There is a very strange op-ed in the Herald Sun today by veteran political reporter Laurie Oakes:
IN a radio interview on Wednesday, Special Minister of State Scott Ryan was asked about the idea of rounding up people on ASIO’s radar as potential terrorists and locking them away in internment camps.
“Who’s saying that?” he responded. “I don’t think there’s a serious debate about internment.”
Listeners would have heard the astonishment in his voice.
“It’s happening on breakfast television and commercial radio,” explained the interviewer.
Ryan was clearly relieved by that, assuming it meant no one of significance was advocating such a radical action.
“They’re not decision makers,” he said.
But internment of terror suspects was first raised by retired Major-General Jim Molan in the Herald Sun the day before.
And Molan, with 40 years’ military experience, including as chief of operations in Iraq, and the brains behind the government’s successful “stop the boats” strategy, is very much a heavyweight.
He is an influential figure, particularly among Coalition politicians.
While many of us, like Ryan, might find it hard to accept that imprisonment without formal charges or trial should be contemplated, Molan’s involvement means the debate is off and running and has to be taken seriously.
Well, no. The only person now saying the idea of internment needs to be taken seriously is … Laurie Oakes. But why? I doubt he thinks it is a good idea.
Long, long before we start interning people at random to pander to paranoia there are other far more sensible ideas that could and should be adopted. For example, let’s prosecute people who commit actual crimes. Let’s take a long hard look at the bail laws. After all why should we intern people on the suspicion they may commit a crime when the legal system lets people actually accused of a crime walk the streets? Recidivists should not get bail at all. Let’s have longer prison terms for people convicted of crimes. Let’s have mandatory deportation for non-citizens convicted of terrorism related crimes. On this point I am somewhat unsympathetic to the government’s complaints that soft judges are over-turning deportation orders. Pass clear and unambiguous legislation if you want laws to be judge-proof. That means making more of an effort in drafting legislation.
In the meantime internment is a rubbish idea and it reflects poorly on Oakes that he didn’t just say so.