Monday, 2 December 2019
Questions without Notice
I thank the honourable member for his question and his very genuine interest in what is a very important topic for our country. As the Prime Minister and I announced today, we're investing another $88 million into our national security and intelligence agencies to deal with the threat of foreign interference. It builds on the $35 million that we provided in the last budget. That's money that goes directly to ASIO, to the Australian Federal Police and to our agencies who are otherwise involved in protecting Australians. I want to say in particular to the officers at ASIO—most Australians won't ever meet an officer from ASIO, I hope; perhaps that's a good thing for some! You may never meet someone from ASIS or ONI, but you should be reassured that they are working to keep Australians safe. When we saw the tragedy of what happened on the streets in London only within the last couple of days, we were very grateful for their work, of course, in relation to the counterterrorism work that they undertake to keep our nation safe, but just as important is the work that they do to protect our sovereignty, to protect us against foreign interference.
The money today will go toward not just ASIO and the Australian Federal Police but also AUSTRAC. They've done an incredible job in recent weeks and months in enforcing the law here in Australia. They are an integral part to looking at financial transactions—transactions that may give investigators a lead in relation to counterterrorism investigations or, indeed, to a counter-foreign-interference investigation. It also puts money, importantly, into the Australian Signals Directorate, the Australian Geospatial-Intelligence Organisation and the Office of National Intelligence, and all of that support will help keep Australians safe.
There's a lot of work that our agencies have been doing with universities to make sure that we can deal with the threat as it may present on university campuses. As we know, the threat of foreign interference has been with us as a democracy for many decades. It's a threat that exists in other Western democracies, and we need to make sure that we put extra investment in—and not just additional money but also an updating and hardening of our legislation, which the government has done on countless occasions, on the advice of the agencies. I want to pay tribute in particular to the Director-General of ASIO, Mike Burgess, and also the new police commissioner in the Australian Federal Police, Reece Kershaw. Both of those leaders provide significant support to their frontline staff. The other agencies that I've mentioned also support the work of those two principal agencies. And the work of this government will never stop. We want to make sure that we continue to keep Australians safe, not just in countering terrorism but in countering foreign interference in our country as well.
Mr Gosling interjecting—