Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2005 Week 11 Hansard (Thursday, 22 September 2005) . . Page.. 3577 ..
The terrorist threat to the ACT is probably at medium level only, but a clear threat that this government is responsible to respond to exists. The community has a right to know. Indeed, it needs to know and be included in planning for such emergencies to the extent that classified information allows, rather than being kept in the dark like mushrooms. The community needs confidence. The community needs to know as much as possible about the actual risk and what protection measures are in place.
Police and emergency services, despite the government’s lack of interest, have progressed relatively well in the building of a range of counter-terrorist capabilities—for example, bio and chemical attacks and probably atomic dirty bomb attacks. Urban search and rescue capabilities for fire brigade, ambulance, SES and ESA have developed those capabilities. The fire brigade is leading the way in the other threat attacks I have previously listed; and the police have developed excellent special response capabilities as far as the security arena is concerned.
The success of the management of the embassy white powder scare incident is to be applauded, but this was relatively small-scale incident management. What we saw there was professionally well done; it was excellent work, but still on a relatively small scale compared to the threat levels that could indicate the possibility of something much larger. We are not seeing serious preparation for larger-scale terrorist emergencies.
All of our agencies have professionally and diligently, on their own initiatives, developed excellent capabilities in the security arena. At least the government has provided some funding for them to be able to achieve those standards, but it does not possess a serious management culture in relation to emergency planning and overarching policy to meld those agencies together for broader activities. Members of this government fly by the seat of their pants in what is purely reactionary-based governance. They lack the proactive ability and forethought that is greatly needed in order to protect our community.
Critically, we now discover that the Labor government, contrary to announcements made as long ago as last year and again recently, has failed to significantly progress any large-scale terrorist attack management and evacuation plans for vulnerable, likely target areas throughout the ACT. I will quote the Chief Minister’s exact words from the last sitting. He said that there is a suggestion that, because there is no piece of paper that states, “This is the plan for Civic,” we do not have a plan. He said, “We have a detailed plan for what will occur in the event of an emergency.” Maybe the Chief Minister happens to have a Ros Kelly whiteboard, rather than a piece of paper.
The Stanhope government needs to complete and publicise, as soon as possible, terrorist incident management and evacuation policy and, hanging off that policy, the appropriate plans. It must adapt existing tried and tested urban fire evacuation procedures to incorporate terrorist threat management and evacuation procedures—I believe the ESA is beginning to move down that track—and it must introduce these plans rapidly. It must commence community education and emergency drills for building wardens, for example, and emergency personnel who would be involved in broader-scale activities, on a much larger scale than existing building evacuation scenarios. It must have those people trained and drilled, in the event of strikes occurring.