• PM Tony Abbott
Migration and civil liberties groups are highly critical of the Abbott government's latest move in the fight on terror.
By
Thea Cowie

16 Feb 2015 - 5:32 PM  UPDATED 16 Feb 2015 - 6:20 PM

(Transcript from World News Radio)

 

Migration and civil liberties groups are highly critical of the Abbott government's latest move in the fight on terror.

 

The Prime Minister has hinted at a national security crackdown involving the tightening of migration and welfare rules.

 

As Thea Cowie reports, there are concerns all Australians could be impacted, not just terror suspects.

 

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Prime Minister Tony Abbott says it's time to stop giving potential terrorists the benefit of the doubt.

 

"It's clear to me, that for too long, we have given those who might be a threat to our country the benefit of the doubt. There's been the benefit of the doubt at our borders, the benefit of the doubt for residency, the benefit of the doubt for citizenship and the benefit of the doubt at Centrelink. And in the courts, there has been bail, when clearly there should have been jail. We are a free and fair nation. But that doesn't mean we should let bad people play us for mugs."

 

Details of a likely national security crackdown are expected to be announced on Monday (23rd) ahead of the release of a joint review into the December Martin Place siege.

 

State and Commonwealth governments are compiling a report on the attack which left two hostages and the gunman dead.

 

Prime Minister Tony Abbott has hinted a crackdown could prevent a repeat.

 

"If you look for argument's sake at the history of the Martin Place murderer, at every step of the way, our system gave him the benefit of the doubt. This was someone who really did bring nothing but discredit to himself and to our country of he frankly is a disgrace to everybody who came into contact with him. And we need to ensure that the system is at least as focused on Australia's national interests as it is on the interests of people who overseas who seek to come here."

 

At the time of the attack, siege gunman Man Haron Monis was on bail, facing charges of sexual offences and abetting the murder of his ex-wife.

 

The Iranian-born self-styled cleric was also reportedly granted a visa in 1996, despite warnings from Iran about his criminal record.

 

Stephen Blanks is the President of the New South Wales Council of Civil Liberties.

 

He's says if Centrelink rules are tightened, the government could face a backlash from innocent Australians.

 

"The community is going to find that very intrusive and unacceptable. People should not have to say they reject terrorism im order to get a Centrelink benefit. That is something that something that is just going too far. That is going to make people suspicious of the entire security aparatus that has been erected around them."

 

News Corp is reporting the Abbott government is considering suspending the citizenship of anyone involved in terrorism or revoking the citizenship of dual nationals.

 

Britain, France and Canada have recently taken similar action.

 

But Stephen Blanks says Australia's existing laws are sufficient in the fight of terror, and a crackdown could be counterproductive.

 

"You don't defeat every terrorist incident by increasing the powers of the national security agencies. You don't destroy freedom in order to protect it. What you do is you should promote community coherence. You should make sure everybody in our society is committed to our common ideals and not drive wedges between them because driving wedges between them is going to perpetuate these kinds of attacks."

 

The Migration Council of Australia's Carla Wilshire rejects Mr Abbott's suggestion that people are being given the benefit of the doubt when it comes to entering Australia, residency and citizenship.

 

She says the nation's border security regime is world-leading.

 

"We have a rule-based migration system. It's transparent and it's a robust system that is governed by legislation and regulation. There are numerous checks and safeguards built into our system, including an extensive and exhaustive clearance process for Irregular Maritime Arrivals that's performed by ASIO. Our system of managed migration is the envy of the world."

 

And Carla Wilshire says tightening migration rules could actually strengthen feelings of isolation for vulnerable people.

 

"One of the problems with organisations like ISIS is that it's as much a cult as a terrorist organisation and it feeds on a sense of faillure to belong to the Australian community. So I think what we do need to do is put a lot more emphasis into community programs. I think that we need to be very careful that we don't increase a public perception that damages our migration program and leads to an increased sense of isolation within the community."