Government could access terror suspects’ mental health records: Turnbull

The Government’s top anti-terror adviser has been asked to investigate Australian terror suspects’ potential links with mental illness and past criminal behaviour.

The Prime Minister’s request to counter-terrorism coordinator Greg Moriarty is part of a full “lessons learnt” review of Australia’s defences against so-called “lone wolf” attacks, such as those carried out with a truck in Nice, an axe in Germany and guns in Orlando.

In ordering the review, Malcolm Turnbull wrote to Mr Moriarty, noting “the extremist narrative and ISIL’s slick propaganda are clearly luring some Australians to support terrorism, but we need to ensure that we are actively looking at all the areas of potential vulnerability”.

The coordinator was specifically tasked with checking “the full range of persons of interest who we are watching” as part of terrorism investigations “to see if there is a significant connection with mental health concerns or … patterns of criminal behaviour”.

A recent phenomenon in terrorist strikes such as the Bastille Day killings in Nice has been the emergence of “rapidly radicalised” individuals not previously on authorities’ watch lists.

Mr Moriarty described them as people “not necessarily deeply committed to and engaged with the Islamist ideology” but who find ISIL’s “warped views … justify their anger at society and give meaning to their existence”.

Although authorities have disrupted nine terrorist attacks in Australia in the last two years, there is now a heightened awareness that lone-wolf attackers are becoming harder to identify.

The review will look at terrorists’ use of encryption technology to hide their online communications.

It will also assess whether simple but deadly methods, such as driving a truck into a crowd, could be prevented.

Mr Turnbull has asked his adviser to investigate the “vulnerability of, and means of protecting, open areas where large numbers congregate” against the threat of a truck maliciously being driven into them.