International Counter-Terrorism

The Australian Government is cooperating closely with key partners, particularly in South-East Asia, to bring terrorists to justice and to prevent further terrorist attacks. Australia’s substantial international counter-terrorism efforts are focused on law enforcement, intelligence, border and transport security, diplomacy, defence, terrorist financing, building legal capacity, countering the threat of chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear terrorism, and countering violent extremism.

Key elements of Australia’s international counter-terrorism efforts include:

  • Bilateral engagement, particularly government-to-government practical cooperation with key partners. Australia has also concluded memorandum of understandings on counter-terrorism with Indonesia, the Philippines, Malaysia, Cambodia, Thailand, Brunei, Fiji, Papua New Guinea, East Timor, India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Turkey, Bangladesh, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Saudi Arabia and France. These provide frameworks to develop a sense of common purpose, share information, and facilitate practical counter-terrorism activities.
  • Multilateral and regional engagement in forums such as the United Nations (UN), the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN), the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), the Pacific Island Forum (PIF), and the Global Counter-Terrorism Forum (GCTF) as well as in issue-specific groups such as the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism.
  • Enhanced engagement with Australian and international think-tanks, academia and the private sector.

Counter-Terrorism White Paper

Released on 23 February 2010, the Counter-Terrorism White Paper, Securing Australia – Protecting our Community, sets out Australia's counter-terrorism objectives and the means by which the Government will pursue them. It explains the nature of the terrorist threat to Australia and outlines the Australian Government's policy and strategy for countering domestic and international terrorism. The Government's strategy has four key elements: analysis, protection, response and resilience.

Read the Counter-Terrorism White Paper

Ambassador for Counter-Terrorism

On 18 May 2014, Mr Miles Armitage was appointed as Australia's Ambassador for Counter-Terrorism. The Ambassador for Counter-Terrorism is responsible for developing and implementing Australia's international counter-terrorism efforts. The Ambassador for Counter-Terrorism plays a key role in coordinating policy cooperation, capacity building and operational collaboration between Australian agencies and international counter-terrorism partners.

The Department’s Counter-Terrorism Role

  • Ensure a comprehensive and integrated policy approach to combating terrorism internationally, including by recommending to Ministers priorities for international counter-terrorism engagement
  • Build international links by leading negotiations on counter-terrorism cooperation and holding regular consultations with other countries
  • Support and develop international initiatives that build resilience against extremist groups that advocate terrorist activity
  • Promote and support international initiatives that build social cohesion, including interfaith outreach activities
  • Support and coordinate capacity building initiatives managed by other Australian agencies
  • Research and advise on the implications of international terrorism developments
  • Promote and support activities to counter the threat of chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear terrorism
  • Promote enhanced measures to ensure the safety of explosive materials
  • Coordinate efforts to ensure Australia’s effective implementation of its obligations under United Nations counter-terrorism instruments
  • Manage the listing of individuals and organisations under Australia’s terrorist proscription and asset freezing regime
  • Advise Australian citizens and businesses overseas about terrorism-related security threats
  • Ensure the security and integrity of Australia’s passport issuing system
  • Ensure the security of Australian embassies and consulates abroad
  • Liaise with foreign diplomats and consular missions in Australia, and with relevant Australian agencies, with respect to the protection of those missions and other premises and visiting foreign dignitaries.

South East Asia Working Group of the Global Counterterrorism Forum

Australian and Indonesia jointly launched the South East Asia Working Group of the Global Counterterrorism Forum at the Jakarta Centre for Law Enforcement Cooperation (JCLEC) in Semarang, Indonesia, on 6 March 2012.

Co-chaired by Australia and Indonesia, the Southeast Asia Working Group focuses on sharing and examining best practices and lessons learned in building counterterrorism capacity through identifying critical civilian counterterrorism needs, enhancing global cooperation and mobilising necessary expertise and resources. The working group initiative supports the Global Counterterrorism Forum (GCTF), which was launched by the United States and Turkey in New York on 22 September 2011.

