Tony Abbott has called on moderate Muslims to join the “Team Australia” fight against locally bred extremists ahead of talks with Islamic leaders.
The prime minister is meeting community leaders in Sydney on Monday and in Melbourne later in the week to try to sell sweeping new anti-terror powers aimed at stopping Australian militants fighting overseas.
The government is facing a backlash from Islamic groups, which fear they will be unfairly targeted by the new laws.
Mr Abbott says Australia faces a serious threat from radicals who travel overseas to fight with terror groups in Syria and Iraq and then become “militarised and brutalised” by the experience.
“We do have to be vigilant against it – and my position is that everyone has got to be on Team Australia,” he told Macquarie Radio on Monday.
“Everyone has got to put this country, its interest and its values and its people first.”
Mr Abbott urged the “moderate mainstream” to speak out to prevent communities being tarred by extremists.
“It’s important that individual communities can’t be caricatured on the basis of a militant few, rather than on the basis of what I take to be a sensible majority,” he said.
Speaking to multicultural media ahead of his meeting with Islamic leaders, Mr Abbott said the new terror powers were designed to protect the whole community.
“It’s not about protecting one group of Australians from another group of Australians,” he said.