Speech to Safeguarding Australia Dinner By Hon. Arch Bevis MP Shadow Minister for Homeland Security; Justice & Customs; Territories. 3 October 2007 Hotel Realm, Canberra ACT. 1 Thank you for the invitation to join you this evening and for your welcome. I’m heartened to look around this room and see so many security industry professionals. It’s always good to be in the company of people for whom national security is a priority. Light hearted, uncontroversial speeches are always good for after dinner occasions. I should therefore apologise now, because I doubt my comments fit that description. A Shadow Minister making jokes about security, especially terrorism, is guaranteed to draw the sort of media coverage I can do without right now. I might get a spot on the Chaser’s War on Everything, but strange as it may seem, that’s not actually a key goal for me this year. So, instead you’re left with a politician talking seriously about security to a group of security professionals at a security conference. In fact, when I was first invited to be here I thought the conference organisers had perfect timing. I expected that tonight, we would be in the first or second week of the official election campaign. Instead, it feels like we are in week twenty three of the unofficial campaign. I hope that our national security is planned with greater certainty than our election timetable has proven to be. Introduction Your conference is headlined, ‘Safeguarding Australia’. It is always an important topic. However it’s never easy to accomplish. The challenge of addressing traditional security issues focused on nation state rivalries, or popular movements seeking territorial gain or, depending on your perspective, liberation movements, are all still with us. They are just as difficult and expensive for government’s today as ever. However they have been joined by the threat of non state terrorism in a post 9/11 environment, now fuelled by the invasion of Iraq, undertaken as it was by a small group of nations - ‘the coalition of the willing’. 2 There has been an Alice in Wonderland air of unreality to the public debate about the link between these events and Australia’s domestic security. The Howard Government has sought to create a mirage that there is no link between our involvement in Iraq and domestic security. Their view is unsustainable. But they must maintain the illusion. The can ill afford the political peril were they to admit that the threat of terrorism to Australia and its people has been made worse by their own actions in what has become an increasingly unpopular war in Iraq. You will no doubt recall AFP Commissioner, Mick Keelty’s comment on the 2004 Madrid train bombing that: "The reality is, if this turns out to be Islamic extremists responsible for the bombing in Spain, it's more likely to be linked to the position that Spain and other allies took on issues such as Iraq." 1 The Government reacted angrily to his comments. General Peter Cosgrove, a person for whom I have a strong affection and respect, surprised many by also entering the debate, respectfully disagreeing with Commissioner Keelty. General Cosgrove has since added his voice to those acknowledging the Iraq war has boosted global terrorism saying, "If people say that there has been an energising of the jihadist movement through the protracted war in Iraq - well that's pretty obvious." This admission - just days after Britain's most Senior General warned that coalition troops in Iraq were exacerbating security problems should have been given the same careful hearing by Government Ministers as his earlier comments. It has not. We have seen a repeat of sorts in the last week. Commissioner Mick Keelty identified the effects of climate change as one Australia's biggest policing issues this century. He predicted, "Existing cultural tensions may be exacerbated as large numbers of people undertake forced migration…The potential security issues are enormous and should not be underestimated." Again he was contradicted by senior Ministers within twenty four hours. 1 How the press pack got the Keelty affair wrong, March 23, 2004 http://www.theage.com.au/articles/2004/03/22/1079939577914.html?from=storyrhs 3 Again Mick Keelty was right. There is a far more important point to be made here than the issues in dispute – although they are important in their own right. There is an important structural issue exposed by these examples. On such key factors dealing with border security and terrorism, how is it that our most senior public servants and ministers could hold such differing public views? The issues in dispute are not items at the margin. They are the bedrock of current and future planning. The confusion exists because of a negligent lack of leadership and strategic planning at a cabinet and ministerial level. Indeed, not all of the senior ministers can sing from the same sheet. Defence Minister Nelson’s confession in July that our troop presence in Iraq was important, at least in part, because of oil was quickly rebuked by the Prime Minister and others in Government. When senior ministers are confused about the strategy underpinning major deployments or security decisions, we clearly have a problem. Counter Terrorism White Paper The solution to this requires clear planning and leadership at ministerial and cabinet level. Government has to be clear about the task to be confronted and the best way of succeeding. This is long overdue when it comes to homeland security and the core duty of responding to non state terrorism. I can announce tonight that a Rudd Labor Government will produce a Counter Terrorism White Paper, providing an assessment of the threat we face as a nation and laying out a co-ordinated blue print for a whole of government response. The Minister for Homeland Security will prepare this long overdue assessment by the end of 2008. This white paper will form the basis of future strategic planning and will be a vital guide for agencies involved in this important area of security. 