We must all be vigilant
TERRORIST attacks in Australia are, thankfully, rare. This is in large part due to the actions of our police and security agencies who strive to stay one step ahead of those who would seek to do us harm.
Their task is complex, particularly as new technology emerges and radicalisation efforts by evil sources abroad change form.
Much of the work done to ward off larger threats begins with compiling details on warnings and tips from the public, which could lead to a major operation.
It is many years since we were asked to be “alert but not alarmed” but the message is as relevant today as it was at the time that this public awareness campaign began.
Revelations in the Herald Sun yesterday about complaints that were made regarding conversations between the Christmas Day terrorist plotters are a timely reminder that everyone must play a part in keeping the state safe.
Evidence tendered to court, including police intelligence, shows that the men were told their behaviour and discussions at the local mosque were inappropriate, and that leaders would not tolerate their “religion being poisoned”.
While it is clear the men were told to take their “politics or personal opinions outside”, there appears to be no evidence that those complaints were forwarded to state or federal authorities.
Clearly, when language about jihad is being used by young men or women, it must be treated seriously.
The stakes, as the would-be terrorists themselves said, are high.
Their aim was to inflict maximum casualties, and their targets were famous Melbourne landmarks including Flinders St station and St Paul’s Cathedral. While the scale of the narrowly averted attack would not have been known at the time, threats made in the name of religion must trigger further action.
Since the revelation of the plot to kill innocent people around Christmas 2016, Victorians have been rocked by the Bourke St terror attack launched by Hassan Khalif Shire Ali.
That frenzied attack cost Pellegrini’s restaurant icon Sisto Malaspina his life and left others in hospital suffering stab wounds.
Late last year, soon after the attack, Prime Minister Scott Morrison urged people to speak up if they saw warning signs of hateful views and beliefs. He said Australians must “stand up to it even more” and ensure that “violent extremism, the hate, can take no place in these peace-loving communities”.
Dangerous extremists from overseas have shown they are willing to try to destroy our peace, including by corrupting young and vulnerable Australians. This evil can be stopped but only with a strong and united front from all community members.
Part of the approach to warding off growing threats will be at the lawenforcement level.
Victorian Chief Commissioner Graham Ashton has revealed that count-terrorism agencies would need thousands more officers to monitor suspects. Mr Ashton also pointed out that, unlike a decade ago, plotters could move faster today, and intelligence work was constantly evolving to keep pace.
As our population grows, there is a greater need to ensure that safety is maintained and that warnings don’t fall between the cracks.
While the work done by authorities in countering extremism is critical, they can do their jobs only with the support of all Victorians.
Remaining vigilant is the responsibility of every citizen.
If you hear something, tell someone.