Countering terrorism and violent extremism

Budget Review 2015–16 Index

Cat Barker

Although countering terrorism and violent extremism was not a feature of the 2014–15 Budget, the Government announced a $630 million counter-terrorism funding package in August 2014, detailed in the Mid-year economic and fiscal outlook 2014–15 (MYEFO).[1] The 2015–16 Budget provides a further $326.4 million (including $88.9 million beyond the forward estimates) for counter-terrorism and broader national security measures, most of which will go to the Australian Secret Intelligence Service (ASIS).[2]

As outlined in Table 1 below, the bulk of the MYEFO funding was allocated to intelligence, law enforcement and prosecution agencies. While little has been made public about the funding for intelligence agencies, specific measures in the package included:

  • $13.4 million to prevent and counter radicalisation and involvement with extremist groups (including $1.6 million for the Living Safe Together Grants Programme)[3]
  • $50.7 million for measures relating to ‘foreign fighters’, including a Community Diversion and Monitoring Team, local and regional liaison officers and two new investigative teams for the Australian Federal Police and a ‘multi-agency disruption group’, as well as $24.4 million to establish a Foreign Fighters Task Force comprising 22 investigators and analysts in the Australian Crime Commission[4]
  • $50 million for the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service to establish counter-terrorism units at Australia’s eight international airports, $34.8 million to expand Advance Passenger Processing systems and $13.7 for additional Airline Liaison Officers[5]

Table 1: Counter-terrorism funding in the MYEFO 2014–15

Intelligence agencies ($m) Law enforcement and prosecution agencies ($m) Others ($m)
Australian Security Intelligence Organisation 196.1 Australian Federal Police 77.3 Attorney-General’s Department 37.8
Australian Secret Intelligence Service 126.3 Australian Crime Commission 24.4 Department of Immigration and Border Protection 55.1
Office of National Assessments 6.1 Australian Customs and Border Protection Service 99.6 Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security 3.2
    Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre 20.0 Office of Parliamentary Counsel 0.6
    Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions 3.2 Department of Health 0.2
Totals($m) 328.5   224.5   96.9
Source: J Hockey (Treasurer) and M Cormann (Minister for Finance), Mid-year economic and fiscal outlook 2014–15

The additional funding in the 2015–16 Budget comprises:

  • $295.8 million over six years ($206.9 in the first four) for ASIS to improve its capabilities, including updating information and communications technology systems.
  • $21.7 million over four years for the Combating Terrorist Propaganda in Australia measure initially announced by the Attorney-General in February 2015.[6] This will fund social media monitoring and analysis capabilities, work aimed at reducing extremist material online, a portal for members of the public to report extremist material and assistance to community groups for work with vulnerable individuals.
  • $7.6 million over four years for the Office of National Assessments and $0.7 million over four years for the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security, by exempting those agencies from the Efficiency Dividend (partially implementing a recommendation of a review of counter-terrorism machinery that reported in January 2015[7]).
  • $1.3 million over four years to continue funding the Independent National Security Legislation Monitor, which the Government previously sought to abolish.[8]

The Government states that it has tripled investment in countering violent extremism (CVE) from around $3 million per year to ‘more than $40 million over four years’.[9] However, the amount allocated to these measures remains low in comparison to the additional funding allocated to intelligence and law enforcement agencies in the 2014–15 MYEFO and 2015–16 Budget. The time it has taken to put these measures in place also stands in contrast to the speed with which the Government moved to enact the tougher counter-terrorism laws in the second half of 2014.[10] Some Muslim community leaders and counter-terrorism experts have expressed concern at what they see as an imbalanced response, with disproportionate resources directed to reactive measures such as law enforcement and prosecution at the expense of prevention and intervention.[11]

