Office of State Security and Emergency Coordination

The Department of the Premier and Cabinet established this office to support Western Australia's involvement in national counter-terrorism arrangements.

The national terrorism threat 

The current threat level is: PROBABLE

Credible intelligence, assessed by security agencies to represent a plausible scenario, indicates that individuals or groups have developed both an intent and capability to conduct a terrorist attack in Australia.

The nationalsecurity.gov.au website provides further information on what Federal, state and territory governments are doing to mitigate the threat of terrorism and violent extremism.

In the current environment, the public should continue to exercise caution and report any suspicious incidents to the Police on 000 or the National Security Hotline on the number opposite.

About the Office

The Office of State Security and Emergency Coordination (OSSEC) works with the WA Police to promote a consistent, coordinated approach to counter-terrorism planning. It also provides advice and support to the Premier and promotes whole-of-government policy and strategic level collaboration for other significant emergencies. 

Emergency coordination

WA's emergency management arrangements are based on the provisions of the Emergency Management Act 2005 and associated policies and procedures. The Act formally established the State Emergency Management Committee as the peak emergency management body in Western Australia.

The Assistant Director General (OSSEC) is one of WA’s representatives on the Australia-New Zealand Emergency Management Committee (ANZEMC).

 

Counter-terrorism

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In 2002, Commonwealth, State and Territory leaders signed an agreement on Australia's national counter-terrorism arrangements.

The agreement formally established a framework for a cooperative partnership between the Commonwealth and the States and Territories to develop and maintain a nation-wide capability to combat terrorism.

Under the agreement, all Australian governments share responsibility for working together to improve:

  • nation-wide prevention, response, investigation and consequence management arrangements 
  • the legal regime for fighting terrorism in all jurisdictions 
  • cooperation, coordination and consultation between government agencies. 

The agreement also established the operational mandate for the National Counter-Terrorism Committee (NCTC) with a broad role covering prevention and consequence management issues.  

The National Counter-Terrorism Plan (NCTP), which is one of the documents maintained by the Committee, outlines responsibilities, authorities and the mechanisms to prevent, or if they occur, manage, acts of terrorism and their consequences within Australia.  

In 2012, the agreement was amended to include New Zealand as a full member of the Committee. The aim was to ensure the closest possible coordination and cooperation regarding matters of bilateral interest on countering terrorism and to encourage closer strategic dialogue.  

To reflect the change in membership the Committee is now known as the Australia-New Zealand Counter-Terrorism Committee (ANZCTC).

WA Police and the Department of the Premier and Cabinet represent the State on the committee.  

National terrorism threat advisory system

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The enduring and multifaceted threat of terrorism in Australia is the reason why the Australian Government raised the threat level on 12 September 2014.

The factors that underpinned that decision persist and some have worsened.  

In the past, terrorists had demonstrated a trend towards a larger attack of greater sophistication and organisation. Whilst recent events overseas demonstrate that an attack of this nature cannot be ruled out, currently the most likely source of threat is an attack by an individual, or small group of individuals without external direction, using weapons and tactics that are low-cost and relatively simple.

A 'terrorist act' is an act or threat intended to advance a political, ideological or religious cause by coercing or intimidating an Australian or foreign government or the public, by causing serious harm to people or property, creating a serious risk of health and safety to the public, disrupting trade, critical infrastructure or electronic systems.

Terrorist acts can involve:

  • Arson 
  • Bomb threat or hoax, or an actual bombing 
  • Chemical, biological or radiological incident 
  • Hostage taking or kidnapping 
  • Assassination 
  • Sabotage 
  • Product tampering
  • Cyber terrorism. 

The national terrorism threat advisory system, announced on 26 November 2015, is a tiered structure with five levels of alert to indicate the national terrorism threat level.  

It informs Australians about the likelihood of an act of terrorism occurring in Australia and has been designed to provide as much information as possible to the public to allow them to make informed decisions and in broad terms, guide national preparation and planning. 

The system helps to inform national preparedness and planning as well as indicate the appropriate level of precaution and vigilance to minimise the risk of a terrorist act. It is also used as the basis for public discussion of the risk of a terrorist act occurring in Australia. 

The five levels of alert are:

  • Not Expected (green)  
  • Possible (blue)
  • Probable (yellow)
  • Expected (orange)
  • Certain (red)

The new national terrorism threat advisory system applies across all States and Territories. Information specific to the local security context is available from State and Territory police.

