Call for heightened security at planned new convention centre

The ACT’s former tourism commissioner has warned plans for Canberra’s new convention centre should be ticked off by ASIO and the Australian Federal Police, as cities worldwide heighten security in the wake of the Manchester bombing.

In a submission to an ACT parliamentary inquiry into the proposed convention centre made before the Manchester terror attack, former ACT tourism commissioner David Marshall said the federal government should also chip in to make certain the building was secure.

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Architects unveil futuristic convention centre design

Architects behind the Australia Forum have released a video showing sweeping, shell-like curves of Canberra’s proposed new conference facility to be built at City Hill. Video supplied by Fuksas and GMB

“I recommended the building should garner the support of the Australian Federal Police, the Australian Defence Force and ASIO, to ensure it meets the specifications of safety and security for world leaders and dignitaries, in an age where such measures are sadly essential. This component of the building should be funded by the Commonwealth government,” Dr Marshall wrote.

Dr Marshall told The Canberra Times the security of the building would be paramount to its future use and was where “the Commonwealth can make a legitimate contribution to the construction”.

“I think every major city right now is looking at [Manchester] and thinking how can we ensure our own citizen’s safety. When you add the dimension of international events, conferences, exhibitions, it’s of paramount importance that a facility, any facility, can be locked down and be very secure, and I’m talking about not only the physical attributes of what will be built but the technology that will go toward ensuring we have the latest and the world’s leading infrastructure development and the technology that goes with that to ensure the safety of the delegates,” he said.

“Any national capital has an obligation to keep those visiting heads of state safe and this is an ideal opportunity for Canberra to build a meeting place where they can host APEC and other meetings of international significance.”

Cities worldwide are on high alert after a suicide bomber killed 22 and injured dozens at Manchester Arena, following an Ariana Grande concert on Monday night.

In the wake of the attack, ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr said that while the national terrorism public alert level remained at “probable”, there was no specific or credible threat to the ACT.

An ACT Policing spokeswoman said while police had not received a request yet to assess the security of the design of the Australia Forum, they provided advice to the ACT government when requested on crime prevention by environmental design.

The new convention centre, dubbed the Australia Forum, would stand at the head of Commonwealth Avenue and is one of three landmark projects in the City To The Lake development.

Dr Marshall has been involved in the planning for it since 1999 and and wrote the original brief on the Australia Forum concept, which highlighted the importance of the building being “the most secure facility in the country”.

However the convention centre was put on the backburner because of a lack of Commonwealth interest, Mr Barr said in February.

The ACT government had planned to spend $8 million in the year from July preparing an investment-ready proposal for the convention centre but the funding was cut in the mid-year budget update.

Dr Marshall, who is chairman of the tourism industry advisory council of the Canberra Business Chamber, has previously expressed disappointment that project had stalled.

“Our convention facility is the oldest in Australia. What we’re urging to happen is to upgrade it because we know there are almost 100 conferences we can’t host every year because of the size of the facility but there are untold number of other conferences who no longer consider the national capital because the venue is too small and we don’t even know the missed opportunities when people discard or disregard Canberra as a destination,” Dr Marshall said.