Australia's National Counter Terorrism Policy

‘The first responsibility of the Australian Government is to protect Australia, its people and interests’ (Protecting Australia Against Terrorism (PAAT), 2006, p. 1). As Australia’s flagship counter terrorism package, the PAAT has been designed to address and increase Australia’s regional understanding of the nature of the terrorist threat; identify terrorists and deny them the operating conditions or environment to plan and execute terrorist attacks; disrupt terrorist networks; and strengthen the counter terrorism capabilities of our international partners and allies, (PAAT, 2006, p. 2). The policy in essence aims to establish mechanisms to protect and prepare not only Australia, but our neighbours and allies, to deal with terrorism.

Following the events of 11 September 2001, Australians and Australian interests have been the target of planned or conducted terrorist attack every year since (Bergin, 2007). The Australian Parliament and the Australian community has likewise been engaged in often passionate discussion about the nature, extent and definition of terrorism, its threat to Australia, and the manner in which Australia can best respond. This dialogue has been prompted by events and circumstances of newly seen methods of violence, increased damage and casualties, and a higher standard of planning and coordination. The policy’s debate has been informed by the threats and responses in the United States (US) and the United Kingdom (UK). It has been held in the context of our growing awareness of terrorist networks and the dormant anger that appears to prompt and sustain terrorist causes once woken. Amidst the debate, one constant has appeared: that counter terrorism, its related policy and activities should be the responsibility of the Australian Parliament.

When the subject of a counter terrorism policy was first raised for public debate, it was a relatively new phenomenon for Australia (Hancock, 2002). On 15 July 2004, following an announcement from the...