Let me congratulate the Institute for its work in promoting
the responsible use of biometrics – to government and industry – in an impartial
and independent manner.
Biometrics, as all of you know, will play an increasing and
important part in our everyday life in the future - protecting our national
security and our personal identities.
The use of biometrics at our border allows identity
assurance, protects Australia’s citizens, subverts the activities of criminals,
and more importantly the activities of terrorists.
It gives integrity to the Government’s migration program and
facilitates legitimate trade and travel.
On December 6 last year, among the thousands of people
passing through Sydney International Airport was a seemingly innocuous
33-year-old man boarding a flight to Indonesia … just one passenger amongst the
myriad of departures and arrivals on that day.
The passport he presented to border staff was not his own.
It belonged to his brother.
His likeness to his brother was such that he passed through
the border checks, boarded his flight and then travelled on to Malaysia, to
Turkey and to his final destination, Syria.
That man was Khaled Sharrouf – a convicted terrorist here in
A terrorist who would later shock the world when he posted
on social media – horrific photographs of his young son clutching the severed
heads of Syrian soldiers.
This one shocking instance reinforces the case for greater
use of biometrics at our borders, and more widely in our society, to combat one
of the most common and escalating crimes in our country and across the world –
identity crime, identity fraud or identity theft.
Identity crime in Australia is estimated to affect around 4
to 5 per cent of the population each year – that’s around one million
Australians – impacted by identity crime each and every year.
The estimated annual economic cost is around $1.6 billion –
probably a conservative estimate.
To put it in perspective, identity crime is more common than
assault, robbery, break-ins and motor vehicle theft.
It also holds grave danger for us as a nation – as
terrorists and organised crime groups adapt and adopt increasingly
sophisticated counterfeit techniques to produce false identity papers and
credentials to evade detection at borders or law enforcement or national
The threat we face is all too real.
There are a number of matters in the courts at this moment
where it is alleged people were plotting to carry out terrorist attacks within
There is the recent instance of the young terrorist-wannabe
in Melbourne who was shot by police as he attempted to murder them.
There are at least 100 Australians who are known to be
fighting with terrorist groups in the Middle East and 150 more who are actively
supporting those terrorist groups on our own soil.
ASIO currently has more than 400 high priority terrorist
Over 110 Australian passports have been cancelled in
relation to the Syria/Iraq conflict, 13 passport requests have been refused and
10 Australians have had their Australian passports suspended or foreign
passports temporarily seized under the new Foreign Fighters legislation.
In August last year my Department established Counter
Terrorism Units at each of our international airports.
In the 10 months since they have offloaded 299 high risk
travellers from outbound flights for further assessment. They have made 114,000
real time assessments of outbound travellers.
As the Prime Minister said earlier this week – this is
perhaps the most serious national security challenge we will face in our
We are working at multiple levels to counteract this threat.
It is believed that between 40 to 50 per cent of those from
Australia who have taken up arms with Daesh in Syria and Iraq hold dual
As we announced this week, I will, next month, introduce
legislation to enable the stripping of citizenship of dual nationals involved
in terrorism or related activity, either on our soil or through the death cult
groups such as Islamic State or others in the Middle East and, indeed across
Biometrics will necessarily play a crucial role as information
from intelligence and law enforcement holdings is analysed in determining if
someone is to be considered for revocation of their citizenship.
We, of course, take this responsibility very seriously which
is why we need to rely on the best information available, and that will
invariably mean that we will have an increasing reliance on biometric data.
We will not render anyone stateless, but for those who have
citizenship rights in another country, then we will act.
Those coming to join our country are rewarded with
citizenship of the greatest country and it is an enormous privilege bestowed
Anyone who seeks to abuse that privilege in the most
egregious way, does not deserve to hold that right.
And they won’t.
As I say we are acting at various levels to meet the threats
The borders and biometrics are a key element of that effort.
Australia has a proud record of innovation in biometric
based border management systems. Australia developed systems that are being
adopted by countries across the world today, to treat serious risks associated
with fraud, trans-national crime, and threats to national security.
Australia invented electronic visas, electronic travel
authorities, and the Advance Passenger Processing system, which are key
components of our border protection measures today.
They allow us to screen travellers against alert lists and
profiles, and to stop people from boarding a plane to Australia if they do not
have our permission to come.
They push our border out further than just our own shores
and allow more thorough risk assessments to be carried out.
As technology advances, we continue to innovate. We have
started using modern data mining and analytical tools to detect risks we would
previously have been unaware of, and we will deploy these capabilities into all
of our operations globally, using centralised, decentralised, and mobile
Biometrics are a critical part of managing the border.
Australia was amongst the first countries to issue
electronic passports in October of 2005, to deploy automated border control
gates in August 2007 and to initiate targeted biometric data exchange
programmes with other countries to tackle the complex international identity
and immigration fraud industry, beginning that programme in 2009.
To date, Australia has taken an incremental approach to its
deployment of biometric technology.
However, immigration is a high-volume business that is
facing both a rapid growth in demand for services, and at the same time, an
escalation in threats to our safety from trans-national crime and terrorism.
The economy relies on the smooth running of a complex visa
and migration pathway, and the facilitation of genuine travellers who come here
for many reasons – as tourists, students, and skilled migrants.
In 2013-14, over 35 million passengers crossed Australia’s
border and nearly five million visas were granted. Passengers travelling in and
out of Australia is estimated to rise to 50 million by 2020. Yet, the threats
we face at our borders today are as great, if not greater, than those we have
faced in the past.
The terrorism public alert is currently rated ‘high’, which
means a terrorist attack is likely.
We are seeing Australians seeking to travel overseas to join
terrorist organisations, and countries in the region are seeing high numbers of
their nationals crossing borders to commit terrorist acts as well.
Australia is an extremely attractive target for organised
Last week the Australian Crime Commission released its
‘Organised Crime in Australia 2015’ report.
The report highlights the connection between migration
fraud, and serious organised crime. It also highlights the links between people
smuggling, people trafficking and organised crime syndicates.
The report explains that the complex problem of establishing
true identities also represents a threat to national security; we need to
tackle this problem ensuring false identities and fraudulent documents are
detected and defeated.
- Terrorists convicted in Australia have used fraudulent
identities to purchase chemicals and ammunition for use in attacks and to evade
detection when travelling.
- The Martin Place Siege Review found that Man Haron Monis
used over 30 names and aliases in dealing with different government agencies.
Let me demonstrate why, at Immigration and Border
Protection, we see biometrics as a critical part, not just in our fight today,
but most importantly in the fight in years to come to keep Australian’s safe
and keep our border’s secure.
- In October last year – an individual applying for a Visitor
visa offshore matched against an Interpol Red Notice, which showed that a court
overseas had convicted that person of forgery and misappropriation, and had
sentenced him to 15 years imprisonment.
- In February this year – a Student visa holder matched against
law enforcement records showing that he had travelled under a different
identity previously, and had been arrested for dealing with property suspected
to be the proceeds of crime, and for drug trafficking.
- In March this year – biometric checks revealed that an
individual who applied for a Visitor visa was known to two of our international
partners and was linked to South American crime groups. He had used a different
name and nationality in his application, and had made a refugee claim in one
country before being refused and removed due to having been convicted of
offences and for being a member of an organised crime group.
- Also in March – a Visitor visa applicant was found to have
used several different identities in other countries, following biometric
checks. The person was found to have entered other countries without a visa and
was convicted for crimes of moral turpitude. Up to 20 different aliases and
different birthdates had been used, as well as different claimed citizenships.
- Last month – an offshore visa applicant returned multiple
matches with our international partners for using false passports, and was
reported to be a member of organised crime groups.
- Again in April – a match for an offshore visa applicant
against an Interpol Green Notice revealed that the applicant was a registered
sex offender in another country who had been arrested as part of an operation
to target individuals involved in distribution of internet child pornography.
