Overview: The Counterterrorism Coordination Centre within the Department of Home Affairs is responsible for domestic policy development; whole-of-government coordination, including the use of counterterrorism laws relating to citizenship cessation; listing of terrorist organizations; and treatment of high-risk terrorism offenders. The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade leads Australia’s international CT engagement. In December, the Australian government listed Hizballah in its entirety as a terrorist organization for the purposes of the Criminal Code Act 1995. Previously, Australia’s listing was restricted to Hizballah’s External Security Organization. At the end of 2021, Australia’s National Terrorism Threat Advisory System remained at “Probable,” the third-highest level on a five-level scale.
2021 Terrorist Incidents: There were no reported terrorist incidents in Australia in 2021.
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: In August, Parliament passed the Counterterrorism Legislation Amendment (Sunsetting Review and Other Measures) Bill 2021, which extended the Federal Court’s powers to impose control and preventive detention orders to manage terrorist threats by continuing the detention of persons of concern. In November, Parliament passed the Counterterrorism Legislation Amendment (High-Risk Terrorist Offenders) Bill 2020, which lengthens the extended supervision order (ESO) arrangement for high-risk terrorist offenders where a state or territory Supreme Court determines 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. Also in November, the government introduced into Parliament the National Security Legislation Amendment (Comprehensive Review and Other Measures No. 1) Bill 2021 to address operational challenges facing Australia’s intelligence agencies. Key elements of the bill include authorization for agencies to produce intelligence on Australians who are, or are likely to be, involved with listed terrorist organizations and strengthened arrangements for Australian intelligence agencies to cooperate with one another and with other organizations.
Significant law enforcement actions and judicial determinations in 2021 included the following:
- In March, Ahmed Luqman Talib, who was publicly listed by the U.S. government as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist in 2020, was arrested on charges of arranging travel to Syria for a terrorist in 2013.
- In September, three men were arrested and charged by the Victorian Joint Counterterrorism Team for planning a 2018 terrorist attack in Melbourne were sentenced to 10 years’ imprisonment with a nonpatrol period of seven years and six months.
- In October, the Supreme Court of New South Wales sentenced three individuals for separate terrorism offenses:
- Seven years and four months’ imprisonment for acts in preparation of a terrorist act in Australia and preparing for foreign incursions.
- Three years and 10 months’ imprisonment for being a member of a terrorist organization and advocating terrorism — the first time a person in Australia has been sentenced for the offence of advocating terrorism.
- Five years and four months’ imprisonment for acts in preparation of a terrorist act and exporting prohibited material.
Countering the Financing of Terrorism: There have been no changes since 2020.
Countering Violent Extremism: The Department of Home Affairs coordinates a comprehensive national approach to preventing and countering violent extremism — whether politically, religiously, or racially motivated — as a shared effort among federal, state, and territory government agencies. The program’s stated objective is to combat the threat posed by homegrown terrorism and to discourage Australians from traveling overseas to participate in conflicts. The government’s approach comprises four complementary streams of activity, including building strength in diversity and social participation; targeted work with vulnerable communities and institutions; addressing terrorist propaganda online; and diversion and deradicalization. In March, Australia designated the right-wing organization Sonnenkrieg
Division as a terrorist group. In November, the Minister of Home Affairs declared right-wing extremist organization The Base a terrorist group. These designations make it a criminal offense to be a member of either group. In October, the Minister of Home Affairs chaired a national Ministerial Meeting on Counterterrorism, which brought together state and territorial ministers responsible for these matters to discuss the current and future threat environment and identify opportunities for enhanced cooperation to respond to them.
International and Regional Cooperation: 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 aid, strategic communications, and efforts to disrupt foreign terrorist fighters. Australia is a financial supporter and board member of the Global Community Engagement and Resilience Fund and a member of the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism. Established in 2012, the Australia-New Zealand Counter-Terrorism Committee (ANZCTC) functions as a high-level body consisting of representatives from the two countries’ federal, state, and territorial governments.
Since 2017, Australia has co-chaired the Global Counterterrorism Forum’s (GCTF’s) Countering Violent Extremism Working Group with its partner, Indonesia. The CVE Working Group has concentrated on a range of GCTF initiatives to develop and implement best-practice guidance on fighting extremism in line with the UN Global Counterterrorism Strategy. Most recently, the Working Group developed a Gender and P/CVE Policy Toolkit for presentation to other GCTF Member States at the Forum’s 20th Coordinating Committee and 12th Ministerial meeting. In 2021, Australia’s ambassador for counterterrorism led whole-of-government consultations with regional partners in Southeast Asia, which strengthened operational relationships and provided technical assistance. Australia also participated (with the United States, India, and Japan) in the second Quad counterterrorism tabletop exercise in November, hosted by India. Australia continues to engage with 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. For example, Australia and the United States in February co-hosted with the Philippines the second virtual workshop in a three-workshop series for ASEAN Regional Forum members on watchlisting, aviation security, and information sharing. The Australian Federal Police works with policing agencies in Southeast Asia.