You are here
Australia appoints anti-terror chief
[SYDNEY] Australia on Monday appointed a counter-terrorism chief to coordinate security agencies, while pointing to the United States and Britain to justify a proposal to strip citizenship from dual nationals linked to jihadists.
Like many countries, Australia is grappling with heightened threats from "home-grown" extremists with several alleged terror plots foiled this year inspired by the Islamic State group.
As part of a billion-dollar fight against citizens becoming radicalised or returning from fighting in Syria or Iraq, a former ambassador to both Indonesia and Iran, Greg Moriarty, was named as the nation's first anti-terrorism coordinator.
"We have a number of security, intelligence and law enforcement agencies and Greg Moriarty's role will be to coordinate all of the efforts across government and report to the prime minister," Foreign Minister Julie Bishop told national radio.
"There are many different departments, many different agencies and we want to ensure that there's a completely coordinated approach and that nothing slips through the cracks." Mr Moriarty is also a former intelligence analyst and has extensive knowledge of Islam and its radical variants. The position was created following a comprehensive counter-terrorism review earlier this year.
His appointment came on the day an inquest resumed into a Sydney cafe siege last December that shocked Australia. Two hostages and the gunman, Iranian-born self-styled cleric Man Haron Monis, died.
It also comes with the government expected to detail new legislation this week to strip citizenship from dual nationals who promote, support or are otherwise linked to terrorism.
"The United Kingdom has done it. Canada and the US are considering it," Bishop said.
"In fact the United Kingdom has denied citizenship on over 20 occasions in recent times. So we're looking at this very closely. It's a matter that our national security committee has been considering." Bishop currently has the authority to cancel, suspend or refuse to issue passports, to stop Australians travelling, and she said she had done so on a number of occasions.
There has been speculation that the plan to amend citizenship laws, which was first disclosed in February, could also affect second-generation Australians who carry only one passport.
This would force such nationals to take citizenship from their parents' birth countries.
"It's a very significant issue to take away citizenship and we don't to do these things lightly," Ms Bishop added.
"The number of Australians seeking to go overseas (to fight) is not declining, so we have to take every step that we can to keep Australians safe here and at home and also prevent them taking part in a bloody conflict overseas." More than 100 Australians have fled to fight alongside jihadists, including Islamic State, in Iraq and Syria.
Australia has introduced a series of national security measures over the past few months to combat the threat, including criminalising travel to terror hotspots and requiring telecommunications firms to retain customers' digital data for two years.