Prime Minister Scott Morrison, Defence Minister Linda Reynolds and Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton have announced an $87.8 million investment in a new Counter Foreign Interference Taskforce.
The taskforce will work in the National Counter Foreign Interference Coordinator that was established last year in the Department of Home Affairs and will expand the resources the coordinator has at their fingertips.
This new taskforce will be led by a senior ASIO officer and bring together a new team of Australian Federal Police investigators and representatives from AUSTRAC, the Australian Signals Directorate and the Australian Geospatial Intelligence Organisation; additionally, the Office of National Intelligence will also support the taskforce.
The increase in intelligence collection, assessment and law enforcement capabilities will help turn more intelligence assessments into operational disruptions to better protect Australians from foreign interference.
The new dedicated capability of the taskforce will also increase the collaboration and streamline the decision-making between agencies, and strengthen Australia’s analysis of the sophisticated disinformation activities happening across the world, particularly against democratic processes and elections.
“This is a boost to our ability to discover, track and disrupt foreign interference in Australia. Importantly, this investment will deliver a new capability without detracting from agencies’ continued and necessary efforts on other security challenges,” the joint release articulated.
This announcement builds on the $38.8 million the government has committed since 2018-19 to counter foreign interference, which includes establishing a Foreign Interference Threat Assessment Centre in ASIO and funding to support criminal prosecutions under new foreign interference offences.
The joint release added, “We have already taken significant steps to strengthen Australia’s capacity to defend against foreign interference, including through the package of legislation introduced in 2018.
“We will continue to take strong action to deter acts of foreign interference as the threat evolves, defend against them when they occur, and uphold our laws.”