Australia seeks to extend terrorism controls to 14-year-olds

A security guard patrols the forecourt of the Sydney Opera House on Sept 9, 2016, after an 18-year-old man was charged after allegedly making threats at the Sydney Opera House.
A security guard patrols the forecourt of the Sydney Opera House on Sept 9, 2016, after an 18-year-old man was charged after allegedly making threats at the Sydney Opera House. PHOTO: AFP

MELBOURNE (Bloomberg) - Australia announced plans to strengthen anti-terrorism laws and extend monitoring by authorities to suspects as young as 14 on Sunday (Sept 11), after the country's fourth terrorism incident in two years.

Proposed legislation would enable courts to impose post-sentence detention for high-risk terrorist offenders, Attorney General George Brandis told reporters in Brisbane.

The government also believed the scope of control orders, which can require suspects to submit to a curfew and restrict their contacts with others, needed to be widened, he said.

"Sadly, we have seen terrorism events perpetrated in Australia by people as young as 14 years old," Brandis said. "We will be extending the lower-age threshold of control orders to 14 and making other important reforms."

A gunman who pledged allegiance to Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) died along with two hostages after taking a group of staff and customers captive in a central Sydney cafe in December 2014. Australian authorities have disrupted about 10 planned terrorism incidents since September of that year, Brandis said.

 

WEEKEND ATTACK

Police said a 59-year-old man suffered serious injuries in a stabbing Saturday in suburban Sydney carried out by a suspect alleged to have been inspired by the terrorist group. Police charged a 22-year-old man with committing a terrorist act and attempted murder.

The victim was stabbed several times while walking through a reserve in Minto, 50km southwest of central Sydney, the Australian Federal Police and New South Wales Police said in a statement Sunday. He remained in the hospital in serious condition, although he was no longer critical, New South Wales Deputy Police Commissioner Catherine Burn told reporters.

"We can clearly say that this is inspired by ISIS - we know that," Burn said. The alleged attacker was known to police, although not regarded as having been connected to known terrorist groups or known extremists, she said.

An attempt was also made to stab a police officer during efforts to make an arrest in nearby Macquarie Fields, police said in the statement. A counter-terrorism team is investigating the incident alongside local police officers, and a large knife had been seized for forensic examination.

The alleged attacker was scheduled to appear later Sunday before Parramatta Bail Court, police said. The proposed legislative changes aren't linked to Saturday's attack, Brandis said.