Nauru, Prakash and 'the lucky country'

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Neil Prakash (image via abc.net.au).

The Turnbull Government is “saving” us from boat people by bringing back homegrown terrorists like Neil Prakash, says Ben Jackson.

ON A TYPICALLY hot Australian December evening in 1964, a man named Donald Horne was penning the opening sentence of the last chapter of his book about our nation.

The opening five words of that chapter have since become a catchphrase, a rally-cry and a source of national pride:

'Australia is a lucky country ... ' 

As a nation, we have cherry-picked those first five words out of a sentence that is as relevant today as it was when Horne first wrote it:

'Australia is a lucky country, run by second-rate people who share its luck.'

It has been less than two weeks since the Turnbull Government announced that taxpayers will no longer have to flip the bill for current refugees surviving in detention on Nauru. In a deal that could be sunk by a President Trump anyway, those people who have confirmed refugee status will be given the choice of relocation to the United States or a 20-year visa to remain on Nauru.

As confirmed refugees, these people could have been resettled in Australia, but the Government has now decided that no one arriving by boat will ever be allowed to settle in Australia or, in fact, ever visit the country.

This decision will no doubt please some Australians, who consider the $1 billion per year price tag of detaining illegal asylum seekers to be an expense not worth paying. In the same month, the Turnbull Government has approved an additional $20 billion dollars of funding to finish the roll out of the national broadband network (NBN), making it a $56 billion, or more, investment. By the time the NBN has finished rolling out, it will already be outdated technology compared to networks in many other developed countries. What the Government has decided, arguably mandated by the Australian people, is that second-rate internet speeds are still more valuable than the lives of certain people, especially "boat people".

At $573,000 per year, per detainee, there is no doubt that cost has played some role in Australia’s decision to resettle current offshore refugees overseas. To put this figure into perspective, it costs taxpayers $824 per day (just under $300,000 per year) to keep Ivan Milat – one of Australia’s most notorious serial killers – under lock and key at Goulburn Correctional Centre Supermax prison. This is the place where the worst of the worst of Australian criminals are held. We hold Milat in that prison for the murders of British, German and Australian backpackers. Five of Milat’s victims were international backpackers, citizens of foreign nations.

One of our current citizens has managed to exceed Ivan Milat in both the extent of his crimes and the slaughter of innocent people. His name is Neil Prakash, a former Melbournian, a terrorist and a member of a militant group that has claimed statehood in the Levant: ISIL, or Daesh as it is also called. As a prominent member of this unrecognised state, Prakash – also known by his nom de guerre of Abu Khaled al-Cambodi – was a top recruiter for ISIL and has incited violent attacks in Australia. However, these crimes pale in comparison to the slaughter Prakash has undoubtedly taken part in as a senior member of the terrorist organisation that has been responsible for the deaths of more than 33,000 people in attacks, since 2002.

Prakash joined the organisation in 2013 and, although it is unknown exactly what the extent of his war crimes are, it is likely that he has fought in both Syria and Iraq. In both of these countries, the terrorist organisation has committed atrocities against civilian populations since Prakash joined in 2013.

In 2014, an atrocity of genocidal proportions saw the massacre of 5,000 Kurdish men in the Sinjar district of Iraq, by ISIL forces. In 2015, ISIL forces murdered 146 civilians in their capture of Kobanê, Northern Syria. In October of this year, hundreds of young boys in Mosul were slaughtered and their families used as human shields against U.S. bombing. Prakash was believed to have been killed in that very city earlier this year. Whether or not Prakash was there in person to take part in the massacres in unknown but being a senior ISIL member, he was complicit in their murders.

It is certain that Prakash has attempted to incite terror attacks in Australia. In both 2015 and 2016 he encouraged young Australians to attack their fellow citizens in failed ANZAC Day plots. Prakash has also encouraged Australians to join ISIL and to travel overseas to join in on the wholesale slaughter of civilians. Under Division 101 of the Criminal Code Act 1995, these crimes will see Prakash facing life imprisonment if found guilty. Now that Prakash has been found alive and is sitting in a Turkish prison to await his fate, the Australian Government is seeking his extradition and desperately wants to prosecute the terrorist. So do several other countries.

The question is whether or not the Australian Government has the right to ask for the extradition of Prakash and whether it should. Prakash has more to answer for in those countries where he has committed the most atrocities and helped to take the most lives. By extraditing, charging and convicting Prakash, Australia will be making this criminal a living martyr to those who believe in what he represents. Although it's likely that, if convicted, he will spend the remainder of his life in a Supermax prison in a 2x3 metre cell, it is not certain that his influence over susceptible members of the community will cease.

Prakash will be able to speak to other inmates and to pray with an imam in prayer sessions, although perhaps not in Arabic. He will have some contact with the outside world and that could provide him with the means to continue his recruitment for ISIL. If he is industrious, he may even smuggle in a mobile phone as one Goulburn Correctional Facility inmate did in 2011. Regardless, his incarceration will continue his work as a recruiter for ISIL. His ultimate message will be that Australians who fight for ISIL cannot lose. They will either live in glory in the Islamic State, die as martyrs, or be flown back to Australia to live in conditions that many Syrian civilians might envy. At least in prison, you get three meals a day.

And who will provide those three meals? The Australian taxpayer. And will we begrudge it? Most likely not. We will pay the $300,000 per year to keep an international murderer of the worst kind on our shores and we will revel in the fact that a truly dangerous man is behind bars. We will not complain about that particular economic burden, nor will we wonder at the fact that we have invited a terrorist back into the country when we fear the daily arrival of terrorists by boat.

Prakash will live out his days on the Australian soil that he wishes to see wiped from the face of the Earth. Our ministers of government will bring him home as a very expensive trophy to hang on their wall. Unlike those refugees on Nauru, Neil Prakash is a known terrorist, but was born here and so he gets to live here, and he will be allowed to die here. Because, for some, this is "the lucky country".

You can follow Ben Jackson on Twitter @rationlprogress.

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