The last Queensland Government counter-terrorism strategy was released in 2013 and the Opposition believes it needs to be updated on current threat levels. In January, NSW announced its first-ever minister for counter terrorism. All States and territories under current laws only allow for a detention of a suspect for up to 14 days. The proposed changes by the LNP in Queensland will be an Australian first allowing the judiciary to grant orders for up to 28 days in custody.
The Queensland counter-terrorism framework is aligned to the National arrangements and is driven by this Strategy and the Queensland Counter-Terrorism Plan. The Strategy sets the strategic direction for the future while the Plan maintains current arrangements.
“In the 2017-18 State Budget, the Palaszczuk Government announced it would invest $46.7 million over three years for a world-class weapons and counter-terrorism facility at Wacol for the Queensland Police.
“The new counter-terrorism facility will include indoor firearms ranges, a scenario village, and specialist training areas to increase the capability in managing terrorism and other critical incidents. “This facility will be co-located with the police driving skills section to enhance training on the growing issue of vehicle attacks, such as those recently seen interstate and overseas.”
Mr Ryan said the 2016-17 Budget handed down $16 million over four years to boost surveillance capabilities and to fund labour costs to enhance intelligence analysis, dedicated online investigation and counter-terrorism teams, improved counter-terrorism technical support, and to fund counter-terrorism training. “This includes world-leading courses in behavioural observation and suspicious activity recognition, and active armed offender training.”
Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR)
Police Minister Bill Byrne and Superintendent Dale Pointon announced an increase in the number of Queensland Police Service (QPS) vehicles equipped with Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) to enhance road safety and security on Queensland roads. “ANPR technology provides an increased ability to monitor high volumes of vehicles safely, accurately, immediately and without human error or bias,” he said. “The device detects vehicles of interest and acts as a screening tool, helping to identify if a vehicle warrants further investigation.”
The vehicles fitted with ANPR are identifiable by the two large camera units fitted on either side of the police car, with a tablet-style screen inside and a processing system located in the back of the vehicle.
The two cameras run a consistent video feed, and take photos of any characters in real time. The system can in theory process 16 number plates per second across multiple lanes, which explains how the ANPR-enabled vehicles have managed to scan a staggering 23 million plates in just over a year.
The are two separate camera systems on either side, one which takes normal colour photos and another which takes infrared images, able to detect number plates in pitch black. Making the process of detection no more difficult at night than during the day.
With a database that large, the ANPR vehicles are updated over WiFi each time they enter a compatible police station. The vehicles automatically connect to the WiFi and download the latest database of hotlist plates, and pass back information about the number plates scanned and their related data back to the system. This means, rather than relying on a cellular data connection, the system does all of its identification through on-board databases, explains Alborz Fallah in caradvice.
Data being passed back includes all vehicles scanned (regardless of their status on the wanted list), which has left some in the public labelling the ANPR system as being a little too ‘big brother’ and intrusive, but Douglas, Acting Inspector and Operations Manager of the QLD Police road policing task force says the recorded data is very much vehicle-focused and not about the individual.
Hi-tech counter terrorism technology requirements
Townsville MP Scott Stewart reportedly wants the Queensland Police Force to look into the use of drone technology in an effort to curb what has been called a crime crisis in the state’s north. According to local media, the MP believes drones are considerably cheaper than helicopters and can be launched within seconds — travelling in excess of 100 kilometres per hour, with a range of around 7 kilometres — from a police vehicle.
“What I’ve been trying to do is look at as many different solutions as possible, and cutting-edge drone technology is so much cheaper than a police helicopter,” Stewart is quoted as saying. “We need to use the technology now and in the future to fight crime, not costly and old technology like helicopters.”
The crime-fighting list includes armoured vehicles that can withstand extreme fire power, plus vehicle-mounted electronic disruption devices that can stop vehicles in their tracks. These devices could become some of the most critical tools police have in their terrorbusting kit, especially as international lone wolves use vehicles to plough down crowds
As well as a further $3 million for specialist sniper rifles, counter-terrorism police say they also need technology to stop an attack before it occurs. Surveillance such as Wi-Fi exploitation devices allows police to harvest data from a phone or laptop when a target walks past the device.
Then there’s the Xaver 400 – a radar system that can detect people behind walls. With a detection range of 20m, it has the sensitivity to detect non-moving live objects. It also has wireless capability for remote monitoring and control.
A “millimetre wave” camera allows police to determine from a long distance whether people are carrying guns or other weapons. It can detect weapons through clothes and bags.
Long-distance public laser audio collection is also needed. Devices can be put in a room and pick up tens of individual conversations, making recording and monitoring suspects easier.
Millions of dollars would also be needed for analytical programs to data mine phones and electronic devices.
One of the biggest challenges many counter-terrorism police face is encryption and the fact that some of the exchanges between suspects are in foreign languages.
Police are also calling for machines and software to electronically record the serial numbers of banknotes seized during covert operations.
Over time, all cash seizures could be processed through the machines and database to determine money flows and identify sophisticated network links.
