We must all be vig­i­lant

Herald Sun - - OPINION -

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.

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