New AFP Taskforce to protect Federal politicians and candidates

The AFP will set up a major incident coordination centre with a specialised investigative taskforce to help ensure the security of high-office holders and parliamentarians during the 2022 Federal election.

The incident coordination centre will coordinate hundreds of investigators, intelligence officers and protective security specialists, including close personal protection members.

The Taskforce (Operation Wilmot) will focus on investigations and will receive all reports of electoral-related crime, including security threats to parliamentarians and candidates.

Investigations undertaken by the AFP and other relevant partners will be coordinated by the Taskforce to ensure law enforcement responses are immediate and intelligence is shared.

The Taskforce will be a sub component of a major incident coordination centre in Canberra and will be stood up once the Federal election is formally called.  

The Taskforce will use real-time intelligence to launch immediate investigations across Australia, plus work closely with state and territory law enforcement agencies.

This is the first time the AFP has established a dedicated response and specialised Taskforce to protect parliamentarians and candidates for a Federal election. The Taskforce will be headed by an AFP Commander.

The Taskforce sends a strong message to the community that the AFP is dedicated to protecting democracy, protecting high-office holders and will not hesitate to identify and arrest those who break the law.

Hiding behind a keyboard to issue threats against politicians does not ensure anonymity.

The AFP has world-leading technology to identify individuals who break the law by harassing, menacing or threatening to kill politicians.

The AFP supports political expression and freedom of speech. However, when it leads to disruption, harassment, intimidation, threatening behaviour and damage to property, it can reach the threshold of a criminal offence.

Those who break the law will be charged.

In the past 18 months, three individuals have been prosecuted for the offence of threatening to cause harm to a Commonwealth Official, contrary to section 147.2 of the Criminal Code Act 1995 (Cth). 

One individual has been prosecuted for using a postal service to make a threat to kill, contrary to section 471.11(1) of the Criminal Code Act 1995 (Cth) and five individuals prosecuted for using a carriage service to menace or harass, contrary to section 474.17 of the Criminal Code Act 1995 (Cth).

Two matters remain under investigation.

The Taskforce will complement the work and collaborate with the Australian Electoral Commission.

Under the Taskforce:

* Threats and intelligence will be shared with the incident coordination centre for intelligence analysis and protection assessment. This will ensure ongoing awareness and intelligence keeps security activities agile; and

* Investigations involving the security of parliamentarians or candidates keep complainants, stakeholders and the AFP Executive informed.

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