SHAFAQNA – Australia on Tuesday outlined plans to tighten counter-terrorism laws further, including restricting the movements of suspects as young as 14 in the wake of a deadly attack by a teenager this month.
Attorney-General George Brandis said a fifth instalment of the legislation had been drawn up and would be introduced to parliament in coming weeks.
It follows Farhad Jabar, a 15-year-old, shooting police employee Curtis Cheng in the back of the head in Sydney while reportedly shouting religious slogans before being gunned down by police.
“The new laws will, among other things, lower the age at which a control order can be applied from 16 to 14 years of age,” Brandis said in a statement.
A control order allows the movements and activities of a suspect to be restricted, with terror groups targeting ever-younger individuals.
“Fourteen is not too young an age for an order of this kind to be made,” Brandis added, speaking on national radio.
“Unfortunately the reach of ISIL and ISIL surrogates and agents in Australia is extending to younger and younger people.”
He said that under the new legislation, there would be protection and safeguards for minors in the 14 to 17 age category.
“There will be various measures that will limit the capacity of police to question or deal with minors in a way which is regarded — given the age of the person — to be unreasonable.”
Canberra is concerned about the prospect of lone-wolf attacks by individuals inspired by groups such as the ISIL, and has already cracked down on Australians attempting to travel to conflict zones, including Syria and Iraq.
Authorities lifted Australia’s terror threat alert to high a year ago, introduced new national security laws and have since conducted several counter-terrorism raids.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull told parliament Tuesday that 24 people had been charged with terrorism-related offences since then.
“We are constantly monitoring the threat, we are working closely with states and territories and ensuring that our laws give our security services the powers that they need to deal with the challenge,” he said.
New South Wales state Premier Mike Baird, who urged a tightening of the laws after the Cheng killing, also wants to extend the length of time that terrorism suspects can be kept in custody for questioning.
Currently, they can be held for four hours before a court application must be made to extend the period to eight days.
Baird wants this changed to an initial four days, extendable to 28 days.
The government is yet to agree on the proposal and Turnbull was to meet counter-terrorism agencies on Thursday to fine-tune strategies to deal with extremism and radicalisation.
The Labor opposition has not seen full details of the changes but shadow attorney-general Mark Dreyfus said: “Labor supports our police and security agencies having the powers they need to keep Australians safe.”