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Attorney-General discusses preparedness of terrorist and natural emergencies.



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Attorney-General

Hon Daryl Williams AM QC MP  

TRANSCRIPT

Sydney Radio 2BL Valentine interview with Daryl Williams Announcer: James Valentine Interviewee: Daryl Williams

Date: 13/09/2001 Time: 01:15

Valentine: I'm joined by Attorney General Daryl Williams today to tell us a little more of the security in place that's in Australia right now, but also our general preparedness. Attorney General Daryl Williams, a very good afternoon.

Williams: Good afternoon, Mr Valentine and good afternoon to your listeners.

Valentine: In general what is in place right now, are we in a state of alert as such?

Williams: Because you never know when terrorists or others who are motivated to engage in violent acts for political purposes might seek to strike you really have to have in place arrangements that can operate 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and 52 weeks a year, and that's what we do have.

We have a national anti-terrorist plan, which is supervised by a body called SACPAV, the Standing Advisory Committee on Commonwealth State Protection Against Violence, and that has on it representatives of all the agencies - and there are many of them, both at the Commonwealth and State level - who have a role in the event of an incident occurring.

When an incident does occur then they have the capacity to be advised at the Commonwealth level at a standing inter-departmental committee and the practice is to set up a special incidence taskforce, what's referred to as a SITF.

This area is just full of acronyms, but they're acronyms that are designed to work and they're designed to work and are tested from time to time.

In the preparation for the Olympics SACPAV, the Interdepartmental Committee, organised in effect notional terrorist incidents in order to test the actions of the different agencies. These were very useful in identifying where we needed to strengthen our capacity and, more particularly, strengthen the coordination.

The coordination of the different bodies is a very important issue.  You may have seen it was referred to in the United States context just recently where you don't have a single Federal body looking after this sort of incident, you have a range of Federal and State bodies, just the same as we do.

Valentine: Right. If an event of this size, whether a natural disaster or an attack of this sort occurred in

down town Sydney, for example, we have a coordinated plan that we would work to?

Williams: There is a coordinated plan and there would immediately be set up ad hoc bodies designed to deal with the special incident.  In fact if you have a look at what occurred in relation to the events in the US, because of the possibility that these events might have repercussions or accompanying events or acts occurring in Australia, steps were immediately taken.

As soon as the events occurred there was a meeting of the Specific Incidents Taskforce, which recommended and resulted in the putting in place of special arrangements in relation to United States, Israeli and Jewish assets and interests in different parts of Australia.

Valentine: The extent of the coordination in New York seems quite extraordinary. Someone was telling me about the fact that the hotels become kind of emergency centres for people and that this is part of the coordinated plan should such an event occur. This is the sort of coordination you need of both private and public resources.

Williams: Yes, you do. The events in New York, of course, are of extraordinarily difficult proportions. One thing that seems to be coming through in the television reports that we're seeing from time to time is how well first the fire brigade and the police departments have rallied to assist and then how people have volunteered to help, donating blood and doing other things.

Valentine: Which we see in Australia. I mean we only have to think of our summer bush fires, our winter floods and we see the level of coordination of emergency services and that volunteer spirit as well.

Williams: Well, the volunteer spirit goes internationally as well.  The Acting Prime Minister has actually volunteered to the United States the assistance of some 30 Australian fire fighters if they're required.

Valentine: We're talking with the Attorney General, Daryl Williams, of our preparedness, the kind of emergency plans in place should such a thing occur. Mr Williams, just while you're there, any news on Mr Howard's return, is he managing to get to leave the US?

Williams: I was advised earlier today that he had left Washington.  I understand he's headed for Honolulu but won't arrive back until tomorrow. But I don't have any more detailed news.

Valentine: Attorney General Daryl Williams, thanks for your time.

Williams: It's been a pleasure.

ENDS

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