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Thursday, 19 June 2003
Page: 17139

Mr DANBY (1:22 PM) —Last Thursday in the Age there was a very iconic picture of the Australians who were victims of the events of Bali. It was a picture of Peter Hughes showing Amrozi, the chief suspect in the Indonesian trial in Bali, the horrible burns and the horrible wounds that Hughes suffered as a result of those events. Jason McCartney, after having to retire from football because of his injuries, also had the courage to go to the trial. He said to the face of the man who perpetrated that cruel deed that he, as an Australian, was there to show him, Amrozi—the suspected terrorist and murderer of nearly 90 of our countrymen—that Australians would stand up to terrorism.

Since the events of September 11 and particularly since the events in Bali, I have been drawing the attention of the government to some of the technological devices that they might acquire in order to prevent worse incidents of terrorism happening in our country. These include LIDAR, hyper spectral imaging—which is now available in a mobile version—which detects chemical or biological weapons. I have also suggested that infrared equipment be used on the back of civilian aircraft against missiles. In that vein of concern I am particularly pleased that the Premier of Victoria, whom I met last Thursday after his announcement at the Alfred Hospital, has said that the Victorian government is spending part of its $10 million antiterrorism package over four years on new mobile detectors which warn of radiation from dirty bombs, and is integrating the Victorian emergency services and hospitals centred at the Alfred Hospital in my electorate. The Alfred played a great role after the Bali terrorist attack with all the work that it did on the terribly burnt people.

Steve Bracks said that Victorians wanted to be reassured that the state had the ability to deal with any unforeseen circumstances. He personally told me that he hoped we would never have to use this kind of equipment, but it was there. He was at the Alfred Hospital for a simulation of a radiation bomb attack on Melbourne and a demonstration of this new mobile equipment. The plan unveiled is going to provide Victorians with a safety net of integrated knowledge of how to deal with the circumstances by getting human services staff, paramedics and firefighters to work together to handle such a situation.

I hoped that the Premier and I and our concerns were perhaps two or three chess moves ahead of other people in thinking about these contingencies until we all saw on Saturday night on Australian television Narong Penanam arrested in a Thai car park with 30 kilograms of caesium, a radioactive substance, thought to have originated in Russia. Roger Henning, a former information attaché with the Australian Embassy in Washington, said that the findings should ring alarm bells.

“It is a worldwide wake-up call,” Mr Henning said. “If you can transport this sort of stuff as far as Bangkok, it is possible to transport it almost anywhere.”

So, two days after the Premier of Victoria's announcement, we actually have someone in our region smuggling a huge amount of caesium. He was arrested, filmed live, after trying to sell the material for $362,000. It is suggested that Narong Penanam had a criminal intent, but he could have easily have been selling it to terrorists. So these contingencies that I thought were alarming, but that I was pleased the Premier of Victoria was preparing our state for, are actually much more real than I ever imagined. The fellow arrested in Thailand was, according to intelligence expert Neil Fergus, more likely to be a member of an organised criminal gang. However, he said:

There is concern because it's (caesium) certainly something that could be used in the construction of what's called a dirty bomb.

Only today, the director of MI5 said that it is only a matter of time before a crude radiation device is used in a Western city. This is a terrible state the world has got itself into, but I am pleased to see that the Alfred Hospital and the Premier of Victoria have planned something for Victoria. (Time expired)