The Australian government proposed new laws on Tuesday, aimed to target home-grown terrorists and extremists who leave to fight with militant groups overseas.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott (pictured) said the terror threat to Australia's national security was at its highest level, and had not diminished since the September 11, 2001 attacks in New York.
"What we are now acutely conscious of is the danger posed back here… by people returning to Australia who have been radicalized and militarized by the experience of working with terrorist organizations overseas," Abbott told reporters in Canberra.
The prime minister added that the proposed laws would make it easier to regulate travel to terrorist hotbeds like Iraq and Syria, and to identify, monitor and prosecute people engaged in terrorist activities overseas. Under the legislation, a suspected terrorist could be detained without charge if he or she were "suspected on reasonable grounds" - a lower burden of proof than the current test of "considered on reasonable grounds."
The measures would also obligate telecommunications companies to store their clients' metadata for up to two years for intelligence purposes.
Tougher stance on terrorism
The government said it would spend AUD$630 million ($588 million, 439 million euros) over four years to support the work of intelligence and law enforcement agencies.
According to intelligence estimates released in June, up to 150 Australian citizens had fought alongside radical militants overseas.
Last week Australian police issued arrest warrants for two Sydney men believed to be fighting with terror group Islamic State after one of the suspects allegedly posed for photos with severed heads of Syrian soldiers.
"We've all seen the truly shocking images of Australians born and bred doing absolutely horrific things to surrendering Iraqi police and military personnel," Abbott said.
However, the Australian Council for Civil Liberties said the case for such wide reaching anti-terrorism laws wasn't strong enough.
"The measures represent an attempt to use the current problems of Australians fighting with terrorist groups as a power grab for extra powers," council president Terry O'Gorman told Australian Associated Press.
The new counterterror legislation will be introduced to parliament in the coming weeks.
nm/hc (AP, AFP, dpa)