Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton said his request for an inquiry into extremism should help the public become better acquainted with the work of Australia's secret intelligence agencies.
ASIO was "an amazing organisation", he said a day after instigating a parliamentary inquiry into extremist organisations that may not currently be on the government's terrorist watchlist, how they communicate and recruit new members.
"It's important for people to be properly informed," Mr Dutton told Sky News. He accused federal Labor of "speaking from a base of ignorance at the moment in relation to what's actually happening by way of effort against these extremists. So I think that educative process is important ... others can learn more about what ASIO is doing because they are working day and night."
Labor's Home Affairs spokesperson Senator Kristina Keneally welcomed the inquiry, which Labor had been pushing for so the parliament could examine if far right-wing extremism was being properly addressed. Australians should know if the government was tracking extremists like the Christchurch shooter, she said.
"The fact that the Christchurch shooter was able to become so radicalised here in Australia, was able to, it would appear, engage with right wing extremist groups in this country, and was able to travel overseas to New Zealand and carry out this atrocity, this terrorist attack without Australian agencies being aware, should have been a wake up call when it happened," Senator Keneally said.
She asked why the government had not listed any right-wing extremist groups as proscribed terrorist organisations. Of the 27 terrorist organisations proscribed in Australia, 26 are Islamist and last is the PKK.
"Canada and the United Kingdom have both prescribed right wing extremist groups that have local chapters or affiliations here [in Australia]," Keneally said.
Mr Dutton said everyone's hindsight of the Christchurch shooting was 20-20. "I can only speak from the Australian perspective and tell you that ASIO is an amazing organisation. They've got higher levels of funding now than they ever have in their history and we'll continue to make that investment."
"We've introduced and passed 20 tranches of national security legislation to try and toughen the laws - and that's on the advice of the agencies," he said.
"Clearly we've got a very joined up arrangement between the Commonwealth and the states and territories, as evidenced yesterday in New South Wales, but as we've seen in the last couple of weeks when there was an arrest in Bundaberg in Queensland and I'm absolutely confident that ASIO is doing everything within their power to keep Australians safe."