Reuters reported on a new national security initiative in Australia, announced by Prime Minister Tony Abbott, which includes measures that could “deny welfare payments to people seen as potential threats, strip the passports of those with dual nationality and curb travel overseas.”
“For too long, we have given those who might be a threat to our country the benefit of the doubt,” Abbott said.
“We will never sacrifice our freedoms in order to defend them, but we will not let our enemies exploit our decency either.”
He was speaking a day after the release of a damning report into the siege, in which two hostages and a radical self-styled sheikh who had sought to align himself with Islamic State were killed.
The conservative Abbott said new laws would remedy failings exposed in the areas of immigration, welfare, policing and intelligence by clamping down on those who supported radicals, especially recipients of welfare.
The laws will also target so-called “hate preachers”, he said, citing as an example the radical but non-violent Islamist group Hizb-ut-Tahrir.
Abbott explicitly linked welfare to terrorism, accusing dozens of Australians fighting in Syria and Iraq of having been on the dole, adding that payments to “individuals assessed to be a threat to security” could soon be canceled.
“People who come to this country are free to live as they choose. Provided they don’t steal that same freedom from others,” he said.
Reuters judges this measure is partly a result of Abbott seeking to recover from the recent challenge to his leadership, coupled with public anxiety about terrorism after the Sydney cafe hostage crisis, and several recent thwarted plots. Abbott’s quest to restore his standing with the public is going remarkably well; The Daily Telegraph describes the eight-point turnaround for his political coalition as “almost miraculous.”
The report on the Lindt cafe siege mentioned that Australia’s security hotline received no less than 18 complaints about the “self-styled cleric” Man Haron Monis in the days before he launched the attack. He was already on the radar screen of Australian authorities for sending hate mail to the families of Australian soldiers killed in Afghanistan, had been repeatedly discussed by counterterrorism experts as a potential problem over the past six years, and was out on bail for charges of murdering his ex-wife on the day he barged into the cafe and took hostages.
He was also the subject of nearly 40 different charges of sexual assault, according to a Daily Telegraph editorial that judges his sorry saga “smacks of a system which is not merely celebrating diversity, but is perversely being held hostage to an overwhelming and pernicious regimen of political correctness pervading the bureaucracy.”
The report also recommended changes to Australia’s citizenship and immigration laws to keep characters like Monis out of the country, leading Abbott to declare, “Plainly, this monster should not have been in our community. He shouldn’t have been allowed into the country. He shouldn’t have been out on bail. He shouldn’t have been with a gun and he shouldn’t have become radicalized.” It is asserted in the report that if Monis arrived in Australia today, he would likely have been granted a visa and introduced to the citizenship process.
Australia is also dealing with the problem of citizens who want to return home after fighting for ISIS and other terrorist groups in Iraq and Syria. The Herald-Sun reports the government has revealed at least thirty of these trained jihadis have returned to Australian soil, with at least 90 more still fighting overseas.
The Daily Telegraph delivers the astonishing revelation that 96 percent of the Australians who have gone overseas to fight with the Islamic State were receiving welfare payments. “As a nation, we were repulsed when images started appearing in the media last year of Australian members of the Islamist death cult gloating over the corpses of their victims and brandishing severed heads,” Abbott wrote in an op-ed for the paper. “I was equally appalled when I was briefed last September that 55 out of 57 Australians then believed to be fighting in Syria and Iraq with ISIL and other terrorist groups had been on some form of welfare, including the Disability Support Pension.”