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Friday 26th September 2014 - 11:43 am
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Stay calm:PM

by Alan Thornhill

The Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, is urging Australians not to inflame tensions, as authorities work to curb terrorism.

Speaking on television, after addressing the United Nations Security Council in New York, Mr Abbott said: “It is very important that people go about their normal business.”

The Prime Minister said this is something the terrorists want to disrupt.

“They want to scare us out of being ourselves.”

“It is also important that the Government do everything that we humanly can to keep our community safe,” Mr Abbott added.

“ It is important to remember, for everyone to remember, that in the end this is not about religion.

“It is about crime.

“It is about terrorism.”

And he added a warning.

“ Anyone who breaks Australian law will feel the full force of the law.

“That is the commitment that I give.

“That is the commitment that the state premiers would give as well,” Mr Abbott said.

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Monday 22nd September 2014 - 3:22 pm
Comments Off on PM reveals his anti-terrorism policies

PM reveals his anti-terrorism policies

by Alan Thornhill

The Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, outlined his government’s three part approach to combating terrorism today.

In a statement to Parliament, Mr Abbott pledged that his government would “whatever is possible” to keep Australians safe.

Secondly, he declared, the government’s efforts would be directed against terrorism, not against religion.

Thirdly, Mr Abbott urged Australians to “live normally,” because the aim of terrorists is to disrupt normal life.

He also thanked Australia’s security and police forces for their efforts last week, to avert a planned terrorist attack in Australia.

The Opposition Leader, Bill Shorten. endorsed Mr Abbott’s statement, declaring: “Keeping people safe is above politics.”

He said that “sometimes there is no alternative to military action.”

Mr Shorten said there is no prospect of rational negotiation with ISIL, which has committed many crimes, including killing and rape.

Mr Abbott’s full statement is reproduced below:-

Because protecting our people is the first duty of government, it’s right that I should update the House on developing challenges to our national security.

I acknowledge the commitment of all MPs to keeping our people safe and especially acknowledge the support that the Leader of the Opposition has given to the government.

On questions of national security, it’s always best if government and opposition can stand together, shoulder to shoulder.

It lets our enemies know that they will never shake our resolve.

It’s a sign that hope is stronger than fear and that decency can prevail over brute force.

From me and from all ministers in this government, there will be three key messages:

First, the government will do whatever is possible to keep people safe.

Second, our security measures at home and abroad are directed against terrorism, not religion.

And third, Australians should always live normally because terrorists’ goal is to scare us out of being ourselves.

As we all know, there have been major anti-terrorist raids across Sydney and Brisbane.

Our police and security agencies will always strive to stay at least one step ahead of those who would do us harm; and, so far, we have succeeded.

I can’t promise that hideous events will never take place on Australian soil; but I can promise that we will never stoop to the level of those who hate us and fight evil with evil.

Regrettably, for some time to come, Australians will have to endure more security than we’re used to, and more inconvenience than we’d like.

Regrettably, for some time to come, the delicate balance between freedom and security may have to shift.

There may be more restrictions on some so that there can be more protections for others.

After all, the most basic freedom of all is the freedom to walk the streets unharmed and to sleep safe in our beds at night.

Creating new offences that are harder to beat on a technicality may be a small price to pay for saving lives and for maintaining the social fabric of an open, free and multicultural nation.

For more than two years, the civil war in Syria, followed by the conquest of much of northern Iraq, has been sucking in misguided and alienated Australians.

There are at least 60 Australians that we know of currently fighting with terrorist groups in Syria and Iraq, and at least 100 Australians who are supporting them.

More than 20 of these foreign fighters have already returned to Australia.

As a peaceful and pluralist democracy, we naturally shrink from getting involved in conflicts on the other side of the world.

Sometimes, though, these conflicts reach out to us – regardless of anything that we might do now or might have done in the past.

I refuse to call a terrorist movement “Islamic state” because to do so demeans Islam and mocks the duties that a legitimate state bears to its citizens.

It can hardly be Islamic to kill without compunction Shia, Yazidi, Turkmen, Kurds, Christians and Sunni who don’t share this death cult’s view of the world.

Nothing can justify the beheadings, crucifixions, mass executions, ethnic cleansing, rape and sexual slavery that have taken place in every captured town and city.

To do such evil – and to revel in doing such evil – is simply unprecedented.

To demand the allegiance of Muslims everywhere, and the conversion or subordination of everyone else, is an ultimatum to the entire world.

As we all know, the Middle East is a difficult part of the world where violence is all-too-common – a witches’ brew of complexity and danger.

