Remarks at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute Beersheba Dialogue

02 Nov 2017
Prime Minister


I want to acknowledge Jeanne and your late father, Fiona and the whole family.

What you’ve done, really, is with the Beersheba commemoration, it adds such an important additional tie, context to the Australia-Israel relationship.

So many Israeli’s said to me in the last week there has never been so much about Australia and New Zealand in the Israeli media.

Our relationship is, I believe, is stronger than it has ever been, closer than it has ever been. This dialogue is a good example of that. And this is the year in which the first Israeli Prime Minister has visited Australia, when Bibi came in February to a rockstar welcome. And of course, I’m visiting here as PM, although I’m by no means the first Prime Minister to come here, but the first since 2000, so that is quite a while.

Our memorandum of understanding on defence industry cooperation is critically important.

The growing collaboration on cyber is important.

We are establishing an annual bilateral strategic dialogue.

And generally right across the board we are getting closer than ever and the collaboration is very intense. A lot of it we can’t really talk about but we have the same values, and we know that to defend those values and maintain those values generation after generation has to be prepared to fight for them. They are maintained with blood and treasure over the generations.

And we face the same threats from Islamist terrorism, or militant Islamist terrorism as Bibi described it, and it is in the cyber context that we need to work more closely than ever.

Sometimes people talk about cyber as being an additional theatre – land, sea, air, cyber. I think the reality is that cyber affects everything. It is in a completely connected world where distance has been abolished by technology. The need to work more closely together is more and more vital.

Nowhere is far away from anywhere else. That is a critical thing to understand.

You are in a position, and I’ll tell you, the recent aviation plot that was disrupted in Sydney, and this was a couple of people who had a bomb, they were going to blow up an airliner, a A380 - you could imagine what a shocking crime that would have been. And they were working on a chemical bomb, chemical dispersal device. They were being directed over the internet, over encrypted applications from the Middle East.

Now that ability for somebody to be sitting in Syria, or anywhere else in the world and to be able to direct operations seamlessly as the, literally as though they were in the room next door, makes in this great big world of ours the threat of terrorism so much closer.

Nowhere is far away from anywhere else.

The Middle East is not a long way away from Australia. As Bibi said it is a big schlep, yeah sure, on an aeroplane but in terms of communications it is just nanoseconds.

So that is why dialogues like the work that is being done by our National Security College right across the board, the more closely we can work together on counter-terrorism, on cyber in particular, the more effective we will be at keeping our two nations safe.

And I’ll just conclude on a more physical threat – we saw yesterday the tragic terrorist attack in New York.

A truck attack. We’ve seen this in Australia of course.

It is a technique that has proliferated ever since the Nice truck attack. Remember, last year, when a terrorist drove a truck down the Promenade des Anglais in Nice and killed many people. This drive-down technique is very available obviously because you can, we’ve been successful of keeping terrorists out of aircraft but how do you stop people getting a truck or a van, as we saw on the London Bridge attack. Just an ordinary van with sandbags in the back to make it heavier.

So protecting crowded places is vitally important. Our national Crowded Places, Protection of Crowded Places Strategy, which was released in August, was a piece of work I commissioned last year after the Nice attack and recognising that we needed to do more and to ensure that we were coordinating more thoughtful design, more thoughtful responses, more effective responses into protecting crowded places.

Now we have had very strong assistance and collaboration, it is a two-way street of course, with Israel and a number of other international partners.

Again, we have to use all of our connections, all of our relationships in order to fulfil our commitment, our most important commitment as leaders to keep our people safe. That is the first duty of government.

We have outstanding defence forces, national security forces, intelligence forces in Australia, just as Israel does and we must always commit to give them the resources they need, whether it is the financial resources, the legislative resources, the technical resources to keep our people safe.

And the partnership, the collaboration of Israel is a very important part of that.

Thank you very much for holding this dialogue. Congratulations. Anthony, Mark and all of your team, Colin – it is good to be here.