Wednesday, 17 February 2021
Questions without Notice
I thank the honourable member for her question and for the great interest she takes in making sure that we can keep our country safe. This government has managed the budget well, which means that we can afford to make a more significant investment into our agencies—not just ASIO, but the AFP, the ABF, AUSTRAC and others.
Since August 2014, the government have boosted funding for our law enforcement, intelligence and security agencies by more than $2.3 billion. The resourcing that we've put into ASIO and into the Australian Federal Police's capacity to support the states and territories in preventing and responding to terrorism through multi-agency joint counterterrorism teams across the country has resulted in, to date, 128 people having been charged as a result of 59 counterterrorism related operations around the country.
We know that the threat from terrorism is with us and will remain with us for a very long period of time. We also know that espionage in our country is now at greater levels than we saw in the peak of the Cold War. We are taking decisive action again to protect our sovereignty, as we must, and we've boosted ASIO's budget to the highest level in its 70-year history.
I'm also very proud of the fact that we've been able to put almost $70 million into the Australian Centre to Counter Child Exploitation. Our highest priority is to make sure that we protect Australian children. Since the formation of the ACCCE, the centre has received over 40,000 reports of child abuse material, resulting in just over 1,150 referrals to Australian law enforcement agencies. Most importantly, 113 Australian children have now been removed from harm through the work of that centre.
Through the pandemic, as Australians have spent more time online, so too have the Australian Federal Police. We want to send a clear message to those who are operating on the dark web, those who are operating on encrypted messaging apps, such as those operated by Facebook and others, who are regularly trading videos and images of children being sexually exploited and abused, that the Australian Federal Police now have a much greater presence as a result of our investment online to make sure that they can protect those children. People who think that they are operating on the dark web and that they won't be detected need to recognise that the technology being deployed now by the Australian Federal Police, our agencies and our law enforcement partners—both here and internationally—is at a record high. We are not hesitating in adopting new technologies so that we can expose those people online that would seek to do significant harm and destroy the lives of those young children.