Questioned how the international community is working to prevent cryptocurrency donations to Hamas.
There were reports earlier in the week that there had been a surge in cryptocurrency donations to Hamas, which obviously circumvents the international sanctions. Are Western democracies starting to look at how that can be stopped so that the sanctions regime isn’t interfered with?
Whole interaction with Mr Benjamin Hayes (Acting First Assistant Secretary, Middle East and Africa Division, DFAT), Mr Roger Noble (Ambassador for Counter-Terrorism, DFAT) and Senator Marise Payne (Minister for Foreign Affairs) during Senate Estimates (Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Legislation Committee, Foreign Affairs and Trade Portfolio).
Senator KITCHING: There were reports earlier in the week that there had been a surge in cryptocurrency donations to Hamas, which obviously circumvents the international sanctions. Are Western democracies starting to look at how that can be stopped so that the sanctions regime isn’t interfered with?
Mr Hayes : The reports to which you refer, I have not seen but—
Senator KITCHING: It’s in the Wall Street Journal. There’s quite a long article about it.
Mr Hayes : Thank you. I think in more broad terms—and my colleague, the Ambassador for Counter-Terrorism may wish to join me at the table… Without wanting to steal his thunder, I would say that, of course, terrorism threats are evolving all the time, and so are the responses of states.
Mr Noble : The answer to your question is: I don’t have specific detail on Hamas and that report, but I can tell you unequivocally that a central theme in every multilateral counterterrorism engagement at present relates to the digitisation of the world and the implications of it, and, in particular, digital currencies encryption and what that means for terrorist operations planning and our capacity to interdict it. The UN is looking at it. The Global Counterterrorism Forum is looking at it, as are like-mindeds, and it has been raised in all of our bilaterals with our many partners around the word. I’d put it as kind of question number one: the implications of the digital world. That’s why that evidence yesterday from the cyber ambassador about the cyberstrategy is so important, about how we’re going to deal with that, particularly in the counterterrorism space.
Senator KITCHING: Is there urgent action being taken? Do you think the UN, for example, acted urgently?
Mr Noble : Yes, but it’s going to be a journey as it’s worked out—for example, the Christchurch call, which stems from the Christchurch attack, and the Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism. It’s starting with online radicalisation and use of the internet, but it’s moving to the full implications of the digital world. That’s one example, but there are multiple forums around the world addressing it. They’re already starting to adapt, cooperate and amalgamate. That’ll probably continue over the coming years.
Senator Payne: It’s also on the agenda for the No Money for Terror conference which France initiated about three years ago now. We lost a calendar year in terms of this work. India was to host the No Money for Terror conference last year, but we hope that we can have an in-person conference this year. The timing is still to be arranged.
Mr Noble : I’d put in a plug for AUSTRAC as well, as the experts. They are much-sought-after expert advisers by all of our international partners, because one of the things Australia is able to contribute into that space is expertise in that area.