For Australia, there is no more pressing matter of national and international security than reducing the threat from terrorism.
The threat from ISIL, or Da’esh, al-Nusrah Front and other Al-Qaeda affiliated groups is more dangerous, more global and more diversified than ever before.
Terrorists are younger, more violent, more innovative and highly interconnected. They are masters of social media – to terrorise and to recruit – and are very tech savvy. They incite each other. They communicate their propaganda and violence directly into our homes to recruit disaffected young men and women.
Young people like a 17 year old from Melbourne who grew up in a typical Australian household and played sport for his local high school. Recently, he travelled to Iraq and detonated his explosives vest in a suicide bomb attack in a Baghdad marketplace, injuring more than 90 people.
Young people like the three brothers from Brisbane. One became Australia’s first known suicide bomber, killing himself and 35 others at a military checkpoint in Syria. The second is currently fighting with al-Nusrah. The third was stopped by Australian authorities before he got on a plane to join them.
Australians are rightly outraged. We have turned our outrage into action. We are committed to working with the Iraqi government, the United States and over 30 partners to attack and degrade ISIL, and take back Iraqi territory.
We are currently conducting airstrikes against ISIL and providing Special Forces to help build the capabilities of Iraqi security forces and others fighting ISIL.
I met recently with Prime Minister al-Abadi in Baghdad. He expressed deep gratitude for the assistance of Australia and the other nations joined in the fight against the brutalisation of his citizens by ISIL.
I conveyed to him Australia’s strong support for Iraq and our determination to stop Australian foreign terrorist fighters from adding to the suffering of the people of Iraq and neighbouring Syria.
We are taking necessary steps at home.
The Australian Government has cancelled the passports of more than 70 Australians suspected of planning to commit a terrorist act or engage in politically motivated violence overseas.
Australia already has in place sophisticated legal architecture to effectively counter terrorism, including enabling us to implement those obligations on all Member States under Security Council Resolution 1373. I used these existing laws last week to freeze the assets of two Australians who were recruiting for ISIL online.
The Australian Government has now introduced new foreign terrorist fighter laws to help disrupt the organisation, financing and facilitation of foreign terrorist fighters by:
- Enhancing our ability to track financial transactions of suspected foreign terrorist fighters;
- Lowering the threshold for arrest without warrant for terrorism offences, which will enable our agencies to disrupt terrorist activity at an earlier stage; and
- Cancelling social welfare payments to cut off the diversion of such funds for terrorism.
These new laws will enable us to stop suspected foreign terrorist fighters before they board a plane by:
- Allowing us to suspend as well as cancel a person’s Australian passport; and
- Enhancing screening and security measures at international airports, including through the collection and matching of biometric data.
These laws will enhance our ability to investigate and prosecute foreign fighters by:
- Introducing a new broader offence for ‘advocating terrorism’,
- Introducing a new offence for entering, or remaining in, designated areas overseas where terrorist organisations are fighting, without a legitimate reason;
- Amending the terrorist organisation listing provision to include the promotion and encouragement of terrorist acts;
- Requiring that the prosecution must prove that a person intended to engage in a hostile activity in anyforeign country, rather than a particular foreign country;
- Allowing courts greater flexibility in determining whether to admit as evidence material obtained from overseas in terrorism-related proceedings – this is a significant development and will rely on good information-sharing with Member States;
- Requiring telecommunications companies to retain metadata enhancing Australia’s capacity to track, investigate and prosecute foreign terrorist fighters and supporters of terrorism.
These laws will also enhance our ability to manage the threat from returned foreign terrorist fighters by:
- Enabling our police to more easily seek control orders on returning foreign terrorist fighters, and broadening the grounds on which such control orders can be sought.
Australia is a vibrant democracy – so, as it should, this package of legislation has generated a vigorous national debate on the need to protect individual rights of Australians, including their right to privacy.
Australia is preserving these rights by increasing support for independent oversight.
We will also expand our regional law enforcement capacity-building efforts.
Australia will host a major Global Counterterrorism Forum conference in December on air passenger security to help governments use INTERPOL databases and implement the UN Al-Qaeda sanctions to prevent international travel by foreign terrorist fighters.
We are working with INTERPOL to deliver training in our region on the use of technology by terrorists and how electronic evidence is gathered, managed and used in terrorism prosecutions.
As President of the Financial Action Task Force for the next year, Australia will ensure that the Task Force will act to cut off funding to terrorist groups and foreign terrorist fighters.
A crucial pillar to the Australian approach is to work directly with our communities.
It seems to us that the very best way to build resistance to radicalisation is through well informed families, schools, and religious and local institutions that can influence those at risk to dissuade them from embracing violent extremism.
We are building targeted early intervention and counter-radicalisation programmes to identify the most at-risk individuals, and work with them through mentoring, education and employment support and counselling.
We must also involve women and girls, and we have developed leadership training courses with them to help build community resilience.
We are working with the ICT sector to reduce the risk posed by terrorists and extremist groups online, through education, promoting alternative messages, and removing extremist content.
ISIL and its ilk are an affront to Islam. All of us, including Muslim communities themselves, must do more to negate the violent extremist narratives of terrorists, and denounce radical preachers of hate in our midst.
The international community must join with them and the United Nations is uniquely placed to provide leadership.
The hateful ideologies are an affront to the values of the United Nations Charter.
We believe a United Nations Envoy should be appointed to build a coherent, coordinated and strategic message to counter the spread of violent extremism, and provide much needed guidance to States, including through building their capacity to combat terrorism.
Every country has an obligation to prevent terrorism. Every country has an obligation not to export terrorist capabilities.
Each one has a responsibility to degrade the resources of terrorist organisations and to prevent the spread of their evil propaganda.
Resolutions 2170 and 2178 enhance our framework to do this. But, the road to effective implementation requires sustained effort, unwavering commitment, and enduring cooperation between states.
Today’s Presidential Statement builds on these resolutions. It identifies practical next steps to stop the recruitment and travel of foreign terrorist fighters, to ensure there is no place for their toxic ideologies in our communities, and to disrupt each and every terrorist organisation’s funding sources.
This statement reaffirms the international community’s unflinching resolve.
We must starve terrorist organisations of fighters, funding and legitimacy.
We must act decisively - and together.
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