ANDREW O’KEEFE: Now, with all that in mind, the prospect of a terror attack on home soil is very much at the front and centre again. And while there's been a lot of talk all week about how Australian home grown terrorists may be brought to justice, we haven't heard much about what's being done to prevent young Australians being radicalised in the first place.
MONIQUE WRIGHT: Now the Government has committed to the Living Safe Together programme, designed to counter violent extremism in the community, but the question is will it work?
Joining us to discuss this further, we're joined by the Immigration Minister Peter Dutton who is in Melbourne, and in Perth, counter terrorism expert Anne Aly from the Curtin University and also the founder of PAVE, which is People Against Violent Extremism.
Good to talk to you both, thanks for being with us.
ANDREW O’KEEFE: Morning guys.
MONIQUE WRIGHT: Let's go to you first Minister. Just after your reaction to this terrible night overnight, the terrorist attacks in France, Tunisia and in Kuwait.
PETER DUTTON: Well, it just reinforces the threat that we have. We know that ASIO, our own intelligence agency has 400 high priority investigations right now.
We've had two terrorist attacks since last September and six attacks have been thwarted, so it is a very real threat, and as you say, in Kuwait where the mosque there has been blown up, the attack was on Muslim people who had attended the mosque for prayers and attacking innocent men, women and children in Tunisia just shows how barbaric their activity is.
ANDREW O’KEEFE: Minister, we have introduced hardline laws, unapologetically, to track and to punish terrorists, or those plotting terrorism, but we want to look at what the Government is doing to try and prevent young people, particularly young Muslims in Australia, being radicalised in the first place. Can you talk us through the plan?
PETER DUTTON: Yeah, sure Andrew. So the Government's committed to working with community groups, with State Governments, with non-Government organisations to try and identify, in particular, kids who may be at risk because one of the things that we know from ASIO is that those people who are going online and being influenced by the propaganda that ISIL is putting out, those people are getting younger and younger as the months go by.
So we want to try and identify those kids within school environments, kids that may be at risk otherwise, work with groups that may have influence over those young people to try and put them on to a different path.
We know in particular ISIL, that's one of many terrorist organisations, but ISIL itself reportedly puts out about 100,000 social media posts a day and they're infiltrating the minds of young people here.
So we're working with groups like the PCYC, so working with groups in communities to try and help put those young people back on a better path.
MONIQUE WRIGHT: Well in fact that's exactly what Dr Aly has been talking about, that the hard tactics in terms of laws and extra powers for police also need to work in conjunction with softer tactics, which you're talking about there.
Dr Aly, as an expert in counter terrorism,what do you make of our Government's efforts so far in preventing our youth from being radicalised?
ANNE ALY: I think the Government's efforts are improving. I think if you asked me that six months ago I would have unequivocally said that the Government's efforts were much more on the hard side and there was a very strong imbalance.
I still believe that there is an imbalance that we are very, very much on the hard side, but that that is slowly changing and we are developing more of the soft side of counter terrorism, the very important soft side.
And I think the term soft is a little bit misleading, because it's not really soft, I'd call it more smart counter terrorism, and we're focusing more on the prevention side, so I think we're getting better.
ANDREW O’KEEFE: How do you actually reach the kinds of young people that the Minister is talking about and which there's been so much concern about? Is it through families? Is it through mosques? Is it through as the Minister said the PCYC? What is the best method?
ANNE ALY: There are several different methods and no one single way is the way to go. You have to have different layers, you have to have different multi-pronged approaches, you cannot put all your eggs in one basket and just go one way with this.
Those kinds of people, the young people who are extremely isolated are very, very difficult to reach and one of the best ways to reach them is via other young people, through peer to peer influence and we've seen that that works because young people aren't talking to older people.
They're certainly not talking to the sheikhs in the mosques. And they're certainly not talking to the community leaders who do tend to be a lot older. The best way to reach them is through those their own age, through that peer to peer influence.
MONIQUE WRIGHT: And Minister, what's being done in that regard?
PETER DUTTON: Well that's a really good point actually, because lots of the advice that we get is that people who are preaching - take for example the IRA as a case study from many years ago, some of those people were completely ignoring the reasonable pleas of the priests and the bishops within the Catholic Church to stop the terrorist activity.
They were influenced by people of their own age. And we know that with our own kids, that they receive a lot of information online. They communicate through messaging and social media contact, otherwise with kids of their own age.
So we need to make sure that not just in Australia, but internationally, we're able to identify those people that might influence the most in a good way. But there's a lot of work also, not just for the Government to do, but for communities and for families to do.
If they think they've got a problem it really is important to engage with the agencies early so that they can have the interventions that will make a big difference and maybe save their lives.
Some of these kids who are going across to Syria and to Iraq at the moment, we know that over 30 Australians have been killed in action already and we know that about 120 Australians have left our shores to take part in this terrorist activity and it's pretty hard when they come back to try and manage them, which is why we've had this citizenship law changes.
ANDREW O’KEEFE: Yes, just quickly, there has been some criticism this week from the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, and indeed from some Muslim leaders, that the Government hasn't worked closely enough with Muslim communities in designing these strategies and therefore doesn't really understand the sort of cultural and religious root causes of the appeal.
PETER DUTTON: Well, we're keen to engage, if people don't think there's engagement we're very open to it. And I know that Michael Keenan, the Justice Minister, as well as the Attorney-General George Brandis and their departments have been working very hard to try and make those links, to get the information out, to help communities help themselves.
MONIQUE WRIGHT: If we can go back to you Dr Aly, you are an expert in this field, and part of what you would like to look as part of PAVE, People Against Violent Extremism, is looking at a programme that Germany has been using to try and de-radicalise neo-Nazis.
What can we learn from that programme?
ANNE ALY: I think there's a lot that we can learn from Europe, and particularly from Germany.
We have to remember that, fortunately, Australia doesn't have a long history with forms of violent extremism. We've been very, very fortunate in that regard. But there are countries that have had histories with different forms of violent extremism, so we can learn from their experiences, we can learn from their mistakes.
And Germany has had, in particular, has had a lot of experience with that. They've got a very strong civil society sector that deals with people who want to leave organisations who have embedded the ideology, who have personalised different violent ideologies; neo-Nazi and now of course the salafi or jihadi ideologies as well.
So they've got a range of programs in place that we could look into and utilise here in Australia to benefit our country, to tailor them to our country and to tailor them to our specific situation.
ANDREW O’KEEFE: Yes, alright. Well we're all on a learning path in this regard.
ANNE ALY: Absolutely.
ANDREW O’KEEFE: But, if we're working together towards that aim, hopefully we'll see a bit of a shift, Minister, thank you so much for joining us.
PETER DUTTON: Thank you.
ANDREW O’KEEFE: Dr Aly, thanks for your time as well.
ANNE ALY: Thank you.