PM addresses need for tough anti-terrorism laws with multicultural media

PM - Pallavi Jain








Federal Member for Reid Craig Laundy with Pallavi Jain of SBS Hindi Radio (3rd from left) and Prime Minster Mr Tony Abbott at the multicultural media press conference



By Neena Badhwar

Concerned about the home-grown extremism in Australia, Prime Minister Tony Abbott met representatives from multicultural media at a press conference on August 18 at the Strathfield Town Hall.

While his Government’s ostensible silence on the issue of refugee boats is widely criticised, this time it was a soft sell to ”˜Team Australia’ of Mr Abbott’s hardening stance to curb terrorism in the country by giving boost to police/intelligence funding, collecting metadata over prolonged periods and mandatory detention of people under suspicion.

The issues at stake are indeed complex as they threaten civil liberties. But equally central is the curse of growing fundamentalism within Australia that affects all Australians and Mr Abbott was genuinely trying to connect to ethnic media that he was striking the right balance through democratic processes.   He highlighted the need to fight the evil of terrorism and to pass laws to secure Australia as a nation and build a strong community that was committed to the best interests of all Australians.

“New laws cannot be imposed without a democratic process. Discriminatory laws are not possible in modern Australia. We believe in ”˜live and let live’ and we welcome and respect everyone who makes Australia their home,” the PM said in his reply to a question from the floor.

“I want to say that you are all welcome and we do not expect you to leave your rich cultural traditions behind,” he assured.

Tony Abbott went on to say that the rich fabric of Australia made up of people from various countries must also be protected. “We are in a time where Australia has lived peacefully bar hardly one episode of terrorist attack from outside in its history (he did not elaborate if it was the Japanese attack on Darwin). There is real danger and the Government has the right to monitor through telecommunications any such dangerous activities.

“A decade ago we knew there were 30 Australians who went to work for the Taliban and when they came back two third of them had links with terrorist organisations.   Now we have information on 150 Australians who are involved in ISIS activities. If Australians go and enrol in US Army it is not illegal or if you go and work for Pakistani Army that is also not illegal. But if you go and work for or join a terrorist organisation anywhere in the world or even from here, then it is illegal and you will be arrested, prosecuted when you come back,” he said.

To another question on violence in Gaza region, the PM said, “There is a terrible destruction going on in that region which is utterly reprehensible. Schools and hospitals have been hit. There are always two sides to the conflict and Australia is one of the first one to call for ceasefire. Australian government supports Israel’s right to exist and fight in self defence for its existence. Palestinians people also deserve a homeland and Australia has always supported two-state solution.”

Another question on MH 17 accident  and Australia’s earlier assessment of blaming Russia and Russian backed separatists, has the Australian government reassessed its statement, answer from the PM was, “There is no cause or doubt in our initial assessment. At the time of accident we had information to say what we said. I have talked to President Putin since and he has been courteous and sincere in passing condolences to the victim’s families.”

In reference to the issue of refugee intake, the PM said, “We are reassessing refugee intake and soon Scott Morrison will announce to increase the refugee intake by 4,400, taking in refugees from Iraq and Syria.”

Another editor was worried if the Government was promoting a politics of fear. Mr Abbott said, “We must protect Australia from radicals who wish to damage us. It’s the duty of every single person to expose any home grown terrorism who can threaten to destroy the rich and strong fabric of our nation and it is not good to be complacent about it.”

The PM stressed that Australia was a great country to live in. “While we celebrate each and every day we should not look at it with rose coloured glasses as there are problems here too. But we are a much better and stronger nation due to large immigration program and the contribution made by the people who decided to live here,” he said.

Mr Abbott committed that he would try to meet media and multicultural community ”˜once in three month or six months’ to keep the engagement and the momentum going.

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