Warwick Elsche. Heads must roll at ABC, but not at ASIO

“Heads must roll;” words from the Prime Minister Tony Abbott. And in case you missed them he said them twice – on national TV.

He was talking of the ABC and presumably some executives who failed to detect the “threatening” presence of a convicted Islamist sympathizer Zaky Mallah in the audience of popular current affairs program “Q&A”.

Tony dislikes the ABC because it is not as imaginatively sycophantic as the Murdoch Press. He has branded it on this and other occasions as cruelly politically biased – despite the fact that the Head of his own media office was recently recruited from this source.

For those unfamiliar with the now accepted dictum in politics that for Tony “things are not what they are, they are what Tony says that are” – he actually believes this – such public anger from the Prime Minister on a virtual non-event could indeed be puzzling.

The ABC, after all, is not a security organization. It is merely a major national media outlet and the man whose appearance on the program so outraged the Prime Minister, has appeared more than a dozen times in other media, including Abbott’s favoured Murdoch newspapers and the most hopelessly pro-Government Sydney Radio Station 2GB without a murmur of protest from the zealous Tony. Indeed some of those reports had indicated a significant change of heart by the man in question.

But despite the fact the ABC has no role in security detection or prevention, weeks later Tony remains righteously outraged and continues to rattle on about the ABC’s failure and the threat which Tony thinks was posed by Zaky’s appearance for the first time in one of its studio audiences.

Consequently, according to Abbott, “heads have got to roll.”

The Australian Security Intelligence Organization – unlike the ABC – is a security body; Australia’s most senior where internal intelligence and subversion are concerned. It is much-loved by Prime Minister Abbott.

ASIO had dealings with an Iranian refugee from whom they hoped to gain intelligence on the running of a country which seems to be an implacable enemy of the United State and therefore of Australia under Tony. Contact continued with this Iranian for a good long time. Like the man who slipped under the ABC radar, this individual had two convictions for offences which might indicate profound terrorists sympathies. He sent abusive mail to parents of Australian soldiers who had died fighting terrorism in Afghanistan. He was also on bail as an accused accessory in the stabbing and burning murder of his wife. He was also on bail on no fewer than 40 serious sex charges. He had landed in Australia fraudulently, and over the period of a fortnight ASIO, Federal Police and other so called security bodies had received more than a dozen individual calls warning of threats this man might pose. Yet no action was taken.

The ASIO contact was Man Haron Monis. At the end of that two week period of warnings the contact held up some 20 hostages in the Lindt Coffee Shop in Sydney’s Martin Place in a 17 hour siege which resulted in three deaths including his own.

When asked how this murderer escaped the special attention which might have prevented the Martin Place tragedy, the Chief of ASIO explained simply “he did not come up on our radar.” It was later also learnt that Man Haron Monis had written to Australia’s most senior law officer, Federal Attorney General George Brandis, virtually seeking permission to contact the leader of ISIS, the terrorist organistion in the Levant to which Australian Air Force and Army forces are opposed. He seems to have slipped under this law officer’s radar also. Brandis later explained the letter seeking the ruling on contact with ISIS leaders indicated no support for either side despite the background of the author. And it seems he slipped under the radar of Senator Brandis’ office and departmental staff again, because despite misleading statements to Parliament, information about his desire for a contact with the terrorists was not even provided to the joint Federal-State enquiry into Man Haron Monis and the Martin Place siege. Once the Parliamentary deception was uncovered it took a full three days until Parliament was informed on the misinformation – and then only after the possibility of revelation by one of the principals in the enquiry became a threat.

Extraordinarily, Abbott has had nothing to say about these spectacular failures by security and supposedly legally responsible organizations while continuing to berate the ABC – as if it matters.

The game now is to cover up, despite demands from the New South Wales Coroner probing the Martin Place deaths as to how the killer with his background and convictions and his string of pending charges remained on bail. The Feds seem desperate to keep it covered up – they went so far as to pressure the New South Wales DPP to keep concealed the reasons that a man facing such charges could be bailed. Who are they saving from embarrassment? Tony doesn’t seem to care or want to know – not while the ABC is there to be attacked.

One wonders at the competence, the political judgement and maybe even the honesty of a Prime Minister whose values seem so hopelessly skewed. Far more serious failures which led to the raid and deaths seem to have attracted no comment at all from the man who spends a good part of his public time rattling on about threats and security.

Not a word about rolling craniums in ASIO, not one either about George Brandis, his office or his department.

The real threat, to Tony, remains the ABC. They must be punished.

Remember! Tony really believes that in politics ‘Things are not what they are. They are what Tony says they are’.

It might also be worth asking what one might have to do, given Man Haron Monis’ record, to actually come to the attention of the super sleuths of ASIO.

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