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Comminique [from] the National Counter-Terrorism Committee.



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NATIONAL COUNTER-TERRORISM COMMITTEE

14 SEPTEMBER 2004

COMMUNIQUE

The National Counter-Terrorism Committee (NCTC) met today by teleconference from Canberra to consider security measures in Australia, particularly in relation to surface transport, and to provide reassurance that appropriate security measures are in place across all jurisdictions. Senior officials from relevant Australian Government agencies, Premiers’ and Chief Ministers’ Departments, State and Territory Police and State and Territory transport agencies were involved in the meeting.

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation and the Australian Federal Police (AFP) provided a briefing about the Jakarta bombing on 9 September, the ongoing joint investigation between the AFP and the Indonesian National Police and the current security environment. The NCTC noted that despite the attack in Jakarta, the level of national counter-terrorism alert remains unchanged at medium, as it has since 12 September 2001. This means a terrorist attack in Australia is feasible and could occur. The meeting further noted that the possibility of another attack against Australians in Indonesia cannot be ruled out, and that terrorist attacks in a number of other parts of the world could occur at any time.

Australia's response to terrorism relies on strong cooperative, coordinated and consultative relationships among Australian Government, State and Territory Governments, departments and agencies. The NCTC confirmed that the national counter-terrorism arrangements established under the National Counter-Terrorism Plan are robust and will continue to be well tested in each jurisdiction. The threat environment is constantly monitored to ensure that national security policies and arrangements are appropriate in the circumstances.

The Committee agreed that the most effective response to terrorism is to actively deny terrorists any possible means of planning and conducting attacks. Law enforcement, security and intelligence agencies are working closely together to ensure there is the strongest possible protection in place. Agencies' readiness and capabilities and the arrangements under the National Counter-Terrorism Plan are regularly tested through the national counter-terrorism exercise programme, with exercises occurring in all jurisdictions over the last six months. The Committee noted that exercise Line Breaker is the next counter-terrorism exercise in the programme, scheduled to take place in Queensland during this and next week.

Assistance from the public As on previous occasions the Committee noted that an informed and vigilant public is an effective preventive mechanism. Members of the public should report any suspicious behaviour or event immediately to the relevant authorities. This might include unusual videotaping or photography of official buildings or other critical infrastructure, suspicious vehicles parked near such buildings, abandoned luggage or unusual purchases of fertiliser, chemicals or explosives. In emergencies, contact

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should be made with police through 000. Other information should be reported immediately to the 24 hour toll free National Security Hotline - 1800 123 400.

Transport security The Committee noted advice from the Department of Transport and Regional Services that additional transport security measures have been implemented since the Jakarta bombing, with a focus on air and sea routes to and from Indonesia. More stringent and visible security measures are in place in major airports and ports, including baggage and passenger screening on direct flights to and from Indonesia. The Committee noted that the Australian Government intends to seek discussions with Indonesian authorities on further possible enhancements to airport security.

The Committee heard that while there was no change to the national alert level, it is important that security measures be reassessed in light of recent world events to ensure appropriate measures are in place and to maintain public confidence in the security of our transport systems. The Committee noted that vigilance at Australian airports and ports has been increased as part of routine practice following an attack against Australian interests. A similar process was followed post-Bali.

The Committee noted the continued efforts of state and territory governments in addressing surface transport security in their respective jurisdictions. In particular, governments are working through priorities identified in the National Transport Security Strategy and are actively considering the recommendations of the high level overseas mission into surface transport security.

The Committee noted the ongoing efforts of State and Territory Governments to establish and maintain appropriate security measures based on good security planning, incorporating national and international best practice.

Examples of recent activities include: - the completion of risk context workshops for transport owners and operators; - the provision of nationally consistent guidance material to assist operators to continue security assessments and strengthen security planning;

- the development of comprehensive response plans; and - as appropriate, the enhancement of physical protective transport security.

The Committee also noted that work on the formal intergovernmental agreement on surface transport security, which was agreed by the Council of Australian Governments in June 2004, is progressing.

The Committee noted that each jurisdiction, in close consultation with NCTC members, would update the Australian Transport Council (ATC) on implementation of surface transport security measures. The ATC is meeting in November 2004.

Critical infrastructure protection All jurisdictions confirmed that they are continuing to work closely with the private sector to ensure that Australia’s critical infrastructure is protected from terrorist attack, that single points of failure are minimised and rapid and tested recovery arrangements are in place. This is in line with arrangements set out in the Critical Infrastructure Protection National Strategy. The strategy is endorsed by the Critical

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Infrastructure Advisory Council, which has members from all jurisdictions and major industry sectors. In particular, governments are discussing risk assessment with owners and operators of critical infrastructure as well as the possible security actions that should be considered if the threat to a particular piece of infrastructure or to an industry sector was to increase.

Public events As a nation Australia plays host to range of sporting events and community gatherings. Being able to do so is an important part of the Australian way of life. Recent experience in hosting the Rugby World Cup, the Sydney Olympics and CHOGM means that law enforcement and security agencies have well-tried plans in place for major venues around the country. The Committee confirmed that all reasonable security measures are in place for major community gatherings and sporting events and they continue to be reviewed, based on the current security environment.

The Committee also noted that under the National Counter-Terrorism Plan there are standing arrangements for jurisdictions to assist each other and that relevant Australian Government agencies offered to provide State and Territory Police with additional assistance as required.

National Counter-Terrorism Committee 14 September 2004