Overview: In 2020, Australia introduced legislation to strengthen CT laws, investigated and disrupted suspected terrorist plots, and maintained high levels of cooperation with the United States and other international partners. Australia continued to play an active role in the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS and was a leading contributor to the Defeat-ISIS Coalition’s military support, humanitarian assistance, and efforts to disrupt foreign terrorist fighters (FTFs). Australia extended its role as co-chair of the GCTF CVE Working Group with Indonesia; Australia’s mandate was extended until 2022. Australia is a financial supporter and board member of the Global Community Engagement and Resilience Fund (GCERF). At the end of 2020, Australia’s National Terrorism Threat Advisory System remained at “Probable,” the third-highest level on a five-level scale. In 2020 the Home Affairs Minister initiated a new parliamentary inquiry into “extremist movements and radicalism” in Australia to examine the role of social media, encrypted messaging platforms, and the dark web in facilitating online terrorist communication and recruitment. Expected completion date of this inquiry is 2021.
2020 Terrorist Incidents: There were no reported terrorist incidents in Australia in 2020.
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: In 2020, the Australian government introduced into Parliament the Counter-Terrorism Legislation Amendment (High-Risk Terrorist Offenders) Bill 2020, which would lengthen the extended supervision order (ESO) scheme for high-risk terrorist offenders where a state or territory Supreme Court is satisfied they continue to pose a risk to the community at the end of their custodial sentence. The ESO will enable a person to be released into the community, subject to prohibitions and other conditions on their activities, associations, and movements.
Significant law enforcement actions in 2020 included the following:
- In March, Australian counterterrorism authorities raided and arrested an alleged right-wing violent extremist who was attempting to acquire military equipment and precursor materials for IEDs.
- Australian authorities prevented an Australian from leaving the country in early 2020 to fight with a violent extremist right-wing group on a foreign battlefield.
- The Home Affairs Minister announced on November 25 that Australia had revoked the citizenship of an Algerian-born Muslim cleric convicted of planning a terrorist attack in 2005, the first person to be stripped of Australian citizenship while still in the country.
- In December a 22-year-old male suspected of being “influenced by Islamic State” was shot dead in Brisbane after being confronted by police. He was linked to the killing of an elderly Australian couple, a crime Australian authorities labeled a “terrorism event.”
- An 18-year-old male alleged to be a neo-Nazi was arrested on December 9 for encouraging a mass casualty attack and looking up bomb making materials online.
Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Australia is a member of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) and co-chairs the Asia/Pacific Group (APG) on Money Laundering, a FATF-style regional body. The Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (AUSTRAC), Australia’s FIU, is a member of the Egmont Group. Australia is also a member of the Defeat-ISIS Coalition’s Counter ISIS Finance Group. In 2020, Australia’s foreign minister listed one individual for the purpose of applying targeted financial sanctions connected with terrorism. As of December, Australia had applied sanctions to 37 individuals and 40 entities listed by the foreign minister. In its 2019-20 budget, the Australian government approved $28.4 million over four years to AUSTRAC to expand the Fintel Alliance, a public-private partnership that links expertise in government, law enforcement, and the private sector to combat serious organized crime and build resilience in the financial system. The Fintel Alliance’s capabilities disrupt money laundering involved in transnational organized crime, child exploitation, and terrorism financing.
Countering Violent Extremism: Funding in the government’s 2019-20 budget included $512.9 million from 2018-19 over five years to the Australian Federal Police (AFP) to enhance critical capabilities and operations, including counterterrorism activities, and $41.6 million for 2019-20 for the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation to sustain current operations and enhance future operations, including for counterterrorism purposes.
International and Regional Cooperation: Australia is a member of the United Nations, the GCTF, the Pacific Islands Forum, the East Asia Summit, the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), the ASEAN Regional Forum, and the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism. In 2020, Australia’s Ambassador for Counter-Terrorism led whole-of-government consultations with regional partners in Southeast Asia, which strengthened operational relationships and provided technical assistance. Australia continues to engage with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) partners and in ASEAN-related fora on counterterrorism and law enforcement cooperation, including technical and regulatory assistance to develop and implement counterterrorism legislation. The AFP works with policing agencies in Southeast Asia.