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Australia's national security.
ATTORNEY- GENERAL ___________________________________________________
THE HON DARYL WILLIAMS AM QC MP ___________________________________________________
18 September 2001 1047
AUSTRALIA’S NATIONAL SECURITY
The Howard Government has in place a comprehensive and well-tested National Anti-Terrorist Plan. This plan is our blueprint for protecting Australia from politically motivated violence. It allowed Australia to respond quickly to the horrendous terrorist attacks in the United States last week.
I want to thank the many men and women across the government, including those in my portfolio agencies for their outstanding efforts over the last week in facilitating such a rapid and effective response in Australia. It has been the combined effort of those men and women involved in protective security and coordination policy, the intelligence community our law enforcement agencies and defence personnel that have put into practice our well-tested procedures under the National Anti-Terrorist Plan.
At the moment, there is nothing to suggest that a specific threat in Australia as a result of the attacks in the US. However we have taken the precaution of putting Australia on a heightened security alert. This is standard practice under the National Anti-Terrorist Plan.
We have introduced additional aviation security measures at our major domestic and international airports in response to the attacks on the US. We have a proactive and ongoing aviation security awareness program. Indeed, following a request from the Protective Security Coordination Centre within the Commonwealth Attorney-General’s Department, State and Territory police have been conducting security assessments of the chartered airline industry.
Australia has in place a legal regime to deal with various types of international terrorism. We are a party to eight of the 11 anti-terrorism conventions and two anti-terrorism protocols that cover such things as hijacking, acts of violence against aircraft and hostage taking. With regard to the International Convention for the Suppression of Terrorist Bombings, drafting instructions are with the Office of Parliamentary Counsel to enable legislation with a view to Australia becoming a party to the Convention. With regard to the International Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism, as some of its provisions are already contained in existing legislation, Australia is consulting on whether to become a party as it is on the Convention on the Marking of Plastic Explosives for the Purposes of Detection.
The Howard Government has consistently taken a true all-of Government focus to national security issues, as evidenced by establishing the National Security Committee of Cabinet in 1996.
The Howard Government has fostered a close working relationship between law enforcement and the intelligence community on matters such as terrorism, drug trafficking, people smuggling and arms smuggling.
This was evident during the Olympics and again in the Howard Government’s firm approach to people smuggling. The Government is also in the process of reviewing the level and nature of support provided to law enforcement agencies by Commonwealth intelligence agencies.
A key element of national security is Australia’s ability to protect its borders. Australia has a highly effective national coastal surveillance system - Coastwatch - with a fleet of vessels, planes and experienced personnel that patrol the Australian Coastline 24 hours a day, 365 days of the year. Last year, the Coastwatch surveillance network detected and intercepted nearly 99% of illegal immigrants before they reached Australia.
The attacks on the US have fundamentally changed the global environment in which we live and the impact will reverberate for years to come.
The Prime Minister has committed Australia to standing with the United States and the international community in the response to the heinous attacks on the US. We make this commitment to the elimination of terrorism in the knowledge that it will not be easy and aware that our active involvement in the fight could well bring terrorism closer to our own shores. Australia will need to work carefully and systematically through the implications for our own security and counter-terrorism arrangements. As is the case after any international security incident, we will of course review our security and intelligence procedures.
We will do so - not in panic or because we believe there are fundamental weaknesses -but because it is the sensible and wise thing to do at this time. We will do so with an open mind to ensure that we have the best possible arrangements for our own circumstances. The Australian people would expect no less.
Media contact: Catherine Fitzpatrick (02) 6277 7300/ 0419 423 965