Address to the 'No Money for Terror' Ministerial Conference on Counter-Terrorism Financing, New Delhi

  • Speech, E&OE

Ministerial counterparts, your excellencies, heads of agencies, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen. Australia was proud to host the last iteration of this conference in Melbourne in 2019 and I would like to express my thanks to the Indian government for your hosting of this year's event and your commitment commitments to counterterrorism.

Events like the 2008 Mumbai attacks, the 2002 Bali bombings and the September 11 attacks have changed our world forever. From across the Indian Ocean, Australia was deeply shocked and appalled by the deadly and horrific Mumbai attacks. Our consulate in Mumbai recently paid tribute to the victims, including two Australians who were killed and two others who were injured at a ceremony organised for the UN Counterterrorism Committee last month. In October, I also spoke at a ceremony in Indonesia commemorating the 20th anniversary of the Bali bombings, in which citizens from Australia and many other countries represented here today were killed and injured. The commemoration ceremony was a sombre opportunity to remember and acknowledge the human costs of terrorism, the lives that are lost and the loved ones who are left behind.

Today we continue to operate in an increasingly complex and volatile and uncertain environment. Terrorism and violent extremism remain dynamic and persistent threats. These threats must always be proactively addressed. We must approach this challenge highly aware of and highly attuned to the rapidly evolving 21st century context in which we operate and live. We will increasingly need to collectively confront a broad range of strategic challenges of which terrorism is just one. A core conclusion is that all nations must now more than ever, work together to counter threats and continuously adapt. Despite many successes over the last 20 years there should be no complacency or false comfort. As we deal with the implications of a global pandemic and reopen borders, we need to redouble our efforts to ensure that we are well-placed to help prevent, prepare, respond and recover from the effects of terrorism and violent extremism.

A scan of the contemporary and future environment highlights a number of important ongoing and emerging global terrorist threats. I note the ongoing challenges posed by the continued concentration of foreign terrorist fighters in places such as Syria. This challenge is exacerbated by the continued existence of ungoverned or unregulated areas where terrorism can grow and spread. I also note the rise of new and different threats in ideology, notably ideologically motivated violent extremists, inclusive of extreme right wing, and a complex mix of nationalist, ethnically motivated, anti-government and racist groups and individuals.

Perhaps the most demanding challenge is understanding and adapting to the high rate of technological change and its impacts on countering terrorism. Effectively countering terrorism online and in the digital world is arguably now our biggest future collective test. Social media and the online world continue to grant terrorist groups access and exposure at minimal cost, and we must relentlessly work to reduce the space online where terrorism and abhorrent violent extremism can find sanctuary or cover. The reality of the digital world increases individual vulnerability to radicalisation. The propagation of terrorist ideologies enabled by a global online reach is a key characteristic of contemporary and future terrorism. We are actively monitoring the impact of these technological changes.

Following the Horrific Livestream terrorist attack in Christchurch in 2019, Australia became a founding supporter of the Christchurch Call and codified its principles into our online safety legislation and policy responses. The call aims to eliminate terrorist and violent extremist content online and is a commitment to a free, open and secure internet. It unites governments and online service providers to achieve these objectives through voluntary measures. The rate of technological change is exponential and the ramifications for terrorism and counterterrorism are profound. We face a new mix of capabilities that can be exploited by terrorists and our efforts to counter them.

Consider the risk posed by modern chemical or biological weapons and agents, and the ubiquitous proliferation of drone technologies. These are two of the leading emerging technologies that ensure that we need to maintain our collective focus on the threat and the context in which it operates. Whilst we will continue to see terrorists employing these and other leading-edge technologies, these technologies are also used in our societies for good. This presents difficult policy, legal and operational challenges as we balance our own protection with all of the positive uses of technology. Terrorism often operates across borders and exploits national boundaries and limits. But we do know that international collaboration can significantly reduce our collective risk. We've seen through international efforts, including hard work on border control measures, counterterrorism financing arrangements and the greater sharing of lessons, intelligence and information. We must recommit to working closely together to protect our peoples and our common interests.

Tackling terrorism financing is a leading area of effective international cooperation. This work has made organising funding and mounting terrorist operations difficult in the face of limited access to critical resources such as funding. Together, we must redouble our efforts to deprive terrorists and terrorist organisations of the financial means to carry out their activities. Technology is impacting the current and emerging financial landscape. Financial services are delivered in an increasingly globalised environment and a globalised economy that is increasingly digitally connected and enabled. The increasing use of virtual assets, encrypted messaging platforms and the sophisticated use of untraceable cryptocurrency encryption are just three emerging fields that require our close attention. For example, using cryptocurrencies potentially allows terrorist groups to expand their potential sources of financing while circumventing traditional intervention methods.

We've also seen a rapid diversification of mechanisms used by extreme right wing groups for fundraising. In particular, subscription and crowdfunding avenues such as Patreon and GoFundMe are on the rise as potential sources of terrorist income, as are micropayment and e-commerce platforms, and even gaming and online advertising. Again, what makes these options attractive to these groups is their ability to solicit donations from outside groups, operating region and networks compared to traditional fundraising methods.

These significant changes demand our close and continued attention. Australia has adopted, Australia has adapted, how and who we regulate, how we conduct financial intelligence analysis, and who we engage with domestically and globally. The analysis and adaptation must continue. We must ensure that we evolve our financial intelligence capabilities and deepen our international partnerships to stay ahead of the threat. Terrorist groups continue to exploit criminal activities, including drug trafficking, to further fund their illegal activities. The nexus between terrorism and organised crime requires our continued attention and best thinking. It demands continued, close international attention.

This important conference is about how we can further improve our international cooperation in this critical area of counterterrorism. Terrorism is a globally connected problem that requires a cooperative mindset, a cooperative response, backed by a sustained collective resolve and mindset. Terrorism and terrorism financing are evolving quickly and are increasingly digitally enabled. Terrorists will continue to adapt, learning to exploit new and emerging technologies and transform their organisations and their revenue streams. We must be faster, smarter and more determined. International cooperation and collaboration will be critical to our future collective success. Australia stands ready to fight against the threat of terrorism alongside the global community. This conference is a key part of that international effort.

Thank you.

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