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News Analysis: How 9/11 terror attacks change Australia ?

(Xinhua)

13:28, September 11, 2011

CANBERRA, Sept. 10 (Xinhua) -- In the past 10 years, Australians' sense of security has weakened, defense and security policies were reinforced, and the nation's security ties with U.S. were deepened, a senior political expert told Xinhua on Saturday.

The 9/11 terrorist attacks in U.S. shock much of the world to its core. It had cast a major impact on the shape of global politics, and Australia is not excluded.

At first, the catastrophic events seemed a world away for many Australians, who felt confident that geographical fortuity insulated them from international turmoil. While 9/11 played a major part in raising awareness of terrorism, the Bali bombings of October, 2002, in which 88 Australians were killed, demonstrated that terrorism could occur anywhere in the world.

"A sense of security, especially for Australians, had weakened, and the government appeared to have the support for enhancing security measures in Australia," Dr Zareh Ghazarian, senior political expert of Monash University, told Xinhua on Saturday.

"In trying to grapple with concerns about terrorism, the defense and security policies of Australia were reinforced, though these have caused concern that government has become too powerful. "

According to official figures, since 2001, Australia's total defense spending has increased 59 percent from 14.36 billion U.S. dollars to 22.85 billion U.S. dollars. Over the same period, Australian Security Intelligence Organization (ASIO)'s budget has increased by 655 percent, the Australian Federal Police budget by 161 percent, Australian Secret Intelligence Service (ASIS) by 236 percent and the Office of National Assessments by 441 percent.

The legislative response has been unprecedented too. Since 9/11 in 2001, Australian federal Parliament has enacted more than 40 pieces of "security legislation". Australia has since than become the only Western country that allows its domestic intelligence agency, ASIO, to detain persons for seven days without charge or trial and without reasonable suspicion that those detained are actually involved in any terrorist activity.

Dr Ghazarian noted that asylum seekers policy has also fallen into casualties of the terrorist attack, having the federal government toughened security checks for refugee in the past 10 years.

"While the issue of asylum seekers was a concern for policy makers in Australia, it became a major political issue in the aftermath of 9/11, especially during the Tampa affair," he said. " There was an underlying concern expressed about asylum seekers from some quarters that some of these people could be associated with terrorist activities, especially since they did not have formal documentation."

Meanwhile, Australia-U.S. security relationship has deepened since 2001, with the attacks have led Australia into two wars, Afghanistan and Iraq.

U.S. Ambassador to Australia, Jeffrey Bleich agreed there have been a closer military and security ties between two countries since the 9/11 attacks, noted that former Australian Prime Minister John Howard and his team were in Washington on the day of the attacks, and "it cemented the bond in a very unique and personal way".

Even though the U.S. and Australian experiences have been shared, in the past 10 years, the attacks have changed U.S. and Australia in a very different way.

"The paradox of 9/11 is that it may yet be overwhelmed by the 2008 global financial crisis as a long-term blow to U.S. power, authority and self-esteem. The extent of U.S. economic self-harm may exceed the harm from al-Qaida's lethal strike a decade ago," international affairs analyst, Paul Kelly, wrote in The Australian newspaper on Saturday.

"The irony is that Australia, tied to the U.S. in security terms, is divorced from the U.S. in economic terms and has escaped the internal economic crises that plague the U.S. and Europe.

"During the 9/11 decade, Australia deepened its security ties with the U.S., and deepened its economic ties with China. It has won on both fronts."

Although Western countries appear to have stopped or prevented another terrorist attack of the magnitude of September 11, Dr Ghazarian said there are still more to do to fight terrorism, at the same time make balance between freedom, liberty and privacy, with issues about national security.

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