Brandis has dropped the ball on countering violent extremism

Reports today of a scathing analysis by the Australian National Audit Office of the Government’s flagship countering violent extremism program, Living Safe Together, are extremely concerning.

THE HON MARK DREYFUS QC MP

SHADOW ATTORNEY-GENERAL

SHADOW MINISTER FOR NATIONAL SECURITY

ACTING SHADOW MINISTER FOR JUSTICE

MEMBER FOR ISAACS

 

BRANDIS HAS DROPPED THE BALL ON COUNTERING VIOLENT EXTREMISM

Reports today of a scathing analysis by the Australian National Audit Office of the Government’s flagship countering violent extremism program, Living Safe Together, are extremely concerning.

Countering violent extremism (CVE) programs are one of the most effective ways of preventing home-grown terrorism, if used effectively. That is why news that nearly half of the $1.9 million allocated to Living Safe Together has been wasted on programs that do not meet the Attorney-General Department’s own merit criteria is shocking.

The Abbott-Turnbull Governments have paid lip service to CVE programs for some time but have failed to treat them with the significance they deserve as part of Australia’s holistic counter-terrorism strategy. CVE programs may not make headlines but they work quietly, behind the scenes, to prevent young people becoming radicalised. These programs recognise that families, peers and communities are the most potent forces in preventing individuals from sliding into violent extremism. Done correctly, CVE programs are a highly effective way to combat terrorism, and indeed are low-cost compared to later stage interventions. However in Australia they are grossly underfunded, receiving a tiny amount  of the billions spent each year on national security.

Living Safe Together is one of the few efforts the Government has made in community-based CVE. That nearly half of the money allocated has been wasted is extremely concerning – not just because of the loss of taxpayer dollars but also because a potent tool in the fight against terrorism is not being properly deployed.

Senator Brandis and the Minister for Justice Michael Keenan have some serious questions to answer:

- What action will the government take to ensure money dedicated to this vital area  is never wasted again?

- What guarantees can the government give that this money was not misused?

- What remedial action will be taken?

Mr Turnbull, Mr Keenan and Senator Brandis must step in now and address the problems in the roll-out of the Living Safe Together program, and give CVE the attention that it deserves. Our fight against terrorism will be severely hampered if we  do not  address all parts of the problem.

WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 7 2016