Prime Minister Tony Abbott has announced a new anti-terrorism strategy involving a push for tougher citizenship and immigration laws.
Mr Abbott announced the changes in a speech on national security this morning, promising they would bring about “a stronger, more secure Australia”.
In his statement, Mr Abbott announced the appointment of a national counter-terrorism coordinator and flagged changes to Australia’s system of terror threat alerts, in response to what he said was a rising “terrorism threat” in Australia and abroad.
He stressed that there is now ” an Australian cohort of hardened jihadists” intent on radicalising others.
“The signs are ominous,” he said.
He also announced the government aimed to “clamp down on those organisations that incite religious or racial hatred” — pointing in particular to the political group Hizb ut-Tahrir.
Mr Abbott also said Australian nationals would risk losing “privileges” if they were involved in terrorism.
“Those could include restricting the ability to leave or return to Australia, and access to consular services overseas, as well as access to welfare payments,” he said.
He said he would seek to amend the Australian Citizenship Act to enable authorities to revoke Australian citizenship in the case of dual nationals.
The announcement followed the release of a counter-terrorism review commissioned in August.
The joint Commonwealth and New South Wales report — released yesterday — looked at Sydney Siege gunman Man Haron Monis‘ involvement with public agencies including immigration, ASIO and police services over many years prior to the December attack and flagged more stringent visa, citizenship and bail controls, ABC News reports.
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“We need to ask ourselves, at what stage do we need to change the tipping point from protection of the individual to the safety of the community?,” he said.
But prominent human rights advocate Julian Burnside QC yesterday questioned the Prime Minister’s motivation, saying Mr Abbott’s call for tighter immigration and citizenship laws in the wake of the Sydney siege was unwarranted.
“If politicians can make a country fearful and make them think that they are being protected from something fearful, they will gain political support,” he said.
“So yes I think there’s a real risk that he’s doing this in order to play on community fears and thereby gain a bit of political popularity.”