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Australian National Security
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 National security agencies

Australia’s response to terrorism relies on strong and cooperative relationships between the Australian Government and the states and territories.

Our national security agencies have well-defined responsibilities and the authority to detect, prevent and respond to acts of terrorism in Australia. Terrorist incidents involving Australian interests outside Australia are in the first instance dealt with by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

The roles and responsibilities of Australia’s national security agencies and authorities are listed below.

The Australian Government:

  • maintains counter-terrorism capabilities and national coordination arrangements within its agencies (listed below)
  • maintains national policies, legislation and plans
  • determines Australian Government prevention strategies and operational responses to threats
  • supports the states and territories in responding to terrorist situations in their jurisdictions
  • can, where the nature of the incident warrants it and with the agreement of the affected states and territories, declare a national terrorist situation. In such a situation the Australian Government would determine policies and broad strategies in close consultation with affected states or territories.

The Prime Minister takes the lead role in Australian Government counter-terrorism policy coordination.

The Home Affairs Portfolio brings together Australia's federal law enforcement, national and transport security, criminal justice, emergency management, multicultural affairs and immigration and border-related functions and agencies, working together to keep Australia safe.

There are four operational agencies and bodies that have transitioned to the Portfolio:

  • Australian Border Force (ABF)
  • Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission (ACIC)
  • Australian Federal Police (AFP)
  • the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (AUSTRAC).

The Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) will join the Portfolio following the passage of legislation.

The Portfolio is supported by a new Department of Home Affairs, formed by the former Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP), and relevant elements of the Attorney-General's Department (security, law enforcement policy and emergency management), the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet (counter-terrorism and cyber security policy), the Department of Social Services (multicultural affairs), and the Office of Transport Security from the Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development.

The new Department is focused on the development and execution of strategy, policy and coordination in addition to the programmatic functions it will undertake either in lead or support of other agencies. It will continue to deliver the full spectrum of visa and citizenship services previously undertaken by DIBP.

The Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) is Australia’s national security intelligence service. Its main role is to gather information and produce intelligence so that it can warn the government about activities or situations that might endanger Australia's national security.

The Australian Defence Force maintains capabilities that can assist civil authorities in emergencies.

The Australian Federal Police (AFP) investigates national  terrorist offences provides overseas liaison and protective services and performs a state policing function in the ACT. The AFP Protective Service provides physical protection services in relation to foreign embassies and certain government facilities, and also counter-terrorism first response at major airports.

The Australian Secret Intelligence Service (ASIS) is Australia’s overseas secret intelligence collection agency. Its primary goal is to obtain and distribute secret intelligence about the capabilities, intentions and activities of individuals or organisations outside Australia, which may impact on Australia's interests and the well-being of Australian citizens.

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) aims to advance the interests of Australia and Australians internationally. It works with Australia’s allies and partners to confront terrorism and to enhance international counter-terrorism cooperation. It provides advice about specific security threats abroad for people travelling overseas and provides consular services to Australians living abroad . It also provides information in relation to the protection of foreign dignitaries.

The Department of Health leads a whole-of-government approach to strengthening Australia’s readiness for disease threats, national health emergencies and other large scale health incidents.

The Office of National Assessments assesses and analyses international political, strategic and economic developments for the Prime Minister and senior ministers in the National Security Committee of Cabinet.