Southeast Asian leaders’ strong denouncement of violent extremism is the prime minister’s take-home message, as he returns from abroad to review the nation’s readiness for an attack.
Countering terrorism dominated talks at the East Asia Summit, where Malcolm Turnbull told reporters Australia was intensifying its intelligence co-operation with regional partners.
Following his first bilateral talks with his host, Malaysia’s Prime Minister Najib Razak, Mr Turnbull stressed the importance of moderate voices to counter the recruiting of youths to radical causes, particularly online.
“Effective counter messaging, counter narratives, of moderation, to quote the Malaysian prime minister, are very important,” he said.
Terrorism has been top of mind in Malaysia, with intelligence surfacing days before the ASEAN and related summits that tipped police to the possible presence of 10 suicide bombers in Kuala Lumpur.
Mr Najib has used the summit to condemn Islamic State as “un-Islamic”, and not representative of any race or religion: “they are terrorists”.
Mr Turnbull says he’s remained in close contact with defence, ASIO and police heads while he’s been attending the international summits in the past fortnight, a period rocked by the attacks in France and Mali.
Early on Monday he will head a meeting of the national security committee.
The nation’s terror alert level remains at high, where it has been since September last year.
Australia and Malaysia meanwhile upgraded their relationship to a “strategic partnership” on Sunday, meaning the foreign ministers will meet every year and have closer dialogues on defence.
Mr Najib said the relationship had strengthened over the 60 years Australia had had a diplomatic presence there, developing through defence, business, education and sport.
“Relations between Malaysia and Australia are on a very strong footing and there’s a lot of opportunity for us to deepen and enhance that relationship that has been a very important relationship over the years,” he said.
The leaders also discussed the continuing search for missing Malaysian Airlines flight 370, and its 239 passengers and crew, for which China on Saturday made a $20 million contribution.
The East Asia Summit brings together the 10 ASEAN countries with China, India, Russia, the US, New Zealand, Japan and South Korea.
It wraps up Mr Turnbull’s first foreign summit circuit, which began with a stopover in Jakarta to meet President Joko Widodo on November 12.