Fighting terrorism and global threats to our security
(Australian Government, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade)
ADVANCING THE NATIONAL INTEREST
Australia is committed to the international campaign to eliminate the global threat of terrorism because terrorism threatens Australians at home and overseas. Terrorist groups such as al-Qaida and Jemaah Islamiyah attack our values and pervert the religion they purport to uphold. Islamic foreign ministers described acts like the September 11 terrorist attacks as counter to the teachings of the divine religions, and opposed to the tolerant message of Islam. Terrorists – and the states that sponsor them – seek to harm the security and prosperity of our closest allies, such as the United States, and our regional friends, such as Indonesia and the Philippines. In defence of our own interests and the interests of our allies and friends, Australia could not and will not stand aside from this campaign.
The threat of terrorism to Australians is global. But its impact on Australia is most acute in our immediate region – as demonstrated horrifically by the Bali attacks. The threat of terrorism to Australia and the international community will not end quickly or easily. To be effective the response will have to be sustained. Military responses, as shown in Afghanistan, are important. The campaign will also require non-military measures, including law enforcement, legislative, intelligence, customs and migration responses. Capacity-building assistance to regional nations will be important.
The Government is responding robustly to terrorism. It has introduced a wide range of strong domestic measures. It committed Australian forces to the war against terrorism in Afghanistan. It is strengthening counter-terrorism cooperation with key bilateral partners, particularly in Asia and the South Pacific. And Australia is contributing to international efforts to strengthen counter-terrorism measures, such as implementation of financial controls.
Australia is responding to the threat of terrorism at home
The security of Australians within their own country is a priority in the Government's counter-terrorism policy. The Government is building stronger military, police and intelligence counter-terrorism capabilities at a cost of $1.3 billion over five years. It has introduced tighter financial, aviation and border control measures. It has built a nationwide response to terrorism, including an inter-governmental agreement on counter-terrorism cooperation that is working on, among other things, the coordination of the protection of critical infrastructure and communications.
International cooperation is vital in the fight against terrorism
No country can deal with the global threat of terrorism on its own. Effective international action against terrorism requires strong cooperation at bilateral, regional and multilateral levels. Australia's cooperation with other nations helps the Government safeguard the security of Australians.
The war against terrorism in Afghanistan demonstrated clearly the effectiveness of coordinated international action. Australia's contribution was effective and valued. Soldiers of Australia's Special Air Service Regiment (SAS) played an important role in the defeat of the Taliban and the disruption of the al-Qaida presence in Afghanistan. Air force and naval personnel provided vital support to the SAS through their deployment to the regions surrounding Afghanistan. The Government's diplomatic network maintained by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade facilitated these deployments.
The long-term international counter-terrorism effort will rely on the resolve of individual nations to take strong action against terrorism by putting in place a legal framework that stops terrorist activities and their sources of funding. Enforcement of these laws, through investigation and prosecution of terrorist organisations and terrorists, will be crucial. The international effort against terrorism is undermined by states that cannot or will not take strong domestic action.
Australia is a relatively well-prepared and capable nation in the campaign against terrorism. Other countries, including some within our region, will need assistance to develop effective counter-terrorism legislative and enforcement regimes. Australia and other developed countries will provide practical help, such as information exchange and police investigation assistance. Australia will continue to help strengthen governance in the institutions that promote stability. South Pacific nations, particularly those weakened by internal division and poor governance, are vulnerable to the activities of terrorists and so are an important target of the Government's assistance programs. Australia is working towards a memorandum of understanding on counter-terrorism with Fiji.
Australia will sustain and develop its links with countries whose capabilities are crucial for the international war against terrorism. The United States is of enormous importance in this respect because of the diplomatic, law enforcement, military, intelligence and other resources that it can bring to bear against terrorism. The secretive and dispersed nature of terrorists means that intelligence will be of the utmost importance. Cooperation with the United States and other intelligence partners, such as the United Kingdom, is vital to Australia's role in the prosecution of the war against terrorism. The Government will also strengthen bilateral cooperation with the law enforcement, customs and migration agencies of the United States, United Kingdom and other nations.
South-East Asia is a major front in the war against terrorism
The Government is strengthening counter-terrorism links with South-East Asian nations. South-East Asia is where the threat of terrorism to Australian interests is most acute. The Bali attacks signalled a resolve and level of ambition and coordination among regional extremists that threaten directly the more than 45 000 Australians living in South-East Asia and the many thousands of Australians who visit the region each year. Terrorism is jeopardising South-East Asia's stability and Australian interests in this. South-East Asia is where Australia, drawing on its strong ties with the region, can make a significant contribution to the war against terrorism.
Even before the Bali bombings, the Government had identified Indonesia as being critical to the response to terrorism in the region. The Government concluded a counter-terrorism agreement with the Indonesian Government in February 2002. This agreement paved the way for the successful joint investigation into the Bali attacks. The Government will extend this cooperation by offering further practical support to Indonesia's efforts to develop counter-terrorism capabilities.
Australia has strengthened its cooperation with other key South-East Asian nations. The Government has signed counter-terrorism agreements with Malaysia and Thailand. It is seeking similar agreements with the Philippines and Cambodia. These agreements, as well as that with Indonesia, provide the basis for better intelligence exchanges and closer cooperation between our law enforcement agencies. The agreements will also complement a counter-terrorism agreement between Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Cambodia and Thailand.