Australia to sharpen counter-terrorism laws

Sydney: Australia will continue detaining those convicted of terror-related offences as part of a raft of new counter-terrorism laws, Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said on Monday. "The measures we are announcing today are designed to deter terrorism, prevent it, ensure that the nation and our people are kept safe," Xinhua news agency quoted Turnbull as saying here. Australia, a staunch ally in the US war on terror in Syria and Iraq, has been on heightened alert for homegrown terrorists since 2014, suffering several attacks including the lone-wolf-style murder of police accountant Curtis Cheng at the Parramatta Police station in Sydney last year. Australian authorities have conducted 16 counter-terrorism operations with 44 persons charged since September 2014 but "we cannot afford to be complacent", Turnbull said. As such, the Australian government will seek to place convicted terrorists with high risk of reoffending into post-sentence preventative detention under a process to be overseen by the courts. "It will provide a very real incentive for people in prison for terrorist offences not to engage in continued extremist activity," Turnbull said, noting Australian states currently have similar measures for sexual and violent offenders, but not for convicted terrorists. The government has also accepted a review of counter-terrorism legislation proposed in November 2015, which include creating a new office of "advocacy of genocide" similar to "advocacy of terrorism", as well as reducing the age of control orders from 16 years to 14 years in light of the heightened risks. Counter-terrorism authorities are increasingly concerned about the young age of those being radicalised following the arrest of five teenagers in Melbourne for allegedly planning a terror attack at Anzac Day commemorations in 2015. "At the moment, the lowest age control orders against a person of concern is 16, but as we saw tragically in the shooting at the Parramatta Police Station last year, 16 is too low a threshold," Attorney General George Brandis told reporters, noting the age of criminal responsibility in Australia is even below 16. Cheng was killed by 15-year-old Farhad Jabar. Five males aged 16 to 24 have also been arrested for the attack and are awaiting trial. Turnbull also cautioned Australians to be vigilant after the Nice attack in France last week. "The deeper and more committed our engagement is with the community, particularly with the Muslim community, the safer we are," Turnbull added.