Australia’s Strategy for Protecting Crowded Places from Terrorism

Crowded landmarks are a terror target for their symbolic power, with recent IS attacks making this disturbingly clear.  In light of this, Australian National Security has declared a strategy for tackling the threat to crowded places.  According to their announcement, the core of the strategy is to improve the security of such places by fostering networks of information sharing and partnership among private and public sector stakeholders, generating a more sophisticated ecosystem of security.[1]  In this category of “crowded places” are sports stadia, transport infrastructure, shopping centers, pubs, clubs, hotels, places of worship, tourist attractions, movie theatres, and civic spaces.

According to this policy, owners and operators of crowded places will be able to join the Crowded Places Partnership which places them in a network with a broad spectrum of public authorities including counter-terrorism officials, police, local and national authorities, etc.  Owners and operators will receive expertise from authorities on strengthening security.  Additionally, the ongoing exchange of information related to threats is intended to increase the speed and flexibility of responses to threats.

To ensure maximum protective security, authorities recommend a system for what they call “layered security”, which means employing complementary security measures which reinforce each other and reduce the likelihood that any measure will fail.  Additionally, owners and operators are offered a number of protective security tools including a Crowded Places Self-Assessment Tool, Crowded Places Security Audit, Hostile Vehicle Mitigation Guidelines, Chemical Weapon Guidelines, and others.

Interestingly the Crowded Places Self Assessment Tool states “It is important to remember that this self assessment needs to be conducted from the perspective of a would-be attacker; not from your perspective as to the current level of security you have at your location”. This view is in line with Panoptic Solutions Red Team Operations when conducting penetration and security testing of installations, organisations and workplaces.

Australian sports fans have already begun to experience tighter security at large sporting events.  Following the Manchester Area attack in May, the Adelaide Oval limited the number of bags allowed inside and subjected fans to metal detector searches.[2]  In the same month, Melbourne stadiums considered allowing only clear plastic bags inside.[3]

If the implementation of Australia’s new strategy for protecting crowded places is successful, operators of large sporting events will be more flexible and fluid in enhancing security.  “Greater security” will not necessarily equal more airport-style security checks.  In its design, the strategy appears to maximise enjoyment of crowded places while still ensuring much tighter security.  Australian National Security hopes that the integration of private security entities, such as the security administration at the Adelaide Oval, national security authorities, and other contracted security firms similar to Panoptic Solutions will generate this outcome.

 

References

“Adelaide Oval Increases Security in Wake of Manchester Attack”, (May 24, 2017), ABC. Retrieved from:
http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-05-24/adelaide-oval-increases-security-in-wake-of-manchester-attack/8555156

“Clear Bad Rule Considered for MCG and Melbourne Stadiums”, (May 24, 2017), Herald Sun. Retrieved from:
http://www.heraldsun.com.au/news/victoria/clear-bag-rule-and-bollards-co…

“Australia’s Strategy for Protecting Crowded Places from Terrorism”, (2017), Commonwealth of Australia. Retrieved from:
https://www.nationalsecurity.gov.au/Media-and-publications/Publications/…

Australia’s Recent Terror Arrests and What this Means for Travellers

Australia’s Close Call

The recently foiled terror plot in Sydney underscores the risk potential for travelers in Oceania.   Australia has faced an increasing number of such threats in recent years.  Since September 2014, the nation’s terror threat level has been elevated, according to national security authorities.[1]

On Saturday, July 29th, Australian police defeated a plot to bring down an airplane, arresting 4 suspects in the Sydney suburbs.[2]  Though detailed information is still unfolding, the elaborate plot of the men now in custody involved detonation of an improvised explosive onboard the aircraft. Australian Federal Police Commissioner Andrew Colvin stated that this is believed to be Islamic-inspired terrorism.[3]  No information has been offered as to how this plot was discovered.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has offered some insight into the bigger picture of terror threats the nation faces.  “We face a range of terrorist threats, some of them are lone actors, who activate very quickly, with very little warning. On other occasions, you get quite elaborate conspiracies. This appears to be in that category.”[4]

Since 2014, Australian law enforcement thwarted 15 terror plots in their advanced stages.[5] Of 31 counterterrorism police operations, 70 suspects have been charged.[6]  Despite a small number of sophisticated plots, the primary terror threat is believed to come from lone actors and small groups carrying out simple plots with low cost weaponry.[7]

Implications for Travelers

Authorities have since enhanced security measures at airports and had previously recommend travellers to arrive more than 2 hours before their departure time for extra baggage searches and delays caused. At the time of the incident, Virgin Australia advised passengers to arrive 3 hours before departure for international flights. Enhanced security measures were in place in more than just the Sydney Airport. These recommendations were, however, revised as of 4 August. Travellers are advised to remain vigilant, however, to revert to previous time frames recomended by their airlines.

Travellers and those with a long-term interest in the region will want to keep in mind the uncertainty and risk that this incident underscores.  While the authorities can rightfully be credited for their skill in disrupting a sophisticated plot while it was still in planning stages in the Sydney suburbs, this threat is very much a wildcard among mostly unsophisticated terror plots. Moreover, even the highest authorities are candid about the risk and uncertainty.  In response to this attack, Andrew Colvin stated that, “Terrorists are becoming very ingenious about ways to defeat our security mechanisms.”[8]  Those involved in the region will want to bear this uncertainty in mind when making their plans in the region. To discuss Travel Risk advice across the APAC region, contact Panoptic Solutions Risk Consultants for further information.

References

“Australian authorities arrest 4 in alleged airplane terrorist plot”, (2017, July 31), CNN. Retrieved from
http://edition.cnn.com/2017/07/29/asia/australia-airplane-terror-plot/in…

“Australian police foil ‘elaborate’ terrorist plot to detonate bomb on plane”, (2017, July 30), The Guardian. Retrieved from:
https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2017/jul/30/australian-police…

“Four arrested in Australia as police thwart terrorist plot to bring down a plane”, (2017, July 30), The Telegraph.  Retrieved from:
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/07/30/four-arrested-australia-polic…

“National Terrorism Threat Advisory System”, Australian Government. Retrieved from:
https://www.nationalsecurity.gov.au/securityandyourcommunity/pages/natio…

“The other ‘imminent’ terror attacks Australia narrowly escaped”, (2017, July 31st), news.com.au. Retrieved from:
http://www.news.com.au/national/crime/the-11-imminent-terror-attacks-aus…