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The terror within -

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Today the Victorian Supreme Court found three men guilty of planning a shootout at Holsworthy Army
Base in Sydney. The group was strongly opposed to Australia's involvement in the wars in Iraq and
Afghanistan.

Transcript

HEATHER EWART, PRESENTER: The foiled terrorist attack that police say would have been the worst in
the nation's history.

Today, a Victorian Supreme Court jury found three men - two of Lebanese descent and a Somali -
guilty of planning a shoot-out at Holsworthy Army base in Sydney.

Two other men were acquitted.

The group was strongly opposed to Australia's involvement in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The prosecution said the plot was hatched between February and August the 4th, last year, when the
five were arrested in a massive police raid in Melbourne.

For his views on today's verdict, and how security agencies will respond to it, a short while ago I
spoke to national security expert Carl Ungerer, who was in our Melbourne studio.

Carl Ungerer, the AFP said they had a strong case against all five men. Are you surprised by
today's outcome?

CARL UNGERER, AUSTRALIAN STRATEGIC POLICY INSTITUTE: Not really because, as we've seen in previous
trials, particularly here in Victoria, the bar has been set very high by the Supreme Court in terms
of securing prosecutions, particularly on evidence that is on terrorism related trials.

Because of course under the law, it's only acts per parity to terrorism that these people were
committed of... committed for, and that that doesn't seem to have been proven in all cases this
time, as it wasn't in previous cases such as the Benbrika trials.

HEATHER EWART: Would these agencies be trying to keep track of the two men acquitted and how would
they do that?

CARL UNGERER: Well, the interesting thing about this particular case was that the first
identification of individuals as espousing extremist views came from the community itself.

So perhaps it's working within those communities that the crucial aspect of identifying individuals
like this.

HEATHER EWART: And of course the suspected mastermind of the plot is still at large. I presume the
hunt is still on for him?

CARL UNGERER: Absolutely, and not just him but we've heard reports previously there are 80 to 100
individuals across Australia who are of interest to the intelligence and police services, and that
work is going to be the work of years, if not decades.

HEATHER EWART: Does this verdict today in your view raise questions about whether our
counter-terrorism laws are too open to interpretation? Are they tough enough?

CARL UNGERER: I think the laws we've currently got are appropriate.

But the difficulty of course is in securing prosecutions on evidence that is drawn from
intelligence sources and from transcripts of individuals talking to each other about possible
actions that they might take in the future.

We've not seen this just in Australia, this difficulty of using intelligence information in open
criminal cases has proved very difficult for countries to get around, it's the reason why the
Americans had set up the whole Gitmo process, the Guantanamo Bay and the military trials there,
because the evidence gained is difficult to use in our current court system.

Others have tried special courts; the Israelis have done that - special terrorism courts, where
this sort of information can be securely transferred. But I think under our current laws our
difficulties will remain.

HEATHER EWART: So what could be done in Australia to address those difficulties?

CARL UNGERER: There's been all sorts of suggestions and recommendations an indeed we now have an
individual who is going to review all of the terrorism legislation that we have and maybe this is
part of the brief that they're going to be give, be given.

One is just the ability of courts to be able to handle very highly-classified material and sources
that do not and cannot be compromised.

So the ability to handle electronic information, having courts that where you have a number of
judges who are well briefed on terrorism cases and, as we go through some of these trials in
Australia, perhaps we develop a cadre of judges who are able to do that.

But um, short of that I'm not sure what the answer is short of actual terrorism courts.

HEATHER EWART: One of the text messages intercepted from the men refers to the Holsworthy base as
being a soft target. Do you think that remains the case?

CARL UNGERER: Holsworthy is an interesting base. The Army base in the outer suburbs of Sydney. When
it was set up it was nowhere near any sort of suburban areas, it's now on the fringes of Sydney.
And it is a very large and very open base.

There are, there is security there of course. It's also been named not just in this particular case
but of course the Willie Brigitte case was also named Holsworthy back some six or seven years ago
as a potential target.

So it remains an iconic target that we know about that people would like to attack because it is
seen as the home of the Army in Sydney and it is against Australia's policies in places like
sending our military forces to Iraq and Afghanistan. Across pelagic seas to fight in these areas
and that is one of the reasons why I think it will remain a target.

Although no one who I spoke to seriously considered that any such attack would be successful, given
that there are pretty secure facilities there.

HEATHER EWART: Just how big a threat do you think home-grown terrorism is at the moment?

CARL UNGERER: The home-grown threat was identified in the counter-terrorism white paper that was
put out this year as our number one priority for the intelligence community and so I think the
threat is real.

It is growing. It is based on the fact that individuals are prepared to come to this country, but
go back overseas for training and operational reasons and then attempt to undertake terrorist
activities here.

I think you also have to remember Heather, that Australia is the only country of the three that
first went into Iraq in 2003 that has not been bombed by al-Qaeda.

Australia remains the gold medal target for al-Qaeda and its operatives, and I still think that
some sort of home-grown incident is the most likely scenario that we will face in coming years.

HEATHER EWART: We will leave it there. Thank you for joining us.

CARL UNGERER: Thanks Heather.