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Tuesday, 11 August 2009
Page: 4438

Senator JOHNSTON (2:01 PM) —My question is to the Minister for Defence, Senator Faulkner. In light of the foiled alleged attempt by radical extremists to assault and kill members of our special forces at TAG East, why wasn’t the defence safe base threat level upgraded when intelligence reports received by the government made it known that a possible attack on the base was imminent?

Senator FAULKNER (Minister for Defence) —I thank Senator Johnston for his question. The arrests of 4 August 2009 do indicate that the threat of terrorism in Australia is real and current. While it would not be appropriate for me in the chamber today to address the specifics of the 4 August police activity as those matters are still undergoing investigation and are before the courts, I certainly can say that the national threat alert level has not been raised, and that applies to Defence establishments as it does to other arms of the government and also to the broader community. The security of Defence bases is constantly under review. Protective security responses to threats are carefully calibrated to provide necessary protection. The specifics of protective security arrangements are not made public because—and it is a very important point to make—their effectiveness would be diminished if they were widely known. Specifically in relation to the situation at Holsworthy, after the threat became apparent— (Time expired)

Senator JOHNSTON —Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Minister, why is it that the bureaucrats and defence chiefs at Defence headquarters in Russell are fully guarded both inside and on the perimeter of the buildings by armed officers of the Australian Federal Police, yet our special forces and other highly trained soldiers, sailors and airmen at Defence bases are not?

Senator FAULKNER (Minister for Defence) —The situation is in relation to the Holsworthy base, which Senator Johnston specifically asked me about. In fact, the threat level after these matters became known was raised from Safe Base Bravo to Safe Base Charlie. I just complete that answer in response to his first question because it is important that the public record be full on that matter.

On the other issue that Senator Johnston raises, it is important to realise in relation to what occurred at Holsworthy that the only intrusion that occurred did not represent a real or credible threat to defence security. The response was proportionate and of course— (Time expired)

Senator JOHNSTON —Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. Minister, what is the current status of the review of base security? When will it be released and when will it be acted upon?

Senator FAULKNER (Minister for Defence) —The review is ongoing. On the best advice I have, I expect the first part of the review to be completed before the end of this week. I will have to make a decision, as will my NSC colleagues, about whether it is appropriate to release the review or not. The questions that Senator Johnston asks are critically important questions. It is important to note that Defence employs a range of protective security measures to protect its people and its installations, and this includes a range of physical and personnel security measures, coupled with intelligence, to provide a layered response to mitigate threats. Of course, on each and every base there has to be an assessment of the appropriateness of security measures. (Time expired)