The Australian Federal Police say a number of Australians that were “not on anyone’s radar” managed to slip out of the country in the past few days to join jihadist group Islamic State.
AFP Assistant Commissioner Neil Gaughan revealed the information while lobbying for streamlined access to control orders, telling a parliamentary committee it will help catch more terrorist suspects.
A “handful” of facilitators and supporters of IS were operating along the east coast of Australia, he said.
But legally, they were operating slightly out of the legal reach of the AFP.
“We would like to be in a position where we could stop people from travelling, and control orders are one way we can put controls over enablers and supporters,” Mr Gaughan said.
“There are some people that travelled a few days ago that were not on anyone’s radar. We got wind of it after the fact. So we need some other tools.”
The AFP says easier access to control orders would also help them move more quickly when or if IS supporters return from overseas.
When asked by the committee why the AFP could not just arrest and prosecute terrorist suspects, Mr Gaughan replied there was a legal hole when it came to the admissibility of foreign collected evidence.
“This provides us another alternative,” he said.
Control orders, which must be issued by a court, impose obligations and restrictions on a person to protect the public from terrorism.
The order may include a curfew, wearing an electronic monitoring tag, restrictions on communications and regular reporting to police.
But they’re controversial. They have only been sought and issued twice since introduced in 2005 – to Jack Thomas and David Hicks.
The UK abolished its control order regime in 2011.