Fake blood and Brussels sprout: How was PM attacked?
A highly-trained security officer who has worked extensively to protect government officials in various parts of the world told The Courier-Mail the security practices surrounding the Prime Minister's visit to the University of Queensland were of "serious concern."
Scott Morrison's visit to UQ earlier this week has raised many questions, after a group of protesters were able to get within metres of the country's leader.
The protesters were so close to the PM they were able to accurately hurl a Brussels sprout directly at his head as he fled through a back passage of a campus building and into the back seat of a waiting police car.
The chaotic incident unfolded after Mr Morrison arrived on campus on Monday morning to visit the University's Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology.
Shortly after his arrival, the PM's armoured car was splattered with 'fake blood'- along with the doors and windows of the building he was holed inside for approximately one hour, while angry protesters chanted at the Prime Minister from outside the building.
The incident came to a head as Mr Morrison, along with a group of four men- some believed to be his Certified Protection Professionals (CPP) provided by the Australian Federal Police, were forced to escape out a back entrance of one of the University's buildings.
It was here that a small group of stray protesters met the group in a stairwell and hurled abuse and the 'blood covered' Brussels sprout at the PM.
Eliza Thorn, a highly trained security specialist from Intelligent Risks- one of Australia's leading security, risk, due diligence and crisis management advisory firms, told The Courier-Mail that Monday's safety processes left Mr Morrison open to serious potential threat.
"It's a serious concern that a building housing the PM during an official programmed event is not able to be effectively secured, locked down and his personal safety ensured," Ms Thorn, who has worked on the safety of officials at Australian Embassies around the world said.
"I would think that's something that will be seriously reviewed today down in Canberra."
Ms Thorn said there were several areas of some concern, however said the main risk came after the initial threat had been identified yet the lack in safety contingency plans still allowed civilians access to the PM.
"They've made an assessment on the spot," she said.
"My concern would be how (the protesters) were able to intercept him en route (to the car) where they could get close enough to throw something at him. At that point, he was much more likely to be attacked.
"Should there be a concern about bullets, it would be en route to that vehicle.
"That's why I feel great concern that the risk wasn't identified, and then it became evident that they were unable to lock down and secure the PM … He was therefore able to be accessed.
"Knowing there was a threat there, they were unable to lockdown and secure him."
Ms Thorn said any official program, like Mr Morrison's UQ visit, would be subject to a formal threat assessment prior to the event.
She said that somewhere in the process between the risk assessment and planning, "the risk has failed to be identified."
"And they haven't had contingency arrangements in place where they should, to ensure the safety of the PM is required."
The Courier-Mail contacted the Australian Federal Police for comment in relation to the safety breach.
A response from an AFP spokesman said "the AFP does not comment on the protection arrangements of high office holders."
According to a Queensland Police Service spokesperson, "the QPS was not aware of any planned protest activity at the University of Queensland on October 12," while "an immediate response was provided by members of the QPS upon notification of the protest activity at the University."
The QPS charged a 19-year-old woman with one count of public nuisance following the incident.
A statement from UQ's Vice-Chancellor Professor Deborah Terry said the University was disappointed "at the vandalism that marred the Prime Minister's visit to the UQ lab developing a vaccine for COVID-19," however the University "respects freedom of speech and the right to protest on campus."
The University of Queensland did not respond to questions on what safety protocols are in place to ensure safety of those using the campus, while Ms Thorn said she'd hoped Monday's events would prompt more thorough safety responses from both UQ and the AFP.
"I have concerns not only for the PM's safety, but for the safety of users of the UQ campus, including the UQ students," she said.
"It's important to note that we aren't cognisant to the full range of information that was available to the authorities, so we're unable to judge fully what the issue is that will come out from their planning …
"On the day however, UQ weren't able to lock down that building, which signifies to me they don't have anything that they can execute quickly to ensure no one gains access … If they couldn't do that for the PM with the amount of people they had onsite in the security teams, how would they do that in another situation where there was a threat to students or a particular faculty?"
A UQ spokeswoman said protesters did not gain access to University's Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology building, but instead the confrontation with the PM took place in the stairwell of "another building."
Originally published as Fake blood and Brussels sprout: How was PM attacked?