JULIE BISHOP: Budget week is a particularly busy time in Canberra as the Government lays out its plan for Australia’s economic future. I am particularly pleased to have this opportunity to reflect on the other primary government responsibility and that is to keep our people safe.

This week also marks the 73rd anniversary of Victory in Europe Day in 1945. Celebrations in Australia were somewhat muted because the Pacific War was yet to be won, and the threat to Australia was not yet over.

By August that year, 1945, more than 27,000 Australians had died on active service in the Second World War, and more than 23,000 were wounded. These terrible figures remind us of the sacrifices by previous generations to safeguard Australia.

Following the horrors of the Second World War, Australia played its part in the historic era of diplomacy. Led by the United States and Europe, nations agreed to a network of treaties, conventions and institutions underpinned by international law and the peaceful settlement of disputes to ensure there would not be further global conflict.

The establishment of the United Nations, and the United Nations Security Council was vital, and the international rules-based order has developed and evolved, and has proven resilient through the challenges of the Cold War, regional conflicts, recession, and terrorist shocks.

The United States, as the instigator and driving force, has borne the main burden of the defence of this order through its network of alliances and military presence in Asia and Europe. The United States was also the creative force in shaping an international economic and trading system which aimed to lift all boats on a rising economic tide.

Australia, our region and our neighbours in the Indo-Pacific have all benefited enormously from these frameworks. In war and peacetime, Australia has made a substantial contribution to the protection and promotion of this international rules based order. Yet this order, so painstakingly built after the Second World War, is now under significant strain, and indeed under challenge in some instances. Economic nationalism, protectionism and political alienation are rising in many countries, including the United States. 

After a post-Cold War lull, major power competition is once again a feature of international relations. A range of tools – some old, some new – are being used in the battle for regional and global influence; the use of non-state actors and other proxies, covert and paramilitary operations, and economic coercion - to name a few. These measures sit below the threshold of open conflict but nonetheless challenge global security and the rules-based order.

They represent a challenge to traditional models of deterrence. We are also witnessing the ‘weaponisation’ by states of some of the central enablers of globalisation, notably information and communications technology.

The internet has brought enormous benefit to humankind, however it has also extended the reach of malign forces. Cyber-attacks can disable critical infrastructure, while digital disinformation and manipulation can sow discord and conflict in free societies, and undermine the very institutions which sit at the heart of our democracies. For example, Russia’s sophisticated misinformation campaigns should put us all on alert. 

At the same time, we continue to face rapidly evolving threats from non-state actors. The threat to Australia from Islamist terrorism and violent extremism remains high. The use by ISIS, the terrorist group, of cyber tools to build and influence its support base has been a major challenge.

Transnational criminal networks have also become increasingly complex and sophisticated. Crypto-currencies are being used to pay for illicit goods and to fund terrorism. The dark net allows for horrific child exploitation, as well as arms and drug dealing. Governments all around the world are grappling with a security environment that has never been more complex or multi-layered.

The Australian Government’s Foreign Policy White Paper, released late last year, commits Australia to an ambitious and proactive strategic and diplomatic agenda. It pays particular attention to the need for all nations to support and strengthen the international rules-based order more than ever before.

In the months since I launched the Foreign Policy White Paper with Prime Minister Turnbull, developments in Syria, the Salisbury incident, developments in cyberspace have reinforced the relevance of our policy directions.

While the challenges today are different from those of 1945, the duty of government remains the same. National security is the foundation on which our freedoms have been built and maintained. Keeping Australians safe, secure and free is our most fundamental responsibility. At home, we are building strong defence and resilient communities. We are introducing, for example, a transparency scheme and counter-intelligence legislation to bolster our defences against foreign interference.

Internationally, we take action both independently, and with our allies and partners to disrupt and defeat threats. Our substantial counter-terrorism partnerships with many countries in our region are a case in point.  We work constantly to reinforce or build international norms to regulate adverse state behaviour, and we coordinate with other nations to impose sanctions on those that undermine our interests and global security.

One of the most important principles underpinning the rules-based order is that nations must resolve their differences peacefully through negotiation and I want to give a current example; maritime boundary disputes should be resolved through negotiation or within the framework of UNCLOS, the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. Australia and Timor-Leste have given a very contemporary example of how this should occur with the first ever maritime boundary conciliation conducted pursuant to UNCLOS resolving a longstanding boundary issue.

Cyber is the new frontier. Conflict is no longer restricted to the physical world, and cyber opening up new opportunities for nation states to challenge one another. Cyber-related threats to Australia and our region are increasing in number, type and sophistication. However, as the threats have evolved, so to have our responses.

During the French President Emmanuel Macron’s visit to Sydney last week, I signed a letter of intent with the Minister for Foreign Affairs Jean-Yves Le Drian to enhance our already strong cooperation and to strengthen our response to cyber threats and incidents.

We have been working with a number international partners to build what is known as the ‘International Cyber Stability Framework’ to address current and emerging challenges in the cyber domain.

The Framework has five elements - reaffirming that international law applies to cyberspace, promoting norms of responsible state behavior, establishing cyber deterrence mechanisms, developing confidence building measures, and building capacity in our region and globally.

The challenges are global, and require an internationally coordinated response. An important part of that response is to identify publicly those who breach accepted norms, such as in December last year Australia when joined with international partners to attribute the ‘WannaCry’ ransomware incident to North Korea.

Likewise, in February, Australia contributed to the coordinated attribution of the ‘NotPetya’ malware to Russia. Last month, we attributed to Russian state-sponsored actors malicious cyber activity targeting commercially available routers around the world.

