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26 October 2016

From state to federal to global crime issues

Youth and Community Justice Conference
Burswood on Swan Perth, WA
26 October 2016
1.05 pm (40 minutes)

Mr Dawson is no stranger to the impact of crime at the state, national and global level. One of the biggest challenges facing law enforcement is the need to share intelligence and apply a more collaborative approach across Australia to minimise the effect of globalised crime. Mr Dawson will focus on current crime themes such as the scourge of methylamphetamine aided by international cartels, cybercrime and use of the internet in black racketeering and the supply of drugs, and recruitment of foreign fighters relevant to young people and the impact on our society.


  • Thank you for providing me with the opportunity to address this important conference.
  • I would like to acknowledge the traditional owners and custodians of the land on which we are meeting today. I would also like to pay my respects to the Elders both past and present.
  • As we’ve heard already, the world is becoming more connected and the border is becoming less defined.
  • Criminal threats are becoming more complex and pervasive across the spectrum of serious, organised and broader volume crime—at a state, national and global level.
  • Do you know that while you are sitting here watching me present, you may be exposed to serious and organised crime? Whether it’s the knock-on effect of illicit dug use on families and the community, the significant financial loss from investment scams or having your identity stolen by cyber criminals—it touches all of us in some way.
  • Approximately five million Australians are victims of cybercrime each year.
  • 68 per cent of drug labs are in residential areas.
  • The costs of illicit drugs to the community amount to billions of dollars each year.
  • The list goes on. Organised crime is not a distant threat with minor community impact. It is real, pervasive and concerning for you, me, your families, businesses and the Australian government.
  • In fact the sad reality is that these days you don’t need to live in one of the seedier parts of town or associate with a less desirable crowd to come into contact with organised crime.
  • Changes in technology, our society and new ways for crime to work means you can come in contact with organised crime in many ways. And both the actions of organised crime and the government’s action against them hits you in the hip pocket—every day.
  • Organised crime is willing to exploit many opportunities to make money. That means they can, and do, penetrate the economy and affect legitimate businesses. It also means that many of these criminals are notactually based in Australia.
  • They undermine our economy, infringe border integrity and sovereignty, damage prosperity and regional stability and erode political and social institutions.
  • This goes to the crux of the web of harms. The damage caused by organised crime spreads across all facets of the Australian community.

The Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission

  • The Australian Government warned in late 2015 that there was evidence of an unprecedented threat to Australia from terrorists and criminals who were exploiting gaps in law enforcement information holdings to avoid detection.
  • Our agency, the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission (ACIC) was formed to strengthen Australia’s ability to combat this threat.
  • We are uniquely equipped as Australia’s national criminal intelligence agency with investigative, research and information delivery functions.
  • We work closely with our national and international law enforcement partners to:
  • create a national intelligence picture of crime
  • target serious and organised crime
  • deliver information capability and services to front line policing and law enforcement
  • provide crime and justice research that produces an evidence base for addressing crime in Australia.
  • Our mission is to make Australia safer through an improved national ability to discover, understand and respond to current and emerging crime threats and criminal justice issues.
  • For this reason, a priority for our agency is to fill cross-agency IT gaps so previously incompatible IT systems that cost precious resources and time will be replaced with more integrated capability.
  • The ACIC has a very potent intelligence collection capability in the form of our coercive powers—essentially being able to compel an individual, corporation or Commonwealth Government agency to produce documents or other information.
  • But we also have a range of other collection capabilities, including human source, telecommunications interception, technical and physical surveillance and cyber forensics.
  • These capabilities provide us with the means to access a broad range of information and data from across the public and private sectors, at a state, national and global level.
  • We then exploit this information through the application of advanced analytical tools to find out more about known criminals and to discover criminal activity and previously unknown targets.

Globalised crime

  • But how does all this work in a global environment?
  • The ever-changing criminal and technological landscape requires advancements in law enforcement information and intelligence sharing arrangements to combat serious and organised crime.
  • Serious and organised crime is expanding its reach globally and we estimate that up to 70 per cent of serious and organised crime targets affecting Australians are either based offshore or have offshore links.
  • It is constantly growing in sophistication and adopting new and advanced technologies to undertake illegal activities and generate illicit wealth.
  • The relentless pursuit of illicit profit and power by serious and organised crime affects the Australian community in many ways. Our Costs of Serious and Organised Crime publication estimates serious and organised crime cost Australia $36 billion in 2013-14. In addition to the cost of law enforcement efforts, there are costs associated with managing social harms, and the loss of legitimate business and taxation revenue. It also compromises the health, safety and wellbeing of individuals and communities.
  • To put that amount in to perspective, it is 24 per cent of Australia’s social security and welfare budget, $1561 from every man, women and child in Australia, or 217 million baskets of groceries.
  • Organised crime removes large amounts of money from the Australian economy that could otherwise be used to fund services, roads, hospitals and schools. This money is instead lining the pockets of criminals.


