Australia is bracing itself for a possible repeat performance of the March bomb attacks on a Madrid train, which killed over 200. The conditions are closely similar, with an imminent election where the principal opposition party, in a move considered ‘dangerous’ by President Bush, has called for the withdrawal of the larger part of Australian troops from Iraq by Christmas this year. Kicking off on August 30, the first full day of campaigning for elections, due on October 9, Australian Treasurer, Peter Costello, called for a heightened state of alert. While there have been no specific calls as yet, Australians are ranked number five on the al-Qaeda target list featured in the online magazine Mu’askar al-Battar. 
Al-Qaeda, or its affiliates, have six weeks to pull something like this off. The ruling conservative coalition government has pledged that the country would not be influenced by any threat, and has played down the impact of events in Iraq on re-election prospects. But this was exactly the position voiced by Spain’s Prime Minister Aznar immediately prior to the Madrid bombings. The Spanish Socialists subsequently won the elections and made good on their pledge to pull Spanish troops out of Iraq.
A possible extra focus for Islamist discontent is the pressure Prime Minister John Howard’s government is putting on the sources for funding to its hard-line groups in Australia. Under the new environment, the Saudi Arabian government is to alert Australia of all donations to the Islamic community made by Saudi citizens or organizations. Since the 1970s, these have been responsible for the funding of an estimated U.S. $100 million for Islamic schools and mosques in the country, including the controversial funding of a $2.65 million mosque in Sydney, which is linked to one of Australia’s most hard-line Islamic clerics.
1. Mu’askar al-Battar, Vol 7, p.25. The Spaniards are priority number four.