Two Sydney schools in lockdown as police unions call for support against extremists

A Police car
A Police car is seen patrolling outside Sir Joseph Banks High School, at Revesby west of Sydney, Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2015. (AAP Image/Dan Himbrechts) Source: AAP

A spate of threatening messages on social media force two high schools in Sydney's south-west to lock up their grounds, as police union chiefs across the country demand more government help in their fight against extremists.

Students will return to two high schools in southwest Sydney tomorrow a day after they went into lockdown over social media threats.

Police attended East Hills Boys High School in Panania and Sir Joseph Banks High School in Revesby today and alleged the threats were terrorism-related.

Students were allowed to leave, but no-one was allowed to enter the school.

Parents were advised their children were safe but had the option of picking them up from the neighbouring schools, a NSW Department of Education spokesman said in a statement.

The threat coincided with a meeting between police union heads from across the country in Adelaide.

The chief executive officer of Australia's Police Federation, Mark Burgess, said they have called for a united response to home-grown terrorism.

"Intelligence, surveillance, good communication, collaboration and effective management of criminal investigations and prosecutions are essential in dealing with terrorism offences and all other aspects of serious and organised crime," he said.

The fatal shooting of police worker Curtis Cheng outside police headquarters in Sydney's west suburban Parramatta and other attacks such as the Sydney siege have heightened concerns around terrorism in Australia.

Victoria has introduced a bill to boost its counter-terrorism laws now, and New South Wales has also introduced tougher bail laws for people linked to alleged terrorism.

Mark Carroll, from South Australia's Police Association, said the unions want $100 million from the Federal Government to establish a national database.

"We need, in this country, a new criminal-intelligence system to bring all Australian police forces, intelligence-data holdings, into a single platform,” Mr Carroll said.

Sarah Gray, from Tasmania's Police Association, said the database would prove extremely helpful.

"We want to see a national approach on this. We are a small state, like the Northern Territory, but we're not going to be exempt from attacks either,” Ms Gray said.

New protections for officers

New measures have also been announced in New South Wales aimed at protecting its police officers.

Stations deemed at high risk of an attack will soon be fortified with security screens and perimeter upgrades.

It is a multi-million-dollar measure Mark Carroll said is completely necessary.

“In the interests of their own safety and that of the community, we must see that our members receive every additional safeguard, be it related to technology, equipment or training."

But RMIT University counter-terrorism expert Joseph Siracusa says he believes securing police stations is not effective strategy.

"I think that's kind of a waste of money,” Mr Siracusa said.

“I'd rather see a couple of police officers with automatic rifles in front of a police station than police stations barred up with barbed wire and steel fences and all the rest of it. I mean, that's just conceding too much to the terrorist threat."

Professor Siracusa said adapting to threats is the best step in the fight against terrorism.

"We have to grow with the threat, and we have to do it in a confident manner,” Professor Siracusa said.

-With AAP

Source: SBS