Flip through to the next page for the cyberspooks announcement or read on for the full text of the AG's speech.
ATTORNEY-GENERAL HON ROBERT McCLELLAND MP
ADDRESS TO THE NATIONAL SECURITY COLLEGE SENIOR EXECUTIVE DEVELOPMENT COURSE DINNER
OLD PARLIAMENT HOUSE, CANBERRA THURSDAY, 10 MARCH 2011
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First, may I acknowledge the traditional owners of the land we meet on – and pay my respects to their elders, both past and present.
- Professor Michael L'Estrange, Director of the National Security College
- Mr Roger Wilkins AO, Secretary, Attorney-General's Department
- Mr David Irvine, Director-General of Security, Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO)
- Mr John Lawler APM, Chief Executive Officer, Australian Crime Commission
- Mr Blair Comley, Secretary, Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency
- Assistant Commissioner Roman Quaedvlieg, ACT Chief Police Officer
- Mr Frank Lewincamp
- Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen.
It is my great pleasure to address you tonight as part of the Senior Executive Development Course at the National Security College.
Although only established last year, the College, under the leadership of Professor L'Estrange, is already establishing itself as a centre for leadership in the national security community. As well as developing excellence, the centre is a vital pivot in the creation of networks within and outside government.
The value of the Senior Executive Development Course, which is rapidly becoming the signature initiative of the College, is not only what you are exposed to and learn, but the networks you establish that will assist you in the future.
I understand you have discussed and considered issues across the national security space over the past few weeks. This evening, I would like to take the opportunity to speak broadly about the role of Government in protecting national security, the current and emerging threat environment, and our proposed policy response and forward agenda.
An All-Hazards Approach to National Security
Of course, the first priority of Government is the protection of the safety and security of its citizens and its interests. However, what do we mean when we talk about 'national security'?
The Government's inaugural National Security Statement stated that national security meant:
- 'freedom from attack or the threat of attack;
- the maintenance of our territorial integrity;
- the maintenance of our political sovereignty;
- the preservation of our hard won freedoms;
- and the maintenance of our fundamental capacity to advance economic prosperity for all Australians.'
This broad approach recognises that, at any given time, there are many risks and dangers that threaten Australia's security – from espionage, terrorism, border violations, cyber attack, organised crime, natural disasters and biosecurity events.
These threats pose both security and safety risks, not only to Australia's institutions of state but also to its people, economic assets, infrastructure and technology.
While the security of our nation is a shared responsibility between governments, business and the community, Government obviously takes a key leadership role to protect the safety and security of Australians.
As Attorney-General, the national security responsibilities of my portfolio are broad – from counter-terrorism and emergency management, to border control and organised crime.
From this perspective, I am acutely aware of the importance of coordinated and integrated capabilities to address these diverse priorities buttressed by strong cooperative and coordinated relationships.
The Threat Environment
Our security environment is more fluid and interconnected than at any time in our history.
We live in a world where global factors have greater influence than ever before on the domestic front. Where change is more rapid and pervasive, and where things happen on a bigger scale and are communicated in real-time.
A prime example of these modern societal characteristics in action is the current upheaval in the Middle-East and Africa. Enabled by modern technologies such as Twitter and Facebook, the so-called 'Jasmine revolution' in Tunisia was very quickly followed by a groundswell of protest against a long standing and established regime in Egypt that resulted in sudden radical and significant change. We continue to witness similar significant ongoing protests in Libya and other nations elsewhere.
The effect of these momentous events will inevitably be felt in the Australian security environment.
Australia's counter-terrorism arrangements are, in many respects, quite mature. But the threat is enduring and its agility must be matched by ours.
The main terrorist threat continues to come not from State actors but from extremists who follow a distorted and militant interpretation of Islam. We continue to see the emergence of new groups and individuals inspired by the global jihadist message as well as Australians continuing to attempt to travel overseas to train or fight.
Al-Qa'ida remains the most obvious, but not the only, manifestation of the global violent extremist movement. The al-Qa'ida network reaches far beyond its birth place, and is also linked to a range of other extremist groups.
While the majority of extremists operate in the context of an extremist group, there have been recent cases internationally of 'lone wolves' whose radicalisation and planning is often fairly simplistic and occurs in isolation without the knowledge even of their families and friends.
Terrorist tactics also appear to be evolving away from major shock attacks such as 9/11, to what's been described as 'the strategy of a thousand cuts' — where small- scale operations are judged by their would-be perpetrators as just as effective as large scale operations in terms of the consequential disruption.
Taken together, it is these two trends that are emerging with increasing frequency, that pose a particularly difficult challenge for our security agencies. To be frank, it is the main thing that keeps me awake at night.
Within the Australian security environment, we have also seen a trend in 'home-grown terrorism' with a very small abhorrent minority of Australians attracted to violent extremism.
Since 2001, 38 people have been charged with terrorism related offences in Australia. 37 of the 38 people charged are Australian citizens and 21 of the 38 were born in Australia. It is important, however, that we put this in context. The number of people attracted to terrorist ideology is in fact only very small. Nevertheless, their potential for harm is vastly disproportionate to their number.
Our security environment also needs to take into account our place in the world order.
The emergence of China will continue to be a dominant factor in Australia's foreign policy in the 21st century, whether you look at the impact of its resource requirements on our economy, implications of its relationship with the United States, or its increasing engagement in our immediate region.
