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Bomb disposal technicians meet in Canberra to assess trends in terrorism and how bombings affect communities.

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This transcript has been prepared by a source external to the Department of the Parliamentary Library.


It may not have been checked against the broadcast or in any other way. Freedom from error, omissions or misunderstandings cannot be guaranteed.


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Monday 1 December 2003

Bomb disposal technicians meet in Canberra to assess trends in terrorism and how bombings affect communities


MARK COLVIN: September 11th and the Bal i bombings have done plenty to raise Government awareness of security, but how prepared are Australian businesses for attack? 


Not necessarily very well, if an expert at a conference of international bomb disposal technicians today can be believed. The International Association of Bomb Technicians has spent two days in Canberra assessing trends in terrorism, but also looking at how bombings affect communities.  


The Australian Director of the organisation, Don Williams, spent 20 years with the army bomb disposal unit and was bomb risk manager during the Sydney Olympics.  


He's been speaking to Ross Solly. 


DON WILLIAMS: Our aim was to look at the impact of bombings across a range of societal and other aspects of Australia. One of the things that came out was that the people who wear most of the cost is business, whether they're the specific target or whether they're just caught up in the effects of a bombing. 


Any business that doesn't have decent contingency plans for how it's going to operate if it's denied access to its building or its people are injured is going to be in real trouble, and these plans should be in place now and they should be working on them. 


ROSS SOLLY: Are Australian businesses aware of what might develop and how they should prepare for a situation like this? 


DON WILLIAMS: I'd suggest that they probably don't need to write a plan specifically around a bombing incident, but they should have plans that will cover them for a range of contingencies, where they just can't get to their site or their information or their equipment or their people, and no, I don't think most businesses do have that in place yet. 


ROSS SOLLY: What was the general feeling in there, as far as a region… are we ready for any eventualities that may arise through terrorism? 


DON WILLIAMS: Certainly from the bombing point of view we have some well trained and well equipped bomb technicians and post blast investigators, which is important in trying to find out what happened and why and who was responsible.  


Certainly some of the squads are getting more equipment now, which should bring them up to a more modern standard. We would always argue that there should be more bomb technicians with better levels of training and better equipment, but at the moment most of the states seem to be comfortable with the level they've got. 


ROSS SOLLY: Has the modus operandi of terrorists, as far as the types of bombs they use, changed much, especially in recent times since 9/11? 


DON WILLIAMS: Not so much in Australia. Traditionally we see most of the bombings here are criminal, they're small, they're specifically targeted and they tend to work. We have a number of politically motivated attacks, but again they tend to be small and specifically targeted. 


What we're seeing internationally is a different sort of motive, the clash of civilisations, where the aim is not to capture the hearts and minds of the people so much as to kill those they disagree with. So that has changed, but we haven't seen that sort of attack in Australia at the moment. 


ROSS SOLLY: Are the bombs becoming more complicated, more professionally put together? 


DON WILLIAMS: Certainly we're seeing that there is an increased level of capability in the sophistication of the bombs. One thing I'd like to say is that the more sophisticated, doesn't necessarily mean that it's better. A simple bomb will usually work. The more sophisticated, the more complications. But things like bombs being triggered by radios and mobile phones does suggest there's a better level of technology and technological training out there for the terrorists. 


ROSS SOLLY: In terms of the types of bombs used, are we expecting to see any significant changes? Is your intelligence telling us we might see any change in coming years? 


DON WILLIAMS: There's nothing specific on the horizon that I'm aware of. Most of the bombings in Australia are, as I said, criminal and will probably continue that way. We do know that there's an increased awareness of foreign people coming to Australia who might be terrorists and we've seen that in the media, so it's likely that we might get a significant terrorist attack, but most of the bombings that the guys go up against will still be conventional criminal bombings. 


MARK COLVIN: Bomb disposal expert Don Williams with Ross Solly.