Prime Minister Tony Abbott has vowed to ramp up efforts in countering violent extremism, while personal freedoms could be “redrawn”, in the wake of the Sydney cafe siege.
Mr Abbott and New South Wales Premier Mike Baird jointly released the first report into the Lindt Chocolate Cafe siege on Sunday, and have flagged more stringent visa, citizenship and bail controls, with Mr Abbott saying that “plainly, the system failed”.
In response to the report Mr Abbott has foreshadowed changing the balance between community protection and personal freedoms.
He will make a national security statement in parliament on Monday to put forward a case for tougher counter terrorism measures, saying for too long Australia has given the benefit of the doubt to would-be extremists.
“We do need to renew and redouble our efforts in countering violent extremism,” Mr Abbott says.
The siege resulted in the deaths of cafe manager Tori Johnson and barrister Katrina Dawson, as well as gunman Monis, when police moved to end the 16-hour stand-off in Martin Place.
Mr Abbott says that Monis was given the “benefit of the doubt” in relation to prior convictions, with the effect being he was able to continue to “wreak havoc on the community”.
The report looked at Monis’ involvement with public agencies, including immigration, ASIO, state and federal police services and the justice system, during a period of many years.
Questions also remain about why Monis was out on bail at the time of the siege, despite facing accessory to murder charges and 40 sexual and indecent assault charges – including sexual offences and abetting the murder of his ex-wife.
ASIO had assessed Monis just three days before the siege, after 18 calls were made to the national security hotline about his inflammatory Facebook page, the report revealed.
He said the community was let down by the system which allowed Monis to remain at large, despite the serious criminal charges he was facing.
“Plainly, this monster should not have been in our community,” he said.
“He shouldn’t have been allowed into the country. He shouldn’t have been out on bail.
“He shouldn’t have been with a gun and he shouldn’t have become radicalised.”
Mr Baird said while decisions made by the various agencies were considered reasonable by the review, the system had let the community down.
“The recommendations that have come forward – we need to act and we need to respond and we will be doing exactly that,” he said.
Mr Abbott said Australia would need to revisit the debate between the rights of the individual and community protection.
“Precisely where we draw the line in the era of terrorism will need to be reconsidered,” he said.
“We need to ask ourselves, at what stage do we need to change the tipping point from protection of the individual to the safety of the community?
“Obviously we need to look at what are the relevant triggers for concern and ask ourselves what should be the consequence if concerns are triggered.
“What we do need to do is to have a higher level of scrutiny and heavier sanctions for people who game the system when it comes to visa applications and citizenship applications.”
Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said it was not beyond the Australian parliament to get the balance right, and was keen to support the PM.
“I do not believe that this nation can only be safe when we get rid of the liberties of people, nor do I believe that the liberties of people in every circumstances should trump national security,” Mr Shorten said.
– with ABC/AAP