Counter Terrorism under Labor

Protecting Australians, Defending Human Rights

There is no greater responsibility of government than to protect the safety and security of its citizens.

Terrorism is an affront to all humanity, and Labor will continue to ensure our nation’s security while upholding the democratic rights and freedoms that Australians have for generations fought to protect. Proper resourcing and an effective legal framework that gives our security and law enforcement agencies the powers they need to keep us safe are fundamental to Australia’s security environment.

Labor will continue to fully support our agencies in their vital work to protect the safety of all Australians and defend our nation’s security. Australians expect transparency and accountability in security and enforcement activities to the greatest extent possible, and Labor will continue to champion those safeguard mechanisms.  In ensuring that the rights and freedoms of Australians are protected as well as their physical security, transparency and accountability safeguards also help ensure that Australians have confidence in their security and law enforcement agencies. This further reinforces our security because maintaining a close relationship with the community they protect helps our security agencies to carry out their vital role.


National security is a bipartisan issue. It should always be above politics, as no individual and no party has a monopoly on patriotism.

A Shorten Labor Government will continue to work in a bipartisan way to ensure our nation’s security.

Throughout the term of the Abbott-Turnbull Government, Labor has worked in a constructive manner through the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security to ensure all proposed national security legislation is fit for purpose.

Following rigorous scrutiny of new laws through the committee process, Labor has achieved significant improvements to national security legislation including the introduction of important safeguards such as the establishment of a Public Interest Advocate in situations where security agencies seek metadata from journalists. 

Working in a bipartisan manner, Labor helped to enact over 100 substantive amendments to the national security bills put forward by the Abbott-Turnbull Government, including 26 substantive amendments to the Australian Citizenship Amendment (Allegiance to Australia) Bill 2015.

In each new round of counter terrorism legislation proposed by the Government, Labor has enhanced oversight and transparency.

We have ensured that any new powers are extended for no longer than is necessary, through the application of sunset clauses on some extraordinary powers, and with mandated reviews.

Our focus is about the best interests and safety of Australians. Our interest is always in striking the right balance between national security considerations and the fundamental democratic rights and freedoms all Australians cherish.

Labor will always be mindful that in seeking to protect ourselves from the terrorist threat, we do not undermine the very foundations of our strength that the terrorists want to destroy.

An Inclusive Approach To National Security

A Shorten Labor Government will pursue a balanced approach to counter terrorism—drawing on new means, new methods and adapting to new challenges.

We put our trust in the expertise, professionalism and skill of our security agencies and emergency services personnel, and we should be guided by their advice.

Labor believes early intervention and community engagement, working in combination with strong and bipartisan counter terrorism legislation, are all key to preventing vulnerable young Australians being groomed into extremist ideology.

As was noted by ASIO director-general Duncan Lewis in mid-2015, “we understand we can’t arrest our way to success. If there is indeed a silver bullet to solving the issue of radicalisation, it is in the area of social cohesion.”

Countering violent extremism programs need appropriate funding, cohesive narratives and they need to provide viable alternatives to disenfranchised young Australians who may be vulnerable to terrorist recruiters.           

We must give agencies and communities all the support we can to enhance their capability and to counter the radicalisation of vulnerable youths.   

In addition, Labor will build effective partnerships with other countries to respond to common security challenges, including continuing engagement with the United States and Europe, and further strengthening our ties with our Asian and other regional neighbours.

Strong international institutional arrangements should coordinate international responses to security threats. Labor will respect and uphold these arrangements and actively participate to influence positive outcomes. Under a Shorten Labor Government, Australia will continue to work directly with regional institutions to strengthen their capacity to deal with terrorist challenges in our region.

Labor’s Record

Labor is proud of our record on national security. In Government between 2007 and 2013, we increased funding for public order and safety by hundreds of millions of dollars in real terms.

In December 2008, Prime Minister Rudd delivered Australia’s first National Security Statement to Parliament, setting out our national security challenges and a comprehensive approach to responding to those challenges.

Labor also commissioned and built ASIO’s new purpose-designed headquarters, named after Labor Prime Minister Ben Chifley, who in 1949 signed the directive establishing ASIO.

In 2010 Labor published a Counter Terrorism White Paper, which outlined a detailed strategy to combat the threat of terrorism, based on four key elements:

  • Analysis: an intelligence-led response to terrorism, driven by a properly connected and properly informed national security community.
  • Protection: taking all necessary and practical action to protect Australia and Australians from terrorism at home and abroad.
  • Response: providing an immediate and targeted response to specific terrorist threats and terrorist attacks should they occur.
  • Resilience: building a strong and resilient Australian community to resist the development of any form of violent extremism and terrorism on the home front.

The White Paper established a Counter Terrorism Control Centre within the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation to create closer links and bring together expertise from across our security, intelligence and law enforcement agencies and focus Australia’s counter terrorism efforts. In addition, Federal Labor has improved cooperation between the Australian Federal Police (AFP), ASIO and the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions.