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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 Attorney-General, supported by the National Security Committee of Cabinet and other ministers, is responsible for operational coordination on national security issues.

The Attorney-General’s Department coordinates national security and crisis management arrangements and provides legislative advice.

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 Customs and Border Protection Service manages the security and integrity of Australia’s borders. It works closely with other government and international agencies to detect and deter unlawful movement of goods and people across the border.

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.

Border Protection Command provides security for Australia's offshore maritime areas. Combining the resources and expertise of the Australian Customs Service and the Department of Defence, and working with officers from the Australian Fisheries Management Authority, the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service, and other Australian, state and territory agencies, it delivers a coordinated national approach to Australia's offshore maritime security.

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 Department of Immigration and Border Protection maintains the Movement Alert List and enforces Australia’s visa regime. It is also actively engaged in a number of international data-accessing initiatives aimed at preventing the movement of terrorists or terrorist groups and has responsibility for border control.

The Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet coordinates Australian Government counter-terrorism policy in collaboration with intelligence agencies and the states and territories. It also  provides the secretariat for the Secretaries Committee on National Security and the National Security Committee of Cabinet. It co-chairs and provides the secretariat for the Australia-New Zealand Counter-Terrorism Committee (ANZCTC) and advises the Prime Minister on matters related to counter-terrorism.

The Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development regulates the security of airports, airlines, sea ports and other forms of transport, with state and territory authorities.

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.