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Monday, 11 May 2015
Page: 2728

National Security


Senator REYNOLDS (Western Australia) (14:06): My question is to the Attorney-General, Senator Brandis. Can the Attorney-General update the Senate on the counter-terrorism operation in Melbourne on Friday? And can he advise the Senate what this latest episode tells us about the need to be vigilant?


Senator BRANDIS (QueenslandDeputy Leader of the Government in the Senate, Vice-President of the Executive Council, Minister for Arts and Attorney-General) (14:07): Thank you very much, Senator Reynolds. On Friday, in the execution of Operation Amberd, the Australian Federal Police and the Victoria Police found three explosive devices during a search of a residence in Greenvale in Melbourne. Those devices were then rendered safe by police during a controlled detonation in a nearby park. A 17-year-old male was taken into custody and has today faced court in Melbourne charged with engaging in an act in preparation for a terrorist act, in contravention of section 101.6 of the Criminal Code, and another charge, of possessing things connected with a terrorist act, in contravention of section 101.4 of the Criminal Code.

So far 23 people have been charged as a result of eight counter-terrorism operations since the terror threat level was raised to high last September. The people of Australia can be assured that our law enforcement and security agencies are doing everything they can to keep our people safe. They can be reassured that the government, with, I am pleased to say, the support of the opposition, has taken strong measures to ensure that that remains so. However, we must remain vigilant, in particular in light of a concerning trend which is increasingly seeing young people forming an intent to undertake terrorist acts. Young people as young as 14, without criminal records or strong links to known terror networks, are being groomed online by terrorist organisations and presenting a new challenge for security and law enforcement agencies. If any members of the public have any concerns, they can contact the National Security Hotline on 1800123400.


Senator REYNOLDS (Western Australia) (14:09): Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Can the Attorney-General inform the Senate whether there are any known links between last Friday's operation and the alleged Anzac Day terrorist plot?


Senator BRANDIS (QueenslandDeputy Leader of the Government in the Senate, Vice-President of the Executive Council, Minister for Arts and Attorney-General) (14:09): Of course, the investigation is still ongoing and the matter is now before the court, but what we can say is that, so far, there are no apparent links between last Friday's alleged plot and the alleged planning of an onshore attack on police members on or around Anzac Day. As you know, Senator Reynolds, on 18 April the Joint Counter Terrorism Team in Melbourne executed seven search warrants as part of Operation Rising, resulting in two men being charged with conspiracy to commit acts done in preparation for or planning terrorist acts, in contravention of section 101.6 of the Criminal Code. One man was charged with 19 weapons offences as well.

The AFP and Victoria Police have confirmed a link between the arrest of a 14-year-old male person in the United Kingdom and Operation Rising, following the identification of alleged communications between the two. (Time expired)


Senator REYNOLDS (Western Australia) (14:10): Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. Can the Attorney-General also inform the Senate what actions the government is taking to counter the threat of home-grown terrorism?


Senator BRANDIS (QueenslandDeputy Leader of the Government in the Senate, Vice-President of the Executive Council, Minister for Arts and Attorney-General) (14:10): I have mentioned the legislative measures, but it is also important that there are other measures and programs as well which the government have introduced. We have invested more than $40 million over four years in countering violent extremism programs, tripling previous investment in this area. This includes a commitment of $21.7 million to combat terrorist propaganda online. It also includes the Living Safe Together diversion program, which seeks to identify radicalised individuals and intervene early with targeted services, including mentoring, counselling and education support. On 2 May I announced grants to 34 community organisations to assist them to develop skills to divert individuals from ideologies of hate and violence. This work is in addition to the $545 million support for social cohesion programs.