Keelty warns of breakdown in Australian communities

By Rob O'Brien

Commissioner of the Australian Federal Police (AFP) Mick Keelty has warned that communities will face a severe test through the global financial crisis.

In a speech to the National Security Conference in Sydney today, he said that national security faced a tough challenge from the affects of an economic downturn.

“As the global financial crisis bites, it will increase feelings of marginalisation and isolation,” he told delegates.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) warned delegates at a conference in Tanzania earlier this month that a global recession could increase civil unrest.

Quoting a speech delivered by Professor Sir Lawrence Freedman to the Lowy Institute last month, Keelty warned of growing disenfranchisement in communities, and an increase in demonstrations, strikes and riots in some states.

“Economic crises of this magnitude aggravate and accelerate existing fractures and tendencies at all levels, from the parochial to the global,” he said. “They stress societies and test their coherence and self confidence.”

Keelty said that communities didn’t always understand the role of the AFP and that there were issues around trust which he admitted had “not been in abundance”, but he highlighted community liason programs and initiatives such as Harmony Day, which had played a huge part in building community trust.

“We’ve established community liason teams in Sydney and Melbourne – our teams are establishing relationships that will help communities understand,” he said.

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