Counter terrorism strategy
The main terrorist threat to Australia comes from extremists who are part of, or take inspiration from, the global violent jihad movement. Terrorists are resilient, adaptable, innovative, flexible and able to recover from setbacks and to change their behaviors to survive and operate. We must therefore be equally adaptive in our approach; and ensure we continually monitor emerging trends, threats and activities and develop innovative and mature response capabilities to counter any threat, says Queensland Counter-Terrorism Strategy.
A terrorist attack passes through a number of phases. Countering terrorism requires a coordinated approach by all stakeholders focussed on disrupting all phases of the attack process. This includes prevention by regulation, engagement, security hardening and preparation through development of plans, training and enhancement of coordination arrangements.
Based on international terrorist operations and attacks, it is clear that there are a wide range of areas in Queensland, which if attacked, would satisfy the goals of a terrorist group. In addition there are locations within Queensland which if used maliciously could provide the resources, finance, weapons and training required to construct a successful terrorist operation
Key strategic areas of focus
These areas have been identified through a scanning process, which includes consideration of the current and emerging threat context and an assessment of current gaps and recent lessons learnt. The following are the five key strategic areas of focus for 2011-2013:
- Countering Violent Extremism: A “shift apparent since 2004 has been the increase in the terrorist threat from people born or raised in Australia, who have become influenced by the violent jihadist message. The bombings in London on 7 July 2005, which were carried out by British nationals, brought into stark relief the real threat of globally-inspired but locally generated attacks in Western democracies, including Australia.
Over the next three years, the Queensland Government will focus on: Reducing the factors that contribute to individuals or communities being radicalized, Identifying and diverting those at risk, Positively promoting the benefits of community and non-government involvement in countering violent extremism.
- Mass Gatherings: “Critical infrastructure and places of mass gathering feature prominently in terrorist attacks linked to al Qa’ida and its affiliates—characterised by their symbolic nature, concentration of people in enclosed spaces and economic and social importance”. “Periodic attacks or attempted attacks, including those inflicting mass casualties, can be expected for some time to come”
Queensland Government will focus on: Avenues which assist owners and operators of Queensland’s mass gatherings to protect their venues and locations, Engagement arrangements with Queensland’s priority mass gathering sites, Robust arrangements to effectively respond to mass casualty incidents.
- Infrastructure Protection: “At the national level, critical infrastructure is defined as, those physical facilities, supply chains, information technologies and communication networks which, if destroyed, degraded or rendered unavailable for an extended period, would significantly impact on the social or economic well-being of the nation, or affect Australia’s ability to conduct national defence and ensure national security”. “We know from experience that mass transport systems, places where people gather in large numbers, and critical infrastructure have been the target of terrorist attack overseas, and it is likely that these will remain attractive targets
As a result of this context, Infrastructure Protection is a key strategic area of focus in our counter-terrorism arrangements for 2011-13. Over the next three years, the Queensland Government will focus on: Robust and secure communication and information systems, strengthening the security of mass passenger surface transport operations, Contemporary policies and arrangements that protect Queensland’s infrastructure and allow growth
- Public Information and Modern Media: Staying informed through public announcements during a terrorism threat or incident will ensure business and the community is connected into our arrangements and will assist in the management of the situation. “As a consequence of rapid advances in technological capability, Australia must remain technologically and scientifically alert, agile and robust so as to anticipate and respond to new and emerging threats arising from the ongoing technology revolution”.
Over the next three years, the Queensland Government will focus on: Comprehensive public messaging tools, Contemporary and innovative operational use of modern media, Arrangements which provide and reinforce consistent advice delivered by agencies to strengthen messages and avoid public confusion.
- Interoperability: The future for national security crisis coordination, of which counter-terrorism is one component, will be characterised by a comprehensively integrated approach across Government agencies and connected to state and territory arrangements.
Over the next three years, the Queensland Government will focus on: Appropriate integration of other hazard arrangements into terrorism response and recovery frameworks, Protection arrangements for hazardous materials which could be exploited by terrorists, Enhanced and secure information sharing arrangements, Mechanisms which facilitate interoperability between agencies and capabilities
The Commonwealth Government has integrated crisis coordination arrangements and mechanisms applicable to counter‑terrorism and natural disasters. From a counter-terrorism perspective the core principles of the national counter terrorism arrangements rely on strong cooperative, coordinated and consultative relationships.
The Queensland Government and its agencies will deliver this Strategy in a way which is:
- Adaptive – Remain agile and contemporary through continually monitoring emerging trends and learning lessons
- Targeted – Focus protective security strategies to reduce vulnerabilities and strengthen detection and deterrence mechanisms
- Integrated – Linking and connecting arrangements from a National to State level and ensuring state arrangements are interconnected and leverage off other related hazard frameworks
- Resilience Focused – Strengthen resilience through embedding plans within existing arrangements, promoting the need for business continuity and creating awareness of resilient characteristics.
The possibility that terrorist groups may conduct one or more of the phases of an operation (including attack) within Queensland must not be discounted.