ACT Policing to target counter-terrorism over next year, despite bikie violence
Counter-terrorism, not outlaw motorcycle gangs, will be one of ACT Policing's formal "priorities" over the next year, despite growing bikie violence in the city.
The ACT government signed a $655 million agreement with the Australian Federal Police on Monday to provide police to the territory for the next four years.
Police Minister Mick Gentleman outlined five areas of focus for police over the coming year, four of which were also in last year's ministerial direction: domestic and family violence; reducing and preventing alcohol-fuelled violence; restorative justice and crime prevention; and improving road safety.
Chief Police Officer Justine Saunders said the addition of counter-terrorism and preventing violent extremism, particularly in crowded places, to the list of priorities was not due to a specific threat to the ACT but rather a heightened threat of terrorism worldwide.
"There's no direct threats to the ACT but as I've said publicly before, we can't be complacent in the ACT, we are Australia's capital territory, we do have iconic buildings so we are not immune to the threat of terrorism," she said.
A crackdown on outlaw motorcycle gang activity was not among the minister's priorities, despite the shoot-up of a Kambah home last week.
Three cars near the home were also set alight, a sign of an escalation of the feud between rival bikie gangs, police said at the time.
Mr Gentleman pointed to $1.5 million in extra funding for ACT Policing's bikie taskforce, Taskforce Nemesis, as evidence outlaw motorcycle gangs remained a high priority for Canberra police.
In his ministerial direction Mr Gentleman did urge police to continue to prepare for serious and organised crime, which includes outlaw motorcycle gang activity.
"Police are doing a great job on the ground in doing those warrants and arrests and charging people too," Mr Gentleman said.
Ms Saunders said outlaw motorcycle gangs were an "enduring threat" to the ACT but it was "business as usual" for the police.
"What this ministerial direction does is highlight some areas of particular focus for this year but we never take our foot off the throttle when it comes to serious organised crime in the ACT," she said.
Ms Saunders said while she believed anti-consorting laws had a "role to play' in a national crackdown on bikies, she said it was not a "panacea" and police would work with government on other legislative reforms to fight bikie violence, including anti-fortification laws.
No extra funding for counter-terrorism training was included in last month's ACT budget and Ms Saunders said much of their work to prepare for a terror attack was capability building and testing.
"What we're doing is monitoring the lessons learnt, both nationally and internationally, we're working with our national law enforcement partners and through the Australia-New Zealand counter-terrorism arrangements to learn the lessons that can be had and also continuing to build on our capabilities in the ACT," she said.
"So currently we're going through the process of exercising our capabilities, so if we had an incident in the ACT, testing how ACT Policing would respond with its partners."
Ms Saunders said a 33 per cent rise in the number of family and domestic violence victims in the ACT was proof their ways of dealing with it were working.
"What that shows is now people are comfortable in coming forward, reporting matters to police and they have confidence in the systems we now have in place in the Australian Capital Territory to deal with family violence," Ms Saunders said.
The four-year agreement replaces the traditional year-to-year arrangement the territory had with the AFP, which ACT Auditor-General Dr Maxine Cooper criticised as inefficient.
The new agreement also reduces ACT Policing's reporting requirements to twice yearly, down from quarterly.