As the Australian government draws up plans to redress the threat of terror, it should also keep in mind that the electorate is increasingly gaining a broader awareness of geo-political situations. It can no longer hope that conventional policy frameworks (that were essentially based on imperialist lines) will get electoral approval. A good example of discerning electorate can be found in Spain. In spite of the Aznar government’s official propaganda, its citizens threw Aznar and his cohorts out of power, in light of the Madrid bombings (Shuja, 2006, p.447). This suggests that the Spanish populace is aware of the connection between Spain’s involvement in the war on terror and the Madrid bombings; they also knew if they had distanced themselves from the masters in Washington they could have avoided this tragedy. The Australian government can learn from the Spanish example. This sentiment is also expressed by John Lee, a respected political commentator, thus:
“The idea that geopolitical strategies should be polluted by a crude popular fear of attack, and that gangs of outlaws should influence democracies, may be abhorrent. But the grisly truth is that poor people in Iraq and Afghanistan have achieved a kind of equality with rich westerners. Both now know fear. Our lives may soon prove as cheap as theirs. That is the progress made so far in the war on terror.” (Lee, 2007, p.602)
The closest act of terrorism near Australian soil was the Bali bombing of October 2002. This was interpreted by some commentators as the Jihadists’ way of warning Australia and deterring it in collaborating with the United States. But unfortunately, the message was ignored by the Australian government, putting its citizens at ever greater risk. Bali might not be officially Australian soil, but with the organization and skill with which the Islamic militants operate, it might not be long before Australia is made to pay for its ill advised alliance with imperialists further north (Abuza, 2003, p.170). The policy makers in Canberra should also remind themselves of the Bali bombings and its causes. The Establishment press, most of it owned or controlled by Rupert Murdoch and keen on promoting its own interests had presented a blanket view in its Bali reports. For example, the Australian mainstream media wants its citizens to believe that the terror attack in the Indonesian island was a sequel to the campaign of hatred against western way of life that was kick-started with September 11 attacks. But this view-point is not accurate. If only the Australian press will see the attacks as an act of retaliation against Australia for its alliance with the United States, its citizens can have more peaceful holidays (Bellamy, 2004, p.154).
Australian authorities should remember a crucial distinction, if they are to succeed in their attempts to prevent Islamist militancy, namely that the role of leaders of terror networks is secondary to their message. For instance, even when Al Qaeda’s leader in Iraq Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was assassinated, there was no cessation in the local insurgency. Similarly, there is no conclusive evidence that Osama bin Laden is alive, yet the numbers of terror attacks targeted at western interests have seen an unprecedented rise since the events of September 11. Also, the Southeast Asian region is populated by numerous militant Islamist outfits, whose ideologies are nearly the same. The threat posed to Australian interests in Southeast Asia comes from small and marginalized groups who are spread all across the region. Alongside Jemaah Islamiah (JI) in Malaysia, Singapore, and Indonesia; “we have the Kumpulan Mujahidin Malaysia; and al-Maunah in Malaysia; the Abu Sayaff in the southern Philippines; Pattani United Liberation Organization in southern Thailand; and Laskar Jihad, Majlis Mujahideen, and Islamic Defenders’ Front in Indonesia.” Hence the security measures taken by the Australian government should not confine itself to a particular militant entity, but should focus on the broader phenomenon of global Jihad. Given this backdrop, the best way forward is for Australia to rethink its responsibility toward its neighbours. Attempts at providing its citizens with travel warnings and probability of terror attacks are short sighted and ineffective in bringing peace and harmony to the region in particular and the world in general (Chehab, 2006, p.37).