Australia’s first anti-terrorism coordinator appointed

Australia’s former ambassador to Indonesia, Greg Moriarty, is to become the nation’s first counter-terrorism coordinator.

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Mr Moriarty will head a new office within Prime Minister Tony Abbot’s own department.

 

As well, Justice Minister Michael Keenan becomes minister assisting the prime minister on counter terrorism.

 

The government says the appointments will ensure nothing is missed in the fight against terrorism.

 

Amanda Cavill reports.

 

 

Prime Minister Tony Abbott says the moves are a response to the potentially deadly threat of radicalised Australians enacting religious and politically-motivated violence.

 

Regarded an authority on security and intelligence, Mr Moriarty was also ambassador to Iran and has extensive knowledge of Islam and its variants, and experience as an inter-agency operator.

 

Mr Moriarty’s appointment follows a Counter-Terrorism Review released earlier this year which recommended more active co-operation with so-called “at-risk communities”.

 

Mr Abbott says it’s important that Australia stays one step ahead of terrorism.

 

“It is important that we stay ahead of this game. It is important that we are constantly doing better, because our enemies are constantly striving to do more. So I am very pleased to announce that Greg Moriarty, our former Ambassador to Jakarta, currently a Deputy Secretary in the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, will move into my department, the Commonwealth’s principal coordinating department, as as our Counter-Terrorism Coordinator.”

 

Mr Moriarty says he welcomes the opportunity to join the government in the fight against terrorism.

 

He says he’s seen the benefits to the Government of tightly coordinated interagency work, and believes it is a highly effective way of tackling the issue.

 

“In Jakarta where I worked with multi-agencies to tackle challenges relating to counter-terrorism in Indonesia and South East Asia, but also the very enormous amount of interagency work we did in support of Operation Sovereign Borders and I think our agencies have enormous depths of talent and enormously hard-working people.”

 

The government is also expected to introduce more anti-terrorism laws into parliament later this week.

 

It’s seeking the power to revoke the citizenship of dual nationals and other Australians who join terrorist groups or advocate for violent extremism.

 

The government says no citizen will be left stateless under the new regime, because only Australians eligible to take another nationality are to be subject to the law.

 

Those who advocate violent extremism, but don’t necessarily participate in plots or travel overseas to support terrorist groups, could also be at risk of losing their citizenship.

 

Tony Abbott says dual nationals who join armies at war with Australia already lose their citizenship under current arrangements and the proposed changes are a logical extension.

 

“Effectively what we are doing is acknowledging that in the modern world it’s not just people who are serving with an enemy army who are, in a sense, at odds with the whole nature of citizenship but people who are working with terrorist organisations that hate our country, hate our way of life, hate our values. They have likewise put themselves outside the extended family of our nation.”

 

The proposed changes are part of a suite of counter-terrorism measures on the government agenda, including introducing de-radicalisation programs in high schools.

 

Immigration Minister Peter Dutton says the proposed changes are fair.

 

“People should face the full force of the law if they have committed an act against Australian law. That’s the first starting point for us. But taking somebody’s citizenship away – whilst not rendering them stateless – is not a penalty. It’s a removal of a great privilege. And it is a privilege to be an Australian citizen particularly if you have come from another country to our country to start a new life. And if you are seeking to do harm, if you are seeking to kill Australians, then people rightly ask whether or not you deserve to be Australian citizens.”

 

Australia is not the only western nation considering revoking the citizenship of dual nationals and other Australians linked to violent extremism.

 

The United States and Canada are also considering law changes regarding those who join terror groups or advocate extremism, while Britain already has such laws in place.

 

Labor says it will consider any changes put to the parliament.

 

 

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