The Australia Defence Association (ADA) says the nation needs to show it will not accept acts of violence by asylum seekers trying to enter Australia.
The comments come after the Northern Territory Coroner found an explosion on an asylum seeker boat last April was deliberately lit.
The findings have been referred to police.
ADA executive director Neil James says the navy and Customs are facing escalating violence from asylum seekers and illegal fishermen.
He says there needs to be a strong deterrent to rising violence.
“We’ve had to increasingly more heavily arm and protect our boarding parties,” he said.
“Even a short time ago they didn’t have to wear stab vests, for example, and helmets – and they didn’t have to carry as many firearms.
“They’ve been attacked with machetes and knives.”
He says any violence should be taken into account when deciding whether to grant asylum.
“The bottom line here is that we’ve had asylum seekers coming to this country for 60 to 70 years without having to employ high levels of violence to get into the country,” he said.
“Why has this suddenly changed now? It needs to be deterred and prevented and where necessary, punished.”
The Opposition is calling on the Government to cancel the permanent protection visas granted to the three Afghan men the coroner said were part of a plot to disable the SIEV 36.
But Refugee Action Coalition spokesman Ian Rintoul says regardless of what police rule, the asylum seekers should be allowed to stay in Australia.
“It’s an absolute tragedy that lives were lost, but when you look at the whole picture the blame lies much more on the circumstances that those asylum seekers were placed in,” he said.