Following the inaugural meeting in Semarang, a follow-up practitioners workshop on the management and custody of terrorist detainees was held in Sydney on 7-9 November 2012.  This workshop provided prison practitioners from GCTF members and Southeast Asian states the opportunity to examine the challenges involved in applying best-practices principles in the region's prisons.

On 28-29 November 2012, a second full working group meeting was held in Manila, Philippines. This meeting focused thematically on the issue of youth radicalization and de-radicalization, exploring the factors that make individuals or groups of young people susceptible to radicalization and discussing strategies to address the challenge.

Dealings with Terrorists – Australia's international obligations

What Australians and Australian businesses need to know

Australia has enacted legislation to ensure it meets its international obligations under United Nations Security Council Resolutions 1267 (and successor resolutions) and 1373 to freeze the assets of terrorists, The Government has passed laws to prohibit a person who is holding assets that are owned or controlled by a designated terrorist individual or entity from using or dealing with those assets (in other words, the person holding those assets must freeze them) and to prohibit any person from making any assets available to designated terrorist individuals or entities. The department maintains a Consolidated List of all individuals and entities to which this terrorist asset freezing regime applies.

More information on Australia's terrorist asset freezing regime

DFAT maintains close contacts with Australia's financial sector to ensure asset freezing arrangements take account of the sector's legitimate interests. Australian businesses, in particular exporters, should also be aware that it is their responsibility to ensure that they do not do business with an individual or entity listed on the Consolidated List.

In addition to the Consolidated List, the Australian Government also maintains a list of groups that are proscribed as terrorist organisations under the Australian Criminal Code. Go to the National Security Australia website to view the Criminal Code list of 'terrorist organisations'. If a group is listed as a 'terrorist organisation' it is an offence to:

  • direct the activities of the organisation
  • recruit persons to the organisation
  • receive training from or provide training to the organisation
  • receive funds from or make available funds to the organisation
  • provide support or resources to the organisation

Addressing the Use of Home Made Explosive Precursors

The preferred weapon for insurgents and terrorists is the improvised explosive device (IED). Most IEDs are made using a category of chemicals known as home made explosive (HME) precursors (that is, a substance from which another is formed by a chemical reaction). For instance, the devices used in the Bali attacks of 2002 and 2005 which killed 92 Australians were constructed from HME precursors.

Terrorists, insurgents and criminals use these precursors because, in contrast to military and commercial grade explosives which are subject to strict controls, HME precursors are widely available due to their legitimate uses in industry, agriculture and commerce. They include chemicals which communities and individual consumers use every day. The chemical ammonium nitrate, a widely used fertilizer, is an example of a HME precursor.

Australia works with other governments and international partners on chemical management frameworks to control and monitor the use of HME precursors and prevent their use for politically-motivated and criminal violence.

We co-host and contribute expertise and funding to workshops, study programs and training. For example, Australia has co-hosted and funded an ASEAN workshop in Singapore to raise HME awareness and several other workshops and activities on chemical risk assessment and management in South-East and South Asia.

Most recently, in March 2013, the Australian Government convened a workshop in Thailand on HME precursor management.

Facilitated by the Australian Bomb Data Centre (ABDC), this workshop provided an opportunity to exchange technical knowledge on best practices for the management of HMEs. This workshop was attended by Australian, US and Thai military, police and civilian experts. The workshop covered

  • current trends on the illicit use of HME precursors
  • national chemical risk assessment frameworks
  • government-industry partnerships to enhance HME controls
  • awareness raising programs
  • exploiting the intelligence value of HME and IED events
  • whole-of-government approaches to countering the networks that acquire and deploy HMEs in attacks.

The ABDC is part of the Australian Federal Police, and it provides important law enforcement technical expertise on IEDs and is crucial to Australia’s international engagement on the control of HME precursors.

The ABDC is an important partner for the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in our work on HME outreach. We also work closely with the Attorney-General’s Department, Australian Defence Force and the National Industrial Chemicals Notification and Assessment Scheme (NICNAS).

Australian Government Chemical Security Website