Australia, like all nations, is increasingly reliant on the internet in many aspects of our society and economy. We are building strong cyber defences.  Australia can and will respond to, and deter cyber aggression, whatever the source and whatever the intent, including through an offensive cyber capability. However, our emphasis is on enabling effective regulation of the internet to keep it open, free and secure.

We will continue to partner with our neighbours in the Pacific and ASEAN to build capacity to benefit from the internet, to secure it, and to engage with international rule-making.

We respond to cyber challenges by reinforcing and modernising existing rules, hardening our ability to sanction and deter adversaries, and extending our international cooperation. Australia is an active contributor to the United Nations’ Group of Governmental Experts which reports to the General Assembly. This is not going to be an easy process. Last year a discussion by the UN over the nature of global cyber governance was strongly contested by some governments.

Australia’s approach to countering terrorism involves all arms of our defence and security apparatus. We have deployed our military to Iraq, to Syria, Afghanistan and the Philippines, while also working to detect and disrupt plots on our soil through our intelligence and law enforcement agencies including ASIO, and the Australian Federal Police.

The threat posed by foreign terrorist fighters who may be seeking to flee Syria, and Iraq, and perhaps return home, is of particular concern. Last December, Australia co-sponsored a UN Security Council Resolution that mandated a series of measures to prevent the movement of foreign terrorist fighters. Now all nations are obliged to provide what is called Advance Passenger Information and Passenger Name Record data. We are also developing terrorist Watch Lists and implementing systems to collect biometric data. 

We are also seeking to close down terrorists online. In particular, the Government is working with the private sector to remove the terrorist content from the internet, and to provide lawful, and reasonable access to information for national security purposes. Again, the law must apply equally online as it does offline – we cannot allow terrorists to use ungoverned spaces online.

At the recent ASEAN-Australia Special Summit in Sydney, I co-signed, together with the ASEAN Secretary General, a Memorandum of Understanding to Counter International Terrorism. We will work together to improve counter terrorism legislation and enforcement - detect, disrupt and prevent terrorism funding - and to keep developing measures to detect individuals on the path to extremism.

The creation of a Home Affairs Department strengthens the coordination and oversight of key security agencies including the Australian Border Force, Australia Criminal Intelligence Commission, AFP, AUSTRAC, and eventually, ASIO. This year’s Budget, you may have noticed, included major new investments in airport security in response to ongoing efforts of terrorists to target aviation.

Australia also acts with determination to reinforce the rules-based order against one of its most serious challenges – the use and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. Over the next 10 years the world will face new proliferation challenges because of emerging technologies that make weapons of mass destruction more accessible and less expensive. Terrorists continue to seek these weapons to cause mass casualties in our communities.

Biological-weapons are becoming easier and cheaper to manufacture, and pose a grave threat should they be used to trigger a global pandemic, for example. It is shocking, truly shocking, that chemical weapons are again being used, as seen recently in Syria, at Salisbury in the United Kingdom, and last year in Malaysia.

As the permanent Chair of the Australia Group, Australia is a leading voice in the international effort to prevent the proliferation and use of chemical and biological weapons. We must maintain and reinforce the ban on these weapons.

The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty has worked to limit the proliferation of nuclear weapons and it is a set of international rules that we must maintain and strengthen.

North Korea’s development of nuclear weapons to be able to directly threaten the United States, and other countries in our region, is a clear example of the need to stand against proliferation. While we cautiously welcome the commencement talks between North and South Korea, and potentially with the United States, we are mindful of the need for North Korea to fully de-nuclearise before there can be peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula.

Closer to home we are unrelenting in our focus on our neighbourhood. Australia’s commitment to the Pacific is longstanding, enduring and extensive. It is one of the Turnbull Government’s highest foreign policy priorities. We are working in partnership with our Pacific neighbours to grasp opportunities and meet challenges. I’ve made the Pacific a particular priority having visited now 32 times as Foreign Minister.

Our defence, police and border security cooperation including our forthcoming rollout of 19 new Pacific Patrol Boats for our Pacific friends remains vital to the region’s stability, to secure their borders and combat illegal activities. It helps Pacific countries to assert their sovereignty in their own exclusive economic zones.

We are concluding bilateral security agreements with Pacific Island countries including Nauru, and Tuvalu, to help protect them and the region, from transnational threats, and build their border security capacity. We have begun work to establish an Australia-Pacific Security College to deliver security and law enforcement training to build leadership capacities and capabilities in the region.

In the Budget last night, we announced the largest ever investment in aid and overseas development assistance to the Pacific - $1.3 billion - and we announced the opening of our 14th diplomatic post in the Pacific in Tuvalu. This is part of the largest rollout of our diplomatic footprint in 40 years. I think this is now the 12th post that I have been able to announce we are opening. Our stepped-up engagement with the Pacific reflects our view that stability and security in the Pacific helps safeguard Australia.

Australia’s security community works relentlessly to understand, anticipate, expose threats and respond to them so Australians can safely go about their lives. We will keep building security cooperation with our partners to keep Australia safe, uphold agreed international rules, deter destabilising behaviour by states or their proxies, and negotiate with others to settle differences.

In doing so, we contribute to the work of other likeminded states to sustain and broaden international backing for that international rules-based order that is essential to the maintenance of the peace and security necessary for economic growth and advancement.

Australia brings a principled voice and perspective to the international debate about these important issues.

We should never underestimate the value that other nations place on our perspectives, on our experience, and we must ensure that our contributions to these important developments continue. We must never waiver in our commitment to ensure our defence force, our security and intelligence community and our law enforcement agencies have the resources they need to safeguard Australia.

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