Five Eyes Law Enforcement Group speech by AFP Commissioner, Reece Kershaw

Last year, Five Eyes Law Enforcement Group principals and representatives met in Sydney to supercharge our collective efforts in combatting current and emerging threats.

Off the back of crucial intelligence sharing and operational success, we are now in Melbourne fine-tuning and developing new strategies to target transnational serious organised crime, other serious criminality and acts of aggression that undermine sovereignty and national security.

There is no doubt that the rules-based order and rule of law are being challenged at levels that have placed many countries on high alert.

It is inevitable that this has sharpened the focus of FELEG agencies, but to maximise success, it also requires FELEG to more adeptly predict future criminality.

None of us can afford to be trapped by a policing or law enforcement version of a rat race where we are distracted by daily operations.

We are facing an uncertain world and constant technological advancements.

So to have a better chance at being in control of our own destiny, we must be unapologetically proactive and innovative in how we identify and disrupt threats.

In April this year, FBI Director Christopher Wray said, and I quote, “Today’s national security threats are as complex and sophisticated as ever, and it can be easy to get caught up in the day-to-day work of responding to those challenges.

“But to stay ahead of the danger, we need to look five, 10 years down the road to anticipate where the threats are going.” – End quote.

I also want to point to an instructive paper by the College of Policing, entitled, Policing in England and Wales – Future Operating Environment 2040.

It is another example of law enforcement underscoring the need for long-range action – and this is where FELEG’s impact will cement its advantage.

The paper said, and I quote: “to meet the challenges and demands of the next 20 years, policing will need to get better at anticipating emerging threats, think more innovatively about the best policies and interventions for addressing them, and mobilise responses quickly to maximise chances of success”, end quote.

That paper also delved into an issue many countries are facing. It said, “the UK is also becoming increasingly polarised and tribal in its beliefs, values and behaviours”. And that “in the period to 2040, there is an enduring, perhaps increasing risk that existing fault lines could become even more pronounced, and that extreme or violent ideologies could start to take hold”, – end quote.

In Australia, COVID-19 was akin to a pressure cooker that further accelerated and polarised sections of the community already questioning trusted institutions, including police.

When the community distrusts law enforcement, our intelligence can dry up, it can be harder to recruit and some policy makers give more credence to campaigns, including those centred on defunding the police.

In law enforcement terms, this is our version of long COVID.

FELEG has engaged the Australian Institute of Criminology to map behavioural indicators and psychological profiles of those who have joined recent anti-authority protests.

We hope this research will enable us to better understand those behaviours and mindsets, so we can better address these issues.

Intelligence is at the heart of law enforcement and national security.

FELEG, like our partners in the Australian National Intelligence Community, can deliver our unique collective capabilities to shape the external environment and counter the malign intent of foreign actors.

The intelligence that all of us bring to the table is one of the greatest assets to FELEG.

And that’s why I believe FELEG’s jewel in the crown is the Criminal Intelligence Advisory Group – or CIAG – which provides valuable insights into the global criminal environment.

Along with our new thematic model, CIAG will produce the intelligence to enable FELEG to embark on blue sky thinking and a long-range strategy to better protect democracy and the public from foreseeable harm.

The CIAG is our policing prophet and will be key to more adeptly predicting looming and future criminality.

The fearless intelligence products CIAG produces are funnelled from eight FELEG agencies.

CIAG is already telling us where the intelligence gaps are, where to focus, and the new methodologies enabling crime in supply chains, financial systems and communications.

It is identifying opportunities to collaborate with academia, industry and the private sector – such as social media platforms – to let them know how their business is being used by criminals, some operating covertly.

Just think about what that can achieve.

It can mean law enforcement can help provide valuable insights on enablers and facilitators of crime from the start, especially when it comes to emerging business or technology.

This in return will build further trust and create new awareness from academia, industry and sectors that are valuable to law enforcement.

I have said this before; trust is like holding on to sand.

It can disappear very quickly. And right now, all of us in this room, would understand the importance of the community having trust in law enforcement.

As we undertake that task, we must be mindful of transparency and accountability when it comes to the use of technology.

Technology can be an asset and adversary.

One of the challenges for FELEG is how our collective agencies use and harness technology.

Privacy is being demanded by the public and given recent cyber attacks, they are rightly concerned about how their data is used and stored, as well as technology that is ever emerging.

Artificial intelligence is something at the forefront of my mind – not just how we harness it, but how we combat it.

It is crucial we provide the community, government and other stakeholders with appropriate reassurance.

We can partly do this by sharing with, and leveraging from, key global bodies such as INTERPOL – and can I acknowledge Secretary-General Jürgen Stock for being here tonight.

Colleagues, I would like to share with you a future state of the AFP.

Our responsibility includes protecting high office holders and sites of prominence that we can see, plus helping to protect our country from the criminality that lurks in the shadows, and not always obvious to see.

The AFP’s state craft will have to evolve with emerging and enduring threats, as will our role in the Pacific.

Just this week, the Australian Government provided a significant budget injection to the AFP, including $317 million over four years for an AFP Pacific Police Partnership Program.

This program enhances our relationship with our Pacific family as we strengthen our shared values, partnerships and security in our region.

This investment reinforces the strategic importance of police-to-police diplomacy, but beyond that measure, further funding has enabled the AFP to grow and boost its footprint in Australia and offshore.

In numbers, we are small but I am pleased to announce that the Government continues to invest in the AFP, and as a result of Tuesday’s Budget, we are likely to reach a headcount of almost 8000.

What this underscores is that for an agency our size, the AFP packs a punch, and we continue to be among the first lines of defence for Australia.

But I want to be very clear about what this means for the AFP, and our synergy with FELEG and partners.

The AFP will continue to have a laser-like focus on transnational serious organised crime, including illicit drug trafficking, cyber crime, terrorism and child exploitation.

One of the reasons why is because our intelligence shows us that state actors are using and profiting from organised crime, and organised crime can have the resources of state actors.

Some actors are deploying hackers to attack our critical infrastructure and our businesses, and some are trafficking illicit drugs into countries to deliberately create instability, corrupt officials and corrode democratic values.

And I want to call that out tonight. There are countries that direct, engage or turn a blind eye to organised crime because it suits their political motives.

I say to them, with the resources, capability and the will of FELEG, we will frustrate your efforts, we will seize your ill-gotten assets and bring offenders before the courts. It will be too hostile for you to target our countries.

FELEG is a key alliance in helping to keep Australia and all our regions safe, plus ensuring it helps protects democracy and the rule of law around the world.

The message and forecast are clear.

Five Eyes is doing more than just watching. The gains to be won from the new thematic model and CIAG means we will be able to disrupt earlier and prevent targets from taking a foothold in our countries.

Finally, I want to show my appreciation to two respected officials here tonight.

I would like to acknowledge retiring ASIO Deputy-Director Chris Teal, who is a great ally of the AFP and whose leadership and expertise has been invaluable over the years. Chris, we wish you well in your future endeavours.

And can I also sincerely thank my good friend and colleague, Victoria Chief Police Commissioner Shane Patton, for providing the assistance in supporting visiting FELEG principals.

Victoria Police have shown their utmost dedication and professionalism, and is a great partner as we work together to keep Australians safe and protect our way of life.

/Public Release. View in full here.