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Australians want tougher terror measures

AAP logoAAP 9/10/2016 Roje Adaimy

A majority of Australians want the government to do more to prevent terrorist attacks on home soil and are happy to give up some personal freedoms to help the cause, new research shows.

But many are concerned that Muslims are being singled out for increased surveillance and monitoring.

The Australian National University poll found 71 per cent were worried about the rise of Islamist extremism in Australia while nearly as many felt Muslims shouldn't be subject to additional scrutiny based on their religion.

"People are obviously concerned whether it's the faith of Islam that gives rise to these things," co-author Katja Theodorakis told reporters on Monday.

"That's something that warrants further study because that could have political ramifications and divisions - and it's not good for social cohesion in a multicultural society."

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, speaking on racism in parliament on Monday, said Islamist terrorists had succeeded in raising levels of anxiety about Muslim immigration.

Those concerns are real and should not be dismissed.

"As leaders our job is to explain the facts, reassure citizens and ensure that everything we do is calculated to keep Australians safe," he said.

ANU's phone poll of 1200 people showed there was strong support for existing border control measures, bans on Australians travelling to conflict areas and measures to strip citizenship from dual national foreign fighters.

More than two out of three (69 per cent) approved of the government's collection of telephone and internet data as part of its counter-terrorism efforts, a move that caused significant controversy when introduced by the Abbott government.

Those aged below 34 disapproved the most, while older Australians were more sanguine about the retention of telecommunication data.

"Young people seem fairly confident that they're not going to be subject to terrorist attacks on Australian soil and so they are more worried about those trade-offs in civil liberties," co-author Jill Sheppard told reporters.

The poll's other key findings are:

* 56 per cent believe the government could do more to prevent terrorist attacks, while 36 per cent say it's done all it can;

* 59 per cent believe counter-terrorism policies single out Muslims for surveillance and monitoring;

* 85 per cent support removing citizenship from dual nationals involving in terrorist activities overseas but most support the courts having this power rather than the immigration minister;

* 80 per cent approve or strongly approve of current border control measures to protect Australia from extremism and terrorism.

It follows reports at the weekend that up to 22 people trying to join Australia's intake of 12,000 Syrian refugees posed potential national security concerns.

Immigration Minister Peter Dutton said the government was doing everything in its power to guarantee to the security of the Australian people.

"This government will never shirk from that responsibility," he told reporters.

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