Greg Moriarty and Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull on Thursday. Photo: Andrew MearesEasier access to authorities needed to stop extremism
What police and intelligence officials have been saying for months might now become a reality.
They can’t watch everyone all the time. Neither their resources nor ns’ expectations of basic liberties will allow that. So instead they need the Muslim community to be their eyes and ears when it comes to spotting extremism.
That starts with parents and families but it extends to teachers, friends and community leaders.
This was grasped in theory by the Abbott government but never really applied. For every mention of respect for Muslims, there was an equal and opposite dose of combative rhetoric, which tainted the waves of new national security laws as anti-Muslim and created a gulf between the community and the government.
Thursday’s meeting focussed heavily on how to avoid the law enforcement route and look at softer, earlier intervention, which means having trusted avenues the Muslim community can use to get help with loved ones they’re concerned about.
So how does that happen?
At the moment, the main pathway is to pick up the phone and call the national security hotline – hardly a comforting idea for a worried parent. That was how one recent alleged plot came to authorities’ attention but that won’t happen every time, especially when problems arise among newer communities whose relationship with authorities is distant.
There will be all sorts of recommendations about different pathways – new phone hotlines, new websites, new apps, outreach programs through schools.
But counter-terrorism czar Greg Moriarty got to the heart of the issue on Thursday afternoon by saying that worried community members need to be able to reach out to “people they can trust”.
Trust is the key. If that bridge can be built, Thursday’s talkfest will have been an immensely useful exercise.
The results, if translated into action when they go to Malcolm Turnbull and state leaders late next month, could do more to keep ns safe than endless waves of new national security laws.
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