The government is moving to crack down on “terrorism tourism on the taxpayer”, cutting social security payments to those heading abroad to fight with terror organisations.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott said the government was seeking new powers to remove social security benefits where an adverse security assessment was made.
That will apply to extremists in Australia, as well as those who have travelled abroad to fight with or support terrorist groups.
Mr Abbott said this was a new power that would be used with discretion.
Under current arrangements, there are limited powers to halt welfare payments beyond the provisions which apply to anyone receiving social security benefits.
Those on the dole could have payments stopped for failing to attend job interviews. Disability support pension payments can be stopped six weeks after a person goes abroad – if the government knows.
Mr Abbott said the government believed it should have the ability to remove social security benefits, particularly from those heading overseas.
“The last thing we want is terrorism tourism on the taxpayer,” he told reporters in Lithgow, NSW.
Mr Abbott said this would form part of a package of measures to deal with the increasing threat posed by extremists returning to Australia, radicalised and brutalised from service with Middle East terror groups.
He cited the case of Khaled Sharrouf, notorious for his bloodthirsty brutality, who had received social security benefits.
“If there is one Australian overseas engaged with a terrorist organisation on social security, that is one too many,” he said.
Social services minister Kevin Andrews said under the proposed new regime, security agencies could advise the minister for foreign affairs or the attorney-general who could in turn advise the minister for human services to cancel welfare benefits of a particular person.
“Welfare should be available for people who need it. It’s not for going overseas and engaging in terrorism,” he said.