Nevertheless, it is in the interests of Australia and the world that we stand ready to join a coalition to help the new Iraqi government to disrupt and degrade the ISIL movement and to regain control over its own country.

Nothing remotely justifies the mass slaughter of innocents – overwhelmingly Muslims – that the ISIL movement routinely practices.

Nothing remotely justifies ISIL’s brazen pretension.

The claim that ISIL’s atrocities and threats are a response to something else is an excuse, not a reason.

It’s important to remember that the September 11 attack predated America’s involvement in Iraq, just as the first Bali bombing predated Australia’s.

Groups such as ISIL will cite our involvement but they would attack us anyway for who we are and for how we live, not for anything we have done.

It’s our acceptance that people can live and worship in the way they choose that bothers them, not our foreign policy.

ISIL kills because it glories in death and because no one has yet been strong enough to stop it.

It’s ISIL’s success on the battlefield, at least as much as its absolutism, that explains its perverse appeal.

Stopping and reversing its advance will help the people of Iraq; it should also reduce its magnetism for people from around the globe who are looking to join a fight.

Last week, together, the Leader of the Opposition and I helped to farewell the Australian force that’s ready to join the international coalition against ISIL.

Later this week, I’ll be in New York for discussions at the United Nations which President Obama will chair.

Subsequently, the Cabinet will again consider the use of our forces to mount air strikes and to provide military advice in support of the Iraqi government.

Last week, the Opposition Leader and I separately thanked our police and security agencies for their work to disrupt an ISIL plot to conduct demonstration executions here in Australia.

For some months, operatives in Syria have been urging their Australian networks to prepare attacks against targets here.

An urgent review of the safety of parliament house has recommended that the Australian Federal Police take control of internal as well as external security.

In this building, there will be more armed police, fewer points of access, and more scrutiny of parliamentary passes.

I thank the presiding officers, particularly you, Madam Speaker, for supporting and for beginning to implement these recommendations.

They will mean slightly more inconvenience but considerably more protection for everyone involved in our national government.

Last week, an Australian ISIL operative instructed his followers to pluck people from the street to demonstrate that they could, in his words, “kill kaffirs”.

All that would be needed to conduct such an attack is a knife, a camera-phone and a victim.

Consequently, within 36 hours more than 800 police and security agents were deployed in Sydney and more in Brisbane to execute 30 search warrants to investigate and disrupt possible plans to commit terrorist acts.

One person has been charged with serious terrorist offences and a large amount of evidence has been amassed that will now carefully be sifted so that further charges might be laid.

It was important to respond with great strength to disrupt this imminent terrorist act.

It demonstrates that our determination equals that of those who would do us harm.

We will more than match the resolve of our adversaries in all things except malice; because our military, police and security personnel have goodwill towards everyone except those who are plotting to hurt us.

Today, I pledge that our security agencies will have all the resources and authority that they reasonably need.

In August, the government committed an additional $630 million to the Australian Federal Police, Customs and Border Protection, the Australian Security and Intelligence Organisation, the Australian Secret Intelligence Service and the Office of National Assessments.

Additional ASIO and ASIS officers are being recruited and deployed; biometric screening will start to be introduced at international airports within 12 months; and more Border Force personnel are now being deployed to international airports.

Before Christmas, the government will respond to the review of the national security apparatus that’s now underway.

Legislation on agency powers is now before the parliament.

Legislation to create new terrorist offences and to extend existing powers to monitor or to detain terror suspects will be introduced this week.

We can’t prevent from returning home Australians-born-and-bred who’ve been foreign fighters, however incompatible with our values their conduct has been.

Unfortunately, terrorists don’t reform just because they’ve returned home, as the experience with Australians returning from fighting with the Taliban shows.

My unambiguous message to all Australians who fight with terrorist groups is that you will be arrested, prosecuted and gaoled for a very long time; and that our laws are being changed to make it easier to keep potential terrorists off our streets.

For one thing, it will be an offence to be in a designated area, for example Raqqa in Syria, without a good reason.

The only safe place for those who have been brutalised and militarised by fighting with terrorists is inside a maximum security prison.

As well, legislation requiring telecommunications providers to keep the metadata they already create and to continue to make it available to police and security agencies will be introduced soon.

If the police and security agencies can make a case for more resources and for more powers, the government’s strong disposition is to provide them because it’s rightly expected of us in this place that we will do whatever we possibly can to keep people safe.

Of course, any such powers would be exercised responsibly, under the watch of the Inspector-General for Intelligence and Security, the Ombudsman, and the joint standing committees of this parliament.

These are troubling times for everyone accustomed to think that terrorism happens in places other than Australia or that history has largely overtaken the use of military force.

