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Burrup faces terror

AS an area that has been responsible for Australia’s largest export success, the Burrup Peninsular is viewed as a valuable national asset.

This week, however, it has become apparent the area also is geographically vulnerable to terrorism.

Oil and gas assets on the peninsular were threatened 15 years ago in a bomb scare and the Federal Government is taking their security seriously, particularly in light of terrorist attacks in Bali and the US.

Oil and platforms off the WA coast loom as tempting terrorist targets, as do the tankers carrying Liquefied Natural Gas out of Dampier.

The North West Shelf joint venture headed by Woodside has an estimated $26 billion invested in the region.

A Woodside spokesman said the company was taking its security seriously and was working with defence agencies.

For their part, Australian Defence Force officials neither confirm nor deny whether they have any involvements with North West Shelf companies.

An ADF spokesman said it “did not talk about defence arrangements for the Burrup”.

Centre for International Strategic Analysis CEO Lee Cordner said the remoteness of the North West Shelf had the benefit of making it more difficult to attack but also more difficult to defend.

While recognising the vulnerability of the region, Mr Cordner questioned whether blowing up an oil rig or pipe line would achieve what the terrorists wanted.

“They [terrorists] are looking for vulnerable or soft targets. Whether [blowing up] the oil and gas platforms would create terror is the question,” he said.

Mr Cordner said such an attack would certainly create an economic impact, but not the same level of terror that would occur if a bomb went off in Sydney or Perth.

Mr Cordner said while much had been done in the North West, government agencies, State authorities and businesses needed to work together to develop appropriate strategies.

CISA has been trying to educate industry groups including the Business Council of Australia and the Australian Petroleum, Production Exporters Association to lobby government for closer security ties.

APPEA CEO Barry Jones said the first concern was that Australia needed to be energy self-sufficient.

He said Australia would be importing about 50 per cent of its energy from overseas, in particular the Middle East, within eight years.

Security and risk management firm OAM Investigations man-aging partner Bob Hunter said the infrastructure on the Burrup was regarded as a “vital national asset” by the government and was treated accordingly.

“They have regular security audits up there. They run anti-terrorism exercises and the government works closely with the companies,” he said.

“Besides, it’s not an easy place for people to just walk into. Strangers get noticed very easily up there.”

Indeed, the people living in and around the Burrup Peninsula are more security aware than most Australians.

Karratha Districts Chamber of Commerce and Industry president Leann Cooper said residents and businesses were more security aware than most people realised.

“About 15 years ago we had bomb threats up here,” she said.

“We know we can’t take cigarette lighters into certain zones, that you can’t fly over the LNG plants. Recreational boats are kept away from the LNG tankers these days.”

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