terror threat

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

Australia’s Close Call

The recently foiled terror plot in Sydney underscores the risk potential for travellers 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 aeroplane, arresting 4 suspects in the Sydney suburbs.[2]  Though detailed information is still unfolding, the elaborate plot of the men now in custody involved the detonation of an improvised explosive on board 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 has 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 recommended 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 recommended 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.


“Australian authorities arrest 4 in alleged airplane terrorist plot”, (2017, July 31), CNN. Retrieved from

“Australian police foil ‘elaborate’ terrorist plot to detonate bomb on plane”, (2017, July 30), The Guardian. Retrieved from:

“Four arrested in Australia as police thwart terrorist plot to bring down a plane”, (2017, July 30), The Telegraph.  Retrieved from:

“National Terrorism Threat Advisory System”, Australian Government. Retrieved from:

“The other ‘imminent’ terror attacks Australia narrowly escaped”, (2017, July 31st), news.com.au. Retrieved from: