj.

Personally I don't see what the big deal is. It isn't the first time I've been named an extremely annoying insect.

At my all-boys Anglican Cathedral school, there were three non-Anglicans who wore our non-believing hearts on our sleeves. Brian was Jewish, Tim was an atheist though his Catholic heritage made him a non-believer among super-low-church Anglicans. I was the Muslim.

We'd give our school chaplain hell, but we also happily threw dirt at each other using unfortunate stereotypes. When the stereotypes no longer stuck, we had to use more novel approaches.

One morning, Tim approached me all excited. "I killed one of your type in the shower yesterday. I slapped him dead just as he was about to bite me and suck my blood." I was confused. Tim clarified with a question.
Aren't you a Mossie?
Brian made sure everyone in our year knew Tim's new terminology. Soon blokes would find a mosquito buzzing around in the playground, point to it and ask my permission.
Do you mind if I flatten one of your cousins
? Another would remark:
How come you never seem to have mosquito bites? Oh yeah, I forgot. They never attack their own.
Some years later at university, I befriended an Anglo-Australian Muslim convert. Dave who had been around the mosque and religious organisation scene for more than a decade. Like many converts during the 1980s, Dave was not made to feel very welcome in a scene dominated by "ethnic" Muslims who treated converts with disdain or distrust.

Convert experiences were very similar to those of young Muslims like myself who resented religious spaces that treated Islam as cultural relics of life "back home".

I mentioned to Dave about how I was referred to as a "Mossie" at school. He had a good chuckle.
Mate, that's nothing. One of the earliest converts in Sydney was a bloke named Yusuf. He was doing a PhD and was organising activities for converts.
Yusuf understood that converts were often subject to pressure from fringe Muslim groups. He knew converts needed educational programs that reflected Australian norms so he produced a newsletter which was sent to more than 500 converts across the country. It was the 1970s and with no email or Facebook back then, it was all cut and paste and licking stamps onto handwritten envelopes. The newsletter was for Australian Muslims, for Muslims who saw Islam as something for Australia and not just a carbon copy of whatever was happening in Ankara or Lahore or Tripoli.

And the name of this publication? The Aussie Mossie.

Apparently the subheading was: "Watch out or we'll bite!"

Yes, Australian Muslims had a sense of humour, an understanding of Australian abbreviation and even an ability to rhyme. Muslims have been happily describing themselves as "Mossies" for more than four decades. So much for not integrating.

Nowadays, the biggest group of Muslims here are those born in Australia. Most of us are Aussie Mossies.

Thanks to events happening overseas, we're getting a rough ride. We're told to say our faith is one of peace like we really mean it. Our ladies are subjected to both domestic violence at home and non-domestic violence on public transport. Across the country, crowds of thugs and neo-Nazis are holding rallies to reclaim the country from us.

There are some real haters out there. But I'm not sure if Collingwood boss Eddie McGuire is one of them.

For starters, spotting the Sports Minister as a Turk isn't something that should come as a surprise to anyone who knows anything about McGuire. Seriously, McGuire grew up in Broadmeadows. He knows a Turk when he sees one.

But there is one thing I'm deeply offended about, not so much as a Muslim and as a decent human being. The story about McGuire's comments was placed on the Fairfax website headed "REAL FOOTY".

Fancy describing a game where huge men wear tiny shorts as footy, let alone real footy. I'm deeply offended and demand an apology.

And if it's true that the minister prefers to play "soccer", well I'm happy he leads by example. Because REAL footy is played throughout the world with feet, not hands.

Irfan Yusuf is a PhD candidate at Deakin University and has no interest in AFL. He is the author of Once Were Radicals: My Years as a Teenage Islamo-Fascist. This article was first published in the Sydney Morning Herald on 11 August 2015.

Monday, September 21, 2015

REFLECTION: Are Australians Really Racist?

The late Padraic Pearse (PP) McGuinness was one of Australia’s most eccentric commentators and cultural warriors. At one time a columnist for The Australian - back in the days when its editorial line wasn’t beholden to the SAS (and by that, I mean the Santamaria Appreciation Society) – he went onto take control of what became the rabidly right wing Quadrant.

McGuinness wrote on just about every topic under the sun, whether he knew much about it or not. He seemed determined to be a contrarian, even when his views represented the orthodoxy.

During a spring clean, I found a book of his columns entitled McGuinness Collected Thoughts* and was particularly interested on his views on social issues. Much of the commentary concerned topics of his era which would have interested me back then had I not been chasing other forms of anti-communist activism.

One column, dated June 20 1989 and entitled “THE MYTH OF AUSTRALIAN RACISM” is a reflection on Australian attitudes to East Asians in the days following the Tienanmen Square massacre. McGuinness claims
[t]he events in China, and the Australian response to them, have served to discredit another myth ... the myth that Australians are racist.
McGuiness claims the “myth” has been
... assiduously disseminated by various tendencies in the media … to paint a picture of Australians in general as prone to racist intolerance and hostility to immigration, especially from Asia.
So what does McGuinness see as the real truth?
The truth is that this is not an accurate description of Australian popular opinion, today, and has not been for many years, if it ever was.
McGuinness then moves onto our history of post-Federation immigration. He paints a rosy picture of a nation that has
... treated the immigrants with a tolerance and willingness to live and let live, and to absorb … The Australian experience of immigration and integration is one of which any country in the world could be proud.
Has it all been good? McGuinness acknowledges that
[t]here are difficulties, there are stupidities, there are plenty of cases of bad policy.
But that doesn’t detract from the overall picture that
... of all mixed communities Australia is one of the most tolerant and decent.

McGuinness then moves onto indigenous people. It would be a huge understatement to suggest that his views represent a mere contrarian refusal to accept conventional wisdom.
The accusation against Australians with respect to the treatment of Aboriginal Australians have been wild and damning.
I doubt Tony Abbott would agree with McGuiness’ assessment.

But how many people coming from other countries, whether English-speaking or not, can claim that the history of communal intolerance, of violence of wars, invasions, and conquests, have been better than ours? 

Gee, that should make us all feel so much better.
There is much to be ashamed of in the past for everybody – but to accuse Australians of being any worse than any other country in this respect is simply absurd. Often enough we have been better.
I’m not sure if that means we have anything to be proud of. It just means we are probably at least as bad or perhaps a little better than an awful bunch. Now, try not to fall off your chair at the following:
The mistakes toward Aborigines fifty or eighty years ago may not look so bad in the future … The point is that there is simply no evidence of any general or systematic prejudice against Aboriginals among white Australians.
Shall I continue? Yeah, why not.
Nor is there any general and systematic racial prejudice among Australians toward Asians, or toward other foreigners. There is indeed a certain amount of fear and hostility toward strangers. That is universal. There is a certain amount of red-kneckery” among those wo are not politically sophisticated or well-informed … But it is pure nonsense to say that there is any deep-seated racism and unforgiving intolerance in the Australian community.
McGuinness excuses those he sees as being wrongly accused of being racists. He says their behaviour is often natural given that an influx of people means more competition for limited housing, jobs etc. It isn’t easy for locals

... when established habits of life are disturbed, when new and not easily understood ways of behaviour are encountered. 

Does he have a point here? So by now you would have some idea of where PP McGuinness was coming from. Are his opinions correct today? Where they correct back in 1989? Was he partly right and partly wrong? Are Australians really racist?

*(1990) Schwartz & Wilkinson

Saturday, August 08, 2015

POLITICS: Peter Andren we need you more than ever to keep our MPs honest

It's often said that the major problem with our Parliaments is they are inundated with lawyers. As a lawyer myself, I admit that we are excellent at splitting hairs. Our plain English skills also leave a lot to be desired. Little wonder one of our most complex pieces of legislation – the Social Security Act – is barely understood by most lawyers let alone Centrelink clients. Yet anyone falling foul of Centrelink rules, even accidentally, can expect all the resources of the Department of Human Services to come down on them hard.

One advantage of having so many lawyers in Parliament is that they all understand financial trust. They are trained in how to honestly handle other people's money through trust accounts. Law graduates can only become lawyers if they pass an exam on trust accounting. Once they start practising on their own account, solicitors can expect regular visits from the trust account inspector. 

Which explains why our MPs are so scrupulously honest about their parliamentary entitlements. They know they are handling money provided on trust by taxpayers. They know that if they do the wrong thing, all hell could break loose. 

In theory, at least. Once out of law practice, our ex-lawyer law-makers have gained a reputation for ignoring, bending, stretching if not flouting the rules regarding spending other people's money.

