ASIO boss criticises Pauline Hanson's claim of link between terrorism and refugees

ASIO boss criticises Pauline Hanson's claim of link between terrorism and refugees

SBS Radio News: Australian authorities have continued to step up security efforts in the aftermath of the Manchester bombing.  

Safety concerns across Australia continue, following the Manchester Arena suicide bombing.

Political attention has turned to allaying those fears, and increasing security at famous landmarks, and popular tourist sites.

Sydney will see a increase in security as annual light festival - 'Vivid' gets under way.

Security bollards and barriers are already in place, as well as plain clothed police patrols, aerial surveillance, and sniffer dogs.

And in Melbourne, police have tested an emergency response system at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.

ASIO boss Duncan Lewis says he does not expect the counter terrorism threat to diminish, "in the foreseeable future".

"ASIO will continue to remain vigilant and agile, we're committed to working with our intelligence and law enforcement partners on countering this array of threats."

Duncan Lewis, Australia's top spy chief, gave that bleak outlook as he appeared before a Senate committee on Thursday night.

Australia's terror threat level has been at "probable" since late 2014.

Since then, there have been four attacks, and a further 12 thwarted in the advance stages of planning.

Mr Lewis was also questioned by Senator Pauline Hanson whether there is a link between people seeking asylum, and terrorism.

Hanson: "Can you confirm the four terrorist attacks and the twelve foiled that has happened on Australian soil was committed by Muslims?

Lewis: Of the 12 thwarted attacks, that one of those indeed involved a right-wing extremist. I've got to stress, Senator, and this is very important, ASIO does not make its enquiries or its assessments basis of somebody's religion.

Hanson: Do you believe that, um, the threat is being brought possibly from Middle Eastern refugees that are coming to Australia?

Lewis: I have absolutely no evidence to suggest there is a connection between refugees and terrorism.

Mr Lewis added the number of people travelling to fight in the Middle East has reduced dramatically.

Around 100 Australians are currently believed to be fighting, and around 70 others have been killed.

Foreign minister Julie Bishop told the ABC that protocols are in place should they attempt to return.

"In the event that foreign fighters survive the conflict in the middle east, yes we are concerned that they will seek to return home. And in our part of the world, that could be to the southern Philippines, to Malaysia, to Indonesia, and indeed to Australia. we believe there are about 100 foreign terrorist fighters in the middle east now. If they survive, and a number have been killed, if they survive then we will be tracking their movements; following where they go, and seeking to ensure that we know when they arrive in Australia and we can meet them."

Government minister Christopher Pyne has told Channel Nine intelligence gathering is the key to stopping attacks.

"The most important thing we can do is collect as much intelligence as possible and work with the communities that are at risk, if there are communities at risk. Our forces are very effective. Now, I can't guarantee that we'll never have a terrorist attack like the one at Manchester Arena. But we have been very lucky in Australia. And one of the reasons is because our security forces are really on top of this, and our intelligence gathering is second to none."

It's an issue that Labor frontbencher Anthony Albanese says has bipartisan support.

"I think that the government and the opposition are as one. This is a time where the government isn't a Liberal party, ithe government is us on behalf of the nation. And that's the way it should be. That's the way it was when Labor was in government, and that's the way it is today. All Australians are horrified by the attack."



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