News

Why you don't need to fear terrorism at home in Australia

ACCORDING to an ANU poll, more than half of the country's adults are concerned Australia will be a target for terrorism at home and strongly believe the government needs to introduce greater preventive measures to combat it. But the reality is less alarming.

More Australians have died at the hands of police (lawfully or unlawfully) in ten years (50 at least from 2006 to 2015) or from domestic violence in just two years (more than 318 in 2014 and 2015) than from terrorist attacks in Australia in the last 20 years.

Although Australia's terrorism threat level is set at probable, the likelihood of an individual being killed or wounded from a terrorist attack in this country is extremely low.

Terrorist attacks in Australia have claimed the lives of only three victims in the last two decades.

Australian fears are necessarily shaped by memories of the 2002 Bali terrorist attacks in which 202 people, many of them Australian, were killed. Since Bali, terrorist attacks overseas have claimed the lives of more than 110 Australians.

Even taking the overseas deaths into account, Australians can afford to feel more secure at home.

NSW Police accountant Curtis Cheng. Cheng was shot dead outside NSW Police Headquarters in Parramatta, in Sydney's west on October 2, by 15-year-old gunman Farhad Jabar Khalil Mohammad, who was killed by officers responding to the shooting.
NSW Police accountant Curtis Cheng. Cheng was shot dead outside NSW Police Headquarters in Parramatta, in Sydney's west on October 2, by 15-year-old gunman Farhad Jabar Khalil Mohammad, who was killed by officers responding to the shooting. SUPPLIED

Police say they were able to successfully foil 11 terrorist plots and four terror attacks against the Australian public in the last two years.

Australian security services, supported by the public and community groups, have been very successful in monitoring the threats.

According to the government's 2015 review, the number of people in the country who have been prepared to commit terrorist acts here remains low.

The review found there had only been two terrorist attacks on Australian soil since 2001. NSW police accountant Curtis Cheng was killed by a teenager allegedly vowing allegiance to Islamic State in 2015.

Mother-of-three Katrina Dawson and Lindt cafe manager Tori Johnson were killed in the Martin Place siege in December 2014.

The most-serious terrorist plot in Australian history dates back to 2005, more than a decade ago, referred to most commonly as Operation Pendennis, the name of the joint police and ASIO operation that prevented any attacks.

According to an academic study, 22 men were charged with terrorism offences for planning or helping co-ordinate attacks in Melbourne and Sydney.

Lindt Chocolate Cafe manager Tori Johnson was killed during the siege, with unconfirmed reports suggesting he attempted to wrestle the gun from Man Haron Monis.
Lindt Chocolate Cafe manager Tori Johnson was killed during the siege, with unconfirmed reports suggesting he attempted to wrestle the gun from Man Haron Monis.

Of these, 18 were finally convicted. The success by our security services in thwarting these attacks may have deterred similar plots.

As my grandchildren left our hotel on Bastille Day in France this year for the fireworks, there was no denying I felt some concern about a possible terrorist attack. Luckily, the kids went to the Eiffel Tower, and not to the Promenade des Anglais in Nice where 84 people were killed and more than 100 injured.

I remain concerned about such attacks but am not afraid enough to consider preventing loved ones from travelling in Western countries.

Respondents to the 2016 ANU poll may have felt more fearful of an attack than usual because of the public debate that was circulating at the time. The poll was conducted during and just after the last federal election, in which Pauline Hanson was propagandising a link between all Muslims and terrorism.

The ANU poll was also conducted during the coroner's inquest into the Lindt Café siege, and just after the Orlando massacre in June. It also closely followed the prime minister's invitation of Muslim leaders to Kirribilli House, where Malcolm Turnbull mentioned the connection between the Muslim community and defence against terrorism.

Public opinion in Australia has an exaggerated view of the terrorist threat inside the country. As early as 2006, two Australian scholars put forward a "thought contagion theory" to explain this phenomenon. It suggests misleading ideas become commonly held beliefs after they are conveyed to many people.

