The Sydney Siege: Australia Stands Firm

December 18, 2014 Topic: Terrorism Region: Australia

The Sydney Siege: Australia Stands Firm

Australia's commitment to combating international terrorism appears unshaken in the wake of the Sydney siege. 

“The reason is that firstly, many Australians have been exposed to terrorism already in their lives – terrorism overseas, in New York, Mumbai, Bali and London and so forth. Secondly, Australians showed an impressive calm and resilience in the face of this atrocity. And to me that sends a signal that such acts are not going to have the impact their perpetrators would want, and this will make such acts less frequent in future than would otherwise be the case.”

He added: “If anything, this incident will reinforce the commitment of the Australian government to comprehensively support counterterrorism efforts internationally, whether that’s through the use of security forces; whether that’s through cooperation with other countries; whether that’s working through multilateral channels to maximize law enforcement and intelligence cooperation.”

“I see this as principally the act of a deranged individual criminal, however he did use terrorist tactics and the net result of this has been a demonstration of the futility of this approach. I think it will ultimately be counterproductive to the ends that this individual claimed to be serving.”

However, former Opposition leader Mark Latham, previously head of the center-left Labor party, called for a reappraisal of Australia’s involvement in the Middle East.

“By committing Australia to yet another futile military engagement in the Middle East earlier this year, Abbott increased the likelihood of someone like Monis emerging as a public menace,” Latham said in the Australian Financial Review.

“As a middle-ranking power with limited military capacity, Australia has no need to be involved in the quagmire of Middle Eastern sectarianism,” he added.

But as Medcalf said in the Australian Financial Review, “It is hard to think of a more vivid proof of the futility and failure of terrorism than the resilience and rallying together of Australians from many backgrounds, including the voices of many faiths in Martin Place yesterday afternoon. This is a far more powerful image to show the world than any sterile propaganda.”

The Australian newspaper pointed to former prime minister Howard’s comments at the 2002 memorial to the Bali bombing, as indicating the nation’s “calm determination” in the face of the terrorist threat: “It will take a long time for these foul deeds to be seen in any kind of context, they can never be understood, they can never be excused. Australia has been affected very deeply but the Australian spirit has not been broken, the spirit remains strong and free and open and tolerant,” he said at the time. “I know that is what all of those who lost their lives would have wanted and I know that is what those who grieve for them want."

While analysts question how Monis escaped the attention of authorities, the nation’s commitment to combating international terrorism appears unshaken in the wake of the Sydney siege. Australians have been alerted, but not necessarily alarmed, as Howard might say.

Anthony Fensom, a Brisbane, Australia-based freelance writer and consultant with more than a decade's experience in Asia-Pacific financial/media industries.