AFP boss Reece Kershaw warns on rising threats to parliamentarians

Australian parliamentarians are facing a growing number of threats to their security, Australian Federal Police Commissioner Reece Kershaw has warned, with reports rising to 725 this financial year, compared to just 279 in 2020-21.

In an appearance before the Senate Estimates on Friday afternoon, Commissioner Kershaw said he was “concerned” by the increase in reported threats in recent years.

“Over the past four years, there has been a 160 per cent increase in reports of harassment, bullying, abusive and threatening communications against Australian MPs,” he said.

Commissioner Kershaw said the force had committed extra resources to ensure the safety of MPs.

“Several activities and events in 2023 attracted an increased level of security risk, requiring the deployment of additional resources and risk management,” he said. in relation to the movement of Members of Parliament, which is assessed as a significant risk or greater.”

Commissioner Kershaw described the reports of risks to MPs and senators as a “threat to democracy” and added that plans were already underway to schedule the next federal election, which is expected to be held no later than May 2025.

“For the federal parliamentarians here today … if you do not feel safe or need advice, please contact the AFP’s Diplomatic Safety and Security Liaison Team,” he said.

Youth Radicalized Online: Kershaw

Earlier in his remarks, Commissioner Kershaw spoke of the “very worrying trend” of online radicalization of young Australians.

“We are concerned about the activity identified online, as well as what is happening in the real world, including violence in schools, such as the planning of possible attacks on students and teachers and the production of explosives or the possession or use of weapons.

Since July 2021, the AFP and its counter-terrorism partners have launched an investigation into 27 young Australians aged 12 to 17, with 60 per cent subsequently charged with a range of offences, including advocating terrorism, distributing extremist material, planning a terrorist offence. , or being a member of a terrorist organization.

Despite the allegations, Commissioner Kershaw maintained that it remained the AFP’s priority to intervene before terrorism-related offenses were committed.

“Whenever possible and where there is no immediate threat to the community, the AFP prioritizes early intervention and disruption strategies over the prosecution of young people,” he said.

“Many lives are seriously disrupted when prosecution and conviction occur.

The AFP commissioner added that “significant resources” were needed to deal with high-risk terror offenders after they had served time behind bars.

“Managing each offender requires dedicated resources, with planning usually beginning two years before their release date,” he said.

“For example, the AFP administered and enforced the terms of an adult’s extended supervision order between August 26, 2022 and January 21, 2024. This required approximately 80 members and 10,300 man hours.”

Commissioner Kershaw said there are currently 25 high-risk terrorist offenders due for release over the next five years.

While the AFP worked with agencies and therapy services, as well as community and faith leaders, Commissioner Kershaw urged parents to be mindful of their children’s “online diet”.

“There is a lot of trash and garbage on the internet and social media platforms,” he said.

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