The Abbott Government is being accused of using terrorism fears to distract Australians from its contentious budget.
In recent weeks the Coalition has outlined new measures to crack down on extremist threats, including legislative changes to target Australians who travel overseas to fight with terrorist organisations.
Labor senator Sue Lines says the Government seems determined to only talk about terrorism and not its tough budget cuts.
“It’s [the Government] hyping it up, it’s invented the term Team Australia, you’re either in the team, or you’re out of the team,” she said.
“And it’s looking for opportunities in the media and elsewhere to try and scare the Australian public and to distract everyone from the budget,” Senator Lines said.
Opposition Leader Bill Shorten has given broad support to the proposed legislative changes, but says Labor will wait to see the legislation.
“When it comes to national security, Labor sees this as a matter above politics,” Mr Shorten told reporters on Wednesday.
Senator Lines says her party will take a calmer and more reasonable approach than the Coalition.
“I think Labor will be sensible in this regard, because what Labor doesn’t do is we don’t scaremonger,” she said.
“It’s not the game we play, and we are about sensible policy and so obviously we do need to see the detail of that policy.”
The Government says about 160 Australians are currently fighting with, or assisting, terrorist groups in the Middle East.
In Parliament on Wednesday, Mr Abbott revealed that counter-terrorism units had arrested a “person of interest” after beginning operations late last week at international airports in Sydney and Melbourne.
Mr Abbott told Question Time the new units are part of the Customs and Border Protection Service.
Senator Lines says she “wants to make sure that Australia is secure, but I think you can do that without grandstanding and I think responsible governments get their legislation out there and have a sensible conversation”.
“What we’ve seen this Abbott Government do unfortunately, fairly successfully, is it’s very good at demonising but it then doesn’t have a plan to follow through and that’s partly why it’s in trouble with its budget,” she said.
“It’s good at the scare tactics but it’s not good at good policy and that’s what we’re seeing now.”
Senator Lines’s comments have been echoed by fellow West Australian Labor MP Melissa Parke, who tweeted on Wednesday: ‘Team Australia’ is a moronic ripoff from 2004 ‘Team America: world police’ parody film. Intolerant nonsense rhetoric, unbecoming of a PM.=
Ms Parke was unavailable for comment.