31 October 2020

Schmitt and Pezzullo

From 'The most powerful mandarin in our 'extended' security state' by Brian Toohey in the Brisbane Times 

Michael Pezzullo is by far the most powerful public servant in Australia. He created and runs the ever-expanding Home Affairs Department, he oversees a ceaseless avalanche of draconian new laws and he gives public speeches about what he sees as the global “duality of good and evil”. 

Home Affairs already includes ASIO, the Australian Federal Police, Border Force, the Criminal Intelligence Commission, the Transactions and Analysis Centre, Immigration, and many other bodies. New laws make it a criminal offence to cause “intangible” damage to Australia's international relations, without explaining how anyone could know they were having an “intangible” effect. Another new criminal offence is to receive "inherently harmful information", regardless of whether it’s classified. 

In a speech in Canberra this month that sparked remarkably little alarm, Pezzullo said responding to the problems created by global forces required “nothing less than the transformation of the state itself, and the state’s relationship with society”. 

He wanted what he called an “extended state” consisting of the “entire apparatus” of all Australian governments, the business sector, the scientific and industrial research establishment, not-for-profit and community organisations including charities, and households as required for security and other purposes. Pezzullo wanted a “closer integration of security, economic and social policy”.

That speech featured

At one level, security dilemmas reduce logically to human difference and alterity, whether one reads Hobbes, Foucault, Schmitt or Heidegger, or for that matter Hegel, Marx, Nietzsche or Derrida, to name a few of the relevant thinkers.

An unimpressed Toohey comments "Sartre and Kierkegaard crack a mention elsewhere in the speech".

Pezzullo concluded

Public institutions have to be designed to operate at the intersection of prosperity, security and unity. Security has to be subordinated to the greater end of an open, prosperous and unified society. Security is an array of effects which support resilience and which are generated through a cycle of practices – namely threat scanning, risk management, planning, preparation and exercising, and operations, including first response, emergency management and, as necessary, disaster recovery and reconstruction. 

Security focuses on the logical anticipation of dangers to come, and is best informed by a realistic (as distinct from a neurotic) ‘anxiety’ which is centred on defined dangers – or at least imaginable dangers. I do not therefore deny a link of sorts to fear and anxiety – but nor would I start there. 

The operational state: within government, departments and agencies have to be designed to be operational – able to plan, to prepare, and to undertake operational missions as directed. The age of the programmatic or regulatory agency (the 1980s-2010s) is passing. While of course they have their place, even in wartime, departmental operations which are focused on the pursuit of purposive outcomes as distinct from the supervision of arms-length processes are back in vogue, and not before time. 

While much has been done in recent years to better link law enforcement, security intelligence, countering foreign interference, countering terrorism, immigration, citizenship, social cohesion, customs, border protection, maritime security, critical infrastructure protection, aviation and port security, supply chain security, cybersecurity, emergency management, disaster recovery, biosecurity and public health management and so on, governments will always be mindful of opportunities to achieve yet more scale and more agility in the generation of operational effects. 

While national security effects will typically continue to be delivered by the principal departments of state – Foreign Affairs and Trade, Defence, and Home Affairs, working alone, or in combination – security effects are also being delivered through other combinations, such as through the partnerships that Home Affairs has with Treasury (in foreign investment screening); Agriculture (biosecurity); Transport (aviation and maritime security); Communications (telecommunications security, for instance in relation to 5G technology); Industry (supply chains and scientific research); Energy (energy security); Health (pandemic response) and Education (foreign interference in universities). 

The extended state: perhaps the time has come to speak of the ‘extended state’ where public institutions in the executive remain the vital centre, as they possess convening power, threat intelligence, regulatory powers (for instance in the creation and enforcement of security obligations), emergency powers (as laid down in law), and the operational capabilities and capacities of which I spoke earlier. The ‘extended state’ for the purposes of security as I have defined it, which is a networked and dynamic conception of security which comprehends sectors across society and the economy, consists of the entire apparatus of the Australian Government, which convenes and coordinates; along with State, Territory and municipal governments; as well as the business sector, including finance and banking, food and groceries, health and medical services, transport, freight and logistics, water supply and sanitation, utilities, energy, fuel, telecommunications; the scientific and industrial research establishment; as well as non-for-profit and community organisations, including charities; and households as might be required.