Tough action needed on extremist power threats

The personal threat against the CEO of International Power Hazelwood is further evidence that environmental extremists are posing a serious danger to both the safety of power industry employees and the security of Victoria’s power supplies.

“Labor needs to take urgent action to upgrade power supply security and increase penalties for those who illegally enter power supply facilities,” Shadow Minister for Energy and Resources Robert Clark said today.

“Even before this latest threat was revealed, radical environmentalists had invaded Victoria’s power plants three times, and on each occasion the State Government’s response was woefully weak.

“The Minister even admitted this morning that he knew nothing about this latest threat until today.

“In April we had a bomb scare at a Ringwood sub-station, and it was reported that the electricity company was unable to get in contact with the Victoria Police counter-terrorism unit because their mobile phones weren’t being answered.

“With Victoria’s power supplies and the safety of power plant workers under threat, this inaction by Labor is completely unacceptable to Victorian families.

“Under the Terrorism (Community Protection) Act 2003, the State Government has responsibility for ensuring that risk management plans are prepared to protect Victoria’s essential services such as power supplies against terrorist attacks.

“Yet the Auditor-General warned in January that there were problems with Victoria’s terrorism response system, which he said was ‘confusing to agencies and hinders coordination’.

“It is alarming that emergency services and the systems that are supposed to be in place to protect us are not up to the task because of Labor’s inaction.

“Victorian families should not be exposed to security breaches that could shut down vital power supply facilities and cause blackouts across the state.

“In December last year and April this year, I raised the issue of power supply security with the Minister for Energy and Resources in Parliament, but to date the government has failed to act.

“It’s clear that urgent action is needed on better physical security at power facilities, improved communication arrangements and an industry-wide approach to threat responses. We also need to continue to support the specialist work of police who monitor the potential threats posed by extremist groups.

“Extremists who invade vital power supply plants need to be penalised in the same way as people who breach security at airports, because those who have been to court so far over power station invasions have either escaped conviction or received small fines, which is not good enough,” Mr Clark said.