The Australian Prime Minister Weighs in on the Global Terrorist Threat: And the ADF Exercises Its Counter-Terrorism Capabilities


03/31/2016: When visiting Australia in March 2016, the Brussels terrorism events had a major impact on the debate in Australia about how to deal with the terrorist threat closer to home.

The Prime Minister of Australia gave a hard hitting speech which highlighted a tough immigration policy coupled with enhanced counter-terrorism efforts seen in this video.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Minister for Defence Marise Payne watched ADF Special Forces in action during a Special Operations Command counter-terrorism capability demonstration at Holsworthy Barracks on 29 March 2016.

The demonstration included siege scenarios where soldiers stormed buildings by air and foot, a showcase of the precision drills and tactics used during a building assault and also static displays of Defence specialist equipment.

The PM was also able to meet ADF personnel and ask questions.

Special Operations Command is made up of numerous specialist units from the Army, supported by Air Force and Navy, providing Australia with a world class counter-terrorism capability that can respond to both domestic and international incidents.

Credit Video: Australian Ministry of Defense:3/29/16

Prime Minister’s Speech to the Lowy Institute on March 23, 2016

It is a great honour to be here tonight to deliver this Lowy Lecture and in the presence of my good friend, mentor, former leader and of course the deliverer of the first Lowy Lecture, John Howard. So wonderful to be here with John and Frank you and you Shirley and your family we want to thank you for the contribution you have made to Australia.

In every respect you personify the ideal of an active citizen. Engaged in every aspect of your life in business, in philanthropy, in sport, in public affairs. You’re a true leader. Incurably curious about the world and you have a very old school attitude to public service. You don’t just write out a cheque, you get involved boots and all. And you’re a dreamer, you’re a big thinker. You’ve got big visions for Australia.

Whenever we talk it’s about big things. About infrastructure and big investments and you had a great piece in the Financial Review about those ideas only the other day and I have to say that I often find that we are very much of the same mind so you’re an inspiration. And of course the Lowy institute, in little more than a decade, has become Australia’s unquestioned leading think tank on international affairs.

It’s deepened the debate in Australia about the world and it’s given us a greater voice internationally. It really would be very difficult to imagine the foreign policy landscape in Australia today without the Lowy Institute, it’s a remarkable achievement.

Now Frank you asked us to stand in a moment’s silence in solidarity with the people of Belgium and showing our love and our condolences for the victims of the shocking attacks in Brussels. The Belgian Ambassador Jean-Luc Godsen is here with us today and I say to you Ambassador that we are all united with Belgium in this battle against terror.

Just as our forebears were 100 years ago on the fields of Flanders in the First World War. We are in the same struggle and we stand with you shoulder to shoulder. Sympathy, love, condolences but unflinching solidarity in the face of this global threat. We are with you.

The terrorist attacks in Brussels remind us once again of the global threat of terrorism, the need to be vigilant at home, to maintain the security of our borders, to ensure our laws provide our security forces with the tools they need to keep us safe and, of course, to continue to support our allies in the battle against the terrorists of ISIL in Syria and Iraq.

These attacks in Brussels are an unfortunate reminder of how violent Islamist extremism appears to have reached a crisis point in Europe.

European Governments are confronted by a perfect storm of failed or neglected integration, foreign fighters returning from Iraq and Syria, porous borders and intelligence and security apparatus struggling to keep pace with the scope and breadth of the threat. Bernard Squarcini, a former head of France’s internal intelligence service, described these factors as creating a favourable ecosystem for an Islamist milieu.

For all intents and purposes there are no internal borders in Europe, that has been a great achievement of openness, and the external borders are difficult to manage. Recent intelligence indicates that ISIL is using the refugee crisis to send operatives into Europe.

But this scourge of terrorism is not only a European problem. It is global. Whether it is Brussels or Paris, Ankara or Istanbul, Beirut, Bamako, San Bernardino, Jakarta, or Sydney – the world is so connected, Australians and Australia’s interests are so widespread that everywhere today is close to home.