Our Australian instinct to assume the best of everyone and our tendency to imagine that we live in the best of all possible worlds is being challenged as rarely before.

Still, even in what seem darkening times, I’m sure that we won’t lose our perspective and will continue to keep things in proportion.

Whatever happens, Australia should remain a country where people trust each other, welcome newcomers and are justifiably confident that, in most respects, our future will be even better than our past.

Our country must remain a beacon of hope and optimism that shines around the world.

If, in the weeks and months ahead, Australians come to appreciate and savour our unity as much as our diversity, we will emerge stronger from these difficulties.

Even in these times, there are grounds for hope: in the overwhelming support of Australian Muslims for strong measures against terrorism; and in the coalition of Middle Eastern countries now assembling to support the Iraqi government against the ISIL death cult.

With our own Grand Mufti, nearly all Australian Muslims believe that ISIL is committing “crimes against humanity and sins against God”

It may be too much to expect that everyone, everywhere might finally accept that every single human being has the same inherent rights and dignity.

It may be too much to expect that everyone, everywhere might finally subscribe to the principle of “treat others as you would have them treat you”.

But it is not too much, surely, to expect that our world might finally and fully grasp that it is never right to kill people because they have a different view of God.

Killing in the name of God is never right.

Mistreating others in the name of God is never right.

If the all-but-universal revulsion towards the ISIL horror has this result, good might finally emerge despite the pointless death and dislocation that confronts us now.

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Friday 19th September 2014 - 11:33 am
Comments Off on Parliament House security tightened

Parliament House security tightened

by Alan Thornhill

Tony Abbott confirmed today that security is being stepped up at Parliament House in Canberra, in the wake of yesterday’s anti-terrorism raids in Sydney and Brisbane.

Speaking in a television interview, the Prime Minister said Australian Federal police would, once again, be made responsible for security inside, as well as outside, parliament house.

Parliament House security personnel have been responsible for security inside the House, while AFP officers stood guard outside the building.

Mr Abbott said there had been talk of terrorists targeting government buildings.

“ That is why we are in the process of upgrading security at Parliament House in Canberra,” the Prime Minister said.

“That is why we are in the process of putting the Australian Federal Police in charge, not just of external security, but also of internal security in Parliament House.”

Mr Abbott urged Australians to be confident, but aware, in the face of the heightened threat of terrorism.

“Our country is as safe as the professionalism of our police and security agencies, as the vigilance of government, as the decency and steadfastness of our people can make it,” he said.

“…but have to be aware that there are people, even here in Australia, who would do us harm.

“ There are networks here in Australia of people who support the work of the ISIL death cult in the Middle East.

“And what we have seen in the last few days is an order from a senior Australian ISIL operative in Syria to his networks back here in Australia to conduct demonstration attacks, demonstration executions, if you like, and that is why we saw a very large anti-terror operation on the streets of Sydney yesterday,” Mr Abbott said.

Thursday 18th September 2014 - 3:17 pm
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Police say lethal terrorism plot “thwarted”

by Alan Thornhill

Police say they have thwarted a terrorist plot to kill – and behead – a randomly selected member of the public in Sydney.

The Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, said police raids – in Sydney and Brisbane – earlier today followed pressure applied by a senior Islamic terrorist, to conduct a “demonstration killing” in Australia.

Fifteen suspects were detained in the police raids and one man – who was arrested – will face court later today.

The Acting Commissioner of the Australian Federal Police, Andrew Colvin, said the man would be charged with a serious terrorism offence.

Police are still searching some of the properties they raided earlier today.

Thursday 18th September 2014 - 1:26 pm
Comments Off on Hockey “optimistic” as police launch anti-terrorism raids

Hockey “optimistic” as police launch anti-terrorism raids

by Alan Thornhill

Joe Hockey says he is still “an optimist” about Australia’s future, despite Peter Costello’s warning that the nation’s “luck” might be running out.

As he was speaking, police were conducting large anti-terrorist raids in Sydney and Brisbane

The Treasurer repeated this mantra on optimism, in an interview from Cairns this morning, where he is preparing for a weekend meeting of the world’s economic leaders, in the G20.

And he received some support, later in the day, when a major survey pointed to an upbeat trend in Australia’s industry.

The ACCI-Westpac Survey of Industrial Trends confirmed what pollsters called “a marked rebound in general business expectations for the next six months.”

The survey also showed “firming of demand and production indicators.”

However other indicators were mixed.

Mr Hockey said he would be chairing the world’s most powerful economic forum.

“… and under our leadership we’ve set new growth targets for the world economy.”

The Treasurer said world finance ministers want to increase economic growth by two per cent by 2018.

