news, latest-news, PJCIS, Peter Khalil, China, Intelligence, counter-terrorism, radicalisation, extremism

Law enforcement is an important "band-aid" for domestic terrorism but rooting-out extremism requires a society-wide approach, the newest member of parliament's intelligence committee says. Labor MP Peter Khalil is set to join parliament's powerful Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security, replacing Anthony Byrne who stepped down after admitting to branch stacking allegations. Mr Khalil joins the PJCIS at a critical time, and as it tackles an increasingly diverse workload ranging from a more assertive China, cyber threats and foreign interference, and morphing domestic extremism. The PJCIS's newest member told The Canberra Times the September 11 attacks had sparked a trend towards "much greater" intelligence powers, and his role would be managing "the great balancing" between collective security and individual rights. READ MORE NEWS: But the nature of terrorism since 2001 has also changed, with the internet sparking the rise of the lone wolf attacker: often self-radicalised, without formal links to terror groups, and striking soft targets with low-grade weapons. Tracing this new breed was particularly complex for law enforcement, given their attacks required little planning and could be carried out without the support of a terror cell. And with social media allowing would-be extremists to cocoon themselves in echo chambers, the Australian Federal Police warned the internet had become a "petri dish" for extremism. "This febrile atmosphere is all fuel that is feeding into the increased levels of violent attacks, whether it be [by] organised groups or lone wolves," Mr Khalil said. He warned addressing rising extremism was broader than simply adapting intelligence powers, and much of that work - including tackling disinformation on social media - went beyond the PJCIS' remit. "You're looking at the band-aid [with law enforcement]. If you're responding at that stage, the problem's already there," he said. "There is a broader set of policy settings that are just as important, to actually break up that pipeline towards extremism ... We need to do much better on that." Australian Secret Intelligence Organisation chief Mike Burgess has warned the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated extremism, with young men spending more time online. "Obviously with lockdowns, they don't benefit from the social interactions that tend to normalise what people get through their online interactions," he told Senate estimates on Monday. "So there's no doubt COVID has been a factor." That included Sunni extremists, white nationalists, and the members of the emerging involuntary celibate - or 'incel' - movement. Mr Burgess warned the manifesto of the Christchurch terrorist, himself radicalised on the internet, was being circulated and glorified online. AFP deputy commissioner Ian McCartney warned Senate estimates extremists were taking advantage of legal loopholes to spread their message, and disinformation was being stoked by foreign actors. Far-right extremist groups were also using Telegram to launch funding drives. And with right-wing extremism now taking up roughly half of ASIO's workload, Labor has accused the Coalition of being sluggish in addressing it. But with a "really great spirit and collegiate culture" in the PJCIS, Mr Khalil was hopeful it was beginning to take the nascent threat seriously. "I think that, from what I've heard and seen, they are. That augurs well," he said. "[But] whether that can translate upwards into recommendations to the ministerial level is yet to be seen." Mr Khalil was looking forward to "sinking his teeth" into PJCIS briefings on the topic, accepting there was "a lot of complexity" in combating right-wing extremism. But he said Australia was "heading towards" a stronger stance, mirroring the response to Islamist extremist groups over the past two decades. "You can see it when you can see it, and you can smell it when you can smell it. There's a common sense way of looking at it," he said. Our coverage of the health and safety aspects of this outbreak of COVID-19 in the ACT and the lockdown is free for anyone to access. However, we depend on subscription revenue to support our journalism. If you are able, please subscribe here. If you are already a subscriber, thank you for your support. You can also sign up for our newsletters for regular updates. Our journalists work hard to provide local, up-to-date news to the community. This is how you can continue to access our trusted content:

/images/transform/v1/crop/frm/139890989/617717ac-27e7-40a2-99df-c28667233233.jpeg/r1_105_2047_1261_w1200_h678_fmax.jpg

Law enforcement is an important "band-aid" for domestic terrorism but rooting-out extremism requires a society-wide approach, the newest member of parliament's intelligence committee says.

Labor MP Peter Khalil is set to join parliament's powerful Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security, replacing Anthony Byrne who stepped down after admitting to branch stacking allegations.

The PJCIS's newest member told The Canberra Times the September 11 attacks had sparked a trend towards "much greater" intelligence powers, and his role would be managing "the great balancing" between collective security and individual rights.

But the nature of terrorism since 2001 has also changed, with the internet sparking the rise of the lone wolf attacker: often self-radicalised, without formal links to terror groups, and striking soft targets with low-grade weapons.

Tracing this new breed was particularly complex for law enforcement, given their attacks required little planning and could be carried out without the support of a terror cell.

"This febrile atmosphere is all fuel that is feeding into the increased levels of violent attacks, whether it be [by] organised groups or lone wolves," Mr Khalil said.

He warned addressing rising extremism was broader than simply adapting intelligence powers, and much of that work - including tackling disinformation on social media - went beyond the PJCIS' remit.

"You're looking at the band-aid [with law enforcement]. If you're responding at that stage, the problem's already there," he said.

"There is a broader set of policy settings that are just as important, to actually break up that pipeline towards extremism ... We need to do much better on that."

ASIO boss Mike Burgess warns COVID-19 is exacerbating extremism. Picture: Sitthixay Ditthavong

ASIO boss Mike Burgess warns COVID-19 is exacerbating extremism. Picture: Sitthixay Ditthavong

Australian Secret Intelligence Organisation chief Mike Burgess has warned the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated extremism, with young men spending more time online.

"Obviously with lockdowns, they don't benefit from the social interactions that tend to normalise what people get through their online interactions," he told Senate estimates on Monday.

"So there's no doubt COVID has been a factor."

That included Sunni extremists, white nationalists, and the members of the emerging involuntary celibate - or 'incel' - movement.

Mr Burgess warned the manifesto of the Christchurch terrorist, himself radicalised on the internet, was being circulated and glorified online.

AFP deputy commissioner Ian McCartney warned Senate estimates extremists were taking advantage of legal loopholes to spread their message, and disinformation was being stoked by foreign actors.

Far-right extremist groups were also using Telegram to launch funding drives.

And with right-wing extremism now taking up roughly half of ASIO's workload, Labor has accused the Coalition of being sluggish in addressing it.

But with a "really great spirit and collegiate culture" in the PJCIS, Mr Khalil was hopeful it was beginning to take the nascent threat seriously.

"I think that, from what I've heard and seen, they are. That augurs well," he said.

"[But] whether that can translate upwards into recommendations to the ministerial level is yet to be seen."

Mr Khalil was looking forward to "sinking his teeth" into PJCIS briefings on the topic, accepting there was "a lot of complexity" in combating right-wing extremism. But he said Australia was "heading towards" a stronger stance, mirroring the response to Islamist extremist groups over the past two decades.

"You can see it when you can see it, and you can smell it when you can smell it. There's a common sense way of looking at it," he said.

Our coverage of the health and safety aspects of this outbreak of COVID-19 in the ACT and the lockdown is free for anyone to access. However, we depend on subscription revenue to support our journalism. If you are able, please subscribe here. If you are already a subscriber, thank you for your support. You can also sign up for our newsletters for regular updates.

Our journalists work hard to provide local, up-to-date news to the community. This is how you can continue to access our trusted content: