Melbourne: Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull today said there is a “real risk” of a terrorist attack in Australia and ordered security agencies to test their responses to a mass casualty incident following the Paris carnage. In his first major address on national security issues to Parliament, Turnbull said he “could not guarantee there won’t be an attack in Australia,” but security agencies are “working diligently and expertly to prevent that happening.”
“From an Australian perspective, we see a real risk that terrorist groups in the region might be inspired by attacks such as we have seen in Ankara, Beirut, Bamako and Paris and we are very mindful of the fact that hundreds of thousands of Australians visit Southeast Asia every year,” he said.
He announced that the country’s four-tier terrorism alert system would be amended this week to a five-level system, as used in the US and UK. “Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) and the federal police have advised me there is no evidence that the recent attacks, including Paris, will materially affect the threat level in Australia,” he said.
“The root cause of the current threat we face is a perverted strain of Islamist extremist ideology,” Turnbull said adding that the current terrorism threat level remained at “high”, meaning an attack is likely.
“We will defeat these terrorists. The strongest weapons we bring to this battle are ourselves, our values, our way of life. Calm, clinical, professional, effective – that’s how we defeat this menace,” he said.
He further asked security agencies to test their responses to a mass casualty attack. Commenting on Islamic State (ISIS) militant group, Turnbull said he believed ISIS was in a fundamentally weak position, with more smartphones than guns and more Twitter accounts than soldiers.
“We must not be fooled by its hype,” ISIS aims to overthrow all the existing governments in Muslim societies, and beyond. It regards as apostates any who will not submit to its own perverted view of Islam,” he said.
“Strategically, ISIS wants to create division by fomenting resentment between non-Muslim populations and Muslims. ISIS emerged as an extremist, terrorist group out of Al-Qaeda in Iraq and Syria. Their territorial gains in Syria and Iraq have fed into their narrative of conquest,” he added.
Turnbull said that with the rise of ISIS and the conflict in Syria, there was a threat to Southeast Asian region and that he had discussed the issue at the East Asia Summit and in depth with the leaders of Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Singapore.
“We are working more closely than ever to share intelligence and counter messaging strategies,” he said.