CANBERRA, Australia – The Australian government said Tuesday it will spend 64 million Australian dollars ($60 million) on measures to counter violent extremism and radicalization as Islamic State continues to recruit foreign fighters to its ranks in Iraq and Syria.
The measures include strengthened community engagement programs aimed at preventing young Australians from becoming involved with extremist groups and new multi-agency investigation teams to disrupt foreign fighters and their supporters.
The Australian government is giving high priority to reducing the domestic terrorism threat created by homegrown extremists who travel to Syria and Iraq to fight.
Australia and the United State will raise at the United Nations General Assembly in September the need for governments to co-operate against the common threat.
“This is the highest national security risk that we face and we will not rest until we are sure that the Australian people are safe and secure from it,” Foreign Minister Julie Bishop told Parliament.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott said at least 60 Australians were fighting for Islamic State overseas, and another 100 were working or fundraising within Australia to support the al-Qaida offshoot group and other terror groups.
Islamic leaders have complained that Australia’s Muslim minority is being unfairly targeted by draconian counterterrorism measures, such as a proposed new onus on Australians travelling to terrorism hotbeds to prove that they had legitimate reasons for going there.
But Abbott said Muslims were not being targeted.
“I want to make it absolutely crystal clear that the enemy here is terrorism, it’s not any particular faith, it’s not any particular community,” Abbott told Parliament.
A poll published in The Australian newspaper on Tuesday found that 77 per cent of respondents supported laws that would require travellers to prove that they had no contact with terrorist groups while overseas. Another 18 per cent opposed the move and 5 per cent were undecided.
The poll by Sydney-based market researcher Newspoll was based on a random, nationwide telephone survey of 1,207 voters last weekend. It has 3 percentage point margin of error.