Australia has received specific intelligence that terrorists are planning an attack on the country, its Prime Minister said today. In his most explicit terror warning, during a televised press conference in Canberra, John Howard refused to give any details of the threat, saying he did not want to jeopardise counterterror operations.
Mr Howard introduced a minor amendment to counterterrorism laws in the House of Representatives to boost intelligence agencies’ powers. "The reason for this amendment is that the government has received specific intelligence and police information this week which gives cause for serious concern about a potential terrorist threat," he said. "We have seen material; it is a cause of concern; we have been given advice that if this amendment is enacted as soon as possible, the capacity of the authorities to respond will be strengthened. The Prime Minister said the amendment meant that when prosecuting someone for planning a terrorist act, authorities would not have to identify a specific terrorist act. It will also allow groups to be banned based on intelligence that it is preparing an unspecified terrorist act rather outlining details of a specific terror plot.
Intelligence expert Aldo Borgu said the government may be planning to ban radical Islamic group Hizb ut-Tahrir. "They now want to ban organisations that aren’t necessarily terrorist groups but might advocate terrorism," said Mr Borgu, an analyst from the Canberra-based Australian Strategic Policy Institute. Australia's Attorney-General, Philip Ruddock, said in August that the government was considering outlawing Hizb ut-Tahrir as a counterterrorism precaution but had no legal basis to list it as a terrorist organisation. Britain banned the group after the July 7 bombings in London that killed 52. I.L.