Premiers unite on new counter-terrorism moves

The nation’s leaders have agreed to a host of new counter-terrorism measures, which Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull insists are needed to keep Australians safe.

Oct 05, 2017, updated Oct 05, 2017
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull (right) and NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian  at a special COAG meeting on counter-terrorism today. Photo: AAP/Lukas Coch

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull (right) and NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian at a special COAG meeting on counter-terrorism today. Photo: AAP/Lukas Coch

Premiers and chief ministers today gave their support for nationally-consistent laws to allow police to hold terror suspects without charge for up to a fortnight.

It’s something Turnbull has been pushing for since his first COAG in 2015 and which has already been introduced in NSW.

“The states are in violent agreement on this,” NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said ahead of the special national security summit in Canberra.

Turnbull described the COAG meeting as very productive and one that reached decisions with real unanimity.

“We know that we have got to be constantly vigilant,” he told reporters.

All levels of government were committed to ensuring that agencies had the legislative tools, resources and techniques to keep Australians safe and to respond and prevent terrorist incidents.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews brushed off concerns about civil liberties, dismissing them as a “luxury”.

“Notional considerations of civil liberties do not trump the very real threat of terror in our country today,” he told reporters.

“We are going to have to curtail the rights and freedoms of a small number of people in order to keep the vast majority of Australians safe.”

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All leaders were willing to hand over photos of every licensed driver to federal authorities to support an expanded and automated facial recognition system.

Turnbull said the measure would give police an important 21st-century tool to identify people in real-time.

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk hopes the new measure is in place before next year’s Commonwealth Games.

She thinks Australians would be comfortable with being profiled because it was about stopping the threat of terrorism.

“I support whatever measures are needed – surveillance, added security – and the prime minister is co-operating with us in relation to those matters,” she said.

South Australian Premier Jay Weatherill, who yesterday announced his own new counter-terrorism measures, said “it is pleasing to come to Canberra to meet with my federal and state colleagues to cooperate in the national interest”.

Turnbull outlined new federal laws to criminalise the possession of instructional terrorist material, and stronger laws against terrorism hoaxes.

“The best way to prevent terrorism is to prevent somebody becoming a violent extremist or adopting an extremist ideology in the first place,” he said.


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