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Australian businesses act to protect people in crowded places

NZ Security Magazine, Dec 2017/Jan 2018  |  Line of Defence, Summer 2017/18

ASIS NZ Chair: "You’d expect our crowded places to be well on their way to being prepared."ASIS NZ Chair: "You’d expect our crowded places to be well on their way to being prepared."


In late October, ASIS NZ Chair and Auckland Live’s head of security, Dean Kidd, attended an Australia New Zealand Counter Terrorism Committee (ANZCTC) Business Advisory Group meeting in Sydney. He sees big potential for a public-private approach to terror attack resilience.


The October issue of NZSM covered the August launch of the Australian Government’s national strategy for protecting crowds from terror attack. In that article, we raised potential red flags in relation to the strategy’s reliance on a partnership approach between governments and the private sector to protect places where people congregate.

According to the strategy document, attacks on crowded places overseas, “demonstrate how basic weapons— including vehicles, knives, and firearms — can be used by terrorists to devastating effect.” Congested places such as stadiums, shopping centres, pedestrian malls, and major events, it explains, “will continue to be attractive targets for terrorists.”

The strategy was developed by the Australia New Zealand Counter Terrorism Committee (ANZCTC), a high-level body comprised of representatives from the Australian federal and state and territory governments and the New Zealand Government. It “rests on strong and sustainable partnerships across Australia between governments and the private sector to better protect crowded places.”

Assessing possible barriers to deployment of the strategy in New Zealand, experts had pointed to a lack of police funding and weak motivators for private sector involvement. Having just returned from an ANZCTC-organised meeting of business representatives in Sydney, Dean Kidd, however, sees real potential to the public-private approach.


Meeting of security professionals

Dean attended the two-day, invitation-only Business Advisory Group (BAG) event in Sydney along with around 160 other security professionals from across Australia. He was one of a very small number of delegates making the trip from New Zealand.

The BAG’s membership consists of representatives of crowded places with a national presence. It is intended to provide a national forum through which representatives, peak industry bodies, government representatives, and international partners share information and advice.”

A key role of the BAG is to work with and advise the Crowded Places Advisory Group (CPAG), a body that consists of senior representatives from state and territory police services, the chair of the BAG, the Australian Defence Force (ADF), the Australian Federal Police (AFP), ASIO, and Australian Local Government Association (ALGA).

In turn, the CPAG reports to and advises the ANZCTC on protecting crowded places from terrorism, and it provides a forum for identifying and sharing best practice. It is responsible for developing and maintaining a nationally consistent crowded places protective security capability across Australia’s state and territory police forces.

Another role of the BAG is to facilitate exercises and training for its members, and the Sydney event, which included two days of seminars and an incident management exercise, was a strong demonstration of this.

Day One included presentations from a number of speakers, including the highly respected Mark Murdoch, outgoing NSW Police Assistant Commissioner and Commander of the Counter Terrorism and Special Tactics Command.

Day Two featured an incident management exercise facilitated by Jenny Muldoon, Head of Security for the Sydney Opera House. The exercise was built around a scenario involving the Opera House, two armed persons and a vehicle rampage through the CBD. A mock Police Operations Centre (POC) coordinated the response as participants stepped through and war-gamed it.

The BAG event came less than a fortnight after the conduct of a major ANZCTC-funded New South Wales Police (NSWPOL) training exercise at Sydney’s Central Railway Station. Staged on 18 October, Exercise Pantograph involved more than 160 personnel from NSWPOL, Transport for NSW, Fire & Rescue NSW and Ambulance NSW.

Designed to engage stakeholders responding to a sudden and major disruption to the rail network caused by an Active Armed Offender incident, the scenario involved two armed offenders entering Central Railway Station and attacking commuters.


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Making it happen

With the conduct of both the BAG and NSWPOL exercises in October, it’s clear that on the other side of the Tasman the ANZCTC has committed to operationalising Australia’s Strategy for Protecting Crowded Places from Terrorism.

In Sydney, Dean saw first-hand the strategy’s public-private model at work. “160 people travelled from all over Australia to get to the event,” he told Line of Defence, “and now they’ll be promoting it.” He believes that once private sector C-suites are made aware of the strategy they’re unlikely to say no to it.

The strategy puts the onus for threat preparedness on businesses. “Owners and operators have a responsibility to undertake a risk assessment and/or vulnerability analysis of their crowded place,” it states. And once an assessment is done, they have a responsibility to implement the mitigations, monitor them for effectiveness, and review them.

Workplace health and safety law changes in Australia, which – like the recently enacted New Zealand Health and Safety at Work Act – make individuals liable for safety breaches, provide a behavioural driver that the strategy clearly benefits from.

Apart from regulatory responsibility for protecting their sites, including a duty of care to take steps to protect employees, contractors and visitors, the strategy also highlights reputation as a significant motivator.

“The reputation of owners and operators of crowded places is prone to serious and permanent damage if a less than robust, responsible, and professional priority is given to protecting people against attack,” the document warns. But, according to Dean, it’s not just big reputation-conscious businesses who will be motivated to play their part.

In shared spaces, he sees such responsibilities falling to building management. And for SMEs, he sees no excuses to getting started. “The document is not onerous,” he insisted. “You train for fire evacuations, so why wouldn’t you train for something like this?”

Although he acknowledges Australia’s higher terrorism threat level relative to New Zealand’s, Dean points out that the nature of the threat is the same.

“We’re more likely to encounter a ‘fixated person’ rather than a ‘terrorist’ here,” he said, referring to persons who may not profile as a terrorist threat but could nevertheless be capable of a lone-wolf attack. Such persons may be inspired by the messages and acts of terrorist organisations overseas, but not necessarily linked to them by membership or affiliation.

“Do you wait for an event to happen, or do you start putting things in place? You’d expect our crowded places to be well on their way to being prepared.”


Crowded Places Partnership

Getting businesses engaged involves a national framework that the strategy calls the ‘Crowded Places Partnership’. The Partnership, it explains, “provides a consistent approach in each state and territory for trusted engagement between all levels of government, state and territory police, and owners and operators across the country.”

To this end, state and territory police forces are introducing and administering Crowded Places Forums through which they can share information and advice with owners and operators. The forums are also intended to provide an opportunity for federal government agencies, such as ASIO and the AFP, to collectively brief owners and operators.

It is, in many ways, an ambitious model, attempting to coordinate organisations across three levels of government with businesses across the country. Although authored and launched by federal government, the strategy relies on the proactive participation of actors – both public and private – at the local level.

It remains to be seen whether New Zealand will follow Australia’s lead in operationalising the strategy. In the meantime, Dean is raising awareness among members of the ASIS New Zealand Chapter, many of whom play key security leadership roles in public and private sector organisations.

In his role as head of security for Auckland Live, and following the staging of a successful multi-stakeholder ‘iconic venue’ weapons attack training exercise at the Aotea Centre in May, he established a security collective comprised of organisations operating around Aotea Square.

Known as ‘Quadsec’, the group includes neighbours such as AUT, Auckland Art Gallery, Millennium Hotel, Aotea Centre, and Auckland Council. Its objectives in some ways mirror those of the Crowded Places Forums operating across the ditch, but for now it’s something of a one-off – and working in relative isolation.

But Dean sees potential, suggesting that there are numerous iconic precincts, business districts and tourism destinations throughout the country that could stand to benefit from establishing such groups.

“At the end of the day, the best way to embed such a strategy is for it to be driven from the ground up – by us,” he said, “but there needs to be more engagement by all stakeholders.”


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