Sometimes no policy is better than a disastrous policy; especially one declared in name of 'national security' as such initiatives typically go unchallenged in the parliament or by the general public.
The Australian government’s recent announcement that it intended to make Australia safer by running deradicalisation programs in schools is one such disastrous national security policy, one that has been tried, tested, and found to have failed in other parts of the world.
Under the new arrangement, the Australian government will train teachers, staff and students to identify kids ‘at risk’ of radicalisation in schools. Those nominated will be sent to counselors for ‘deradicalisation’. It is an ill-conceived policy that will have serious repercussions for domestic stability.
The program will target kids between the ages of 6 to 14. One seriously wonders by what measure or mechanism the government is to distinguish a kid who is undergoing a teenage crisis from a kid that harbors radical ideology and is a potential threat to Australia. Identification of ‘at risk’ kids is likely going to be based on Muslim sounding names and ethnicity triggering discrimination right at the school level, as has been the case in the United Kingdom.
This securitisation of the school space is dangerous at many levels. Teachers, staff and students are not, and should not be expected to be, the right individuals to carry out the complex job of intelligence officers. This policy is likely to further radicalise the school space and make Australia unsafe.
Muslim youth already face challenges integrating into Australian society. Their parents' values are often in direct confrontation with the Australian way of living so the school space, really, is the only forum these kids have to make friends, integrate and develop an Australian identity.
Running deradicalisation programs at school level will take that opportunity away from Muslim kids who are therefore likely to get further marginalised and isolated in Australian society. Chances are that any kids who undergo the proposed corrective programs will become even more likely to fall for the militants' 'Islam vs West' narrative.
This policy is damaging for both the Muslim community and the broader Australian society.
Over $100 million of taxpayer funds is likely to be spent on such programs that will produce unwanted results and damage education and learning at schools; something Australian parents should be worried about.
Given the disastrous outcomes in other nations, one wonders why the government is keen to implement such programs worth millions of dollars.
In my consultations with the government, I have noticed that the major resistance to my stance against this policy doesn’t come from the government itself, but from my fellow academics and experts who are recipients of government deradicalisation program grants.
There is an obvious conflict of interest here: those advising the government on the development of such policies are also those who will receive millions of dollars in grants to run these programs.
The mantra to spend big on big program helps both parties; the academics — that collect exceptional amounts of money in consultancy fees — and the government, that can use its spending as evidence it is working hard to make Australia safe.
Despite the apparent fallacies and loopholes in the policy, few are willing to challenge it. Under the banner of national security, liberty and freedom are being held in check and so, it seems, is the common sense to question if Australia is really under threat from eight-year-old-school kids.