Abbott pushes data retention in Press Club address

Police and national security 'should always have the laws, money and support they need to keep Australia safe,' prime minister says

The government's counter-terrorism efforts and its plan to implement a controversial mandatory data retention scheme made the cut in Prime Minister Tony Abbott's highly anticipated National Press Club address.

The speech was an attempt by the PM to reorient and reground the government in the wake of sagging popularity and unrest among Coalition MPs following electoral defeats for conservative state governments.

"People are sick of Australian citizens – including people born and bred here – making excuses for Islamist fanatics in the Middle East and their imitators here in Australia," Abbott said in his speech.

"It’s not good enough just to boost the police and security agencies, which we’ve done – by restoring the millions ripped out by Labor – and to improve data retention, which we’re doing.

"We have to tackle the people and the organisations that justify terrorism and act as its recruiting agents – such as Hizb ut-Tahrir."

"We've already made it an offence to advocate terrorism and made it easier to ban terrorist organisations," the PM said.

"But I want to make it clear — if cracking down on Hizb ut-Tahrir and others who nurture extremism in our suburbs means further legislation, we will bring it on and I will demand that the Labor Party call it for Australia.

"The police and the security agencies have told me that they need access to telecommunications data to deal with a range of crime, from child abuse to terrorism, and – as far as I am concerned – they should always have the laws, money and support they need to keep Australia safe."

"You elected us to keep you safe and, with every fibre of my being, I am focussed on our national security challenges here and overseas," Abbott said.

The third public hearing of the inquiry into the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Amendment (Data Retention) Bill 2014. was held on Friday.

The Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security is expected to table its report on the bill on 27 February.

The committee heard that its members were unlikely to get access to a government-commissioned report on the cost of implementing the proposed data retention scheme.

No further public hearings have been scheduled for the inquiry.