The first responsibility of government is the protection of Australia, Australians and Australian interests. So a key government priority is to protect Australia from terrorism. The threat of terrorism to Australia is real and enduring. It has become a persistent and permanent feature of Australia’s security environment.
The main source of international terrorism and the primary terrorist threat to Australia and Australian interests is from a global violent jihadist movement – extremists who follow a distorted and militant interpretation of Islam that espouses violence as the answer to perceived grievances. This extremist movement comprises al‑Qa’ida, groups allied or associated with it, and others inspired by a similar worldview.
While the threat is persistent, the challenge has evolved since the last counter-terrorism White Paper in 2004 in two respects.
First, while there have been counter-terrorism successes (most notably pressure on al‑Qa’ida’s core leadership in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and action against terrorists in South-East Asia), these successes have been offset by the rise of groups affiliated with, or inspired by, al‑Qa’ida’s message and methods, with new areas such as Somalia and Yemen joining existing areas of concern in South Asia, South-East Asia, the Middle East and the Gulf.
A second shift apparent since 2004 has been the increase in the terrorist threat from people born or raised in Australia, who have become influenced by the violent jihadist message. The bombings in London on 7 July 2005, which were carried out by British nationals, brought into stark relief the real threat of
globally-inspired but locally generated attacks in Western democracies, including Australia.
A number of Australians are known to subscribe to this message, some of whom might be prepared to engage in violence. Many of these individuals were born in Australia and they come from a wide range of ethnic backgrounds. The pool of those committed to violent extremism in Australia is not static – over time some move away from extremism while others become extreme.
We have seen terrorist planning within Australia. Since 2001, numerous terrorist attacks have been thwarted in Australia. Thirty-eight people have been prosecuted or are being prosecuted as a result of counter-terrorism
operations and 20 people have been convicted of terrorism offences under the Criminal Code. Over 40 Australians have had their passports revoked or applications denied for reasons related to terrorism.
The Government’s counter-terrorism strategy is informed by a number of core judgements. We must take a comprehensive and layered approach. Our counter-terrorism measures must be informed by strategic judgements about the nature of the threat and Australia’s vulnerability to it. And we must conduct our activities in a manner which harnesses our capabilities, upholds our principles and mitigates the risk of attack or failure in our response.
The strategy has four key elements:
1. Analysis: an intelligence-led response to terrorism driven by a properly connected and properly informed national security community.
2. Protection: taking all necessary and practical action to protect Australia and Australians from terrorism at home and abroad.
3. Response: providing an immediate and targeted response to specific terrorist threats and terrorist attacks should they occur.
4. Resilience: building a strong and resilient Australian community to resist the development of any form of violent extremism and terrorism on the home front.
Australia’s counter-terrorism efforts are intelligence-led and focused on prevention. This approach hinges on strong partnerships and cooperation at the national level, effective engagement at the international level, and effective information sharing. Over recent years, there has been significant growth in Australia’s security, intelligence and law enforcement agencies and the Government has taken steps to improve their capabilities and enhance information sharing. The establishment of the National Intelligence Coordination Committee has ensured that Australia’s intelligence effort, both domestically and internationally, is better integrated into the new national security arrangements. The creation of a new Counter-Terrorism Control Centre will also ensure that we better integrate our overall counter-terrorism intelligence capabilities.
The Government is committed to taking strong action to protect Australians and reduce the risk of attack.
This approach involves efforts at a number of complementary levels, including:
strong border management arrangements to prevent the movement of individuals who try to enter or transit Australia to conduct terrorism-related activities by introducing a new biometric-based visa system for certain non-citizens – making it harder for terrorists to evade detection;
preventing Australians suspected of involvement in terrorism from travelling overseas by revoking or denying passports;
improving the security of our airports to enhance protection of the travelling public;
continued cooperation and collaboration with the states and territories through comprehensive national counter-terrorism arrangements;
working in partnership with the business community to protect our critical infrastructure, including information and communications technology; and
strengthened collaboration with international partners, both bilaterally and multilaterally, to contribute to international counter-terrorism efforts and create an international environment that is hostile to terrorism.
The Government’s ability to prevent and disrupt terrorist attacks within Australia relies on coordinated and cooperative relationships between our intelligence, security and law enforcement agencies nationally.
This collaborative approach ensures that we have a robust and effective national capacity to respond to terrorist threats. Australia’s comprehensive national response uses the full array of Commonwealth, state and territory
counter-terrorism capabilities. It is underpinned by a legal regime that provides effective powers for our agencies and the ability to prosecute people who seek to conduct terrorist acts. The Government will keep these powers
under review against any further need to expand them or tailor them to deal with any changes in the nature of the threat in the future.
Australia’s counter-terrorism efforts are supported by our open democratic society. There are inherent strengths in our society that make Australia resilient to the divisive worldview of al-Qa’ida and like-minded groups.
However, we know from experience that the terrorist narrative may resonate with a small number of Australians. It is incumbent upon all Australians to work together to reject ideologies that promote violence, no matter from
where they arise or to what purpose they aspire. We must all support and protect the values and freedoms from which all Australians benefit. By reducing disadvantage, addressing real or perceived grievances and
encouraging full participation in Australia’s social and economic life, government policies can help to mitigate any marginalisation and radicalisation that may otherwise occur within the Australian community.
Terrorism will continue to pose challenges to Australia’s national security for the foreseeable future.
The Government is committed to the continuous improvement of Australia’s counter-terrorism efforts, and will pursue a range of measures to protect Australia, its people and interests from terrorism.
Our coordinated, multilayered approach is aimed at ensuring that counter-terrorism efforts are effective and conducted in a manner that enhances our wider national security.
The Government remains committed to taking all necessary and practical action to keep Australia safe.