Australia raises terrorism alert level to High - So what?

12 September 2014

Australia has officially raised its Terrorism Alert level from Medium to High, meaning the Australian Government believes a terrorist attack is likely.

The threat level has been increased due to the increasing number of Australians travelling to conflict zones, such as Iraq and Syria, to fight alongside Islamic State [IS] and similar terrorist groups. The Government will never release the specifics of a threat, but it is clear that the threat comes in three forms. One concern, as I discussed in a recent blog post, is Australians returning from fighting in foreign conflicts who may have the capability and motivation to carry out an attack on home soil. The second concern stems from Australians who have been prevented from travelling to the likes of Syria or Iraq and may choose to carry out an onshore attack instead. The third concern is self-radicalised individuals motivated by overseas conflicts – possibly involving associates, who may seek to undertake an attack in Australia.

So what?

The answer to the ‘what does it mean for me?” question is different for the public, business and critical infrastructure organisations. For the public, there should be little to no change to day to day activity, outside of being a bit more vigilant. e.g. reporting anything you think may be of relevance to appropriate authorities. For businesses, there are duty of care, business interruption and potentially “social license to operate” considerations. Boards and management teams must be confident that they have met their corporate governance obligations to ensure risk mitigation strategies within the business are appropriate, given the increased threat level. For the 2,500 critical infrastructure organisations around Australia, the obligations are more prescribed. Whilst the steps to be taken are no different to any other business, the onus of responsibility on critical infrastructure firms to take proactive steps to increase security risk mitigation standards is more pronounced and will be actively audited  by industry specific local, state and federal regulatory bodies.

In practical terms, this is what we all need to do in the face of this increased threat level:

1.       Don’t panic. This is a precautionary step by Government.

2.       Individuals should be just be a little more alert to anything they hear or see from friends, family and colleagues which may indicate support for groups or ideologies which may wish to do Australia/Australians harm. But there’s no need to be alarmist at this point.

3.       Businesses need to review their policies and procedures to ensure they can provide proactive duty of care to their staff.

4.       Businesses need to review and where necessary improve their ability to maintain business continuity during a business disruption event. It must be stressed here, that the disruption may not come from a terrorist attack, but from hyper alert security agencies shutting down infrastructure (roads, bridges, airports etc) due to a potential threat.

5.       Board of Directors and Senior Management Teams should be asking the following questions of their business:

a.       Where are our vulnerabilities?

b.      Given the threat of a terrorist attack in Australia is now likely, are our vulnerabilities properly protected?

c.       Are our people properly trained and prepared to handle the response to a critical incident?

d.      Are we aware of our threats and risks to our operations, people and reputation?

 This threat is real, but for individuals and business, there should be no need for panic. The obligation to act to this increased threat level is no different to any changing risk rating, be that environmental, occupational health and safety, financial etc. We simply need to check that our risk migration strategies match the current level of risk.


-          Anthony Moorhouse, Founder and CEO, Dynamiq


Anthony provided commentary on the raised terror alert on Triple J's HACK on Friday September 12th. Download the podcast here.

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