The few MPs who speak out against the rorts tend to be those elected as independents, as opposed to career party hacks. One of these, a former Federal Member for Calare in central NSW, is sadly no longer with us. But we do have Peter Andren's 2003 memoir, The Andren Report: an independent way in Australian politics.

After being elected to Parliament in 1996, Mr Andren increased his majority in 1998. Despite attacking the government's position on asylum seekers, he won again in 2001 with a primary vote of over 50 per cent and a two-candidate-preferred vote of 75 per cent. Many in his electorate would have despised some of his political positions, but they appreciated his honesty and preferred not being represented by a party hack. Maybe it helped that Mr Andren was not a lawyer but rather a local and prominent broadcast journalist.

One of Mr Andren's chapters is titled "Lurks, Perks, and Rorts". As a new MP, he was shocked by
... just how deep the publicly funded well from which members of Parliament drank. I was immediately shocked at the generosity and virtual accountability of the members of Parliament's travel allowance scheme … MPs had for many years used travel allowances to pay off mortgages for property in Canberra.

Mr Andren was for some time at the centre of the 1997 scandal surrounding former ALP Senator and deputy president of the Senate Mal Colston. When Mr Colston wasn't supported for the plum job by the ALP, he resigned and sat on the cross benches before the incoming Howard government offered him the job with its $16,000-plus pay rise. Eventually Mr Howard had to refer
... a series of allegations involving misuse of entitlements, Commonwealth cars and postal and travel allowances … to the Commonwealth police.

At the time, Mr Andren was visiting a young offenders' prison farm in his electorate. One inmate asked him a rather logical question:
How come that bloke Colston can't be charged, when I'm in here for 16 months for stealing a car and possessin' dope?

Eventually charged, Mr Coston's charges were later dropped.

Following questions from Mr Andren, a number of Coalition MPs and Ministers were forced to amend their records. One minister was forced to pay back $8740 to the Department of Administrative Services. One senior cabinet minister, a minister and an MP who admitted to repaying false travel claims of around $9000 resigned or were sacked. Two of Mr Howard's staffers were also made to resign for covering up the secret repayments. In September 1997, Mr Andren questioned Mr Howard about
... members given the opportunity to correct and amend their signed-off travel claims prior to enforced scrutiny … and before their tabling and publication in this house.

He also asked when MPs would acknowledge that
... the TA [travel allowance) and overseas travel system had been systematically abused and rorted over many years.

Mr Howard's response was to accuse Mr Andren of making
... a cheap shot

and engaging in
... generalised smears.

Mr Andren was then ejected out of the House and into the arms of an adoring media and public. Mr Andren found neither side wanted to engage in reform, but were happy to accuse each other of rorts. After a vicious attack from Peter Costello, a Labor Senator from Tasmania was found in his Canberra flat with slashed wrists. But Mr Andren knew the system was rotten and pursued the matter.
I realised I was not the flavour of the month among government and Labor members of the house … who had been part of a system that regarded the lurks and perks of office as something of a right than a privilege.

Peter Andren died in 2007, his quest to end the rorts unsuccessful. Since then, Australians have had to put up with the Peter Slipper affair, Choppergate and numerous other examples of MPs taking advantage of a rotten system. Meanwhile, we are constantly being lectured about the end of the age of entitlement. Essential services such as legal aid are slashed.

Voters deserve better than this cartel of rorts. If only we had more Peter Andrens to clean up the mess.

Irfan Yusuf is a PhD candidate at the Alfred Deakin Research Institute for Citizenship and Globalisation at Deakin University. First published in the Canberra Times on 6 August 2015.

Tuesday, August 04, 2015

POLITICS: Team Amer ... woops ... Australia

Staya - f*ck yeah!

According to the erudite Bernard Keane, writing in Crikey on 23 June 2015, the phrase "Team Australia" used by Prime Minister Tony Abbott so frequently that it virtually became his trademark, is now virtually dead.

This rhetorical child was killed off after only a year. Born during a Prime Ministerial Address to the Boao Forum for Asia in April last year, the term was used to describe a large delegation visiting China.

On this trip to China, I am accompanied by the foreign minister, the trade minister, five state premiers, one chief minister, and 30 of my country’s most senior chairmen and CEOs. 
It’s one of the most important delegations ever to leave Australia. 
What better way could there be to demonstrate that Australia is open for business: than to visit all three of our largest export partners on the one trip, culminating with the biggest one? ... 
Australia’s preference is always to look forwards rather than backwards; to win friends rather than to find fault; to be helpful, not difficult. Team Australia is here in China to help build the Asian Century.