 

EMOTIONAL OUTPOURING: Sydneysiders lay flowers near the Lindt Cafe in December last year.
EMOTIONAL OUTPOURING: Sydneysiders lay flowers near the Lindt Cafe in December last year. DAN Himbrechtsaap

The anxiety is often unnecessarily fuelled by politicians and journalists. One striking example was a warning from The Australian's Greg Sheridan in November 2015 that the Paris attacks can be viewed as part of a series of threats that may lead to the end of Western civilisation.

But the over-anxiety about terrorist attacks in Australia conforms to a more longstanding phenomenon of Australian insecurity and exaggeration of international threats in almost all quarters. It also comes from the exaggerated fear of becoming a victim of domestic crime.

In this environment of supercharged public anxiety about terrorist threats on Australian soil, opinion leaders in politics, the media and academia have a responsibility to not inflame them. The ANU poll might have framed some additional questions to speak to the excellent record of the security services at home and the relative safety they provide.

Greg Austin is a UNSW Australia Professor with the Australian Centre for Cyber Security.

This report appears courtesy of The Conversation

 

The Conversation

Topics:  editors picks terrorism the conversation



Gnarly Harley wins a toe hanging world title heat

Coffs Coast surfer Harley Ingleby produced one of the heats of his career to defeat French style-master Antoine Delpero in round 3 of the Jeep World Longboard Championships in China on Thursday.

Harley Ingleby gives a malibu masterclass at World Longboard Champs

Staff members held-up in club robbery

Two staff members were threatened during the robbery last night.

Investigations are under way after four men robbed a Macksville club

A close call in the surf

SAVED: Mitch Harvey helped rescue a young man at Main Beach in Woolgoolga.

Two men were rescued in the surf at Woolgoolga.

Local Partners

Is it time to crackdown on illegal camping at Mt Warning?

SECURITY improvements at Mt Warning are in question after a backpacker died atop the popular peak this week.


Man builds playground entirely out of packing tape

Artist Eric Lennartson is in the process of completing his huge tape sculpture at the Ipswich Art Gallery.

VIDEO:And here's where you can play on it.

Countdown to Woodford Folk Festival begins

ECONOMIC BOON: Woodford Folk Festival is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year.  Photo Contributed

The first larger-than-life inhabitants have stepped into Woodfordia

'I need to do what I can': 65km walk for cancer patient

Karlee Robinson is walking from Caloundra to Noosa for her cousin Aaron Parker, who has terminal brain cancer.

What do you do when someone you love has terminal brain cancer?

Brad Pitt bids to keep custody battle private

Brad Pitt will go to court to keep his custody battle private

Sia has split from her husband

Sia has split from her husband Erik Anders Lang.

Amy Schumer thanks Barbie trolls for hateful comments

Amy Schumer is in the lead role for the new Barbie movie

Shannen Doherty's husband is suing for destroyed sex life

Shannen Doherty's husband is suing her former manager

Azealia Banks' battery case against Russell Crowe dropped

Russell Crowe will not be charged with battery

Mel Gibson named Best Director at AACTA Awards

Mel Gibson poses in the media room after winning the AACTA Award for Best Direction for Hacksaw Ridge.

HIS wartime drama Hacksaw Ridge sweeps 6th annual awards in Sydney.

INSIDE STORY: The highlights of your $150 million CBD

GRAND PLAN: The highlights of the Ipswich CBD redevelopment and where they will be located.

Work on city heart's radical transformation to begin next year

VOTE IN OUR POLL: Sand mine opponents face serious dilemma

Public meeting for the proposed sand mine at Maroochydore last week.

Coast MP calls on Minister to stop KRA proposal with stroke of a pen

Developer's grand new multi-million dollar estate

NEW ESTATE: This is the only plan revealed by the property developer's new Billabongs Estate in Agnes Water.

DEVELOPER given the go ahead for a massive estate with 149 homes.

Banks reclaim Gladstone homes as job losses bite

LONG FALL: Property experts Heron Todd say, based on key market indicators, Gladstone is still travelling to the bottom of the market, with property prices set to get cheaper.

Property valuers say Gladstone housing market hasn't hit the bottom

The million dollar property to test Mackay's market

This Victoria St building will go to auction Tuesday and investors will be watching closely to see how much it sells for.

'High profile architect designed CBD asset' goes to auction

Ready to SELL your property?

Post Your Ad Here!