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Wednesday, 8 May 1985
Page: 1908

Mr BALDWIN(10.52) —Last Saturday afternoon, the weather being fine and sunny, I, along with my State colleague the member for Balmain, Peter Crawford, decided to take a stroll around the Mort Dock site in Balmain. This area was until quite recently a container terminal. Controversy now rages over the future of the site, with the State Government and local council favouring a mix of waterfront park and public housing. Most of the land is now owned by the Maritime Services Board of New South Wales. As we approached the northern end of the site, we were confronted by a curious spectacle. Alongside a disused shed, a row of Avis rental trucks were parked. Behind these were a row of blue phone-box like structures reminiscent of the time-machine Tardis in Doctor Who, with the words 'port-a-loo' printed on the side.

From within the shed sounds of frenetic activity emerged. As we stood bemused observing this spectacle, we were approached by several men in overalls who advised us that it would not be in our interest to stick around. The Mort Dock site, incidentally, is open and accessible to the public, and has been the site of numerous meetings, picnics, fairs and other activities. Children can be found playing there most weekends. We identified ourselves and asked the men in overalls to do likewise. This they decided not to do. Repeated questions failed to elicit any information about their identity, their organisation or what they were doing. All we got were vague hints that something unpleasant might befall us if we stuck around. We decided then that discretion was the better part of valour and left.

Upon further inquiry, we discovered that an anti-terrorist exercise involving Commonwealth and State authorities was in progress. The units were the Special Air Service Regiment and the State Police SWAS group. This apparently centred on the simulated seizure of a ship full of yellowcake. The disused iron ore carrier Iron Duke moored off-shore was to be the target. It is interesting that of all the groups of organisations that might conceivably commit an act of terrorism, the anti-nuclear movement is singled out. The groups involved have absolutely no record of recourse to such tactics. This raises the obvious question of whether the activity was hazardous. If so, no attempt was made to secure the dock area, at least the point at which we entered, and there were no warning signs.

Today I received some more alarming information. I was contacted by a constituent who, along with a companion, walked to the end of Louisa Road, Balmain to the waterfront park at Long Nose Point. The Iron Duke is moored several hundred yards away. As they walked back along Louisa Road, they were accosted by four or five men dressed in black, wearing caps and face masks. They were armed with pistols and sub-machine guns. With guns thrust into their faces, the two were led into a yard adjoining an old factory building and interrogated and searched for about 15 minutes before being released. It seems that those conducting the exercise mistook the two men for those who were acting the part of the terrorists. I stress that the two victims did nothing but walk along a public road minding their own business. There is no doubt that they are victims of a criminal assault. We can only speculate as to what may have happened had they resisted. I have written to the Minister for Defence (Mr Beazley) seeking an explanation for these extraordinary events. At this stage it seems probable that the incident was the work of the State police, rather than the SAS. Nonetheless, a full explanation and a guarantee that the episode will not be repeated are essential.