Terrorism: fighting the battle in our own backyard

Rita Parker is a Visiting Fellow at the Australian Defence Force Academy, associated with the Defence Security Applications Research Centre at the University of New South Wales. She speaks with Government News about the tactics and strategies needed to fight the war on terror on the home soil.

How does the Government work in partnership with security forces and private industry to prevent terrorist attacks?

Partnerships between the public and private sectors are built on trust and can take some time to develop, and they require effort to maintain.

The private security industry is often described as ‘gates, guns and guards’. This pejorative description is sometimes meant as a way to minimise, or even dismiss, the contribution the industry can potentially make during ‘serious’ security incidents involving large numbers of people. That is, protecting soft targets, principally mass gatherings of people at major events.

Since the widely acclaimed successful management of the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, there have been some notable major event successes in Australia such as the Commonwealth Games in 2006 and APEC in 2007. The latter didn’t involve the general public but presented its own security challenges. Months of preparation went on behind the scenes including the largest counterterrorism exercise conducted in Australia, Mercury 05.

The partnership potential is yet to be fully realised on an ongoing basis. We have not taken full account of the legacy of the lessons learned from past collaboration and partnership between the public and private sectors.

Trust and sharing sensitive information appears to be a fundamental issue for the future involvement of the private security industry to assist in safeguarding the nation.

Australia has made some progress and there is some evidence of engaging the private sector through forums such as the Australian Business-Government Advisory Group and the Trusted Information Sharing Networks in several sectors.

These have had mixed results – the ‘trust’ component hasn’t always been evident and I think there is room for improvement…

Read the full interview: Terrorism – fighting the battle in our own backyard [PDF]

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