Wednesday 08 Apr 2020 | 23:06 | SYDNEY
Wednesday 08 Apr 2020 | 23:06 | SYDNEY

The Sydney Airport 'terrorist' attack


Sam Roggeveen


24 March 2009 10:51

I've been waiting for this op-ed. The fatal bikie gang brawl that erupted at Sydney Airport on Sunday could have been a terrorist attack, says Peter Faris in today's Australian, and we would have been powerless to stop it:

...jihadist terrorists could arrive at Sydney airport by taxi, shoot hundreds of people in the terminal, and escape by taxi. It seems there would be no intervention by AFP security or anti-terrorist police.

Faris isn't wrong; he just fails to see the implications of his argument. If you've been on an commercial flight since 9/11 you'll know something about the time-consuming and intrusive security regime we already endure at our major airports. How much tougher would security have to be to stop a terrorist attack of the kind Faris imagines? There would need to be hundreds of heavily armed police constantly on guard at every part of every airport.

This is a fool's errand. The potential targets for the kind of attack Faris describes are infinite. Shopping centres, train stations, office buildings, sports stadiums, public squares, pedestrian crossings — literally anywhere that groups of people congregate. Does Faris want to protect them all with security cameras, metal detectors and police patrols? Not only is that impossible, but just trying saps the nation's wealth, erodes our liberties and plays directly into the hands of terrorists, who specialise in goading governments into damaging their own interests by over-reacting (see: Iraq, invasion of).

The Sydney Airport brawl was a horrible crime, but it is a grim fact that Australians are bashed and murdered every day. It just happens that such events tend to intrude far less on the safe and comfortable lives of the upper middle classes than they do on the rest of society. But the fact that this crime occurred at the airport rather than at a bus station is no reason to panic.