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Terror won't mar Australia's diversity: PM

AAP logoAAP 23/12/2016 Melissa Iaria

The prime minister and Victorian premier have defended Australia's multicultural society in the wake of an alleged Christmas Day terror plot targeting Melbourne landmarks.

Malcolm Turnbull insists Australia is "the most successful multicultural society in the world" based on a culture of mutual respect.

"There's a very small number of people - very small - that seek to disrupt that and do us harm," he said on Friday.

Five young men are in custody accused of planning the attack on Melbourne's Flinders Street Station, Federation Square and St Paul's Cathedral using explosives and weapons.

Mr Turnbull praised police for foiling the Islamic State-inspired plot and urged Australians to go about their daily lives.

The prime minister pointed to his own ability to catch a public ferry across Sydney Harbour to work.

He did so on Friday and recounted a chat with a fellow passenger who told him: "It's amazing that we live in a country where the prime minister can get the ferry into the city just like everyone else."

"I said 'Well, that's Australia.' And that is Australia.

"That's what we're standing up for.

"We are not going to let these criminals disrupt our way of life."

Premier Daniel Andrews described the planned attack as "an act of evil" before also standing up for multiculturalism.

"Our values, our multiculturalism, our diversity, is a great strength ... perhaps our greatest strength," he said.

"We should always remember that, even when confronted by these sorts of challenges."

Four of the men taken into custody were Australian-born of Lebanese heritage, while the fifth was an Egyptian-born Australian citizen.

The Islamic Council of Victoria "strongly" condemned plots targeting civilians and places of worship.

"We share the fear and anxiety of our fellow Victorians," council vice-president Adel Salman told AAP.

The ICV called on all Victorians to oppose anything that could undermine the state's "successful and vibrant and inclusive diverse society".

"The ICV strongly condemns any plans and actions to attack innocent civilians and places of worship, especially during this religiously important time of the year for so many in our community, including our Christian friends," it said on Facebook.

The Victoria Police Multi-faith Council also condemned the alleged plot.

"These alleged acts were not acts of faith, ethnicity or culture," the group said in a statement.

"They were opposed to the principles of all religions. They were alleged acts of criminality that do not reflect the harmonious values we collectively strive to promote."

But One Nation leader Pauline Hanson rejected Mr Andrews statements.

"I was disgusted by Premier Andrews. After the terrorists were foiled he should have said what this truly was, an act of evil faith," she tweeted.

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