Australian Ambassador for Counter-Terrorism, His Excellency Bill Paterson PSM: Q&A session notes
- While he is uncertain of the aftermath of a potential strike on the Iranian nuclear facilities, there is an assumption that this could cause an increase in terrorist attacks globally. Some of these attacks would be undertaken by groups who may want to demonstrate sympathy or solidarity with the Iranian regime or by Iran activating global networks of agents. In the nuclear context, it is important to remember that many Arab/Muslim states are concerned at the prospect of a nuclear-armed Iran.
- The issue of terrorism in Pakistan is highly problematic. The Pakistanis have over the last few years done their best to combat terrorism but it is a precarious situation there and it would be a massive task for anyone to combat.
- Broadly speaking, Australia provides a significant amount of international financial aid – including recently to Pakistan. Australia is also assisting Pakistan with limited military training. Australia gained some traction in Pakistan due to our military involvement there in the post-earthquake operations and this may be further cemented through current flood relief assistance.
- Australia’s involvement in both Iraq and Afghanistan, and its support of Israel and the US (and our broad identification with the West), makes us potentially a terrorist target. This is stating the obvious. However, it is important to note that we also have great relationships with Arab/Muslim states.
- While Australia may be a terrorist target, the fact that we are an island, distant from many regions of conflict and have an excellent internal security apparatus works to our advantage.
- There is no current direct link between criminal gangs of Muslim background and Islamist terrorist groups. However, this is being monitored, especially the potential for linkages to develop within our prison system. Currently there is work on disengagement and de-radicalisation strategies within the prison system in Victoria and other states.
- The separatist insurgency in southern Thailand is not part of the global jihadist movement but essentially built around local issues. On the fringes there are extremist elements who preach radical Islam. Generally, the issues driving a localised insurgency can be addressed – though due to the protracted nature of the conflict and the uncompromising tactics shown by both the insurgents and government responses it is going to be a major challenge.
- Al Qaida is indeed a loose global network. It has several formal affiliates as well as many informal followers. The latter generally are inspired by Al Qaida’s message and ideology but act without its formal authority.
- The local Somali community in Australia in recent times have been held to additional scrutiny due to the involvement of some in the Al Shabaab terrorist organisation. Several Somali Australians have travelled to Somalia to fight for Al Shabaab and there is concern at what they could do on return to Australia. It is still an uncertain situation as to whether this is a new trend or whether it is a one-off type situation.
- There is general concern at the potential for Islamist propagandisation on university campuses, as well as the potential for Islamist radicalisation of Aborigines in custody.