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Monday, 1 September 2014
Page: 9152

National Security

Mr VARVARIS (Barton) (14:25): My question is to the Minister for Justice. Will the minister inform the House how the recently announced national disruption group will work to keep Australians safe from the threat of home-grown terrorism?

Mr KEENAN (StirlingMinister for Justice) (14:25): I thank the member for Barton for that question. He will recall that I spoke in the House last week about the $64 million that the Abbott government is investing to significantly enhance the ability of federal law enforcement agencies to combat the threat of foreign fighters. Over half of this money will be spent on an AFP-led multiagency national disruption group. This group will be a dedicated unit focused on both traditional and non-traditional ways of disrupting foreign fighters and destroying their support networks. It will bring together Australia's law enforcement and intelligence community, including Customs and Border Protection, ASIO, ASIS and the Attorney-General's Department. However, the key strength of the national disruption group will be its ability to utilise any of the resources or any of the agencies at the disposal of the Commonwealth government to help in the fight against extremism and terrorism.

While stronger policing capability and traditional law enforcement methods will be essential, other Commonwealth agencies can provide non-traditional methods of disruption which can prove to be extremely effective in disrupting the activities of foreign fighters. The national disruption group will co-opt any agency that can help it in achieving this end. An example is Centrelink; we will co-opt Centrelink to make sure that foreign fighters are not in receipt of Centrelink payments. We will use the Australian Taxation Office to run taxation compliance checks or help us with unexplained wealth orders which might include taking proceeds of crime action. We will use DFAT to cancel people's passports. We will use Defence, Immigration and the whole gamut of resources that are available to the Commonwealth government to disrupt the activities of people who might seek to do Australia harm. This whole-of-government approach ensures that all of Commonwealth government resources will be available to disrupt and prevent foreign fighters and violent extremists from harming our national interests. They will be backed up by two 10-person investigation teams, which means that they will have the necessary manpower to do the job that we require of them.

Many members of this chamber will be aware that this is very similar to the approach we have used in the battle against organised crime—using all of the resources and the agencies at the disposal of the federal government to do everything we can to disrupt their activities. The activities of the National Anti Gang Squad have been very successful.

Foreign fighters and extremists should be aware that the full force of the Commonwealth government will be utilised in stopping them from going overseas to fight, in stopping them from funding terrorist activities and in stopping them from engaging in violent extremism here in Australia.