  • Of particular concern is the threat of cybercrime. The internet, computers and mobile devices are an integral part of everyday life and cybercriminals have seized the opportunity to exploit Australian victims, including young people.
  • Helping our children to stay safe online is something all parents are concerned about. With easy access to a range of new technologies, today’s youth are provided with countless opportunities to learn and explore.
  • However, it’s important they are also aware of the risks.
  • Children and young people may be exposed to cyber bullying, inappropriate or harmful content, contact with strangers, sharing of personal information without realising they may be subject to identity theft, or leaving an online footprint that might not reflect well on them in the future.
  • The eSafety Commissioner website is an excellent resource, providing tips to educate and prevent harmful online behaviour—I encourage anyone wanting more information to visit.
  • Cybercriminals invade our private life through the internet—the place where we do our banking, read the newspaper, share photos on social media, do our shopping, and email our friends and family.
  • An estimated five million Australians are victims of cybercrime each year including downloading infected files or malware which can corrupt or steal your information. Its sophistication means it often avoids anti-virus software.
  • We know more than one million Australians become victims of identity crime each year. By stealing your identity criminals can open bank accounts, obtain loans, passports and other documents in your name. This causes financial and reputational damage, as well as emotional and psychological harm.
  • Each year more than a million Australians are victims of card fraud. Through card skimming organised criminals can create counterfeit cards, running up debts and causing long-term reputational damage and financial harm.  
  • We are always finding out more about these cybercriminals and how they do their business. We know they are financially-motivated, predominantly based offshore and operate across jurisdictions. They are adaptable, resilient and sophisticated.
  • The global cybercrime economy provides a low-risk environment for criminals where they conceal their identities, trading their goods and services in online cybercriminal underground forums.
  • Darknet is a generalised term to describe computer networks that aren’t freely accessible or searchable without the user having specific software or systems access.
  • The internet can host darknets, but without using the specific tools required for access or knowing where to exactly look, an internet user cannot freely access the darknets.
  • Criminals use the anonymity of darknets to facilitate a massive illicit online trade including the buying and selling of cybercrime tools and services, illicit drugs, weapons, and child exploitation material.
  • The Australian Cyber Security Strategy, released in April 2016, allocates $230 million to enable innovation, growth and prosperity.
  • The strategy focuses on five key themes—a national cyber partnership, strong cyber defences, global responsibility and influence, growth and innovation and a cyber smart nation.
  • The Cyber Security Review, which informed the strategy and was led by the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, found that cybercrime is costing the Australian economy up to $1 billion annually in direct costs alone, with conservative estimates of $17 billion per year overall.
  • As part of the strategy, the ACIC received $16 million over four years to expand our cybercrime intelligence capability both within our agency and as part of our role with the Australian Cyber Security Centre. This equates to an additional 25 personnel.
  • The funding we have received is reflective of the critical, enduring nature of the cybercrime threat, which will only grow over the coming years.
  • Breaking the business model of cyber criminals requires a focused, joint effort. We need to disrupt and deny cyber criminals through an end-to-end approach with partner agencies including the Australian Federal Police (AFP) and Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT) Australia, as well as State and Territory law enforcement agencies.
  • We are part of the Australian Cybercrime Online Reporting Network (ACORN) which is a national policing initiative of the Commonwealth, State and Territory governments.
  • It allows the public to easily report instances of cybercrime. It also provides advice to help people recognise and avoid common types of cybercrime. Through reports submitted to the ACORN by the public, we develop an increased understanding of how cybercriminals are targeting Australians.
  • Since its establishment in November 2014, ACORN has received nearly 66,000 reports, of which online scams and fraud make up 49 per cent. Within this, 21 per cent of the fraud being reported is online purchase and sales.
  • We recognise the global nature of crime and are expanding our international footprint to complement and work in collaboration with the international networks of domestic partners including the AFP.
  • We are involved in working groups which look at different crime types, including cybercrime.
  • Through our international and national collaboration we continue to build a richer national picture of cybercrime. We share intelligence products, participate in joint operations and investigations and work to disrupt criminal behaviour and criminal entities.
  • Our growing connection with international agencies ensures we receive the international support needed to bring cyber criminals to justice and deter others from doing business in Australia.