4 I recognise the importance of maintaining broad public confidence in the operations of intelligence and law enforcement bodies engaged in this work. Therefore, an unclassified version of this white paper will be publicly released. It will better inform all Australians and assist in taking the Australian public into the Government’s confidence. Six years after the 9/11 terrorism attacks in New York, Australia lacks a clear, comprehensive statement of the threat presented by various terrorist organisations and their sponsors together with a clearly enunciated blue print in response. Before the end of next year, we will fix that, should we succeed at the upcoming election. Department of Homeland Security The first step in ensuring a clear focus on these issues and a genuine whole of government response is the creation of a Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Maintaining the integrity of maritime and national borders, as well as protecting Australians at home is an increasingly demanding responsibility of national government. New threats have emerged that demand a rethink of our nation’s strategic and tactical response. The Federal Government saw the importance of combining critical security agencies under one command in the lead up to the Sydney Olympics, yet it has avoided the difficult decisions in restructuring its own departments to provide a similar single structure for homeland security. The Howard Government’s continuing insistence on splitting these functions over a number of departments invites overlap, wastage, confusion and missed opportunities. The logic of those who argue that civilian security should be administered in separate departments responsible to various ministers is reminiscent of those who argued forty years ago, that Australia should maintain separate Ministers for Army, Navy, Air Force and Supply. No one today would disagree with the decision in the early 1970’s to create a Defence Department with a single Minister for Defence. The same clear sighted vision for non military security agencies is required today. 5 In the Cold War, Government responded to the realities of the day by questioning existing organisational structures and creating new ones that better met the needs of the nation. In the 21st century, our response to the threat of non-state terrorism requires the clear focus and resolve now accepted as essential in our unified Department of Defence. Anything less is a disservice to all Australians, and ultimately risks injury and loss of life. Interdepartmental committees are not a substitute for a single minister with clear responsibility for a Department of Homeland Security providing a whole of government response to these challenges. Labor’s Department of Homeland Security will encompass the key responsibilities of responding to terrorism, intelligence gathering, border security, a national coastguard, transport security, federal policing, critical infrastructure protection, as well as incident response and recovery capability. The following agencies would form the basis of Labor’s Department of Homeland Security: ! The Coastguard – including the Border Protection Command ! Office of Transport Security ! Customs ! Australian Federal Police and Protective Services (AFPPS) ! Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) ! AUSTRAC ! CRIMTRAC ! AUSCHECK ! Australian Crime Commission (ACC) ! The Australian Institute of Criminology (AIC) ! The Criminology Research Council (CRC) ! Emergency Management Australia (EMA) ! Protective Security Coordination Centre (PSCC) Australia’s key allies, the United States and the United Kingdom, have responded to the current geopolitical reality and chosen an integrated whole of government approach to national security, albeit in different ways to reflect their own history and needs. 6 Labor’s DHS will similarly reflect our unique history and needs. However, all three share in common a belief that to be effective, all key non military agencies involved in responding in particular to terrorism and organised crime need the focus that only comes from being within the same Government Department. We all know that terrorism is not a new phenomenon. What has changed though is the development of non state terrorist groups, with global objectives and global reach, not defined by any single territorial claim. The establishment of the DHS is an essential prerequisite for ensuring our national response to terrorism, organised crime, border security, national disasters and major incidents is at its best. However, it is not enough by itself. In the lead up to the federal election, Kevin Rudd and I will set out details on a range of these initiatives. With the possible dates for an election now down to about three realistic choices, the Prime Minister will have to set the date soon. It won’t be too long after that before you see further details of our DHS plan. But let me take this opportunity to detail two areas that we will move on. Federal Policing In the last decade, the Australian Federal Police’s workload has increased dramatically and now comprises a diverse and extended array of responsibilities including counter terrorism, human trafficking, sexual servitude and other transnational crimes, cyber-crime, and protection services at Parliament, embassies and other high profile locations. In addition, the AFP has assumed a significant role in improving the stability of the region through its deployments in East Timor, the Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea, joint operations in countries of strategic importance such as the Philippines and Indonesia, and a long-term commitment to international relations, perhaps best illustrated by its engagement in Cyprus. These deployments have seen the AFP establish a well deserved international reputation for effective professional work. It has become clear though, that the AFP is straining under the weight of its obligations and requires support; which is precisely what federal Labor will provide. Reports that the AFP has been forced to offload child sex cases to the state police services due to dwindling resources highlights the need for action. 