Home affairs minister Karen Andrews announced on Friday she would convene a forum with Australian ministers who have responsibility for policing, law enforcement and counter-terrorism to discuss the nation’s security needs post COVID-19.
In a statement, Andrews said the terrorism threat level remained ‘probable’ in Australia and that the forum was an opportunity to enhance cooperation combatting serious organised crime.
“As we recently saw in New Zealand and in the United Kingdom, we cannot be complacent about the terrorism threat,” Andrews said.
“Australians are once more starting to gather in crowds, and large-scale events and activities are again being planned and attended – we must contend with the sad reality that these may be targets of terrorism,” she said.
Andrews, who chaired the Friday meeting, said the terrorism threat level was subject to change as public health restrictions eased and free trade and travel became more possible. In parliament this week, the minister also quoted ASIO director-general Mike Burgess describing the threat of foreign espionage to Australia’s democracy.
“[He] said that espionage could well overtake terrorism as the principal security concern over the next five years — and that is not to downplay the serious terrorist threat that we face here,” Andrews said.
“We cannot let this pervasive activity undermine the social cohesion and unity that keeps our Australian community safe. Every one of us in this parliament must remain aware of, and alert to, this threat in our daily activities,” she said.
Espionage and foreign interference are at levels higher than #theColdWar. That's why we've provided a record $1.3B funding boost to @ASIOGovAu, legislated a range of new powers, and are working with Universities to protect our national institutions and democracy. pic.twitter.com/4wWSjWcJO7
— Karen Andrews MP (@karenandrewsmp) October 21, 2021
The harm caused by organised crime — ranging from drugs and weapon trafficking, human trafficking and slavery, child sexual exploitation, and cybercrime — impacted individual victims, the democracy and economy, the minister added.
At the Friday meeting, state, territory and commonwealth governments agreed to act on the management of high risk terrorist offenders; a new national convicted terrorist offender register; transport security; a national plan to combat cybercrime; and law reform for transnational, serious and organised crime. Minsters also reaffirmed their commitment to a nationally coordinated approach to preventing child sexual abuse and ending family violence.
“As we continue to follow the national plan, new opportunities are emerging for transnational, organised criminals to once more infiltrate supply chains, import illicit drugs, and undermine our way of life.
“Terrorists, violent extremists, and serious and organised criminals don’t respect borders, which is why our security and prosperity requires a nationally coordinated approach,” Andrews said.
“Today’s meeting marks an opportunity for us to stand united against those who would seek to do us harm, keeping all Australians safe in the process,” she said.