“That increases the size of the global economy by about $2 trillion, and it means millions of new jobs.

“We also want to crackdown on tax rorting by multinationals, and I know that’s an issue near and dear to your heart as well,” Mr Hockey said.

Meanwhile the ABC reports that one of the largest anti-terrorism operations ever conducted in Australia is under way in Sydney and Brisbane.

It says more than 600 officers are involved in the large-scale raids as part of Operation Appleby in suburbs across Sydney’s west and north-west, with an unknown number of police involved in raids in Brisbane’s south-east.

At least a dozen people have been arrested in Sydney during the operation between NSW officers, Australian Federal Police and ASIO.

Mr Hockey said he hadn’t yet had I any particular updates on the raids.

“But there is always a coordinated action in regard to these matters,” he said.

Thursday 21st August 2014 - 6:05 pm
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Labor leader rejects rape charge

by Alan Thornhill

The Federal Opposition Leader, Bill Shorten, has identified himself as the target of a rape allegation, dating back to the 1980s, describing it as “untrue and abhorrent.”

In a statement this afternoon, Mr Shorten said:” It was made on social media, when I was elected Opposition Leader.

“The allegation was made by someone I knew briefly at that time,” he said.

“There is absolutely no basis for the claim,” Mr Shorten added.

“I will not go into details, except to say that the allegation was untrue and abhorrent.”

Mr Shorten said:” The claim has now been thoroughly and rigorously investigated by police, as is entirely proper.

“I fully co-operated to clear my name.

“And that is what I have done.

“I freely answered all questions the police asked of me.

“Now the police investigation has concluded, I can make this statement,” Mr Shorten said.

“This has been deeply distressing for my family,” he added.

Victorian police investigated the matter, but decided not to proceed with it.

At a press conference this afternoon, Mr Shorten addressed the allegation, which was published on his female
accuser’s Facebook page several months ago.

Sunday 10th August 2014 - 12:57 pm
Comments Off on The PM’s promise on security

The PM’s promise on security

by Alan Thornhill

Tony Abbott promised again today that his government woill do all it can to keep Australia as safe as possible, in the years ahead.

The Prime Minister timed a statement, containing this promise, to coincide with his departure for Holland, where he will meet recovery teams, that have been working at the MH17 crash site, in Eastern Ukraine.

“I regret to say that a growing number of Australians are now traveling to Iraq and Syria and other conflict zones,” Mr Abbott said.

“Their aim is do harm and some hope to bring back deadly skills to Australia.

“The threat to Australia and to Australians from these extremists is real and growing,” Mr Abbott said.

“So this (past) week, the Government announced a series of measures that will strengthen our national security.”

Mr Abbott said the Government would be providing a further $630 million over four years to boost the counter terrorism capacity of our security and intelligence organisations.

These would include the Australian Federal Police, the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation and the Australian Secret Intelligence Service.

“We will prosecute those who engage in terrorism tourism,” Mr Abbott said.

“This is a serious offence – and if you do it, it will mean jail.

He said the Government its strengthening our ability to monitor, arrest, and prosecute people who have been involved with terrorist groups abroad.

“As part of these plans, we want telecommunications companies to keep their data,” Mr Abbott said.

“We don’t want to collect new data – but to ensure the limited data already collected can be accessed by authorities to build a case against those who have or are planning to commit crimes.”

Wednesday 6th August 2014 - 12:56 pm
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PM explains backdown on bigots’ rights

by Alan Thornhill

The Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, says the need for stronger anti-terrorism laws in Australia “is really is really absolutely critical right now.”

And, speaking in a radio interview, Mr Abbott said the proposed Section 18c to the Racial Discrimination Act would have been “a complication” in the process of achieving community agreement on that.

He said that is why he had decided to scrap the proposed change, even though he had promised it before the September elections.

“The safety of our community has got to be the first priority of government and that’s why the Government has made the announcements that we have,” Mr Abbott said.

The proposed change, commonly called “bigots rights” would have permitted people to make offensive, racist comments, without fear of prosecution.

It was strongly opposed by many migrant and Muslim groups, as well as Coalition MPs, whose electorates had a high proportion of migrant voters.

Mr Abbott said there had been good reasons for the government’s switch.

“Well we have a very serious home-grown terrorist threat,” the Prime Minister said.

“Anyone who has been looking at the internet images of born and bred Australians holding up the severed heads of Iraqi police and military personnel would know that the last thing we want is to have people like that coming back to our country militarised and radicalised and walking the streets able to do whatever they want here,” he added.

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Alan Thornhill

Alan Thornhill is a parliamentary press gallery journalist.
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