The Australian Federal Police is working urgently on plans with intelligence agencies to better protect members of parliament, amid fears of attacks by extremists and mentally unstable constituents in the lead-up to the coming federal election.
AFP deputy commissioner operations Brett Pointing will complete a review on additional protection measures for federal MPs, Senators and political candidates by November 11, Senate estimates heard.
Mr Pointing said the recent stabbing murder of British Conservative MP Sir David Amess by an alleged Islamist terrorist was “a stark reminder of the unpredictability of this environment”.
“Our members of parliament are often at public events. There’s often people there who have different views, sometimes extreme views,” he said.
“It is extremely important for us to work with members of parliament and the broader intelligence community to make sure we have up-to-date intelligence and that that intelligence is converted into a security overlay that provides the best possible security for our members of parliament.”
AFP Commissioner Reece Kershaw said the recent arrest of a man who threatened WA Premier Mark McGowan, and who had access to firearms, had also highlighted the potential threats faced by political figures in Australia.
Mr Kershaw said many parliamentarians “receive a lot of threats and concerning letters”, and the current “all-in or nothing” approach to protecting them needed to be improved.
“We have taken this issue very seriously, and last year I did bring out the UK anti-terrorism command, from the UK MET to have a look at the overall protection for MPs and high office holders,” he told Senate estimates.
“Part of that included looking at the threat assessments and a whole range of initiatives.
“So we are looking at a new model for us, around what sort of services we could be able to provide – protection, whether that is physical protection, liaison, other solutions …”
A 25-year-old man of Somali heritage, Ali Harbi Ali, has been charged under the UK‘s Terrorism Act with Sir David Amess’s murder.
Prosecutors said Ali considered himself affiliated to Islamic State.
“We will submit to the court that this murder has a terrorist connection, namely that it had both religious and ideological motivations,‘’ prosecutor Nick Price said.