Gosh. What a positive message. We are here. We have political and business leaders here. We wish to make friends. We value our relationship with you. We are not here to judge or find fault or condescend. We are forward-looking people. We don't wish to be difficult. We are here to help.

So let's compare this positive message to Asian leaders to the message Mr Abbott had for Australian citizens concerned about the security of their country. During a joint press conference with Foreign Minister Julie Bishop and Attorney General Senator George Brandis on 5 August 2004, hardly four months after the China address, Abbott's tone has completely changed.

Remember, this time he is not talking to foreign leaders. He is talking to his own citizens.

We need new legislation to make it easier to identify, to charge and to prosecute people who have been engaged in terrorist activities overseas such as, for instance, by making it an offence to travel to a designated area without a valid reason. We also need legislation which I have commissioned the Attorney to prepare, which the National Security Committee of the Cabinet has commissioned the Attorney to prepare to ensure that we are best able to monitor potential terrorist activity in this country. Obviously with the usual range of safeguards and warrants but that will include discussions with the telecommunications providers about the retention of metadata. We are also determined to engage in ever closer consultation with communities including the Australian Muslim community. 
When it comes to counter-terrorism everyone needs to be part of ‘Team Australia’ and I have to say that the Government’s proposals to change 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act have become a complication in that respect. I don’t want to do anything that puts our national unity at risk at this time and so those proposals are now off the table. This is a call that I have made. It is, if you like, a leadership call that I have made after discussion with the Cabinet today. In the end leadership is about preserving national unity on the essentials and that is why I have taken this decision.
There is a sense that the government wishes to consult, to protect, to even compromise so as to maintain solidarity within the team. Though I'm not sure what abandoning changes to the RDA had to do with the solidarity sought.

The term was catching on. At the Sir John Downer Oration on 21 August 2015, Abbott mentioned a Muslim leader using the term.

Multiculturalism has turned out to mean people becoming Australian – joining our team if you like – in their own way and at their own pace. 
One of the participants in my Muslim leaders’ round tables this week rather exuberantly declared: “we are all part of Team Australia team and you are our captain” – suggesting that he had yet to assimilate Australians’ habitual scepticism towards politicians! 
In our own way, Australia has long sought to showcase this easy-going approach to cultural and religious differences.
Abbott did not show the same scepticism toward multiculturalism as John Howard. Team Australia was still inclusive, even if only at a leader-to-leader level. Abbott's appreciation for this was expressed during a speech to the South Australian Liberal Party on 23 August 2015:

As many of you would know, I’ve spent much of the last week talking to the leaders of the Muslim community here in Australia. They are decent people, they are proud of our country and like every one of their fellow Australians, they are appalled at the things now being done in different parts of the world in the name of religion. One of them said to me on Tuesday in Melbourne, in a booming voice, full of exuberance, he said, “You know, we are all part of Team Australia”, and he looked at me and he smiled, “And you are our captain”. I have never been more proud and I have never been more exhilarated than to hear that statement.

Again, the discussons are with "the leaders of the Muslim community here in Australia". The leaders seem to be part of Team Australia, at least to the extent that they recognise Abbott as the captain.

The Opposition, of course, weren't part of Team Australia, at least to the extent that they did not like his approach to tax and superannuation matters. The overuse of the term turned it into a farce. As Bernard Keane notes:

After a remarkable debut month in August when the term was mentioned over 8000 times across the media, over 3000 times in September, nearly 4000 times in October and 2-3000 each in the last two months of 2014, media mentions fell away — first below 1000 in January, to just over 300 in March, and just 136 in April. Abbott’s off-hand mention in May garnered 765 mentions.

The luvvy-duvvy talk came to an end when Abbott turned on the same foot soldiers when announcing changes to citizenship laws that would revoke or suspend citizenship of those involved in terrorism or terror-related acts. The Guardian Australia reported it as follows:

In a national security speech on Monday, the prime minister also called on Muslim leaders to proclaim Islam as a religion of peace “more often, and mean it”.

Since then, Team Australia appears to have been dumped. The last word belongs to Keane:
Farewell, Team Australia — may you enjoy your rest in whatever paradise abandoned focus-group phrases go to.