By Simon Benson
The country's top spy boss says ASIO must recruit more Muslims as the fear of a home-grown terror attack remained a "real threat".
In a rare public talk, ASIO director-general David Irvine said last night future spies would be recruited from newly arrived migrant communities.
ASIO needed to do more to reach out to Australian Muslim communities.
"ASIO is not against Islam," he said.
"It is against terrorism.
"ASIO needs to recruit more people from within our newly arrived migrant communities.
"I believe we can do better to convince communities that ASIO is not a threat to their cohesion or their integration into Australian life, but exists to protect them."
But there was a disturbing trend towards potential home-grown terrorism, which meant ever greater vigilance.
"This is not an abstract or an offshore threat," he told the Sydney Institute.
"It is real and it is among us."
Referring to disrupted terrorist plots, he said: "Three of these attacks would have been the work of home-grown groups with little or no direct contact with al-Qaida or its overseas affiliates.
"Worrying, too ... we are continuing to see Australians seeking to travel overseas for participation in or (helping) terrorism-related activities.
"My concern is that such people may target innocent people overseas, assist those who would do harm to our nation, or might return to Australia with greater knowledge, training and intent to carry out an act of terrorism."
But Mr Irvine said the threat was not confined to Islamic radicals, referring to the recent bomb and shooting attack in Norway.
"The sickening shootings in Norway by a Right-wing extremist reminds us that the threat to our people can come from different directions, and in different guises even from those who are blond and blue-eyed," he said.
On the other side of the ledger, Mr Irvine agreed the debate about civil liberties and intelligence gathering was a valid one to have.
"I believe, however, that the vast majority of Australians expect their governments to take all necessary actions to protect their community and further the national interest," he said.
He said ASIO had no plans for a "grand expansion" of its spy network, but it would need to lift recruitment to meet the demands of cyber terrorism as well as traditional forms of terrorism.
The Daily Telegraph, January 25, 2012.