Attorney-General Philip Ruddock says claims that up to 800
Muslim extremists are based in Australia are speculative.
The Australian newspaper today quoted security sources as
saying that spy agency ASIO estimated between 700 and 800 Muslim
extremists living in Australia could be motivated to carry out an
A year ago, the nation's security agencies said they were
closely monitoring the activities of 70 to 80 Australians known to
have trained with terrorist groups in Pakistan and Afghanistan.
But in the wake of the London bombings, ASIO has identified up
to 800 people deemed a potential security risk, the newspaper
ASIO chief Paul O'Sullivan yesterday briefed the Council of
Australian Governments on the latest security situation.
But Mr Ruddock said today there was no suggestion in the
briefing of such numbers.
"Those figures are speculative - they bear no relationship to
any of the briefings that were given yesterday by the
director-general of ASIO," Mr Ruddock told the Nine Network.
Mr Ruddock said agencies had identified people who had trained
with terrorist organisations.
"Yes, there are people of concern who may be motivated to carry
out acts of terrorism but the fact is the numbers change," he
The summit with the premiers yesterday approved the use of house
arrest or electronic shackling for up to 12 months for terror
suspects and preventative detention of up to 14 days, both of which
could be used on people as young as 16.
Mr Ruddock said the terror powers were a reasonable response to
threats to national security.
"These measures are intended to deal with people who pose a risk
to the safety and security of the Australian community where there
may not be specific evidence to charge them with a terrorist
offence," Mr Ruddock said.
"It's where we are concerned that a person may be involved in
planning for a terrorist act, where we believe there are
substantial reasons for putting some restrictions on on their
Australian Muslim Civil Rights Advocacy Network convenor Waleed
Kadous said the new counter-terrorism laws would have a specific
impact on Muslims.
"The laws are not aimed at the Muslim community - they have an
impact on all Australians,'' Mr Kadous told ABC radio today.
"But in their application they will have a specific impact on
the Muslim community.
"For example, it is far more likely that police will search
someone based on them having middle eastern appearance, whether or
not their belief that that person may be doing something wrong is
justified or not.
"There is just too much room in this legislation for
But Mr Ruddock said the laws made no mention of any particular
group of people.
"The legislation in no way countenances people being identified
in relation to these matters because of the race,'' Mr Ruddock told
"These issues are behaviour-based and if people come from a
particular group but behaving in a particular way brings them to
notice then they will come to notice and the prospect of an order
being sought might be possible.''
AAP, 25 September 2005