The Government’s own review of counter-terrorism machinery recognised the value of CVE and recommended the Government ‘significantly boost’ CVE activities, including seeking agreement from the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) to a new CVE strategy in 2015.[12] The review report noted that without the right preventative measures in place, resource pressures on operational agencies would continue to grow.[13] There may be more to come on this. COAG agreed in April 2015 to develop a new national counter-terrorism strategy ‘with a strong focus on countering violent extremism’, with further discussions to take place following a ‘special retreat’ for COAG participants in July 2015.[14]

[1].          T Abbott (Prime Minister) and G Brandis (Attorney-General), New counter-terrorism measures for a safer Australia, media release, 5 August 2014; T Abbott (Prime Minister) and G Brandis (Attorney-General), Counter-terrorism measures for a safer Australia, media release, 26 August 2014; J Hockey (Treasurer) and M Cormann (Minister for Finance), Mid-year economic and fiscal outlook 2014–15 (MYEFO 2014–15).

[2].          The budget figures in this article have been taken from the following document unless otherwise sourced: Australian Government, Budget measures: budget paper no. 2: 2015–16, 2015. This total does not include funding for implementation of mandatory telecommunications data retention or national security measures in the Defence and Immigration and Border Protection portfolios, which are covered by separate articles in Budget review 2015–16, ‘Telecommunications data retention’, ‘Defence overview’ and ‘Border protection and counter-people smuggling measures’. Included in the Government’s total of $1.2 billion for national security are the funding for ASIS and the Independent National Security Legislation Monitor outlined in this article, data retention and Defence operations Afghanistan, Iraq and the Middle East.

[3].          Counter-terrorism measures for a safer Australia, op. cit.; G Brandis (Attorney-General), Living Safe Together Grants Programme—successful grant recipients, media release, 2 May 2015. See further C Barker, Australian Government measures to counter violent extremism: a quick guide, Research paper series, 2014–15, Parliamentary Library, Canberra, 10 February 2015.

[4].          Counter-terrorism measures for a safer Australia, op. cit.; M Keenan (Minister for Justice), $24 million to establish Australian Crime Commission’s Foreign Fighters Taskforce, media release, 2 September 2014.

[5].          T Abbott (Prime Minister) and P Dutton (Minister for Immigration and Border Protection), Transcript of doorstop, media release, 25 March 2015; S Morrison (Minister for Immigration and Border Protection), New measures at our borders to protect against terrorist threat, media release, 10 September 2014.

[6].          G Brandis (Attorney-General), Combating terrorist propaganda online, media release, 19 February 2015.

[7].          Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, Review of Australia’s counter-terrorism machinery, Australian Government, Canberra, January 2015, p. 42.

[8].          Parliament of Australia, ‘Independent National Security Legislation Monitor Repeal Bill 2014 homepage’, Australian Parliament website; Australian Government, Budget measures: budget paper no. 2: 2014–15, 2014, p. 187.

[9].          G Brandis (Attorney-General), Attorney-General’s portfolio budget measures 2015–16, media release, 12 May 2015. This total appears to include $2 million per year provided through the Australia New Zealand Counter Terrorism Committee in addition to the $13.4 million and $21.7 million initiatives outlined above: Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee, Answers to Questions on Notice, Attorney-General’s Portfolio, Supplementary Estimates 2014–15, 20 November 2014,  Question SBE14/187.

[10].       N Robinson, ‘Radical “fan base” grows as funds sit idle’, The Australian, 16 January 2015, p. 1.

[11].       See for example E Reynolds, ‘The $1m method to deradicalise Australia’s youth and prevent a terrorist attack’,, 3 November 2014; D Snow, ‘Reaching out to radicals’, The Sydney Morning Herald, 31 January 2015, p. 32; M Safi, ‘Radicalisation in Australia: Muslim leaders work to dissipate “fixation” with ISIS among youths’, The Guardian (online edition), 10 March 2015.

[12].       Review of Australia’s counter-terrorism machinery, op. cit., pp. 30–35.

[13].       Ibid., p. 30.

[14].       Council of Australian Governments (COAG), Communique, COAG Meeting, Canberra, 17 April 2015.


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