Illicit drugs

  • Over the last decade we have seen the illicit drug market evolve and diversify, presenting new and unique challenges for law enforcement, policy makers and the community.
  • It remains the principal source of profit for organised crime and continues to be a key focus for our agency and law enforcement.
  • The Australian illicit drug market is best seen as a component of a global market. The internet and darknets have enabled the rapid expansion of the global drug market, and users can access both drugs and information about new drugs becoming available, online from anywhere in the world.
  • In 2014-15, new records were set for the greatest number of national illicit drug seizures and drug arrests.
  • These upwards trends not only highlight the continued vigilance of law enforcement in combating the supply, they also highlight why illicit drugs continue to be a concern for law enforcement and the wider community.
  • While cannabis remains the most commonly used illicit drug in Australia, the ACIC considers methylamphetamine—particularly its crystal form known as ‘ice’—to pose the greatest threat to the Australian public of all illicit drug types, and by a significant margin.
  • In my years in law enforcement, I have never seen a substance as destructive as ice. It is highly addictive and used more often and for longer periods than other drugs.
  • Serious and organised crime groups thrive on the profits generated through ice. The price paid for meth in Australia is among the highest in the world. This has driven interest in the market by transnational organised crime groups with access to offshore industrial-scale manufacturing, as well as by domestic organised crime groups.
  • Wholesale prices in Australia have been recorded as ranging from
    A$90, 000 to A$325, 000 per kilogram.
  • Since 2010, the purity of meth has increased, making its use even more dangerous. Despite this, prices have remained relatively stable.
  • Nationally the price of a gram of non-crystal meth in 2014-15 ranged from $100 to $500, while the price of a gram of crystal meth ranged between $250 and $1200.
  • This year, for the first time, our Illicit Drug Data Report includes results from wastewater analysis to present a more accurate picture of illicit drug use in Australia.
  • Wastewater analysis is an innovative approach to monitoring illicit drug use. It overcomes some of the limitations of surveys based on self-reporting. Levels of drugs and their metabolites detected in wastewater are analysed to measure the total amounts of specific drugs consumed by people who are within the catchment population.
  • Wastewater analysis can also inform and measure the effectiveness of law enforcement, health, treatment and education programs.
  • Because it measures the quantity of drugs consumed by the catchment population, as opposed to estimating the number of users, wastewater analysis can be used directly to measure the demand for illicit drugs and other drugs which are subject to abuse.
  • With funding provided by the Commonwealth through the Confiscated Assets Account under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002, the ACIC will continue to expand and improve data sources for illicit drug trends analysis through the implementation of a national pilot wastewater analysis program. This program will provide leading-edge, coordinated national research and intelligence on illicit drugs.
  • There is no denying the significant harm methylamphetamine poses to individuals, families, law enforcement, health services, the wider community – and of course, young people.
  • Clandestine laboratories expose the community to volatile and explosive chemicals, putting them at risk of illness, injury or death. The impact of ice is straining emergency services personnel, medical practitioners and the entire health system.
  • Young people present in the homes of meth users or manufacturers are particularly at risk of ingesting associated harmful chemicals.
  • Meth users are also likely to neglect parenting responsibilities and expose young people to additional illegal activities. A tangible part of the burden of dealing with persons addicted to meth falls on family members, meaning they have to deal with violence, and the symptoms of psychosis and other significant medical problems caused by the drug.
  • According to the 2013 National Drug Strategy Household Survey, 7 per cent of the Australian population aged 14 years or older reported using meth and/or amphetamines at least once in their lifetime.
  • Increases in border detections of meth worldwide provide further evidence of the growth of the market. In 2014-15 there was a record 12.6 tonnes of amphetamine-type simulants, including meth seized, accounting for 53.6% of the weight of illicit drugs seized nationally..
  • Our intelligence tells us that more than 60 per cent of Australia’s highest risk criminal targets, including transnational targets, are involved in the meth market.
  • The growth in scale of serious and organised crime involvement is the result of the significant profits to be made, the move by crime groups to poly-drug trafficking and an increase by users in poly-drug use.
  • This has driven interest in the market by transnational organised crime groups with access to offshore industrial-scale manufacturing, as well as by domestic organised crime groups.
  • These factors, and the ready availability of meth, have created new demand in areas where the drug has not previously been present. This includes regional, rural and remote communities.
  • In 2015, we released an unclassified report The Australian Methylamphetamine Market: The National Picture, which highlighted organised crime threats in the methylamphetamine maket and their impact on the Australian community.
  • Following the release of this report, a National Ice Taskforce was established in April 2015 to provide advice on the development of a National Ice Action Strategy.
  • The Taskforce found Australian families, communities and frontline service workers are struggling with the fallout from a growing number of dependent and non-dependent ice users. The report found that we need to be smarter, more coordinated and more targeted in efforts to reduce the demand and supply of ice.
  • It acknowledges the critical role of law enforcement efforts, but makes the case that tackling this issue must also include education, training and better access to treatment and services.
  • Following consideration of the Taskforce recommendations, the National Ice Action Strategy was agreed by the Council of Australian Governments in December 2015 and includes funding to support a package of actions to tackle this problem head on.
  • The National Ice Action Strategy includes achievable actions across five key areas including support for families and communities, targeting prevention, investment in treatment and the workforce, focussed law enforcement actions and better research and data.
  • One of the Taskforce’s recommendations is for greater international engagement. My agency is working with the AFP, the Australian Border Force and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade to strengthen relationships in the region and develop a new international supply disruption strategy.
  • We continue to work with our partners to pursue serious and organised criminals seeking to bring these dangerous drugs to Australia or manufacture them domestically.
  • However, to combat the threat of illicit drugs, and deliver a global response, we need a multi-dimensional approach.
  • Law enforcement alone cannot fix the ice problem, which is why sharing our information and intelligence and working with other agencies and portfolios is so important.
  • There is a need to focus on prevention, early intervention, and treatment, building resilience, education, appropriate legislation and regulation, in addition to law enforcement.
  • This multi-faceted approach will help to ensure the young people we know and love do not endure the damaging affects of this dangerous drug.