The community will be notified of any change to the threat level.

More information on the new national terrorism threat advisory system and advice on the current level is available at nationalsecurity.gov.au.

Communication and coordination

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Events in Australia and across the world have reinforced the importance of planning and preparedness in the fight against terrorism.

It is vital that we maintain our vigilance and our awareness of security requirements, and build robust relationships both within and between the community, business and government to further strengthen this State and the nation against all threats, including terrorism.

Under the National Counter-Terrorism Plan the States, Territories and the Commonwealth are committed to the development and maintenance of a nation-wide capability to counter terrorism and its consequences.

As far as possible, counter-terrorism strategies are incorporated into existing plans and procedures that deal with the prevention, preparedness, response and recovery arrangements for other hazards.

In WA the coordination of these activities is principally undertaken through the State’s ANZCTC representatives and the State Emergency Management Committee.

In response to a terrorist act or significant threat, the Department has a key role in the establishment of a State Crisis Centre to:

  • support the Premier, Ministers and senior officials
  • liaise with the Commonwealth Government and other State and Territory governments.

 

Protecting critical infrastructure

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To encourage a consistent, nation-wide approach, Australian governments have developed national guidelines.

Critical infrastructure (CI) protection forms a significant part of the national counter-terrorism agenda.

CI 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.”

To encourage a consistent, nation-wide approach to the protection of CI, Australian governments have developed the National Guidelines for Protecting Critical Infrastructure from Terrorism.

WA’s approach to the protection of critical infrastructure is consistent with the National Guidelines.

The following pages provide further information about critical infrastructure protection:

Protecting crowded places

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Australia's strategy for protecting crowded places was developed to support a systematic process for identifying security risk management activities.

Crowded places such as stadiums, shopping centres, pedestrian malls and major events will continue to be attractive targets for terrorists.

By their very nature, these venues generally encourage public access with a minimum of security controls.

Crowded places include sporting venues, shopping complexes, open air markets, business precincts, tourism and entertainment venues, cultural facilities, hotels and convention centres, public transport hubs and major planned events.

The Australia-New Zealand Counter-Terrorism Committee (ANZCTC) has recognised the need to ensure a consistent approach to the protection of such venues. To this end, Australia's Strategy for Protecting Crowded Places from Terrorism was developed to support a systematic process for identifying security risk management activities that can be integrated into existing emergency management arrangements.

This strategy includes a suite of supplementary materials (see below) that will assist owners and operators to understand and implement protective security measures. These materials also contain modules on specific weapons and tactics used by terrorists.

It is important owners and operators of crowded places read the strategy before they consult any of the additional tools and guidance materials.

  • Crowded Places Security Audit
  • Crowded Places Self-Assessment Tool
  • Active Armed Offender Guidelines for Crowded Places
  • Improvised Explosive Device Guidelines for Crowded Places
  • Chemical Weapon Guidelines for Crowded Places
  • Hostile Vehicle Guidelines for Crowded Places.

Enquiries can be directed to WA Police by emailing Protective.security.unit@police.wa.gov.au

Security planning

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Proactive planning for the protection of people, infrastructure and other assets is vital as terrorists are attracted to targets that appear easy to attack.

It is a matter of good corporate governance for owners and operators to take steps to protect their business, staff and community from an emergency, particularly a terrorist threat or attack.

There is no standard checklist that can cover the security needs of every company or facility. Planning should be risk based, commensurate with the threat, scalable to enable rapid escalation, and provide protection through deterrence, detection, delay and response procedures. 

Plans should address a range of issues including, but not limited to:

  • access control arrangements
  • identification of authorised personnel
  • response procedures for breaches
  • personnel security vetting arrangements
  • security arrangements for visitors and deliveries by suppliers
  • protection of information systems.

Owners and operators should also consult with relevant government agencies and the Western Australia Police to ensure that their plans are compatible with local arrangements and capabilities.

The Security Planning Guide provides a scalable guide to the types of measures that could be considered. It is a generic guide only and it is expected that owners/operators will develop their own model that reflects the nature of their business.

Once owners/operators have plans in place they should ensure the plans are exercised, reviewed and continually improved.

 

Reporting suspicious activity

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Businesses should establish an internal reporting system and encourage staff to report all security related incidents.

