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Carr Syria concerns -

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TONY EASTLEY: The former foreign minister Bob Carr says the Federal Government should be cracking down on those Australians who choose to fight in Syria.

Bob Carr says as foreign minister, he wanted to ban the fighters - mainly men - re-entering Australia, but it was deemed to be illegal as it would leave them stateless.

He thinks the Abbott Government should now try again to prevent them returning.

From Canberra, Samantha Hawley reports

SAMANTHA HAWLEY: Australia's spy agency ASIO's already confirmed its investigating hundreds of young Australian men fighting in Syria. But now there are calls for a public debate about what to do about them.

MICHAEL DANBY: I don't think most Australians would be happy for people to bring those so-called skills back to this country.

SAMANTHA HAWLEY: The Labor MP Michael Danby's got the ball rolling, questioning why Australians are allowed to come and go from Syria as they please.

MICHAEL DANBY: I think in public policy we need to have a debate about how we handle this.

SAMANTHA HAWLEY: Now, fresh from the role, the former foreign minister Bob Carr is voicing his concerns. He says as foreign minister he argued for a ban on Australians fighting in Syria returning home, but was advised it legally can't be done.

BOB CARR: The Australians are right to be apprehensive about people whose fighting skills have been honed there, who seek to return to Australia full of a murderous ideological bent. I think we should continue to explore whether blocking the return of people is remotely available to us as an option.

SAMANTHA HAWLEY: A statement from the Federal Attorney-General George Brandis says the Australian Government is seriously concerned that Australians are fighting in Syria, including some with Al Nusra, which is listed as a terrorist organisation.

It says it's illegal under Australian law for any Australians, including dual citizens, to fight on either side of the conflict and Australians are advised not to travel to Syria and parts of Lebanon at this time.

Senator Brandis was not available for interview.

Bob Carr argues the issue needs to be debated freely.

BOB CARR: I think both sides of politics talk about this. The Government should brief the now Opposition. I don't think there's any room for a partisan dispute about this. We're all in this together.

SAMANTHA HAWLEY: The head of ASIO, David Irvine, has previously said he fears young men are becoming radicalised and they may pose a future terrorism risk for Australia.

TONY EASTLEY: Samantha Hawley reporting.