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Opening of official's advance Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting 2002,\nNovotel Twin Waters, Mudjimba, Sunshine Coast: video address from Canberra.



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ATTORNEY-GENERAL THE HON. DARYL WILLIAMS AM QC MP

Video Address from Canberra

Opening of Official’s Advance

Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting 2002

Novotel Twin Waters, Mudjimba, Sunshine Coast

10:00am, Tuesday 5 February 2002

Introduction

Good morning ladies and gentlemen. For those who have come from overseas, let me welcome you to Australia.

It is just under a month until the opening of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Coolum. This briefing will give you the opportunity to see for yourselves the state of our security and other preparations for this important international event.

You will all be aware of the reasons for the postponement of the 2001 CHOGM meeting. The attacks in the United States on September 11 and the subsequent war against terrorism have meant that the security situation needed to be reassessed to take into account the changed security environment.

But despicable acts of terrorism will not intimidate the Governments of the world nor stand in the way of justice. And they will not stop us from coming together to discuss the important issues on the agenda for CHOGM 2002.

CHOGM 2002

The Commonwealth has a vital role to play in addressing the problems faced by countries and people across the world. For this reason it was important that the 2001 CHOGM meeting was not cancelled altogether. We cannot afford to let the forces of fear and terror prevail. The 2002 CHOGM meeting is a powerful sign that the work of the Commonwealth will not be derailed by the evils of terrorism.

This is the first international meeting in Australia since September 11. It is also the largest ever gathering of Heads of Government in our country, representing about 25 per cent of the world’s nations and nearly one-third of its population.

National leaders and senior delegates from up to 52 Commonwealth countries will stay and meet at the Hyatt Regency Resort in Coolum. Senior Ministers and other delegates will reside and meet at the Novotel Twin Waters Resort at Mudjimba Beach. The meeting will attract interest around much of the world.

CHOGM 2002 is more compact - a result of the new security arrangements. That said, more than 1500 delegates and up to 1000 accredited media, including half from overseas, are expected for the event.

Importance of CHOGM 2002

The upcoming meeting will examine a wide range of vital issues. These include human rights, conflict resolution, sustainable development and good governance. To these issues have been added worldwide efforts to fight terrorism.

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By coming together and looking at these and other issues, this CHOGM will reiterate the influence and relevance of the Commonwealth in the global environment.

I want to assure you that Australia is determined to host a safe and successful meeting It is vital this event runs smoothly. And it is vital that the business of the event is not overshadowed by any security incidents.

This morning I want to give you a brief update on the state of our preparations.

Security Environment

The Queensland Police Service has primary responsibility for the delivery of day to day security for CHOGM. Their work is being supported by a range of Australian Federal Government agencies to ensure CHOGM will run safely and securely without an overbearing security presence.

At present, there is no known specific threat of terrorism against CHOGM 2002. But September 11 has changed the world forever. This means that security arrangements for CHOGM have been reviewed to reflect the new security environment.

We have spent a lot of time and effort on the planning of the security operations to ensure that the meeting runs smoothly and safely. I am confident that you will be impressed by the measures we have taken to ensure its success.

Security Preparations

Since September 11 Australia has been on a heightened security alert as a precautionary measure. This alert will continue throughout CHOGM 2002, ensuring that our well-tested procedures under our National Anti-Terrorist Plan are in place. This plan is our blueprint to protect Australia from politically motivated violence.

The Government has already acted to bolster our national security in areas to protect the visiting Heads of Government. This includes increased resources for intelligence collection, more checks at our borders and increased aviation security measures at our airports and on our aircraft.

The extensive counter-terrorist measures that were in place for CHOGM 2001 have been reviewed and upgraded. The revised security arrangements for CHOGM 2002 are as robust and comprehensive as they can possibly be.

Australia is well prepared if there is any incident involving a chemical, biological or radiological incident during CHOGM. Our ability to deal with these incidents was greatly increased as part of the lead up to the Sydney Olympics. Following September 11 there has been a continuing upgrade of Australia’s ability to deal with such incidents.

We have taken measures to secure the venues, accommodation and motorcade routes. We have instituted strict access controls to venues and accommodation to ensure the safety of the delegates. Accreditation procedures will be in place to ensure only authorised people have access to the delegates. We have established special mail-handling procedures.

And we have put in place specific measures to secure airspace, airports and aircraft at our major domestic and international airports in response to the attacks on the US. Special additional measures will be in place to protect the Heads of Government when they arrive and depart from our airports.

All foreign leaders and their spouses will receive close personal protection during CHOGM. The relocation of the event to Coolum and the streamlining of the event has made the event easier to secure.

We have also conducted extensive tests of our counter-terrorist plans to ensure that they work in practice. Our plans have been put to the test with a number of hypothetical “real life”

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exercises including a national exercise that was based on a range of possible CHOGM incidents, both minor and major. A further exercise will be held later this month to put a final polish on our preparations.

The security arrangements we have made are robust and comprehensive, and are designed to deal with threats from possible terrorism as well as protest activity.

In recent years international meetings have become the focus of a variety of groups protesting under the banner of anti-globalisation. Political protests are a way of life in our democracy. However protests are only acceptable if they are peaceful. Our planning for any protest activity has been meticulous.

Of course, there can be no absolute guarantees when talking about security. But in the next couple of days I am sure you will see that the arrangements for CHOGM 2002 will be as safe as those for any major meeting of international dignitaries can be.

Operational Responsibilities and the Possession of Weapons

I would also like to reiterate a point I made during the first security advance last July. When dignitaries visit this country, Australian agencies take full responsibility for their protection and safety.

Let there be no room for doubt - foreign security officials have no operational role in Australia and they are not permitted to carry weapons of any type.

This policy will be strictly enforced. If visiting security personnel carry a weapon, the matter will be treated seriously and it will be pursued with the Government concerned at the highest level.

Conclusion

Over the rest of the briefing you will see the state of our CHOGM preparations for yourself.

Australia is committed to ensuring that CHOGM 2002 is incident free. We want CHOGM to deliver real outcomes for the people of the Commonwealth.

Our preparations and our security planning have been first rate.

So enjoy your brief visit. And please take the message back home that Australia is ready to stage CHOGM, and we are ready to safely handle the visit of your leader.