Australian terror supporters will have their unemployment benefits and other welfare payments cut off.
In a significant crackdown on homegrown extremists, Prime Minister Tony Abbott says new legislation would allow the Department of Human Services to cancel benefits to those assessed as a serious threat to national security.
“These new measures will ensure Australian taxpayers are not financing people known to be members of, or working with, terrorist organisations,” he said in a statement on Saturday.
Mr Abbott said under current arrangements, welfare payments can only be suspended or cancelled for those who don’t meet social security eligibility rules.
That includes failing to fulfil participation, residence or portability qualifications.
The government has already cut benefits to those abroad, but not extremists in Australia who continue to meet eligibility requirements.
Mr Abbott said he was committed to ensuring Australians engaged in terrorist activities were not receiving taxpayer-funded welfare payments.
He said legislation would be introduced to ensure benefits can be promptly stopped for people identified by national security agencies as involved in extremist conduct.
“The new legislation will enable the Department of Human Services to cancel a person’s welfare payment if it receives advice that a person has been assessed as a serious threat to Australia’s national security,” he said in the statement.
Advice will be provided by the Attorney-General, Minister for Foreign Affairs or Minister for Immigration and Border Protection.
“Ministers will exercise discretion and take into account all relevant factors including advice from national security agencies, before requesting cancellation of welfare payments,” he said.
Mr Abbott said the government would also ensure relevant agencies worked more closely together to share information on issues of national security where that relates to cancelling welfare to those regarded as posing a threat.
“Australians travelling to Syria, Iraq, and other conflict zones to engage in, or support, terrorist activities are committing criminal offences,” he said.
Mr Abbott said Australia’s welfare system already allowed payments to be suspended or cancelled for those who don’t meet their obligations.
“This measure is based on the same principle. It is designed to make sure taxpayers’ money is not being used to undermine Australia’s national security,” he said.