7 A Federal Labor Government will increase the overall size of the AFP by 500 sworn officers over five years as part of a five-point AFP Enhancement Plan worth $200 million. That plan includes: • An audit of police capabilities; • Establishing an effective National Crime Database to share resources and information; • Creating a Federal Police Retention and Recruitment program; and • Expanding the recruitment of Indigenous Australians into the AFP. Port Security I can also announce tonight that a Rudd Labor Government will significantly increase our capacity to x-ray and inspect containers arriving at our ports from overseas. Examining containers at our ports is fundamental to border security, crime fighting and counter terrorism. At present about 93 -95% of containers entering Australia are not x-rayed or physically inspected. The selection of those to be inspected is determined by risk profiling. However, few people would assert that the actual number checked represents all of the containers that should be checked. Rather, the number inspected represents all that is possible with the limited number of just five x-ray facilities. The risk that presents to Australia is unacceptable. During the first term of a Rudd Government, we will add another four inspection facilities almost doubling the capacity to x-ray containers on our ports. This investment in the security of our ports will assist in the identification and interception of illegal and potentially dangerous goods. As an island nation dependent on the movement of millions of containers across our wharves, this is a long overdue measure. Labor will also ensure that only security-cleared crew are authorised to carry explosives and dangerous goods on Australian coastal routes. Currently, the unfettered operation of voyage permits for foreign registered and foreign crewed ships exposes our ports and cities to unacceptable threat. 8 Australian seafarers undergo thorough ASIO and AFP security checks to work anywhere in the maritime industry. Meanwhile foreign seafarers can carry explosives from port to port in Australia on the coastal route without any comparable check. We should not ignore the reality of weekly acts of piracy in the waters just to our north and north west, and through which much of our trade passes. Nor should we forget the operation of Jemaah Islamiyah in the islands nearby these waterways. The Government’s current approach represents maritime security by serendipity. I have never thought security should be left to chance. I have spoken many times inside and outside the Parliament about serious flaws in our transport security systems. I don’t propose to go over those this evening, other than to note their importance and the need for urgent action. It is clear we need to do more to harden potential targets against threats, to improve our redundancy capability in key infrastructure and to better develop our resilience capabilities following incidents. Multiculturalism Securing Australia Whilst we come up short in these areas, our lack of strategic planning has exposed another weakness. Our understanding of the causes of terrorism, the factors that lead people to slaughter and injure innocent people and take their own life is too little examined and even less understood. It seldom if ever warrants a mention in the Parliament, the media or the pubs and clubs of suburbia. Responsible leadership requires that this difficult topic be tackled sensitively and sensibly. In Australia, we have seen a small number of cases where people have been charged with terrorist related offences. A couple have been convicted. In nearly every case, critical intelligence come from members of the communities from which the terrorist came. In at least some of them, it was information from the community that alerted authorities to the threat. In other words, Muslims have provided information that has been essential in thwarting alleged terrorism plots in Australia. Their opposition to terrorism, their 9 commitment to Australia, and to a peaceful and safe society has enabled ASIO the AFP and state police to do their job. The support of the Muslim community is perhaps the single greatest asset Australia has in dealing with these challenges. However, we are in real danger of losing that support as political leaders, community leaders and the media opt for simplistic and ultimately harmful characterisations that juxtapose ‘terrorist’ with ‘Muslim’. Those of us in the public debate have a responsibility to be more careful. I know various academics scattered around a small number of universities and think tanks have sought to look objectively at the causes of terrorism, not simply dwell on responding to the symptoms. It is very much in the national interest for this work to continue and develop. Support and commitment from our nation’s political leaders is needed if Australia is to be a leader in the analysis and understanding of the drivers of terrorism. To make Australia safer, we need to have a clear headed view not just about the physical threat of terrorism, but the underlying causes. Whilst we certainly need to deal with the symptoms, it needs to be acknowledged that focussing on just that as we have for the last six years has produced dubious outcomes. Instead of using yesterday’s war fighting techniques to deal with the symptoms of a problem we confront today, we urgently need to focus more attention on the causes. Independent high quality research in this field will be promoted by Labor. Conclusion I have long thought the Government’s performance in border security, maritime and aviation security has fallen far short of the promises and rhetoric. The improvements made count for little if criminals or terrorists exploit the weak points. When those weaknesses are in areas that have been the subject of expert comment and even public debate, as is the case in parts of the aviation sector, those responsible are guilty of mismanagement at best. 10 The public deserve a Government that takes all reasonable steps to make life at home safe and to maintain effective border security. Notwithstanding changes made in recent years, too much is currently left to chance. Australia needs a genuine whole of government approach to these issues. Interdepartmental committees and multiple Ministerial oversights have not and will not produce the most effective response to securing our borders and dealing with the threat of non state terrorism. Australia needs a Department of Homeland Security. Government and industry must work closely together to produce acceptable and consistent national outcomes. In the event of a Rudd Labor victory, I will look forward to engaging yours views and advice as we all grapple with the complex issues of terrorism, organised crime and border security in the 21st century. After all, it is in all of our interests that we get this right. Contact: Jason Söderblom 0409 374 900 11
"Hon. Arch Bevis MP"