One of the smartest moves Bill Shorten made when he became Opposition Leader was to make Labor a small target on national security by endorsing most of the Coalition’s national security initiatives. This small-target approach neutralised a traditional Coalition strength while shoring up Labor’s security credentials, which had been weakened by the Rudd-Gillard government’s policy disarray on asylum-seekers and perceived softness on border protection.
Scott Morrison would like nothing better than to have a national security election, hence his attempt to draw Labor into a fight on legislation to control returning foreign fighters. It would be surprising if Shorten obliged. But although national security is unlikely to feature prominently in the election it will be a major preoccupation of the incoming government, which will face a daunting array of security challenges that require a clear strategy if they are to be successfully navigated. The problem is that we don’t have a national security strategy fit for the times.