Counter-Terrorism Legislation Amendment (AFP Powers and Other Matters) Bill 2022

This bill, the Counter-Terrorism Legislation Amendment (AFP Powers and Other Matters) Bill 2022, is very important, given that Australia’s national terrorism threat level is ‘probable’. This means that there’s very credible intelligence, assessed by Australian security agencies, that individuals and groups have the intent and capability to conduct a terrorist act in Australia. This bill will provide for the continuation of key counterterrorism powers that the AFP needs to help keep Australians safe.

The AFP do extraordinary work. They are Australia’s national policing agency, with a role to protect Australians and Australia’s interest from serious criminal threats. In 2021, 411 disruptions were recorded across 22 countries, including three major counterterrorism disruptions. They were involved in drug seizure operations; terrorism investigations; child exploitation operations; working with overseas police in offshore peace, stability and security operations; capacity building; and capability development.

We saw, with Operation Ironside, the biggest organised crime operation in the AFP’s history, a long-term covert investigation into transnational and serious organised crime groups that were responsible for large drug importations, drug manufacturing and attempts to kill. We need to make sure that the AFP continues to have the powers it needs.

As the Assistant Minister for Regional Development and Territories in the previous government, I want to thank the AFP for the work they did during COVID, particularly in supporting the significant efforts applied to keep local people and communities safe in our most remote locations.

One of the things I’m proud that we did in government is, through the AFP, establishing the Australian Centre to Counter Child Exploitation. The coalition government established this in 2018 to counter the epidemic of child exploitation, focused on countering online child sexual exploitation—a critical role.

The AFP, as we know, are a very efficient, effective and successful organisation. They provide policing in international, national and community environments. They adapt constantly to the latest threats and risks and they worked tirelessly in this space. They’re currently working on the Optus data breach. As situations arise, and prior to that, they are constantly at work. There are businesses in my electorate that have been victims of denial-of- service attacks, and I suspect we will see more of this in the future. There are additional cyber and online laws that we introduced while in government.

Given that we are heading to 29 September, National Police Remembrance Day, I would also like to acknowledge the police officers who were killed or lost their lives while on duty protecting their community, those who made the ultimate sacrifice, including our AFP officers. There are 808 names on the National Police Memorial here in Canberra, and we show respect and gratitude for all of the officers’ courage and sacrifice. Each one is represented by touchstones on that memorial wall. The names of fallen AFP officers are recorded on an honour roll at the AFP Memorial and the National Police Memorial.

I’d like to thank every police officer, past and present, for their selfless service to our communities. As first responders, they deal with some of the most horrendous, dangerous and often tragic situations. I also acknowledge that the physical and emotional cost of the work they do can last a lifetime. I want to thank their families as well. I thank the police officers for their dedication to their duty and their compassion for the communities they work in. Our communities right around Australia rely on our police services to provide local law enforcement and to help ensure community safety. While we were in government, our national security agencies, including the AFP, prevented a number of mass casualty terrorist attacks. That’s what they do, and often we don’t hear about it. They work constantly in this space. The extension of the sunsetting date of the powers in this bill will make sure that the AFP continues to have appropriate powers, the powers they need to respond to terrorist related threats.