The effective protection of the community from terrorism requires a partnership between government, industry and the public. Communication channels have been established for the collection of security related information. 

Members of the public, and business owners and operators and their staff know their surroundings better than anyone and are best placed to notice suspicious activity.  

Businesses should establish an internal reporting system and encourage staff to report all security related incidents. If something doesn’t seem right, it should be reported. 

Who do you report to?

  • Dangerous situation or life threatening emergency:   

         Telephone ‘000’. 

  • Currently occurring suspicious activity, threat or criminal act, which is not life threatening (Police may be able to attend and investigate the situation): 

         Telephone Police on 131 444  

  • A crime that has already occurred and the matter is not an emergency: 

         Telephone Police on 131 444 

  • Suspicious activity, which you believe may be terrorist related, may also be reported to the National Security Hotline:

         Telephone:  1800 123 400 (24 hours)

All reports to the Hotline are taken seriously and information received is passed to relevant police, security and intelligence agencies for assessment and further investigation.

What do you report?

Some activities you might consider suspicious:

  • Unusual surveillance, videotaping or photography of important buildings and infrastructure (eg. energy, water, and transport facilities) 
  • Damaged to security features (fencing, gates, etc) at your facility or any of the above infrastructure 
  • Vehicles parked for long periods near important buildings, infrastructure or busy public places 
  • Vehicles, packages or bags abandoned in public places or near important buildings or infrastructure 
  • Purchase or possession of large amounts of fertiliser, chemicals or explosives for no apparent legitimate reason 
  • Accommodation (including garages, self storage facilities) being used at odd times of the night or day 
  • Unusual collection of information about a specific important building or piece of infrastructure. 

Should I report it?

An easy checklist for owners and operators of facilities to identify suspicious behaviour.

Is the person taking notes of security vulnerabilities? 

Operatives often make notes of security vulnerabilities when planning an attack. Areas of interest include event timings, parking areas, security arrangements and hiding spots. 

Case History - In 2001 US forces in Afghanistan discovered documents containing information about the Yishun Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) station in Singapore and a shuttle bus service which ferried US military personnel to the station. The documents recorded details of the frequency of the shuttle bus timings and the surrounding traffic environment. It is believed the information was part of a 1999 Jemaah Islamiah plot to attack the MRT. 

Is the person videotaping and photographing subjects which have no credible photographic interest?

Operatives place a high value on video and photographic surveillance during the planning stage. 

Case History – In 2000 Jack Roche filmed the Israeli Embassy in Canberra, particularly the gates and security facilities. Roche also filmed the building housing the Israeli Consulate in Sydney. The footage was to be used by Jemaah Islamiah and Al Qaeda to plan an attack. The subjects of the footage would ordinarily be of little interest to tourists or passers by. 

Is it obvious the person does not have a legitimate reason for being in an area? 

Surveillance operatives may need to put themselves in suspicious situations to get the intelligence they need to plan an attack.

Case History – Four Jemaah Islamiah members conducted surveillance of water pipelines from Malaysia to Singapore. Posing as joggers, they travelled to the Bukit Timah Reserve. Two members acted as look outs while the others took photographs of the pipeline. This behaviour would have looked suspicious to passers by. 

Is the person collecting information from promotional literature or inquiring about security? 

History shows operatives place a high value on open source information about a target available either from the media, Internet or the target itself. 
 
Case History – One month before the Sydney Olympic Games, New Zealand Police investigating a people smuggling ring discovered evidence suggesting a conspiracy to attack Lucas Heights. The lounge room of a suspect had been converted into a virtual command centre, complete with conference table and maps. A Sydney street map was found with the site of the reactor and access/exit routes highlighted.   

Is the person travelling erratically and without any apparent legitimate purpose? 

Operatives sometimes travel erratically passed targets because it is often difficult to obtain clear vision on the first attempt.  

Case History – When filming the Israeli Embassy in Canberra, Jack Roche drove by the building several times. On one occasion he stopped, reversed and remained stationary for a period of time to gain better vision of the building and compound. 

Does the person appear to be testing security? 

Operatives will usually test security before an attack.  

Case History – The four suicide bombers involved in the London bombings reportedly staged a dummy run before the July 2005 attacks. The bombers visited their designated targets on the London Underground train system in late June. This reconnaissance was later discovered by officers reviewing security camera footage. 
 
If you answer YES to any of the above, report the incident.

Page reviewed 9 July 2020