This week’s Martin Place siege will be remembered as the greatest intelligence failure in Australian history.
It cost the lives of two innocent people in a tragedy which was avoidable if NSW police, the Australian Federal Police, the ASIO security service and the criminal justice system had been doing their jobs.
The report ordered by Prime Minister Tony Abbott is a shameful dereliction of duty which will impress no one.
The head of the Prime Minister’s Department and the head of the NSW Premier’s Department will head the inquiry. Expect a cover-up, a whitewash or a combination of both.
It will be held in secret and there is no guarantee the full report will ever be published.
What’s needed, of course, is a royal commission with judicial powers to gather all relevant evidence and compel witnesses to give sworn testimony in public.
Questions that shriek for answers are chiefly about Man Haron Monis, the Iranian-born gunman who staged the ill-fated 16-hour siege at the Lindt Chocolate Café and was killed there.
While Abbott gave an extra $600m to ASIO in his first Budget and has staged $100m royal commissions into trade unions (Julia Gillard) and the pink bats scheme during the GFC (Kevin Rudd), he will cynically avoid a High Court judge probing how and why the siege occurred.
Arriving in Australia in 1996, Monis was granted political asylum (because of his previous employment with Tehran’s intelligence service?), was awarded Australian citizenship and availed himself of full unemployment and health entitlements.
In 2000 he set up a pseudo-religious centre at Wentworthville in Western Sydney (at whose instigation?) and began to call himself a sheik. He also began using a new name – Manteghi Boroujerdi. Why a new identity?
He made headlines when he chained himself to the iron fence around the NSW Parliament in Macquarie Street and later when he sent letters to the families of Australian servicemen killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. Who gave him the addresses, which are strictly confidential?
With this kind of notoriety the fake sheik went onto the police “watch list”. Inexplicably, however, the year of his letters to killed servicemen’s relatives he was taken OFF the “watch list”. Why?
One intelligence agency clearly regarded him as an “asset” who could be exploited for further operations. ASIO? The FBI? Mossad?
To cap it all, at the time of the siege Monis was on bail although facing an accessory to murder charge and more than 40 charges of sexual assault against women who attended his spiritual healing clinics. How come?
He staged the siege with a sawn-off shotgun. How did he obtain the gun and ammunition? The AFP first said he had a shooter’s licence but then said he hadn’t. Was the AFP running him as an agent provocateur in Sydney’s Moslem community and didn’t bother to tell the NSW cops? Or was it ASIO?
No Coalition Minister in Canberra or Sydney has offered to resign for dereliction of duty and none of the law enforcement chiefs have been suspended or sacked. Why not? When is someone going to take responsibility for the accidental murder of barrister Katrina Dawson, a mother of three children and a brilliant “star” of the NSW bar?
There will no Christmas-New Year holidays for the cops or the spies: they will be working overtime on a cover-up. With the mainstream media in collusion with Abbott’s Team Australia and the ABC on its knees, exposure of what happened before, during and after the siege falls into the hands of Australia’s micro-media like Crikey and Vice News. Stayed tuned.
Rugby League goes Bogan
When Greg Bird, co-captain of the Gold Coast Titans, urinated near a police car at Byron Bay the day after his wedding, the rugby league community responded to the latest scandal with a show of solidarity for the Kangaroo forward and NSW enforcer.
“Boys will be boys,” was the insouciant response.
But Andrew Webster, The Sydney Morning Herald chief sports writer, went one step further, saying: “We love rugby league because of its boganism. It’s time rugby league embraced its boganism, because deep, deep down, we’re all bogans too.” (“Indignation over Bird bust a load of dribble,” SMH, 12 December 2014)
But Titans CEO Graham Annesley, a former NSW Sports Minister, Liberal MP for Miranda, NRL chief financial officer and boss of league referees, took a different view.
The Gold Coast club stripped Bird of his co-captaincy, fined him $15,000 and put him on notice that any further breaches of discipline would put in jeopardy his club contract.
“All players need to accept personal responsibility for their actions and recognise that incidents of this nature not only damage the reputation and commercial prospects of the club, but also bring the image of the NRL and the game of rugby league into substantial disrepute,” Annesley said.
While Annesley was reading from a time-worn and oft-repeated NRL script, players were probably reading Webster and nodding their agreement with him.
After all, the message from one of the code’s foremost writers couldn’t be clearer: “So let’s introduce some sanity to proceedings. Some rare perspective. Or maybe just lighten up a bit.
“So shelve your outrage, reverse park your righteous indignation and cut out the gibber about rugby league being a dead-game-walking and let’s embrace what it is: a sport played by young blokes, not all of whom are the coldest cans in the fridge.”
Another reality that appears to have escaped Webster is that News Ltd in conjunction with Channel Nine have been strenuously committed to turning rugby league, aka “the greatest game of all” and “our game”, into a bogans’ game for the past two decades.
In a desperate chase for newspaper sales (Sydney Daily Telegraph, Brisbane Courier Mail, Townsville Bulletin and Gold Coast Bulletin) and TV ratings (Nine’s Footy Show hosted by Paul “Fatty” Vautin with “Reg Reagan”, aka Matthew Johns), the media giants have trashed the league’s time-honoured reputation as a working-class code and taken it to Boganville.
I am not alone in rejecting Webster’s view. The great sports writer Roy Masters told me: “I disagree with Andrew Webster. Rugby League must attract women and the big end of town and can’t while bogan acts are perpetuated. Despite having four of the top five rating programmes on TV, the code has a bad image re behaviour.”
When he called for rugby league to embrace boganism, Webster was announcing that he has surrendered to boganism. He has run up the surrender flag inadvertently allowing coverage of the game to move further in the direction of the toilet.
After years of mocking the “elites” and “pointy heads” at Fairfax, News Ltd’s bedrock encouragement of boganism has eventually paid off – Fairfax has come on board its Bogan Express.
What about outstanding rugby league role models like Greg Inglis from the 2014 Premiership-winning club, the South Sydney Rabbitohs? Maybe he should start urinating in the street and get himself inducted into Webster’s Hall of Boganism.
Mad Monk continued
Two-party preferred polling
ALP 57.5% (up 4%)
Coalition 42.5% (down 4%)
ALP 41% (up 3.5%)
Coalition 35% (down 4%)
Green 11.5% (down 0.5%)
• Morgan Poll
• Taken first two weekends in December