National security

  • As the world becomes more connected, threats to Australia’s national security and to the stability of our region are also evolving.  
  • We know that the national security threat to our nation and globally is unprecedented.
  • On 12 September 2014 the national terrorism threat level was raised for the first time in 10 years. Since then, 49 people have been charged as a result of 20 counter terrorism operations around Australia— that’s over half of all terrorism related charges since 2001.
  • Extremist groups not only threaten the peace and cohesion of our society, but they are also actively targeting young Australians for recruitment.
  • We know that around 110 Australians are currently fighting or engaged with terrorist groups in Syria and Iraq.
  • These Australians are part of a group of over 25,000 foreign fighters including around 4,500 from Western countries who have travelled to the region to join groups such as ISIL.
  • We are also seeing a disturbing trend of younger Australians increasingly subscribing to terrorist ideologies and violent extremism. The online environment has provided extremist groups with the ability to influence and radicalise young people from across the world.
  • These groups are now more connected than ever before and have become increasingly sophisticated in their use of technology to organise themselves, recruit for their hateful practices and evade detection.
  • We cannot eliminate entirely the risk of terrorism any more than we can eliminate the risk of any serious crime. But we can mitigate it.
  • Just as parents and families have gained greater understanding of the dangers posed by online sexual predators, there needs to be increased awareness that extremists are using similar tactics to recruit and motivate susceptible individuals, particularly young people.
  • It is parents, siblings, friends and others who are going to see concerning changes in the behaviour of young people they know and can help them reconsider their path before a law enforcement response is required.
  • We encourage families, friends and communities who may see changes in an individual that suggest they may be radicalising or thinking about travelling to participate in a foreign conflict, to contact local authorities to seek further help and advice.
  • Intervention arrangements are in place across Australia to assist people who may be at risk of radicalisation to violence to disengage from violence and reconnect with their families and communities.
  • A large number of specialists from a range of sectors including law enforcement, education, multicultural and youth affairs, social services, health, and child protection, have been trained to identify indicators of radicalisation and how to intervene.
  • The radicalisation to violence process is unique to each person and responses need to be flexible and meet the individual’s needs. Sometimes, it might be possible to influence the course of someone’s life by having a frank conversation early on.
  • The national security challenges Australia faces are evolving but wACIC to identify linkages between terrorism and serious and organised crime
  • Our agency is using its powers to gain a better understanding of:
  • Australians who are or our community
  • People who wish to leave Australia to support terrorist causes
  • Australians who finance terrorist activities.


  • Want some good news? Well the good news is that the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission and our partners are actively responding to these threats every hour of every day.
  • Collaboration between government agencies, as well as with the private sector, has never been better and is continually strengthening our response to organised crime through new initiatives and information sharing.
  • Engagement with the public is crucial to success in combating organised crime—without the help of the public in identifying and reporting suspected criminal activity, the environment will never be completely hardened against it.
  • By being aware of the threats, you can also better protect yourself, your family and your interests from organised crime.
  • My vision is to create a safer Australia that is better connected, informed and capable of responding to crime and criminal justice issues.
  • We must be agile if we are to keep pace with the criminal and national threats that globalisation brings.
  • It is my essential policing knowledge and information
  • Forums such as this are also important to encourage the sharing of ideas, experiences and effort in responding to the many challenges in the global crime environment.
  • Thank you. I now have time for questions.
Last updated
12 May 2017