In 2019, Safeguarding Australia is back with a new focus - Confronting and countering the threats from Espionage, Foreign Interference and Subversion.
Across 8 and 9 May 2019, Safeguarding Australia will bring government and industry together to counter the threats facing all Australians. Safeguarding Australia will unite international and Australian experts to explore the issues in this space; considering the past, present and future of security response.
The Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) has warned that espionage and political interference by foreign powers is at unprecedented levels in Australia and poses a major risk to security.
Duncan Lewis, the Director-General of ASIO, told a Senate estimates hearing that he was concerned about escalating activities.
“Hostile intelligence poses a real and potential existential threat to Australian security and sovereignty,” Mr Lewis said. “The harm from this threat may not manifest for many years, even decades, after the activities occur. We are concerned about threats from wherever they emanate.”
According to the Lowy Institute, foreign interference has not seeped into the Australian consciousness in the way terrorism has. In this year’s Lowy Institute poll, terrorism was cited as the No.1 “critical threat” facing Australians. Foreign interference ranked eighth – behind the US presidency of Donald Trump.
While the public has not recognised this growing threat, the Australian Parliament has. In June 2018, the Senate passed laws that amount to the most significant overhaul of Australia’s security and foreign interference laws in decades – creating new espionage offences, introducing tougher penalties on spies and establishing a register of foreign political agents.
Safeguarding Australia 2019 will focus on this and more, over one and a half days of plenary sessions, followed by two highly focussed workshops: