Domestic violence is a greater threat than terrorism

By JOHN MENADUE | 9 July 2018

Last week in Sydney we saw the tragic death of two teenagers as a result of domestic violence. We know that over 12 months on average one woman is killed every week in Australia by a current or former partner.

Yet national effort and resources are directed overwhelmingly to counter terrorism where in the last decade only three people in Australia have been killed.  

How could we get all this so wrong? Why are priorities and resources directed overwhelmingly to counter terrorism when domestic violence is a much greater threat? I suggest there are several reasons.

First, terrorism attracts our attention because it is deliberately designed to be as visible as possible – a street slaying by knife or shooting, a bombing in a street or theatre, or a bus careering amongst pedestrians. An object of terrorists is to make their act as vivid and as public as possible. They then claim credit for their action. By contrast, domestic violence is by its very nature behind closed doors.

Second, not surprisingly the media is drawn into the terrorists game-plan. Public violence is news with pictures of carnage. In contrast there are seldom pictures of domestic violence that are anywhere near as “newsworthy”.

Third, terrorism is ideal for those who work to exploit our fear of the foreigner, the outsider and the person who is different. There is a long history of this promotion of fear. John Howard, Pauline Hanson and Peter Dutton are adept. The fear promoted in Australia used to be about Asians and communists. Now it is about Muslims.

Fourth, industries have expanded to take advantage of the fear of terrorism – intelligence agencies, police, airport security, businesses, think-tanks and even universities. Anti-terrorism is an opportunity in so many ways for more money and more jobs.

So there are a lot of vested interests and particularly politicians who keep pushing terrorism as the chief threat when it is really a scam as Ross Gittins described it when considered alongside the threat and the facts of domestic violence, climate change and gun deaths both accidental and planned.

The facts tell us that violence and deaths from terrorism in Australia are minor compared with the violence and deaths as a result of domestic disputes.

(John Menadue AO worked for Gough Whitlam, followed by a distinguished career in the public and private sectors. He headed the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, was Ambassador to Japan, and later CEO of Qantas. Now retired, John is a patron of the Asylum Seekers’ Centre in Sydney. This article originally appeared in John’s own blog, “Pearls and Irritations“.)