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Attorney-General discusses the national security booklet.



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ATTORNEY-GENERAL THE HON. DARYL WILLIAMS AM QC MP

TRANSCRIPT

Interview

World Today, Alexandra Kirk

12.30pm, 3 February 2003

Subject: National security booklet……………………………………………………e&oe

REPORTER:

Daryl Williams, the Government’s anti-terrorism awareness kit is being released today and Australia Post is ready to start the mail out. The Government’s message is presumably to be alert, not to be alarmed but the package does tell people what to do in case of a biological or chemical attack, so how can it not alarm people?

ATTORNEY:

Well I think people will be surprised at the amount of information that is provided. When the advertising campaign started, I did a lot of radio interviews and I was asked a lot of questions. People were interested and they had questions needing answers. This booklet is designed to provide those answers.

REPORTER:

But don’t you think that it will alarm people?

ATTORNEY:

I don’t think it will alarm people. It will explain to them what is being done to ensure their protection, to ensure that that terrorist acts within Australia are prevented. It will also tell them what to do if an unfortunate event occurs and an incident has to be dealt with.

REPORTER:

Well what do you say to critics like the Brisbane mayor Jim Soorley, that the money is better spent on more direct counter-terrorism measures, like for example better security at airports or, as Senator Bob Brown suggests, on public infrastructure, like hospitals and schools?

ATTORNEY:

Well money is being spent on all of those things and considerable additional money has been spent on improving security, particularly at airports. I think the suggestion from Mr Soorley, who I presume has not even seen the booklet or the fridge magnet, to return it to sender is irresponsible and I urge people to ignore that suggestion.

REPORTER:

Well why do you think it’s necessary then to spend $15 to $20 million?

ATTORNEY:

Well each household will get a booklet. The booklet, as I said, people will find contains a surprising amount of useful information. The fridge magnet will provide them with the

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capacity to have readily available emergency numbers that they can contact for different purposes.

REPORTER:

How will you measure if that $15 to $20 million is well spent?

ATTORNEY:

Well I think we can have a look at what’s happened with the hotline to determine whether the money is being well spent. The hotline started on the, I think from memory the 27th of December. As of today, there are in excess of 4700 calls made on that hotline. The bulk of those calls were for the provision of information to agencies like police, security agencies. And the anecdotal information that I have been provided with by the agencies is that there is a lot of useful information which they are following up on.

REPORTER:

Well have you stymied any terrorist attacks or have you stopped anybody from doing anything that they shouldn’t?

ATTORNEY:

Well we hope there will not be a terrorist attack in Australia. But as the Prime Minister says in his letter to fellow Australians, if only one or two pieces of information provided to the hotline prevents a terrible event occurring, then it will have served its purpose.

REPORTER:

Has that happened already?

ATTORNEY:

There has not to our knowledge been any terrorist attack. But to comment on Mr Soorley’s suggestion that Australia is not, has no risk of terrorist attacks, Osama bin Laden has mentioned Australia three times in his broadcasts on Middle Eastern radio. ASIO has, in its published reports, indicated there are supporters of overseas terrorist organisations within

Australia, and we have one person as a result of the ASIO search and enters late last year on a charge related to the possible blowing up of an embassy in Australia.

REPORTER:

Before Christmas, the Government put Australians on a two-month alert. That two months has just passed. Has that danger passed now, are we off the alert?

ATTORNEY:

We have been on a higher level security alert since the 11th of September 2001 and we remain on that. The information that was utilised for the warning in November about the holiday season remains current and we have no reason for elevating it or for removing it.

REPORTER:

Daryl Williams, thank you.

ATTORNEY:

Pleasure.

-ends-