Abbott orders new measures against Australian 'jihadists'

23 February 2015

Prime Minister Tony AbbotMany Australians who are suspected to be adherents of the Islamic State will be stripped of their citizenship as part of tough new counter-terrorism laws, Prime Minister Tony Abbott announced today.

The dramatic pledge came as a review revealed more than 30 Australians have returned home after fighting for jihadist causes overseas.

In a landmark national security address, Abbott said the government will attempt to strip or suspend the citizenship of Australians with dual citizenship fighting overseas.

The government is also exploring taking away some of the rights of jihadists who are sole Australian citizens, Abbott said. 

That could include restricting their access to welfare payments, to consular help and their ability to leave or return to Australia.

''The Islamist death-cult has declared war on the world,'' Abbott said during today's announcement. ''We cannot allow bad people to use our good nature against us.''

He added that Sydney siege gunman Man Monis had been given the benefit of the doubt too many times, including with his citizenship.

Abbott also confirmed that ASIO is currently investigating thousands of terror leads and suspects, with 400 people deemed high risk.

''That's more than double the number a year ago,'' Abbott told the assembled crowd, which included top national security officers from the Australian Federal Police.

A crackdown on so-called 'hate preachers' and the appointment of a national counter-terrorism tsar were also announced.

The public will have more information available to them about the country's current terror threat - which now sits at high - so they can better understand the system and its levels.

Today's address follows the release of government's review of Sydney's Martin Place siege on Sunday, which revealed crazed gunman Man Haron Monis 'slipped through the cracks of the system'.

On Sunday when Abbott released the review, he said that a shift in the balance between individual freedoms and community safety.

''There is an ongoing and inevitable debate in a country such as ours between the rights of the individual and the protection of the community,'' he said.

''My judgment is that while having always to respect both the question of precisely where we draw the line in the era of terrorism will have to be reconsidered and the line may have to be redrawn.''

Despite an apparent 18 calls to ASIO in the days leading up to December 15 when Monis took 18 people hostage in the Lindt Cafe, authorities had deemed him as not a threat.

The inquiry report made a number of recommendations and Abbott and NSW Premier Mike Baird said governments needed to learn lessons from the siege.

''Plainly, this monster should not have been in our community,'' Abbott said.

''The difficulty is that while he was well and truly on a lot of radar screens, he was routinely assessed as not being a threat to himself or to the community.

''Plainly, at some stage he did become a threat. We obviously do need more checks and more scrutiny in the visa process, in the citizenship process.''

The new counter-terrorism measures set to be announced on Monday are going to deal increasingly with 'home-grown terrorists', like Australia's most wanted jihadists Mohammed Elomar and Khaled Sharrouf.

Sharrouf and Elomar both fled Australia to join the Islamic State insurgents fighting in Syria and Iraq in 2013 and in July 2014 the Australian Federal Police issued arrest warrants for the disturbed pair.

Sharrouf flew out of Sydney in December 2013 using his brother's passport and was soon followed by his convert wife Tara Nettleton who brought their five children to the Middle East with her.

The men gained notoriety as part of the more than 100 Australians who have joined Islamic State after they posted disturbing photos of themselves holding up decapitated heads of Syrian soldiers last year.

Sharrouf even got his seven-year-old son to hold up the severed head of a soldier in the Syrian city of Raqqa, accompanied with the caption 'that's my boy', in an image that shocked the world.

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