It’s not often you get to see an actual spy on your TV screen, but last night we met Australia’s spy chief, Duncan Lewis, on our ABC.
The director general of ASIO was interviewed by Sabra Lane for the 7.30 program, to discuss the implications of the Paris attacks for our counter-terrorism agencies.
He told her, at present there is no “specific information” relating to a similar attack in Australia but he assured her (and us!) they are on it.
Lewis was incredibly well-spoken, moderate and rational in his answers, which was actually very comforting in light of some of the anti-Islam rhetoric and fear-mongering that has been swirling since the weekend (*cough*) Pauline Hanson.
You can watch the full interview here or we’ve picked out the most important quotes below:
On the possibility of copycat attacks:
We’re always conscious that there’s a possibility of copycat attacks. It’s not unknown in the past that these sort of attacks have happened. What I would say, however, and this is very important I think for Australians to realise: we have no specific information about any particular attack planning in this country that would be reflective of what happened in France.
On why French security agencies didn’t pick up the threat:
I think what this does, Sabra, is indicate the difficulty that security authorities all over the world have with an organisation such as ISIL. Terrorism is a very pernicious thing. It’s a very difficult thing for authorities to grapple with. We’re working very hard in this country and I think we’ve been quite successful over the last 12 months. We’ve disrupted, as you know – this is in the public domain – we’ve disrupted six attempts to attack Australia and Australians. Sadly, of course, there have been three now-fatal attacks or attacks involving fatalities in this country. All of that goes to reflect the fact that while I can tell you that intelligence and security authorities are working as hard as they can on these matters, there is no guarantee, there is no way in the world that we are able to say there is no possibility of an attack in Australia or anywhere else in the world. The nature of it mitigates against making such undertakings.
On how this will this affect security checks for incoming Syrian refugees:
I can assure you that the checks that will be done on the incoming 12,000 Syrian refugees will be no different to those checks that are done on all entries into Australia. We have a very tried and tested system of vetting of refugees coming into the country and that will be applied equally to the 12,000 refugees coming in from Syria to ensure we don’t have this sort of event.
These people are anti-Western, they have – Australia has of course been a terrorist target long before we became engaged in the Middle East, as you know. But we are as a culture, we are as a society objectionable to them and they want to attack us, they want to destroy us. We must be enormously resolute in the way we approach this. It’s very important that Australians understand very clearly what’s going on here. This is an act of criminality. This is a grotesque distortion of one of the world’s great religions to provide a excuse or cover for their action. But at the end of the day, it is criminality in the extreme and it needs to be seen in that light.
He finished with some advice for everyday Australians:
I would encourage Australians to go about their business. It’s very important that we go about our business in a normal fashion. I mean, to do otherwise would be to give in to this threat. I think that would be a very sad day and I don’t believe that Australia or Australians will be even contemplating such a thing. We must remain resolute and I know we will as a community.
You can read the full transcript on the ABC website.