Australia – 72 Hours Without Security

Security23:40 hrs Thursday night and the last domestic flights arrive at their final destination for the day, carrying thousands of people home. In the cities, dozens of licensed venues serve hundreds of happy customers with drinks of their choice while the dance music pumps, and retail centres are doing a final lock down before early morning deliveries signify the start of another business day around dawn.

These are the times when thousands of security personnel across Australia are at peak demand, safely checking the last passengers out of the airport terminal, maintaining order at the local nightclub or securing the retail centre’s property and assets, to mention just a couple out of a myriad of tasks undertaken by Security professionals every day.

However, in just 20 minutes, 80,000 licensed security personnel in Australia (more than the total number of Australian Police and Military combined) are planning to undertake a national stop work until midnight Sunday. 72 hours without ANY security personnel in any capacity at any site in Australia. “So what” you say!

What would that mean to you? Think for a minute how your community would function without an effective Security Industry supporting local Police from midnight Thursday through to midnight Sunday…

  • No security screening at airports – no commercial flights in or out to any destination
  • No security at retail centres patrolling for troublesome youths, vagrants, shop lifters and vehicle thieves
  • No security at shipping ports – no checking of trucking manifests and other maritime security responsibilities
  • No late night trading for licensed premises such as hotels and nightclubs after midnight
  • Limited Gaming Venue operations, including Casinos
  • No ATM responses to repair or restock machines with cash
  • No cash deliveries or collection to retailers and banks
  • No security personnel protecting important and critical infrastructure such as energy and telecommunications facilities
  • No security protecting community assets such as national Galleries and Museums
  • No major sporting events at stadiums
  • No major entertainment events such as music concerts
  • No Security at Hospitals and Medical centres
  • No monitoring of security alarm systems
  • No Mobile Patrol and Alarm Response services
  • No Custodial Centre Security causing total locked down of detainees
  • No Courts due to lack of security and screening services
  • No securing or opening of many large business centres and buildings
  • No security around places of mass gatherings
  • No security around schools and higher education centres

The list of unfulfilled duties undertaken by thousands of Security personnel every day could fill this magazine, however I hope by now you are starting to get the picture.

Highly dedicated, well trained Security professionals undertake millions of security man-hours every year across Australia with minimal remuneration, recognition or support from consumers, the general public and, most disappointingly, the Police who rely heavily on the vast numbers of Security personnel to be their eyes, ears and support when things go wrong.

When I started writing this article I thought five pages would not be enough space to illustrate how important the Private Security Industry is in helping Police maintain law or order in our communities, however I think my point is already made.

If Security personnel stop doing what they do every day, often out of sight and therefore out of mind until the media go on a bouncer bashing crusade, community order would begin to break down very quickly due to the incapacity of Police to back-fill the demand. This is not an attack on Police but a mere statement of fact – without Private Security undertaking the millions of man-hours of crime prevention, detection and reporting, already over-committed and under-resourced Police would have no hope of managing.

Security professionals work in highly complex and dynamic environments, often on night shifts, weekends and Public Holidays. They are expected to be the first responder (Fireman, Policeman, Paramedic, Chief Fire Warden, OH&S Officer, mail coordinator, Receptionist and Director of First Impressions) all for little more than minimum wages.

Did I mention the cost of Training and Licensing to become a qualified Security Officer? Recent estimates suggest the costs of undertaking a mandatory 3-week training course, obtaining finger prints, a National Police check, photographs, License application fee and lost time in the workplace is approximately $4,000 or about 10 per cent of their first year’s full-time salary.

And what about safety in the workplace? In 2005, a Victorian WorkCover review panel was told that for every one member of the public seeking medical assistance for alleged injuries sustained during an incident with a Licensed Security Officer, 35 Security Officers seek medical intervention for injuries sustained during incidents with intoxicated venue patrons.

Security Industry representatives have long been lobbying Australia’s judicial systems to make it a specific offence to assault or hinder a Licensed Security Officer whilst lawfully executing their duties, similar to the additional penalties already afforded to Police and Emergency Service workers in most states and territories.

Last year, 69-year-old Security Officer Hans Schultz was killed at a Sydney shopping centre while protecting an ice-cream store from a male and female thief. In 2001, 44-year-old Security Officer Stephen Gordon Rogers was shot dead at a Melbourne Fertility Clinic while trying to restrain a man who was intending to massacre everyone at the clinic.

There are too many stories of Security Officers being killed or seriously injured at work doing a job that is often dangerous or even fatal for minimum wages to ensure our communities remain relatively safe from criminal activity. Yet the Police and media are often quick to attack the industry again and again when a criminal or violent incident occurs.

So next time you want to grumble at or abuse a Security Officer while he or she is doing their job, stop and ask yourself who would protect your communities, retail centres, sports and entertainment events, licensed premises, schools, businesses and homes without them?

72 hours without Security in Australia – where would we be?

Brett McCall
Brett McCall worked in a major commercial TV newsroom for 10 years before becoming a Security Professional in 1990. Brett now owns and operates a nationally licensed security firm providing physical and technical security solutions. He also operates an approved security industry training business. Brett is a key member and committee executive of many security industry associations including; Vice President VSI, Chairman Protective Services Committee – Victorian (Police Ministers) Security Industry Advisory Council and a founding member of the ACSP.