House debates

Thursday, 21 October 2010

Questions without Notice

National SAecurity

3:11 pm

Photo of Michael DanbyMichael Danby (Melbourne Ports, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

My question is to the Attorney-General. How is the government strengthening Australia’s national security arrangements to better coordinate counterterrorism intelligence?

Photo of Robert McClellandRobert McClelland (Barton, Australian Labor Party, Attorney-General) Share this | | Hansard source

I thank the member for Melbourne Ports for his question and his contribution to policy development in this area. This morning the Prime Minister and I and heads of our national security and law enforcement agencies attended the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation to announce the establishment of the Counter Terrorism Control Centre. This morning the Prime Minister made special mention of the work of the staff, their dedication and the fact that on a daily basis they protect the safety and security of Australians. Of course, the very nature of their work is such that they receive little public recognition.

In the course of the presentation, the Inspector General of Intelligence and Security advised of the threat to Australians and Australian interests from a possible terrorist event. It was a reference to the fact that over a hundred Australians have lost their lives during the past decade. As recently as last year, three Australians lost their lives in the Marriott bombing, and we all remember vividly the 2002 Bali bombings where 88 Australians lost their lives. Reference was made to the success that our agencies are having—a number of disruptions, arrests, charges and a number of prosecutions—but the advice was that we cannot rest on our laurels. We need to review processes, we need to learn from Australian experience and we need to learn from overseas experience. In that context, special mention was made of last Christmas Day’s attempted bombing of Northwest Airlines flight 253 and how that revealed how crucial it was for agencies to share information, their expertise, their capability and their experience.

That is precisely what we are doing with the Counter Terrorism Control Centre. It will play the lead role in strengthening the combined capability of our intelligence and law enforcement agencies. It will set and manage priorities, it will identify intelligence requirements and it will, importantly, harmonise the collection and distribution of that vital intelligence. In that sense, it will play a very important role in supporting the established role of federal, state and territory law enforcement agencies. The centre itself will be hosted at the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation, but it will include officers from the Australian Federal Police, the Australian Secret Intelligence Service and the Defence Signals Directorate. Its approach will be one of flexibility but focused. Each of those agencies will be able to draw on their own expertise but bring it back to the table of the partnership created by the Counter Terrorism Control Centre.

The creation of the centre will unquestionably improve the ability of our national security and policing agencies to detect and prevent a terrorist event. It will be a significant enhancement of Australia’s counterterrorism capability, and I thank the Prime Minister once again for attending to open the centre.