Cement bollards in regional centres key to fight against terrorism

Temporary concrete bollards were erected along major streets in Melbourne for the Australia Day parade this year. Photo: Eddie Jim

Temporary concrete bollards were erected along major streets in Melbourne for the Australia Day parade this year. Photo: Eddie Jim

Portable cement bollards should be installed at the ends of corsos and shopping malls in every major city and town, according to security experts who warn that Australia is still too vulnerable to a Nice or Westminster-style terror attack.

However, local governments, which would be best placed to implement such a measure, have been largely excluded from counter-terrorism planning in Australia, it is claimed.

Vehicle attacks have become the favoured method for Islamic State terrorists, with the latest issue of the terror group's magazine even advising on the specifics of the best vehicle.

In January, Wollongong City Council Lord Mayor Gordon Bradbery said this security issue in the mall and other public spaces was “on the radar”.

In January, Wollongong City Council Lord Mayor Gordon Bradbery said this security issue in the mall and other public spaces was “on the radar”.

In March, radicalised Londoner Khalid Masood drove a car into pedestrians near the Palace of Westminster, killing four people including a police officer.

Weeks earlier, British parliamentarians had discussed flimsy road barriers in the area.

The Nice attack, in which 86 people died when a truck was driven into Bastille Day crowds, showed that Australia needs to do more to prepare for a terrorist attack in rural towns and regional centres where high-readiness police forces aren't based, Jacinta Carroll and Ashley Collingburn from the Australian Strategic Policy Institute wrote last year.

Dimitrious Gargasoulas allegedly sped down Bourke Street Mall in a red sedan, killing six people. Photo: Justin McManus

Dimitrious Gargasoulas allegedly sped down Bourke Street Mall in a red sedan, killing six people. Photo: Justin McManus

Australia has not been immune with six people, including two children, killed in a car rampage through Melbourne's Bourke Street Mall in January.

A mentally-ill man trying to replicate a terror attack drove a small car through a packed mall in Wollongong in February.

Roger Henning, a national security adviser who led the response to incidents including the Port Arthur Massacre, said the federal government has been focused on law enforcement and technology at the expense of local solutions that were equally as important.

Temporary barriers were erected in Brisbane's King George Square during the Christmas and New Year period. Photo: Cameron Atfield

Temporary barriers were erected in Brisbane's King George Square during the Christmas and New Year period. Photo: Cameron Atfield

He said all local governments should immediately be given details on how best to install portable cement bollards with gaps small enough to prevent a Hyundai Getz smashing through.

"It's not rocket science but because it's low tech it's a big yawn for government," he said.

"They like bells and whistles and technology but if we continue to just rely on law enforcement, we're going to be subjected to some really horrific events."

Anthony Bergin, a National Security College research fellow, said local government is the "forgotten actor" in counter-terrorism planning.

In a discussion paper in the latest Journal of Policing, Intelligence and Counter-Terrorism, he said local governments are heavily involved in planning around major events such as festivals and sporting matches and are responsible for security measures such as road closures.

However, local government is not mentioned once in COAG counter-terrorism strategies or guidelines on protecting places of mass gathering, while state disaster planning documents only refer to natural disasters.

"There's very much a 'Canberra knows best' attitude on security planning," said Dr Bergin, senior analyst at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute.

A federal Attorney-General's Department spokesman said it was up to states to engage with local government on counter-terrorism issues.

He said the government has prioritised developing a national strategy for places of mass gathering.

"There is more work being undertaken to address this challenging issue," he said.

NSW Counter-Terrorism Minister David Elliott said there was "co-operation between all layers of government on a range of security issues especially when there is a threat".

"Placing bollards in strategic locations is one of a number of ways to prepare for the threat of terrorism," he said. "We already have robust arrangements in Australia to protect places of mass gathering."

Garbage trucks and public buses have increasingly been parked outside major events to block roads.

Adelaide's Rundle Mall is among several corsos in capital cities that are moving to install permanent barriers.

Following the Bourke Street massacre, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull called for more bollards in public areas, saying it was "a vulnerability that we have to address".

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