Topics: Counter terror strategy and funding announcement to keep Australians safe
PETER STEFANOVIC: The Morrison Government is set to unveil its new counterterrorism strategy investing $86.7 million against high-risk terrorists. Government officials say convicted terrorists will soon face unprecedented tracking and supervision when they are freed from prison. On that note, let’s bring in the Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews. Minister, good morning to you. So just elaborate if you wouldn’t mind on these new powers that will come in against convicted terrorists. What are they?
KAREN ANDREWS: Well, good morning, and as you’ve rightly said, we’re announcing a new strategy to counter terrorism here in Australia. We know that there are already 144 convicted terrorists in jail; 18 of those may well be released within the next four years. Now, as a Government we’ve increased legislation so that we can either keep these people in detention for longer or we have powers now to make sure that they are properly put under surveillance when they come out. So this new funding will support the tracking of these individuals should they ever come out. Now, clearly our intention is to put them through deradicalisation programs. But let’s be clear – some people will never, ever, ever be able to be deradicalised. So it’s important that if ever they’re released they can be properly put under surveillance and tracked, otherwise we will have some real issues with these people out in the community and the Morrison Government has always been focused on keeping our community safe.
PETER STEFANOVIC: So how long would you track them for once they’re released? Would there be an end date on that?
KAREN ANDREWS: They will be tracked for the rest of their lives if they pose a risk to the community – that we cannot allow to happen – so that means they will need to be kept under surveillance. We have seen impacts of this overseas, where various measures have been put in place but have still not been effective. So the powers that we now have in Australia, the additional resources that we’re putting in to make sure that they are properly put under surveillance, is going to keep our community safe.
PETER STEFANOVIC: You did mention there so 144 we’ve got in total in prisons at the moment. Eighteen over the next four years. But how many of them realistically do you expect to be released over the next four years? I know you said that you’ll be fighting against that?
KAREN ANDREWS: Look, potentially there’s 18 that could be released over the next four years. So our aim as a Government would be to look at opportunities to continue to keep them in detention, to keep them in jail. But in the event that the courts do allow these people to be released, we will look at extended supervision orders, we will look at increasing the surveillance that they’re put under, and they will be monitored around the clock. We’ll also put in things that require them to report in. We can look at what they can access online, the hours that they have to be at home. So all of those things are important, but the surveillance, they will be constantly monitored because we cannot have people out there who are going to do harm.
PETER STEFANOVIC: Well, I mean, we’ve heard from ASIO in recent weeks, too, that said that radicalisation and threats are on the up. Is that a suggestion that what is in currently in place just isn’t working?
KAREN ANDREWS: What we have done as a Government is always been very consistent in looking at what the threats are and looking at what we need to do to keep Australians safe. So we’ve been monitoring the threat environment and we rely on advice from the Australian Federal Police and also from ASIO. Now, the threat of terrorism in Australia remains at ‘probable’, which means that there are people out there who have the capability and the intent to do us harm. So we need to make sure that if these people are released from prison they are monitored in the community. So there is additional funding available, additional resources, to make sure that Australians are kept safe.
PETER STEFANOVIC: What are you most concerned about? As Minister for Home Affairs, now that we’re all out and about, we’re all gathering in places, what and where are you most concerned about?
KAREN ANDREWS: Well, I’ve said for some time now that as we started to reopen our borders, as we started to increase the number of people who were able to gather, the threat of terrorism started to increase as a likelihood or possibility again. So I’ve been very conscious of that. Now, I’ve also been very clear that it’s not just the capital cities that we have to be concerned about. We have to be concerned about what is going on in our rural and regional communities as well. So recently we did have someone who was arrested for printing a 3D weapon in Orange. We’re conscious of what may happen in our regional communities. So this is not just a policy for cities; this is all about making sure Australians are safe wherever they are.
PETER STEFANOVIC: And is it Islamic extremism or is it far right extremism that concerns you the most? Which one is it? Or is it another one?
KAREN ANDREWS: It’s extremism in all its forms. And I’ve been very clear that we have to look at all threats. The head of ASIO has been equally clear about making sure that we are looking at all of the threats. I’ve listed terrorist organisations that are ideologically motivated, most recently The Base. But I will look at the advice that I get about terrorist organisations. I will list them when there is evidence and they have met the thresholds to be able to be listed. But we’d look at terrorism in its broadest forms. So we don’t focus in on just one type of extremism because all of it, all forms of extremism are abhorrent, and we don’t want them here.
PETER STEFANOVIC: Okay. That’s the Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews. Thank you, Minister, for your time. We’ll talk to you again soon.