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Turnbull on terror: not the time for "machismo"

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Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull says all freedom-loving nations have to work together to defend and protect their values.

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“If we want to preserve the values that underpin our open democratic societies, we will have to work resolutely with each other to defend and protect the freedoms we hold dear,” he told parliament on Tuesday.

In his first national security statement to parliament, Turnbull outlined the extent of the terrorism threat and how his government was dealing with it.

Turnbull again offered Australia’s condolences to the victims of the recent Paris terror attacks.

“We should grieve and we should be angry, but we must not let grief or anger cloud our judgment,” he said.

Australia’s response must be as “clear-eyed and strategic as it is determined”.

“This is not a time for gestures or machismo,” Turnbull said.

Instead the “menace” must be defeated by being calm, clinical and professional.

Turnbull said the threat from Islamic State was a global problem but should be addressed at its source in the Middle East.

IS aimed to overthrow all existing governments in Muslim societies and beyond, and wants to create division by “fermenting resentment” between Muslims and non-Muslims.

But it was in a fundamentally weak position – it had more smartphones than guns, more Twitter accounts than soldiers.

“We must not be fooled by its hype,” Turnbull said, adding IS was encircled by hostile forces and under military pressure.

The group has strengthened the resolve of the global community to defeat it.

Turnbull said the consensus of world leaders he met at recent summits wasn’t support for a large US-led Western army to attempt to conquer and hold ISIL-controlled areas.

“In Syria, the broader conflict and the absence of a central government that the West can work with makes action against ISIL even more complicated,” he said.

Ultimately a political solution was needed and Australia supported negotiations in Vienna to bring about a resolution.

Turnbull said there were no plans for a significant change in the level or the nature of Australia’s military commitment in Iraq and Syria.

“No such change has been sought by our allies. If one were, we would, of course, carefully consider it.”

The advice to the government was that the unilateral deployment of Australian combat troops on the ground in Iraq or Syria was neither “feasible nor practical”.

The prime minister said Australia was working “more closely than ever” with its neighbours as the rise of IS and conflict in Syria had increased the threat in southeast Asia.

“From an Australian perspective, we see a real risk that terrorist groups in the region might be inspired by attacks such as we have seen in Ankara, Beirut, Bamako and Paris.”

Turnbull said he was very mindful that hundreds of thousands of Australians visit the region every year for business, study or holidays.

Turnbull warned a terrorist attack was likely at home but stressed agencies were working hard to prevent such an incident.

The risk of terrorism could not be eliminated any more than the risk of any serious crime – but it could be mitigated.

“As your prime minister, my highest duty, and that of my government, is to keep Australians safe.”

The government was closely examining the implications of the Paris attacks for domestic arrangements while working more closely than ever before with European partners.

– AAP

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