Hardworking Customs and Border Protection officers have
detected individuals with criminal convictions for murder in other countries,
with various kinds of drug offences, convictions for assault, armed assault,
indecent assault, child sex offences and financial and credit card fraud, and
the list, of course, goes on and on …
The point of all of this is through biometric checks, the
department has also matched individuals applying for visas against terrorist
Obviously I can’t go into further detail around methodology
but, the examples that we have provided demonstrate that dangerous and
organised criminal elements actively seek to breach our borders on a daily
basis, and that by using biometrics we will be better able to ensure the safety
of this country through assured identity.
The reform measures introduced by the Government last year,
in response to recent terrorism-related events in Australia and overseas, and
the Prime Minister’s National Security Statement in February of this year,
testifies to the Government’s determination to address these threats.
The Department of Immigration and Border Protection plays a
key role in protecting the integrity of our border.
We are committed to the use of biometrics as a foundational
component of our border management, expanding the use of biometrics to
establish identity across all dimensions of our operations.
The Government announced on 5 August 2013 a $630 million
counter-terrorism package, of which Customs and Border Protection received $150
million to implement a number of measures to strengthen Australia’s border.
The Government has allocated $8.9 million in funding in
2015-16 to begin planning a high-performance biometrics-based identity
management system, which will deliver timely and accurate identity outcomes to
all of our operations.
As you all know, it can be extremely difficult for one
person to be reliably distinguished between two similar looking individuals using
As part of our new security measures, we are deploying more
automated border control gates in airports around the country, and will
increasingly use them for both inbound and outbound travel, and for the
nationals of other countries.
In April I announced the rollout of 92 new SmartGates for
Australia’s eight international airports over the next year as part of this
Government’s strategy to counter terrorism.
As I mentioned earlier, one of our most infamous terrorists,
Khaled Sharrouf, used his brother’s passport to leave Australia in December
Just as they do for inbound passengers, our outbound
SmartGates will undertake identity checks to a far greater degree of accuracy,
assisting our Counter Terrorism Units in the battle against extremism.
To manage our risks as far away from Australia as possible,
we are expanding our programme for the collection of biometrics offshore, as
part of a visa application and for applicants in more countries.
The offshore programme currently operates in 24 countries in
Europe, Africa, the Middle East, Asia and South America.
Expansion commenced in 2014 and will see the programme
operating in approximately 50 countries, and covering identified high risk
clients on the basis of national security and visa integrity analysis.
The Legislative changes that I have sponsored through the
Migration Amendment Strengthening Biometrics Integrity Bill 2015, which was
introduced into the Parliament in March, will address key gaps in our
immigration programme, where further assurance of identity and security is
The progressive expansion of the Department’s biometric
programme has resulted in some visa holders providing biometrics, but not
others, depending on the timing of their visa application or arrival in
Whilst the Bill does not introduce a universal biometrics
collection policy, the changes will provide new powers for the Department to
use biometric technology when a non-citizen applies for renewal of a visa, or
when a non-citizen living in the Australian community is identified as a
The provisions will replace the complexity of seven
different provisions in the Act with a single power to collect, streamlining
provisions and removing duplication and ambiguity.
They will also help us assist children and other vulnerable
people at times, who may be travelling against their will, or who cannot
adequately communicate their circumstances to our officials so that we can get
them home to their friends and/or family.
The Bill will also address the risk of radicalised minors
who are returning after participating in conflicts in the Middle East and
We recognise also, that this technology presents particular
challenges to privacy, so we are also ensuring that we comply with all legal
and policy requirements regarding how we collect biometric information, where
that information is stored at any point in time, and how it is managed in
strict compliance with all provisions in the Commonwealth Protective Security Framework
and Information Security Manual.
Ladies and gentlemen, in conclusion the Government is
committed to striking the right balance between our obligations to protect the
Australian community and the protection of personal and identifying
We appreciate the role that the Biometrics Institute plays
in helping all of us find this balance, by bringing together providers and
users of the technology, as well as academics and other experts who can
highlight the best ways to safely and securely deploy this essential
Our economy relies on the facilitation of genuine trade and
travel to grow.
Our border systems must be able to support this growth while
ensuring enhanced identity assurance to provide a safe and more prosperous
Thank you very much.