National security wrap

The Beat

Rampant mortgage fraud in Oz

A new UBS survey has revealed the extent of ‘systemic’ mortgage fraud across Australia. Of the 1,228 recent homebuyers surveyed, 28% admitted to misrepresenting information on their mortgage applications while 5% conceded that their application was only ‘partially factual and accurate’. The worrying results also exposed significant industry misconduct, with fraudulent applications more common when brokering intermediaries were involved. UBS concluded that more rigorous underwriting standards are required, particularly in brokerage services. The findings will no doubt add to calls for a banking royal commission, alongside other recent industry scandals involving life insurance products and credit card lending practices.

Regional trends in Pacific crime

The ANU’s Development Policy Centre has published a discussion paper exploring the connection between globalisation, organised crime and political corruption in the Pacific region. Authors Grant Walton and Sinclair Dinnen argue that the ‘systematic weakening’ of the law enforcement and oversight regimes—partially facilitated by ‘powerful politicians’—has undermined government accountability and the rule of law across the Pacific. Readers should note that Australia isn’t immune. The ACCC estimates that online scams, many originating with or involving foreign actors, cost Australians $80 million last year.

CT Scan

Taliban advance

The Taliban—in between calling the GOP’s controversial candidate ‘non-serious’—have continued their advance into government-held areas across Afghanistan, conducting attacks on Lashkar Gah, Kunduz, and in Farah province. At Brookings, several senior US national security figures had a look at Afghanistan policy under the next US President, calling for ‘a long-term American—and coalition—role in the country that avoids the recent pattern of nearly annual reassessments of whether the United States should stay’.

Media under fire

West Point’s Combating Terrorism Center released a new brief (PDF) on Daesh’s use of propaganda, noting the steep decline in the release of official visual media, particularly that which is related to governance. Members of Daesh’s media organ have been high-profile targets for US air strikes, which eliminated the group’s spokesman, Abu Muhammad al-Adnani in August, as well as senior media coordinator Abu Harith al-Lami and the head of Daesh’s Media Council, Wael al-Fayad in early September.


Western support for the Saudi-led military campaign in Yemen is under fire after airstrikes by Saudi forces are believed to have struck a funeral, killing over 140 people. US lawmakers have called for a halt to arms sales and military assistance to the Saudis, who’ve purchased approximately US$22.2 billion in arms from the US since the war began in 2015 and £1 billion worth of arms from the UK in 2015.


Suspected PKK attack on Turkish border

Last Sunday, militants executed a car bombing attack on a border checkpoint in Durak, in southeast Turkey. Though Kurdish militants are the prime suspects, no group has claimed responsibility. Turkish officials have reported 27 wounded and 18 dead, including eight civilians and 10 soldiers. The attack, which took place in the mountainous Hakkari province near the Iranian and Iraqi borders, comes amid increasing violence in Turkey, particularly in the Kurdish populated south-east. The latest round of violence in the long-running Kurdish–Turkey conflict follows the collapse of the Turkey–PKK ceasefire last year. Since then, Kurdish militants have targeted Turkish security forces, who have responded strongly.

India to seal border with Pakistan

The fallout from last month’s Uri attacks continues. Amid rising Indo–Pakistan tensions and increasing cross-border skirmishes, Indian Home Minister Rajnath Singh announced last Friday that India would seal its border with Pakistan by December 2018. It remains to be seen if such a feat is possible given the topological, geographical and climatic conditions of the 3,323 kilometre long border, which includes deserts, marshes and mountainous regions. The announcement elicited a sharp rebuke from China. Academic experts argue that there isn’t any evidence tying Islamabad to the Uri attacks and have labelled India’s border sealing measure a ‘very irrational decision’ that ‘reflects its Cold War mentality’.

And for a follow-up on the recent controversial poll on Muslim immigration, ANU has released results from a more in-depth survey exploring the underlying causes of Australian’s attitudes to terrorism and Islam. The results show some significant disparities in the attitudes of older and younger generations on immigration and counterterrorism measures.

First Responder

Mapping out the energy transition

The World Energy Council has released its 2016 World Energy Scenarios report. Titled Grand Transitions (PDF), it explores three alternative scenarios for the energy sector in 2060. The first two involve shifts toward sustainable energy policy driven in each case by different actors and tools, while the third examines ‘unsustainable economic growth and investment driven by inward-looking policies’.

Debating policy

The US’ energy policy received a brief shout-out during the second presidential debate. Audience member Kenneth Bone, who became an instant meme-celebrity, asked the two candidates how their energy policy would meet US needs, but also minimise environmental impact and job losses in the fossil fuel sector. Trump was light on specifics while criticising the Obama administration’s energy policy and the Environmental Protection Agency. Clinton stressed renewable, green energy policy, but also slipped up by falsely claiming that the US is independent from external energy supplies.