Headline above in The Advertiser, 19 September 2014
Headline Elsewhere: “Australian terror raids uncover plot to attack Parliament House”
TONY Abbott has confirmed a specific instruction came from a senior Australian ISIL operative in Syria, as security in Canberra is being beefed up after intelligence suggested an attack on Parliament House was imminent. Tony Abbott confirmed the “chatter” about a possible attack on Parliament House came directly from conversations between Australian ISIL supporters overseas and on home soil. “The chatter involving Parliament House was chatter between Australians in Syria and Iraq and their supporters here in Australia,” he told reporters in Sydney. I’m not aware that specific individuals have been named as part of this chatter, but certainly Government, Government people and parliament have been referred to as part of this chatter,” the Prime Minister said.
When asked whether he was worried for his own safety, Mr Abbott claimed he wasn’t. “I am concerned for the safety of the Australian people,” he argued instead. “Terrorists want to scare us out of being ourselves. Our best response is to be fully Australian, to defy the terrorists, by going about our normal business.”
He continued to defend the number of officers and level of force used during yesterday’s terror raids. “It was a show of strength, it needed to be a show of strength,” the Prime Minister said. “It needed to be a demonstration that we will respond with strength to any threat to our way of life and to our national security.”
Mr Abbott said “there will be armed Australian Federal Police present in and around our national parliament at all times”. He regretted that there would be an “additional level of inconvenience from time to time” and that buildings such as Parliament House will be “a little more restricted in the future”. “But the community expects Government at all levels to keep them safe,” he said.
Acting AFP Commissioner Andrew Colvin said we can “expect to see more activity in relation to this investigation in the coming days, weeks and months”. “Police now have an enormous task in front of us not only to continue the investigation but to review the material that we have seized,” he said.
He also had three messages. Firstly, all levels of government will do what ever we humanly can to keep our community safe. Secondly, what happened yesterday in relation to the national terror raids by the AFP, is about crime, it’s not about any particular religion or group in our community. Thirdly, the best way for people to respond to terror is to go about our normal lives.
Mr Abbott’s comments come after he confirmed this morning security at Parliament House is being upgraded “almost immediately”. He told Channel Seven’s Sunrise program: “Parliament House certainly is a potential target”. Mr Abbott admitted “it is difficult to entirely protect our community from this kind of act”.
“The regrettable reality is that to mount the kind of attacks which ISIL in Syria and in Iraq has in mind for Australia, all you need is a determined individual who will kill without compunction, a knife, an iPhone and a victim,” he said. But he praised the “extremely professional” work of Australia’s Police and security agencies. “I am confident that we have the where with all to do what we need to keep our community safe.”
When asked whether the move to increase security at Parliament House made a decision to downgrade the level of checks earlier this year look “pretty daft”, Mr Abbott said once they were “aware that there was the prospect of Parliament House being specifically targeted we acted swiftly”.
Liberal Senator Bill Heffernan smuggled a fake pipe bomb into a Senate hearing in May to highlight his concerns about some people not being scanned at entry points. Mandatory screening was later reintroduced.
TERROR SUSPECT ‘A LOVING PERSON’
The first man to face terror-related charges after yesterday’s raids, 22-year-old Omarjan Azari, has been described as a “gentle, loving person” by relatives. Mr Azari, a motor mechanic apprentice who migrated from Afghanistan to Australia a decade ago, is accused of conspiring to abduct someone and publicly execute them in a busy CBD street. His cousin has said those charges don’t make sense, and his uncle said if the allegations were true, then someone must have “turned his mind,” according to the Daily Mail. “But if he is truly involved in this, it is someone else who has convinced him, turned his mind,” Dr Eshan Azari, a university lecturer in Sydney, told the Daily Mail.
News Corp Australia earlier revealed intelligence agencies had picked up “chatter” involving a potential random attack on Parliament House, with fears among national security and intelligence agencies that the Prime Minister and other senior government officials were prime targets.
Senior intelligence sources confirmed that “chatter” about Parliament House had been intercepted and they now held fears the building had already been “scoped out” for pre-planning of a “Mumbai” style attack involving automatic weapons. A day after 800 police swooped on homes in Sydney and Brisbane in the biggest terror raids in Australia’s history, details of another series of attacks involving snatching innocent people off the street also emerged.