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With tourism may come terrorism: Warning to Gold Coast on risks after COVID

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The post-COVID opening up of Australia’s international borders and lifting of restrictions to allow events, tourism and large gatherings was likely to heighten the risk of terrorist attacks, according to Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews.

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“I say that not to frighten people, but to put into context where we are here in Australia at the moment, and the things we need to be mindful over the coming days weeks, months and years,” Andrews told a business breakfast in her electorate of McPherson on the southern Gold Coast today.

Andrews issued the warning on the Gold Coast from home quarantine, where she will be confined until Friday.

The Gold Coast, and other Queensland tourism centres, have been economically crippled by pandemic restrictions.

Business, tourism and civic leaders across the city have spent every waking moment and millions of dollars trying to maximise gatherings after the pandemic through a blitz of major events.

They are relying on an influx of tourists and visitors as interstate and international restrictions ease and the city is able to again capitalise on its global ‘famous for fun’ reputation.

Queensland already has among the most relaxed state-wide restrictions on gatherings in Australia due to the success of keeping the virus infection rates in check.

But Andrews said while federal agencies still placed the national terrorism threat at “probable”, the easing of restrictions meant the risk could rise and major gatherings could become targets.

“What a probable threat level means is that our agencies have credible intelligence that there are individuals or groups that have both the intent and capability to conduct a terrorist attack here in Australia,” Andrews said.

She said as the nation re-opened, the threat covered the return of gatherings at events, festivals, airports, and shopping centres, and “iconic locations”.

“Federally, we are very conscious of two things – one is what has happened in Afghanistan and the impact that that may well have on motivating people to undertake extremist events,” Andrews said.

“Importantly, as we come out of COVID and start to gather in very much larger numbers, what we will see is that there is an impact on potentially terrorist interest here in Australia.

“What terrorists like is large gatherings, many people coming together.”

The warning today is an escalation of Andrews’ caution earlier this week where she said that Australians could not be complacent about the threat of terrorism while attention was diverted by COVID.

Speaking at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute on Monday she said individuals, groups, and ideologies continued to “plot and fantasise about doing us harm”.

Disruption associated with the pandemic had potentially fuelled potential extremists as many had been “able to stay home, alone, with little to do but search the internet for simple answers to complex global questions”, she said.

She said she was convening a meeting of Commonwealth, state and territory police agencies within weeks to deal with significant developments and “the continued threat of terrorist attack in this country”.

“I do want to assure… that the Australian Government is simply not complacent to the risks to our safety and to our way of life here in Australia and we are putting in place all of the steps that we possibly can to make sure that we can keep Australia safe and secure,” Andrews said.

 

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