While traditional threats like espionage and foreign interference remain significant, the explosion of the cyber world has expanded infinitely the opportunities for the covert acquisition of information by both state and non-state actors.
As these attacks can be staged from anywhere in the world, they can infiltrate the control systems of critical infrastructure, be activated remotely, causing damage and mayhem to our technology-dependant lives.
Public Policy Response
It's clear that the policy response to protect our nation needs to take into account these evolving threats and changes in our environment.
National Security Legislation
The first step is ensuring we have quality architecture. One of the key priorities of the Government has been achieving an effective and robust legal system.
The National Security Legislation Amendment Act which was passed in November last year, implemented significant reforms designed to ensure that our counter- terrorism laws are balanced and that our law enforcement and security agencies have the tools they need.
Anti-people smuggling legislation, also passed last year made significant changes to strengthen our border protection regime, including enabling the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) to carry out its intelligence functions in relation to people smuggling and other serious border security threats. This has enabled ASIO to play a niche role in this area, with a focus on Australian links to people smuggling ventures.
Finally, just last week the Government passed legislation to enhance cooperation, assistance and information sharing between security, intelligence and law enforcement agencies.
The Telecommunications Interception and Intelligence Services Legislation Amendment Bill 2010 will enable ASIO, the Australian Secret Intelligence Service (ASIS), the Defence Signals Directorate (DSD) and the Defence Imagery and Geospatial Organisation (DIGO) to more closely cooperate and assist one another in support of key national security priorities.
The Bill also provides greater flexibility for ASIO to share intelligence and information with the broader national security community. It will also enable ASIO to cooperate with and provide assistance to law enforcement agencies in relation to telecommunications interception and other areas of expertise. This will support the National Interception Technical Assistance Centre, which enables ASIO to provide coordinated technical assistance to other Australian interception agencies.
Counter-terrorism remains an ongoing priority. The Australian Government's Counter-Terrorism White Paper, Securing Australia, Protecting Our Community, released last year, brought together for the first time a coordinated response to international and domestic terrorism, and articulated the Government's comprehensive, long term strategy on this issue.
Australia's law enforcement and intelligence agencies, along with the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions, continue to work cooperatively in relation to counter-terrorism investigations.
Since 2000, there have been four disrupted terrorist plots in Australia. To date, 38 individuals have been prosecuted as a result of counter-terrorism operations and 23 have been convicted under the Criminal Code.
A key recommendation of the White Paper, the Counter Terrorism Control Centre (CTCC), was opened last year and represents an important development in the Government's counter-terrorism effort. The Centre, hosted by ASIO with representatives from key security, intelligence and law enforcement agencies, is playing a lead role in strengthening the coordination of Australia's counter-terrorism intelligence efforts. This is happening by managing counter-terrorism priorities, identifying intelligence requirements and ensuring that the process of collecting and distributing intelligence is fully integrated.
This level of coordination is essential to provide the best capability to detect and prevent terrorist threats to Australia and Australian interests.
The Centre shifts our well-coordinated counter-terrorism effort to a truly integrated one, and will strengthen Australia's national security capability by improving our ability to prepare for and respond to significant national and international threats.
Countering Violent Extremism
The Government also recognises that a comprehensive counter-terrorism response must include broader strategies to enhance social cohesion and resilience and lessen the appeal of extremist ideologies that fuel terrorism. We need to not only be tough on terrorism, but tough on the causes of terrorism. In essence, the old adage of prevention being better than cure is particularly relevant.
A key issue of concern is the risk of vulnerable individuals in Australia becoming radicalised to the point of being willing to use violence. Addressing this issue is a priority for the Government. Our goal is to help members of our communities to be less vulnerable to the process of radicalisation and violent extremism.
There is already a lot of valuable work being undertaken across the country at the State and Territory level. Countering violent extremism is, however, a national challenge that requires a national response.
It is this strategic direction that is being provided by the Government. As part of the 2010 Budget, we allocated $9.7 million to addressing these issues. To lead this work, a dedicated unit has been established in the Attorney-General's Department to provide national direction and coordinate activities across Governments.
Effective community engagement is a key component of the Government's approach.
Communities have an important role in identifying and diverting vulnerable individuals before they come to the attention of security and law enforcement agencies. In order to support them in this role, the Government has commenced a series of regular meetings with community leaders around the country from a range of religious, ethnic and cultural backgrounds to listen and engage on these issues.
From these meetings I have learnt that there are a range of personal experiences that can make young people more vulnerable to extremist messages, for example economic issues such as a lack of employment opportunities, lack of education, discrimination and social isolation or marginalisation.
As a first step, the Government has sought to address some of these issues through our inaugural 'Youth Mentoring Grants' program. The grants provide funding for programs that directly support young people away from intolerant and radical ideologies and encourage positive participation in our community.
With nearly 100 applications, the Government received overwhelming interest in the program, reflecting the community's commitment to developing local initiatives to prevent extremism amongst our young people. Under the first round of this program, more than $1.1 million has been committed for projects to support and mentor young people who are vulnerable to violent extremism.
In addition, the Government is also working to address the role of the internet in radicalisation. The promotion of violent extremism through the internet is becoming an increasingly concerning and visible threat, with the al-Qa'ida affiliated 'Inspire' magazine being a prime example.
Flip through to the next page for the cyberspooks announcement.