Terror fears prompt Australia security funding boost

Terror fears prompt Australia security funding boost

SYDNEY - Australia will allocate an extra Aus$450 million (S$475 million) to fight home-grown terrorism and bolster intelligence agencies in its national budget Tuesday to counter "evolving threats and technological change".

The conservative government of Prime Minister Tony Abbott announced Aus$630 million in counter-terrorism funding last year after raising its terror alert to "high".

The move followed concerns about the dangers presented by citizens radicalising or returning from fighting with jihadists in Syria and Iraq to carry out attacks on home soil.

With several alleged terror plots foiled this year, including the arrest of a 17-year-old in Melbourne last Friday and the discovery of three improvised explosive devices at his family home, more cash will be pumped into national security.

"To help combat terrorism at home and deter Australians from committing terrorist acts abroad, we need to ensure our security agencies are resourced properly and have the powers to respond to evolving threats and technological change," Abbott said.

"To deter terrorism we need to challenge the recruitment methods used by extremist organisations, particularly online."

He said a further Aus$450 million had been allocated.

The bulk of the funds (Aus$296 million) will help "strengthen the capabilities" of intelligence agencies while the telecommunications industry will also receive a boost to help companies upgrade their storage systems.

This will allow them to comply with a controversial new law requiring them to retain customers' digital data for two years as part of a range of previously announced counter-terrorism measures.

"Metadata is essential to most counter-terrorism investigations and for detecting and prosecuting other serious crimes," said Abbott.

Other funding will go towards fighting terrorist propaganda on social media to challenge the "lies" used in slick campaigns by the Islamic State group to recruit young Australians.

"This will make it harder for terrorist groups to attract vulnerable Australians, particularly young Australians, through the Internet and social media," said Abbott.

Fairfax Media said the attorney-general's department would set up a team of intelligence and technology experts to monitor and analyse online propaganda and also its impact, while the government would step up its own information campaigns.

Australia raised its threat level to high last September and has since carried out a series of counter-terrorism raids, with alarm fuelled by the departure of more than 100 of its nationals to Iraq and Syria to fight with Islamic State.

Canberra late last year passed a law criminalising travel to terror hotspots without good reason, fearful that nationals will pose a threat when they return.

Those charged could face up to 10 years in jail.

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