Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Security in Government Conference welcome address, National Convention Centre, Canberra.

Download PDFDownload PDF

30 April 2003

Security in Government Conference Welcome Address

National Convention Centre, Canberra 10.05am, Wednesday, 30 April, 2003

Delivered by Robert Cornall, Secretary of the Attorney-General's Department, on behalf of Attorney-General Daryl Williams AM QC MP.


It has been 16 years since the inaugural Security in Government Conference. The world was a very different place back then.

The Cold War was at its height - with the balance of world power split uneasily between the United States and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. The Gulf War was still four years away. And the Iran-Iraq war was well underway.

Australia's security environment was generally benign and the level of terrorist risk was low. Our security policies were focussed on preparing for isolated siege or hostage situations that were largely motivated by political ideologies.

The security issues, concerns and threats that will dominate discussion at this conference were unimaginable back then.

The attacks of September 11 have dramatically and permanently changed our world.

But well before September 11 the world security environment was undergoing significant change. Today the security environment is fundamentally different from the one we knew 16 years ago at the inaugural Security in Government Conference. The old threats of the Cold War have now dissipated. The rivalry between the superpowers has been replaced by the emergence of rogue states and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. And the focus is now on radical terrorists who are motivated by ethnic hatred or religious fanaticism.

All of these factors have significantly increased the risks and volatility of the current security environment.

The attacks in New York, Washington and Bali make it clear that terrorism can strike anyone, anywhere and at any time. The war against terrorism is not being fought in a traditional battlefield environment. Our cities are at risk and the physical security of public spaces and buildings is now of the highest importance.

As terrible, as threatening and as confronting as this is, it is the reality we face in 2003. And the changed security environment sets the scene for this, the 16th Security in Government Conference.

Terrorist Threat

The Australian Government has responded to the threat of terrorism quickly and decisively. We have reviewed and refined our national counter-terrorism plans. We have put in place new laws to give our law enforcement and intelligence agencies the tools they need to identify and prevent terrorist acts. We have taken a number of measures to increase aviation security and to protect our borders and our critical infrastructure. We have allocated $1.4 billion over five years to enhance Commonwealth security capability and arrangements. And we have deployed Australian troops to Afghanistan and Iraq.

Terrorism is an evil that threatens the democratic traditions and liberties of the free world. It cannot be tolerated and it cannot be compromised. And we must never become complacent to the terrorist threat. The Government will continue to do whatever is necessary to keep Australia safe and secure, with the vital assistance of Australia's security, law enforcement and intelligence agencies.

Today I will outline the latest initiatives in the War Against Terrorism. And in doing so I want to reinforce the important role that you, as agency security officers, play in helping to keep Australia safe and secure.

Leaders' Summit

In the aftermath of September 11 2001, a summit of Federal, State and Territory leaders acknowledged that the new terrorist threat extended well beyond the scope of previous national security planning. Indeed, the new threat level was much greater than anything Australia had ever faced. To manage this threat it was agreed that the Commonwealth would take responsibility for strategic management of declared 'national terrorist incidents'. The existing National Anti-Terrorist Plan had worked well in the past, but Leaders recognised that it was now time for a new approach. Leaders agreed to the establishment of a nationally coordinated approach to fighting terrorism.

A National Counter-Terrorism Committee was formed to take forward agreements reached at the Leaders' Summit. The Committee's goal is to ensure that Australia has the best possible arrangements in

place to fight terrorism.

Substantial progress has already been made in a number of key areas. The National Anti-Terrorist Plan is being reviewed and updated. The co-operative arrangements between Commonwealth and State agencies are being streamlined. Measures are being put in place to ensure that intelligence about possible terrorist activities is properly coordinated and shared between agencies. And, given the rapidly changing nature of the security environment, the committee is responsible for monitoring and recommending ways to improve our counter-terrorism plans.

Critical Infrastructure Protection

Leaders also recognised that terrorism poses an emerging threat to our national critical infrastructure. Everything from energy supply networks to telecommunications systems is a possible terrorist target. It is vital that our critical infrastructure is properly prepared and protected from attack.

As you are no doubt all keenly aware, security is not the responsibility of the Commonwealth Government alone. The key difficulty with protecting Australia's critical infrastructure is that much of it is privately owned or operated. This means that responsibility for its security is shared between governments and between businesses. And this requires widespread cooperation and trust by all involved to ensure our critical infrastructure is appropriately protected.

To work through the issues associated with infrastructure protection, the Government established the Business-Government Task Force on Critical Infrastructure in November 2001. The Government has been actively working with State, Territory and local governments, and with business, to protect our critical infrastructure since then. And we welcome the valuable input and cooperation we have received on these important issues.

As part of this we are in the process of establishing a Trusted Information Sharing Network (TISN). The network will provide a forum for the owners and operators of Australian infrastructure to exchange information on security-related issues.

As a first step to getting the TISN up and running, a summit on critical infrastructure protection was held in Melbourne earlier this month. The Commonwealth will be meeting representatives of the States and Territories in the near future to further discuss the TISN terms of reference.

I am sure that through the TISN, and through conferences such as this, we can work together to help protect our critical infrastructure from terrorist attack.

Public Information Campaign and National Security Hotline

In a broader effort to combat terrorism, the Government has recently conducted a public information campaign. The campaign seeks to inform and reassure people about terrorism. And it seeks to enlist the help of every Australian in looking out for suspicious activity.

