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Labor MP concerned about Australians in Syria -

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ELIZABETH JACKSON: A Federal Labor MP has called for more public debate about Australians travelling to Syria to join the civil war.

Michael Danby says up to 200 Australians are thought to be fighting in Syria.

He says his concerns were heightened when he read an article in the French Newspaper, Le Monde, which noted the involvement of the Australians in the conflict.

Our reporter in Canberra, Samantha Hawley, asked Michael Danby about that article.

MICHAEL DANBY: It disturbingly showed that an important European country is noticing the number of Australians who are fighting for groups officially declared as terrorist groups by the Australian Parliament.

And, I just found it concerning that these people were off doing that.

SAMANTHA HAWLEY: We've had a series of reports now that Australians are fighting in Syria.

MICHAEL DANBY: It said that up to 200 Australians are fighting either with the al-Nusra, which is the Sunni al-Qaeda linked group, or with the Shi'ite group, Hezbollah.

Either way, I don't think most Australians would be happy for people to bring those so-called skills back to this country.

SAMANTHA HAWLEY: That's your main concern, is it, that some of these people might manage to actually get back here into Australia?

MICHAEL DANBY: I think it's unfair for all of the people who are working so diligently to prevent a terrorist attack on mainland Australia, which hasn't happened, who are tasked with these responsibilities from the security services and the police, to have people flitting backwards and forwards who are involved in learning seriously evil crafts.

I think in public policy we need to have a debate about how we handle this, because if people are Australian citizens, they shouldn't be involved in these kind of activities. And I think we have a serious issue of, what do we do with these people who are involved in these kind of activities being permitted in and out of Australia even if they have an Australian passport.

SAMANTHA HAWLEY: So, what do you think the Australian Government should be doing about this?

MICHAEL DANBY: We need to have a public debate; we need to have a hard-headed assessment of what needs to be done. There should be discouragement from all sides of politics to Australian citizens that this is not the kind of thing they should be involved in, and that the public takes a very, very dim view of people that are.

And, frankly, in the very worst cases, when we know and can identify people and the things that they might have been involved in, we'd have to examine whether they should stay in Syria or Lebanon.

ELIZABETH JACKSON: Labor backbencher, Michael Danby, speaking there to our reporter, Samantha Hawley.