Wednesday, 07 November 2018

Address to the 4th Annual Counter-Terrorism Financing Summit 2018, Bangkok


Ladies and gentlemen, thank you very much. It's a great honour to be with you today.

Can I say thank you very much to our hosts and particularly to acknowledge Captain Surasunt Kongsiri for your efforts and for your collaboration particularly with the Australian Government and with our people from AUSTRAC.

To the Deputy Prime Minister, Dr Wissanu Krea-ngam, thank you very much for your hospitality.

To Minister Wiranto, to catch up two days in a row, it's very nice to see you here in Bangkok.

It's wonderful to be here with your excellences, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen in the wonderful city of Bangkok.

It is of course the fourth Regional Counter-Terrorism Financing Summit, co-hosted by Thailand's AMLO, Indonesia's PPATK and Australia's AUSTRAC.

I would like to express particular thanks to the heads of the three hosting agencies for their extraordinary efforts and the efforts of their teams to prepare today's meeting.

I am confident that the Bangkok meeting will, like past events in Sydney, Bali and Kuala Lumpur, cement this Summit's reputation as one of the premier counter-terrorism financing gatherings in the world.

In the past four years since the first CTF Summit, we have achieved a great deal together in combatting the scourge of terrorism and those who seek to aid them.

And yet, despite our joint successes, significant terrorist and criminal threats continue and remain to this very day.

The Islamic State is all but defeated in Syria and Iraq, but lives on through dispersal of its hateful ideology and foreign fighters determined to fight on.

No region is immune, as ISIL affiliated organisations have demonstrated with terrorist attacks in our region within the past two years.

On behalf of the Australian Government and the Australian people, I want to reiterate our sympathies for the family and friends of the innocent people lost in Marawi, Surabaya, Sumatra and attacks elsewhere.

The terrorism financing environment in South East Asia has been re-energised through a number of terrorist organisations shifting their allegiance to ISIL.

Returning foreign fighters to the region are providing capability and are strengthening supporter bases, which will increase the terrorism financing threat for the foreseeable future.

Australia's national terrorism threat level was raised to Probable in 2014 and there have been six terrorist attacks, with four innocent lives lost, in our country.

A further 14 major counter-terrorism operations have thwarted planned attacks in Australia.

We have charged 90 individuals through 40 counter-terrorism operations and since 2001, a total of 55 people have been convicted of terrorism related offences in Australia.

And since 2006, we have convicted 11 people specifically for terrorism financing and a further six are currently before our courts on terrorism financing charges.

The Australian Government remains vigilant and committed to regional cooperation because the terrorists remain committed to their hateful fight.

Moreover, as we succeed, the terrorists – and organised criminals – are adapting their ways, including in the use of technologies such as encryption.

That is why our Government, acting on the advice of our security and law enforcement agencies, is reforming our national laws on encryption.

Encryption protects us as we engage in personal and professional activities online, but it is being used by terrorists and criminals to conceal their activities, especially when planning and executing terrorist attacks.

Australian agencies advise that 90 per cent per cent of their most dangerous counter-terrorism targets use encrypted communications.

As terrorists and organised criminals adapt their tactics to avoid detection, we each need to find in our own jurisdictions ways to counter these evolving threats.

And together we must also continue to work very closely – even more closely than we have in the past – in the collaborative effort that must be a priority for all of us in our work to address terrorism and other crimes.

This priority was reinforced in March with the signing of a MoU on ASEAN-Australia Co-operation to Counter International Terrorism.

This historic agreement strengthens our joint commitment to confront terrorism and terrorism financing.

Following on from the ASEAN MoU, there have been several successful joint operational initiatives amongst regional FIU's this year, including analyst exchanges and hubbing exercises.

The recent multilateral analyst exchange program between the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia and Australia is a perfect example.

Through this initiative, our four national financial intelligence units engaged in unprecedented information sharing and analysis of respective data holdings on a significant common terrorist threat.

Drawing upon intelligence from law enforcement and national security partners in all four countries, the analysts built a comprehensive picture of the financial dealings of the terrorist network.

This enabled alternative disruption strategies to be deployed by regional law enforcement and national security agencies.

This work has led to a better understanding of key facilitators financing ISIL-aligned terrorist organisations in the region.

It has also provided leads that are currently being pursued by relevant law enforcement agencies.

Also of note is the work done jointly by Australia and the United States in relation to Counter Terrorism Sanctions Listings in the region.

In the past six months, three targets responsible for the transfer of nearly $US200,000 and the production of radicalisation propaganda videos to ISIL affiliates in the region have been added the United Nations Security Council's Sanctions List.

Australia is especially committed to strengthening our partnerships and collaboration with financial intelligence units in the region.

Earlier this year we posted two AUSTRAC officers – one in Malaysia and one in the Philippines – to work closely with their FIU counterparts in those countries and throughout the region.

These positions are modelled on our highly successful arrangement with officers posted in Indonesia, working with PPATK colleagues, for more than a decade.

I am pleased to announce today that AUSTRAC is expanding its regional footprint with the appointment of our first officer in China.

This strategic position will be based in Guandong from December this year, for an initial period of two years.

We will also continue the series of Financial Intelligence Analyst Courses in the region, which were announced at the ASEAN-Australia summit.

The first course was held in Brunei in August, with a further three to be funded by the Australian Government over the next two years.

These courses up-skill intelligence analysts, providing current intelligence tradecraft and analysis techniques that can applied against targets of concern.

Twenty participants from 10 financial intelligence units of ASEAN member nations have now passed this course.

I look forward to many more graduates following the course in the Philippines next March and the two courses thereafter.

Ladies and gentlemen, at last year's CTF Summit in KL, the first ever financial intelligence codeathon was held, bringing together government and industry to work on fresh solutions to the challenges we face in fighting terrorism.

This was an important step towards harnessing the potential of collaboration between technology and innovation specialists, industry and government in the fight against serious crime.

Australia continues to evolve its own public-private partnership initiative, the Fintel Alliance, which is now tackling important priority issues including child exploitation and serious financial crime across the Asia Pacific region.

I hope your discussions here will further this important element of our work, because without the contribution of the private sector, our efforts against terrorism and organised crime will not reach their full potential.

Ladies and gentlemen, I wish you great success for this CTF Summit. I'm confident like you, your discussions will deliver very positive operational outcomes for all our nations.

I'm sure that you will all leave here from these deliberations equipped with new knowledge, ideas and a strengthening of friendships that will help us succeed in the fight against terrorism – as it must – and other serious crimes.

Thank you very much.