Politics

Women, assault and the vote-winning agenda of terrorism

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Anti-domestic violence campaigner Rosie Batty on Q&A (screenshot via YouTube).

Imagine if I was at an after-work party. That I was pissed. That I put my hand down the back of a co-worker’s dress and inside her underpants. I would have been sacked and, I would hope, at least investigated and possibly charged with sexual or other assault.

Of course, this is about Luke Foley, not me.

The former New South Wales Labor Opposition Leader did this in 2016. He denies it. His victim was Ashleigh Raper, an ABC journalist. Fearing the repercussions for her career, her family and herself, Raper did not want to pursue the matter.

 As she said in her full statement on the matter, issued through the ABC on 8 November:

'It is clear to me that a woman who is the subject of such behaviour is often the person who suffers once a complaint is made. I cherished my position as a state political reporter and feared that would be lost. I also feared the negative impact the publicity could have on me personally and on my young family This impact is now being felt profoundly.'

However, despite her wishes, and without her consent, on 18 October NSW Liberal Government minister, David Elliott, exposed Foley in Parliament. The Australian had first raised the issue on 25 May, without naming Raper, but talking instead in general terms about an ABC journalist. This was also done without Raper’s consent. 

David Elliott continues untouched as a Minister in the Coalition Government in NSW.

Raper’s case is not some one-off. It is part of a wider problem, the oppression of women under capitalism, an issue that few politicians acknowledge let alone suggest ways of addressing.

While PM Scott Morrison is dog whistling about "violent, extremist Islam", as of 8 November this year, 60 women, according to Destroy The Joint, have died at the hands of their male partners or ex-partners.

We as a society go into collective outrage when strawberries have needles put in them. Or when sharks kill or attack a swimmer. Or when Hassan Khalif Shire Ali, a possibly mentally unwell man, kills Sisto Malaspina, a loved Melbournian. 

Without conclusive evidence, the mainstream media saw fit to label it a terrorist act.

Yet when a man kills his partner or former partner, our politicians remain quiet.

Why? Because the oppression of women is one of the keys to the continuation of capitalism. Women carry, bear and, overwhelmingly, raise the next generation of workers — for free. The long hours involved – without pay – are a gift to capital every day for the 20 or so years that is involved in bringing up kids.

Put simply, domestic violence is one of the acceptable faces of terrorism under capitalism because it flows from the very structures of the system itself. In this case, the family.

In relation to the so-called terrorist incident in Bourke Street, Ali was refused a passport for fear he would go to Syria to fight for ISIS. He was identified by the secret police as having terrorist sympathies. These factors are a gift to politicians like Morrison, who use fear to unite workers with the one per cent and its politicians, helping them win the next Federal Election.

Just to be clear, Ali could well have been a terrorist. Just as equally, he could have been mentally unwell and drug-fuelled. After all, this is a man who a few days ago was telling his family he was being chased by people with spears

It is also possible that his mental health and drug issues could have produced some bizarre "terrorist" response in his befuddled mind. It is too early to judge. Let’s see what the investigation and coronial inquest bring up before we rush to judgement.

But this is precisely what our neo-liberal politicians and the mainstream media have done. It is far better politically for the Coalition to choose the terrorism scare than to present persuasive evidence. It is far better for neo-liberal politicians to spread fear than to adequately fund mental health services and to try to understand why sections of Australian society become alienated from it.

His family believe he was mentally ill.

The following is what they said in a written note to Channel 9:

'Hasan suffered from mental illness for years and refused help. He's been deteriorating these past few months. He has seen a psychologist and psychiatrist, but stopped as his paranoia and hallucinations led him to believe they're 'after him'. Please stop turning this into a political game. This isn't a guy who had any connections with terrorism, but was simply crying for help.'

Turning it into a political game is what the Government – with Labor meekly following behind – have done.

Certainly, the authorities thought Ali was not a threat.

Ian McCartney, the Australian Federal Police’s Acting Deputy Commissioner for National Security, said the following:

"The assessment was made whilst he held radicalised views; he did not pose a threat in relation to the national security environment. Obviously, the circumstances of how and when he moved from having those radicalised views to carrying out this attack yesterday will be a key focus of the investigation."

Did Ali move from ideas to action because he was a terrorist, or because he was mentally unwell and drug affected? Or possibly, a combination of both?

These are the questions. To prejudge the answers is to indulge in base politics for base political motivations that have nothing to do with keeping people safe and everything to do with winning the next election.

Let’s not forget the terrorism hysteria around Mohamed Nizamdeen, the Sri Lankan student arrested and held in solitary confinement for allegedly writing notes targeting senior officials, such as Malcolm Turnbull and Julie Bishop. He was released recently and the charges dropped when the "case" fell apart because there was no evidence he wrote the note

The assessment by the authorities was that Ali didn't pose a threat. Either they are dangerously incompetent or their assessment was correct and what bought on this sudden attack was, perhaps, a mental health breakdown rather than terrorism itself.

Politicians, the mainstream media and the Police proposing, as part of their fear-inducing agenda, that this was a terrorist attack surely means that the authorities acted incompetently. If so, then ministerial and service heads should roll. 

They won’t because there is no conclusive evidence yet that the authorities failed.

Domestic violence kills many more Australians than terrorism.

Where, Mr Morrison and Mr Shorten, is your war on domestic violence?

The immediate losers in this Islamic terrorism fear campaign will be the African and Muslim communities. 

Meanwhile, how many more women will be killed by their partners by the end of the year? On present trends, it could be around seven or eight. The mainstream media will remain silent.

It is not all they will remain silent about. How many more Ashleigh Rapers are there? The sexual harassment complaint from Catherine Marriott against Barnaby Joyce, despite her wishes for the matter to remain confidential, was leaked to the press. The patriarchy fought back. After eight months, the NSW National Party said it had "been unable to make a determination" about the complaint.

Why? "Insufficient evidence." The patriarchy won.

From Ashleigh Raper to Catherine Marriott, to the dead and wounded women killed or beaten in domestic violence terrorism, it is time to overthrow the system that oppresses women and for women to win real liberation. That sort of democratic society, based on satisfying human need, offers the best protection against all forms of terrorism.

You can follow Canberra correspondent John Passant on Twitter @JohnPassantSigned copies of John's first book of poetry, Songs for the Band Unformed (Ginninderra Press 2016), are available for purchase from the IA store HERE.

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