Terrorism and National Security

Cover - Terrorism and National Security
  • Terrorism and National Security
  • Volume 321
  • Editor: Justin Healey
  • Print book ISBN: 978 1 921507 32 8
  • E-book ISBN: 978 1 921507 37 3
  • Year: 2011
  • E-book: $24.00

The threat of terrorism on Australian soil is a key feature of Australia’s security environment. The main source of international terrorism is from a global militant jihadist movement, which includes violent extremists such as al‑Qa’ida. Is terrorism really a significant threat to the Australian community, or are unprecedented government powers and counter-terrorism laws of greater concern? What are the risks of attack from foreign or domestically based threats? Australia’s broader defence and security interests are undergoing changes in strategic planning, including upgrading air and sea power, and realigning our traditional alliance with the US while engaging with emerging regional giant, China. How vulnerable is Australia to attack – are we prepared?

Chapter 1: National security and counter-terrorism in Australia

Chapter 2: Anti-terrorism laws

Chapter 3: Australia’s defence and security interests

Worksheets and activities; Glossary; Fast facts; Web links; Index

Fast facts:

  • Terrorism has been practised throughout history. However it is only in modern times that the term ‘terrorism’ has been used to describe terrorist violence.
  • In ancient Greece the historian Xenophon (430-350 BC) wrote of the effectiveness of using psychological warfare against enemy populations.
  • It was not until 1795 that the terms terrorism and terrorist were recorded and used to describe the Reign of Terror instigated by the French revolutionary government.
  • The use of terrorist in an anti-government sense was recorded in 1866 (referring to Ireland) and in 1883 (referring to Russia) but until well into the 20th century terrorism usually meant terror inflicted by the state as exemplified by Lenin’s Cheka secret police or Nazi Germany’s Gestapo.
  • The 12 October 2002 Bali bombing was the deadliest act of terrorism in the history of Indonesia or Australia, killing 202 people, of whom the largest portion (88) were Australians.
  • Prior to the 1960s, there had not been any act in Australia that could accurately be deemed ‘terrorism’ in the modern political and strategic sense of the word.
  • Australia did not introduce terrorism specific laws into Parliament until the late 1970s.
  • In September 2007 there were 19 organisations designated and banned for active involvement in terrorism. All but one of those organisations are Islamic.
  • As of July 2010, the latest legislation to be brought into effect is the Anti-Terrorism Act (No. 2) 2005.
  • Under the law, there are two ways for an organisation to be identified as a ‘terrorist organisation’. Either an organisation may be found to be such an organisation by a court as part of the prosecution for a terrorist offence, or it may be specified in Regulations, known as ‘listing’.
  • The listing of an organisation ceases to have effect 2 years after its commencement, or if the Minister ceases to be satisfied that the organisation is directly or indirectly engaged in, preparing, planning, assisting in or fostering the doing of a terrorist act, whichever occurs first.
  • The Attorney-General, supported by the National Security Committee of Cabinet and other Ministers, has respon-sibility for operational coordination on national security issues.
  • Since 2001, numerous terrorist attacks have been thwarted in Australia. 38 people have been prosecuted or are being prosecuted as a result of counter-terrorism operations and 20 people have been convicted of terrorism offences under the Criminal Code. Over 40 Australians have had their passports revoked or applications denied for reasons related to terrorism.
  • While 1,440 US citizens died in terrorist attacks in 2001, three times as many died of malnutrition, and almost 40 times as many people died in car accidents during the same year.
  • Even with the 9/11 attacks included in the count, the number of Americans killed by terrorism since the late 1960s is about the same as the number of Americans killed over the same period by severe allergic reaction to peanuts, lightning, bee stings, or accident-causing deer.
  • The total number of people killed in the 5 years after 9/11 in such incidents came to around 200-300 per year. By comparison, over the same period far more people have perished in the US alone in bathtub drownings.
  • To date, not a single person has been killed in a terrorist attack on Australian soil in the post-9/11 era.
  • A calculation of annual fatality risks for the period of 1970-2007 reveals that the risk of getting killed in a terrorist attack in Australia is 1 in 33,300,000.
  • Since 2001, Australia’s total defence spending has increased 59% from $13.7 billion to $21.8 billion. More than $16 billion have been spent in extra defence, counter-terrorism and foreign aid by 2010-11.
  • Experience from around the world indicates that enlisting and engaging families, communities and moderate religious leaders is crucial to identify those exposed to, or at risk of being influenced by violent extremists.
  • The Australian government has introduced over 40 new counter-terrorism laws since September 2001.
  • A person suspected or accused of committing an offence under the counter-terrorism laws currently has few legal options to assert their human rights. The options currently available include legal actions based on: Common law and the Australian Constitution.
  • The Australian Government has introduced an extensive legislative regime around counter-terrorism, national security and other cross-jurisdictional offences. The Crimes Act 1914 covered a number of offences, however with the events of the past few years, new legislation has been enacted to ensure Australia and Australians are protected from emerging threats.
  • From September 11 to the end of the Howard government, Parliament passed 44 anti-terrorism laws – 1 every 7 weeks. This volume of law-making has no parallel in any other democratic nation.
  • Australia has concluded 14 bilateral counter-terrorism Memorandums of Understanding with Turkey, Malaysia, Thailand, the Philippines, Fiji, Cambodia, PNG, Indonesia, India, East Timor, Brunei, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan.
  • Australia works bilaterally and in regional forums to combat transnational crime.
  • The principal task for the Australian Defence Force is to deter and defeat armed attacks on Australia by conducting independent military operations without relying on the combat or combat support forces of other countries.
  • Australia is the world’s 11th biggest defence spender. The ship and submarine numbers do not compare to where we were as the world’s 4th biggest navy after World War II. They, along with the army and air force, compare on the light side with other countries which also spend 2% of their gross domestic product on defence.
  • China is a long way from matching the maritime capabilities of the US or even Japan, both of which are Australia’s allies.