Security tops returning PM’s agenda

The national security committee will meet on Monday when Malcolm Turnbull returns from Malaysia, its first gathering since the deadly terror attacks in Paris.


The prime minister has been out of the country attending a series of international meetings – including ASEAN in Kuala Lumpur – for most of the time since Islamic State went on a killing rampage on the streets of Paris.

“I can assure you … I have remained in the closest possible contact on all of these national security issues at home,” Mr Turnbull told reporters in Kuala Lumpur on Sunday.

Australia’s terror alert has remained high since September last year, indicating a terrorist attack is likely.

Justice Minister Michael Keenan concedes an attack on the scale of that in Paris is not impossible.

But he says it would be more difficult given the country’s robust gun laws, adding that Australia manages its diversity better than other countries and doesn’t have the mass of refugees flooding in like Europe.

“None of these challenges present themselves here in Australia … but I’m not saying it’s impossible, I’m not saying our agencies aren’t vigilant about it,” he told Sky News on Sunday.

Former prime minister Tony Abbott has called for SAS forces to intervene in Syria, in contrast to Mr Turnbull’s emphasis on an international approach to tackling IS.

Mr Keenan said it was no surprise Mr Abbott wanted his “two cents’ worth” on national and international affairs.

“I don’t think any Australian should be surprised that Tony Abbott, whilst he remains in parliament, will make a significant contribution to national debate and I don’t think we should be concerned about that as a government,” Mr Keenan said.

Australia was already the second largest contributor to the US-led coalition seeking to drive IS out of Iraq and Syria.

“If there is further that we can do in conjunction with international partners then obviously we will seriously look at that,” Mr Keenan said.

Senior Labor frontbencher Anthony Albanese said when it came to tackling IS, he would take advice from defence officials over politicians.

“But quite clearly, we need to defeat this scourge because it’s not just what is happening on the ground in Syria and Iraq,” he told Network Ten.

Liberal junior minister Wyatt Roy said people wanted to see the world act to destroy this evil movement.

“But I think there is also a pretty clear recognition of how difficult this is … you need a clear understanding of the end game and … not just go in there with guns blazing,” he told the Seven Network.

Labor senator Sam Dastyari agreed that people were rightly angry, but just sending troops in may remove the leadership only to create a vacuum for other terrorists to fill.

“Let’s be clear, we don’t have a great track record,” he told the same network.