Melbourne: Australia plans to strengthen its immigration laws and crackdown on groups inciting extremism or racial hatred to combat the threat from home-grown terrorists following a review of counter-terrorism measures today after a deadly siege of a cafe in Sydney by an ISIS sympathiser.
“This year, the government will consider what further legislation is needed to combat terrorism and keep Australians safe,” Prime Minister Tony Abbott today said while releasing a Review of Australia’s Counter-Terrorism Machinery in Canberra.
The review came after the deadly siege in December at a Sydney cafe where a self-styled extremist cleric took 18 people hostage inside the cafe and demanded he be delivered an Islamic State flag. The cleric and two hostages were killed.
In his National Security statement, Abbott stressed that Australia faced a new, long-term era of heightened terrorism threat, with a much more significant “home grown” element.
Abbott said the government would seek to change the laws to enable authorities to revoke or suspend Australian citizenship in the case of dual nationals.
“I am announcing that the Government will look at new measures to strengthen immigration laws, as well as new options for dealing with Australian citizens who are involved in terrorism. We cannot allow bad people to use our good nature against us.
“The Government will develop amendments to the Australian Citizenship Act so that we can revoke or suspend Australian citizenship in the case of dual nationals,” he said.
“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 people who fight against Australia “forfeit their citizenship” and that Australian nationals would also risk losing “privileges” if they were involved in terrorism.
Abbott also suggested that tougher laws to target “hate preachers”, pointing to the political group Hizb ut-Tahrir.
He said the actions against such groups would include programs to “challenge terrorist propaganda” and provide online material “based on Australian values”.
“It will include stronger prohibitions on vilifying, intimidating or inciting hatred,” he added. “We will clamp down on those organisations that incite religious or racial hatred. No-one should make excuses for Islam-ist fanatics in the Middle East or their imitators here in Australia.”
He said that it would also include stronger prohibitions on vilifying, intimidating or inciting hatred.
These changes should empower community members to directly challenge terrorist propaganda.
Abbott urged Muslim leaders to describe Islam as a “religion of peace”. “I wish more Muslim leaders would say that more often, and mean it,” he said.
Abbott confirmed that the government would also look into changing the counter terror alert system, appoint a national counter terrorism coordinator, develop a national counter terrorism strategy with states and territories and consider options to boost agency funding through budget process.
He said that at least 110 Australians had travelled overseas to join the death cult ISIS in Iraq and Syria and at least 20 of them were dead. He said the number of Australians with hands-on terrorist experience is now several times larger than those who trained in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
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