The Abbott Government response to
Islamic State and Ebola: a moral panic?
Australian and New Zealand
Society of Criminology 2018 Conference December 2018
It is a long tradition of the
Hobbesian realist view of politics that the most important duty of a government
is the ‘protection of their citizens’. Since 2001 a dominant mantra in
Australian federal politics has been protection of the community from ‘threats
to national security’. However, is the response proportionate and necessary to
the risk posed or is it a moral panic?
During 2014 two global events
emerged which were potential threats to international peace and security: the
rise of the Islamic State in the Middle East and the Ebola pandemic in East
Africa. Both would see an international military coalition assembled in
response. Australia would become the second largest contributor to the former
and belatedly subcontract a response in the latter.
Based upon the theory of moral
panics and the nationalism perspectives of imagined communities and ethnic
moralizers this research explores the manner in which the Abbott Government
(2013-2015) portrayed these issues. A discourse analysis model adapted from James
Gee’s ‘Discourse analysis toolkit’ is utalised. It is suggested that despite there being a
significant threat, some of the characteristics of a moral panic eventuated.
The importance of this research
rests in the almost universal agreement of terrorism scholars that one of the
aims of terrorism is to cause a government to overreact and hence undermine its
legitimacy. Descending into a moral panic based policy response would achieve
such an aim resulting in ‘policy blowback’ consequently weakening rather than
strengthening national security.
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