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Australian authorities are doing all they can to combat terrorism

Adrian Cherney writes in The Conversation (9.6.17) that, despite recent high-profile events in Australia and abroad, there is good evidence that Australia’s counter-terrorism strategies are working.

‘The recent terror attacks in London and Manchester have raised concerns about whether authorities here in Australia are doing enough to combat terrorism.

‘These events have led to accusations that police and security agencies are not being upfront about the threat of terrorism – in particular Islamist terrorism. It has been suggested they are in denial about the link between terrorism, refugees and Islam, and are too concerned with maintaining good relationships with the Muslim community. Much of this commentary overlooks some key points.

‘First, the threat we face from terrorism in Australia is completely different from the UK or the rest of Europe. These countries face a higher number of terrorist threats from returning foreign fighters, and more people on terrorist watchlists.

‘This is not to diminish the threat we face domestically. Hence Australian authorities have on all fronts been developing comprehensive responses. These include the introduction of laws targeting foreign fighters, preventive legislation aimed at detained terrorists, deradicalisation programs in prisons, the establishment of state-based diversion teams that target those identified as at risk of radicalising to violent extremism, counter-terrorism hotlines and various local projects supporting grassroots efforts to tackle radicalisation and violent extremism.

‘Some commentators may argue we don’t actually know if these approaches or programs work, or that these have failed to prevent terrorism. But it is early days and some programs have only recently been established.’

Giving the defence force powers to fight domestic terrorism sets a dangerous precedent

Greg Barns comments in The Guardian (17.7.17) on the Turnbull Government’s proposed ‘beefing up’ of Australia’s terrorism-fighting capacities. The author argues that the potential for abuse, including the imposition of martial law and human rights abuses, can’t be ignored if the military is granted rights over domestic citizens.

‘Almost 40 years ago one of Australia’s most senior judges of the time, Robert Hope, warned that “[use] of the military other than for external defence is a critical and controversial issue in the political life of a country and the civil liberties of its citizens”.

‘We ought to reflect on that wise observation, made in 1979, as the Turnbull government announces that the Australian defence force will be deployed where there is a terrorism threat. The prime minister, Malcolm Turnbull, and the defence minister, Marise Payne, want to amend the Defence Act so as to allow the military to “assist” state and territory police and to take control of situations like that which occurred in the Lindt cafe siege of December 2015.

‘The Turnbull government’s plan sets a dangerous precedent including the possibility of martial law type conditions being imposed on Australians, and military human rights abuses.’

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