Pipeline terrorism 2005?

The excerpt below is taken from a paper given at the 1985 APIA Conference in Sydney by Frank Douglas, titled “˜Australia’s Pipelines & Installations in Time of Conflict, Terrorism or War’.

Frank had spent many years in military intelligence prior to becoming chief security officer of the Olympic Committee for the 16th Olympiad in Melbourne. At the time, the general feeling of the delegates at the conference was one of disbelief at Frank’s statements, but they certainly would not be in the times in which we live today.

Some of the ideas Frank’s paper touched on included:

  • Kidnapping of hostages will become a repugnant but accepted method of terrorism. Often it will be corporation executives that are held for ransom for large sums of money, some will be released but some will be killed.
  • The targets are extremely plentiful and the means, equipment, techniques and explosives required are readily available or easy to manufacture.
  • There are potential extortionists who will demand to have a bag full of old notes delivered to a particular point by a particular time, or else they will cause foot and mouth disease in the farming community, put cyanide in the town water or cause a blast along a pipeline installation
  • .

Frank’s final comments were that security is attainable only when it becomes an attitude of mind and its application a professional responsibility. “No one measure will give security; to do this will require the sum of all practical and possible measures combined,” he said. “The number and types of aids which are used must be governed by practical considerations and must be commensurate with the threat. Security Risk Management is like insurance, a waste of time and money – that is, until that well known fan starts revolving and one can’t get enough protection. Maybe, just maybe, one day it will be your turn to come face to face with these problems. Ask yourself, will you be found wanting?”

It is hard to realise that these words were offered twenty years ago at one of our APIA Conferences, during which the Minister for Resources and Energy – or, as he named himself, the Minister for Pipes and Holes – Senator Gareth Evans confessed that in all his travels during his time as Minister he had seen little evidence of the pipelines which quietly and efficiently connect oil and gas resources with their markets. Being buried under sea beds and in the earth they really are the unseen but essential transport link in Australia’s energy network.

Let us all hope that they remain so.

In Australia there are 10,000 plus kilometres of major diameter high pressure oil and gas pipelines, with a significant number of kilometres in the planning and laying stages. This does not include the thousands of kilometres of major water pipelines servicing numerous cities and towns; some from local storage but many having their precious water pumped hundreds of kilometres from the source where a great number of these pipelines run above ground. Because of the high operating pressures, most pipelines would easily suffer damage from an explosion.
Location of the pipelines is relatively easy with most defined by markers. Others are easily located from plans available from local councils, gas authorities, town planning specifications or local enquiry.
In the past most wars have been fought on the basis of one country versus another country and it has been relatively easy to identify friend or foe. During World War II, in Australia any person of German, Italian or Japanese descent was promptly interned for the duration. It was the then confident belief of the Australian Government that all Australians would be true-blue to the nation’s cause. Any rare exception who acted adversely was labelled a traitor and charged with treason.
Times have changed drastically and while wars are still fought on a country versus country basis, wars are also now fought on the basis of ideology, transcending national boundaries.

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