The very threat of terrorism can create apprehension amongst the community. The campaign addresses this fear, putting the terrorist threat in context and reassuring people that the Government is taking all possible measures to keep Australia safe and secure.

In the current security environment, Australians need to be alert and we need to look out for each other. As part of this effort to encourage public vigilance, a National Security Hotline has been established. People can use the Hotline to report suspicious activity that may relate to national security. Information and intelligence is the key to identifying, investigating and preventing possible terrorist activities The Hotline is managed by the Protective Security Coordination Centre. This ensures that all information is fully dealt with and is incorporated into the Government's broader information management and coordination processes.

In a very short period of time, the Hotline has become an integral part of the Government's counter-terrorism efforts. Since it became operational on December 27 last year, the Hotline has received more than 15,000 calls. Some of the callers are simply seeking re-assurance about the Government's counter-terrorism capacity. And some are asking about the purpose and intent of the actual information campaign.

Approximately half the calls are what we categorise as 'information calls'. In these calls, the caller is providing information on what they consider to be suspicious or terrorist related activity. This information is passed on to the most appropriate law enforcement agency or security organisation.

I am sure you appreciate the sensitivities associated with the information received and the fact that I am not at liberty to detail the exact nature of the information. However, I can tell you that the Government is very pleased with the quantity and quality of these calls. More importantly, we understand that this is proving a useful source of information for those Commonwealth, State and Territory agencies charged with protecting the community from terrorism. A large percentage of the information calls to the Hotline provide extremely valuable information that results in further investigation.

Despite initial scepticism from some quarters, there is now general acceptance that the Hotline is making a significant contribution to national security and law enforcement processes.

Regional Co-operation Against Terrorism and the Bali Investigation

Fighting terrorism at home is important and the Government has clearly demonstrated its commitment to domestic security. But terrorism is a global phenomenon. It requires a co-ordinated and global response. The Australian Government and Australian intelligence and law enforcement agencies have been actively building relationships with other governments and with state and international intelligence and law enforcement agencies and police forces.

The tragic bombings in Bali have put the strength and effectiveness of these relations to the test. The success of the Bali investigation is testament to the cooperation and trust that has developed between Australian and Indonesian law enforcement and security agencies in recent times.

The work undertaken by the Indonesian authorities has been excellent. And their commitment to bringing those responsible to justice has been first rate. So far, 17 people have been arrested in relation to the bombings and it is anticipated that their trials will commence in the near future.

War in Iraq

This year has also seen Australia contributing to Coalition efforts to deal with another significant matter of international concern - Iraq. As we speak, Australian forces are part of the US-led coalition to disarm Iraq of weapons of mass destruction and help rehabilitate the country. This commitment has not been without controversy. The Government committed forces to the military effort because Saddam Hussein's pursuit of weapons of mass destruction represented a grave and unacceptable threat to global security.

Australia should be proud of the contribution made by our Defence Force towards eliminating the threat to the international community posed by Saddam's weapons of mass destruction. As the focus turns increasingly towards the post-conflict rehabilitation, Australia has indicated its commitment to making a strong contribution to the reconstruction process and to the establishment of sound political and economic institutions.

Importance of Departmental Security Advisers

Many of you here today are at the front line of government security. You are either involved directly in the development and implementation of Australia's national security strategy or you are responsible for implementing and managing security within the agency or department for whom you work. Whichever case applies to you, one thing is clear - your work is central to the efficient and effective operations of the Australian public sector and to the security of Australia as a whole.

In the current environment, security concerns are more important than ever before. Security is no longer a second tier issue. And there can be no excuse for not giving security issues the attention, resources and priority that they deserve.

It is your job to do what you can to further enhance the security of Australia. It is your job to assess the individual security needs of your Department or agency and to put in place appropriate information and data security as well as physical security measures. And it is important that you work with each other and with the general community in the interests of the security of Australia as a whole.

Good security practice is about open and honest self analysis. It is about effective risk management. And it is about the development and implementation of security measures that reflect the assessed level of risk.

The sustained nature of the terrorist threat we face today presents new challenges for the Government and its security agencies. The Government is aware that this new security environment places security advisers in very difficult and stressful circumstances. To be aware of security risks, and to pre-empt them, you need a constant supply of energy, drive and motivation. I want you to know that you have my full backing and support. And I want you to know that the Government appreciates the hard work and dedication that goes into being a security adviser.

Your vigilance, your attention to detail and the way in which you develop and implement security practices all make an enormous contribution to the preservation and protection of the Australian way of life.


The Security in Government Conference is an important event. It gives government security advisers the opportunity to exchange views and to share ideas. It also gives the security industry a valuable opportunity to interact with government colleagues and to demonstrate the services they can offer.

The development of security plans, IT security and the management of risk are just a few of the issues that will be discussed and analysed over the next few days.

The theme for this year's conference, 'Government Security in Insecure Times', succinctly describes the challenges before us. Terrorism has changed the way we look at security. We must understand the challenges before us and we must respond in the most effective way possible.

This means maintaining our vigilance without unduly affecting our quality of life. It means working with the international community to apply strong and decisive force

against terrorist organisations. And it means understanding and addressing the underlying factors which give rise to terrorist ideologies and actions.

The war against terrorism is a war we must win. With your assistance I know that we can overcome terrorism and I know that we can keep Australia safe and secure.

I wish you all the best for what I am certain will be another informative and productive Security in Government conference.