Prime Minister Turnbull gave his first major speech on foreign policy at the Lowy Institute on March 23, 2016.
Prime Minister Turnbull gave his first major speech on foreign policy at the Lowy Institute on March 23, 2016.

Al-Qaeda’s core strategy was to undertake high-profile, well-planned, mass casualty attacks against Western targets such as the destruction of the World Trade Centre on 9/11.

ISIL’s brand of terrorism uses different tactics. It promotes opportunistic, relatively unsophisticated random killings which can be amplified online, such as the use of automatic weapons on a tourist beach in Tunisia or in downtown San Bernardino.

ISIL is intent on demonstrating a growing operational reach, and this we believe is because it is hurting in Syria and Iraq, losing 22% of its total territory and 40% of revenues from its peak in 2014.

The early signs show that, that like the Paris attacks only four months ago, the bombings in Brussels were inspired, if not planned, by ISIL in its Syrian headquarters of Al Raqqa. This underscores the importance of our military contribution against ISIL in Syria and Iraq, in which we have been the second largest contributor to the Coalition effort.

ISIL’s ability to inspire, let alone direct, terrorism around the world will be largely eliminated if its so called caliphate is decisively defeated in the field. Its defeat requires both military force and a political settlement and we are working with our allies to deliver both.

Now no government can guarantee the absolute absence of terrorism.

The terror threat level here in Australia has been at ‘probable’ since September 2014. Australia, however, is better placed than many of our European counterparts in dealing with the threat of terrorism because of the strength of our intelligence and security agencies, our secure borders and our successful multicultural society; one that manages to be both secure and free.

It is also why the Government has reformed our national security legislation to ensure our agencies have the powers they need to mitigate the threat of terror. Our allies regard our national security laws as among the world’s best.

The advantage of our island geography, our effective border protection and counter-terrorism agencies mean we have confidence that we know who is arriving.

Strong borders, vigilant security agencies governed by the rule of law, and a steadfast commitment to the shared values of freedom and mutual respect – these are the ingredients of multicultural success – which is what we have achieved in Australia.

In the fight against terrorism, we are fully committed to playing a leading role to finding the solutions to end ISIL in the Middle East, working with our counterparts in the region, in particular Indonesia and our other ASEAN partners, and continuing to remain vigilant at home.

However, we must remember to take care not to view our strategic circumstances solely through the prism of counter-terrorism. Terrorism is an example of the propaganda of the deed – it is designed to frighten and intimidate. It is designed to deter us from our normal way of life.

That is why President Widodo was determined to ensure that Jakarta was back to normal within four hours of the terrorist bombing in that city in February and why Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel is determined to return Brussels to business as soon as possible.

Terrorism is also designed to make us turn on each other. That is why my Government works hard to promote inclusion and mutual respect, ensuring that all communities and all faiths feel part of ours, the most successful multicultural society in the world.

I have a deep and personal appreciation of Indonesian President Joko Widodo’s commitment to promoting a tolerant and inclusive Islam. He says again and again, Indonesia is proof that democracy, tolerance, moderation and Islam are compatible. And his powerful rejection of extremism resonates well beyond Indonesia.

Australia has a vital interest in seeing President Widodo’s commitment to tolerance succeed, as my own discussions with local Muslim leaders have made clear to me.

Indeed, the Executive Director of the Islamic Council of Victoria, Nail Aykan, wrote to me to say that the mere fact of my mentioning President Widodo’s example has helped in combatting extremism and promoting better, more tolerant and mainstream understandings of Islam and the Muslim world.

This principle of mutual respect is fundamental to our relationships with our near neighbours — as indeed it is critical in our efforts to counter violent extremism in whatever form it takes in our own society…..

Our defence industry plan, part of the Defence White Paper managed so capably by our Defence Minister Senator Marise Payne, who is here tonight. This is investing $1.6 billion, alone, as part of a huge program in supporting local advanced manufacturing and high technology jobs in innovative industries.

