Barracks safety fear
DEFENCE Minister Kevin Andrews says the threat of terrorism on streets is a “major problem” but he will wait for a security assessment before deciding on a proposed redevelopment that could result in civilian streets within 200m of the SAS’s Campbell Barracks in Swanbourne.
“Can I directly say to the defence personnel there and their families, I am personally mindful of the issues that they’ve raised and we will continue to be mindful, and we’ll obviously take very much into account the assessment in relation to the security issue there,” he told the Western Suburbs Weekly after visiting the barracks last Wednesday.
Defence Housing Australia plans to demolish the 154, 1980sera homes at the 22ha Seaward Village next to the barracks, use half the site to sell flattened blocks for private homes and build 165 new homes for soldiers on the remaining land.
Villagers and Swanbourne residents are concerned that putting civilians close to the barracks could pose security risks, including soldiers not knowing their neighbours, surveillance, and the threats demonstrated by recent terrorism-related street attacks in Sydney, Melbourne and London.
“We’ve seen it on the streets of Sydney, we’ve seen it on the streets of my home town Melbourne,” Mr Andrews said.
“We are fortunate that a number of other plots have been interrupted.”
He said he was told at the barracks about security fears raised by the proposed redevelopment and he now understood the concerns of soldiers’ families.
But he said the government wanted defence personnel and families to have the best housing and a Department of Defence (DoD) security assessment would “clearly provide” information for a decision on the village.
The assessment was expected to be finished last month but a DoD spokesman said that advice about security and the village’s proposed redevelopment was still being considered last week.
In 1991, Federal Parliament’s Public Works Committee found there was “no scope” for civilians to live in or near the village, before recommending keeping the land for the SAS.
“If in 1991, when the security threat was low, it was deemed necessary to stop urban encroachment, how do you justify not doing that now?” Australian SAS Association chairman Terry Nolan said.