The Defence White Paper is a plan for ensuring our defence forces have the capabilities, the physical capacities, they need to secure us in the 21st century. But it will also serve to ensure that as far as possible, every dollar that can be spent in Australia, in Australian industries, in Australian advanced manufacturing, in Australian innovation and technology, will be spent here.

Because we will make, through this plan, Australia more secure, not just in a conventional military sense but by building up that technology and industry base upon which our economy and hence our security depends…..

Now the greatest run of peace and prosperity this planet has ever known – centred right here in our Indo-Pacific region – was all made possible by the system of rules and institutions which the United States and its allies built from the ashes of World War II.

This system has been anchored by the United States and its framework of alliances, including of course ANZUS.

The challenge is that the tremendous growth in our region affects long-standing strategic balances.

In the next two decades, half of the world’s submarines and at least half of the world’s advanced combat aircraft will be operating in our region.

We simply have to do more and work harder to maintain our influence.

And that is what our new Defence White Paper is all about.

It is rigorous and fully-costed.

It is the blueprint that shows how we will develop our defence industries and continue to play our part in providing the measured balance upon which regional security depends.

The White Paper states that our strategic defence objectives defence are not only to defend Australia from attack but also include supporting the security of maritime Southeast Asia and the South Pacific.

It enables us to continue to make substantial contributions to global efforts to maintain a stable Indo-Pacific region and the broader rules-based system.

We believe it is imperative that differences between nations – whether land, air, sea, outer-space or cyberspace – are resolved in accordance with international law.

In this context we look forward in coming weeks to learning the outcome of the case brought by the Philippines under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.

Now, I have spoken elsewhere and at length about China, its history, its future and what it means for us. So here I will be brief.

President Xi is right when he says China must seek to avoid the Thucydides Trap – the conflict that is caused when an incumbent power is made anxious by the rise of a rival.

However it undeniable that China’s actions in the South China Sea are creating anxieties and raising tensions among its neighbours. They are therefore counterproductive – regardless of the legal merits on which, of course, we do not express a view nor make a claim.

Disputes of the  ownership of the various reefs of the South China Sea, should be settled by international law, not by creating facts on the ground or in this case land in the water.

The extraordinary economic growth of our region, especially China’s, has depended on a long period of more than forty years of relative tranquility. There is too much at stake to risk disturbing it.

China in 2016 is part of a neighbourhood of strong and strengthening states, that I have been describing, not to speak of the continuing and essential vital presence of the United States.

In our Defence White Paper we not only accept this emerging multipolar reality, we embrace it.

The Defence White Paper is very clear eyed about our circumstances.

This is why we are not only doing everything we can to work even more closely with the United States, but we’re also deepening our partnership with Japan and our practical defence cooperation with countries across the region.

Japan remains the world’s third largest national economy, with a population of 125 million, and a commitment to and continuing to comply with the rules-based international order.

That’s why we are we are also working assiduously to build and strengthen defence cooperation with India whose working-age population is projected to be 70 per cent larger than any other nation at the end of the century.

The foundation of our strategic cooperation with India is a shared a commitment to respect for international law and international norms, fundamental human rights and the peaceful settlement of disputes.

And it is why we’re looking forward to working even more closely with ASEAN – our second largest trading partner if taken as a bloc…..

The new and more complex economic landscape emerging in China and across the rest of Asia will require more focus and hard work.

The same is true for our strategic environment, which is becoming increasingly complex.

In both the economic and security realms we have to be agile and resilient and above all very clear eyed.

This is a time for a very keen focus on our national interest.

The costs of standing still are unacceptable, the opportunities for those who seize them are immense.

The attitude we’re adopting here at home is the one we’re taking abroad.

The great lesson from the post-war era is that prosperity and peace flows from open markets, diversity, progress and the rule of law.

The lesson from what we have seen – from what we’re seeing from Syria and Iraq or overnight in Brussels is that none of this can be taken for granted.