We must fill the gap where government is failing


A disproportionate interest in terrorism is resulting in the Government and policy makers failing in the fundamentals of national security, which must entail an all-hazards approach to security and risk mitigation.
Having spent more than 14 years building relationships through the Trusted Information Sharing Network (TISN) and the Security in Government (SIG) annual conference, policy wonks scrapped the latter and allowed the former to become all but moribund.
SIG, held each year, was routinely attended by over 500 delegates comprised of Government Agency Security Advisors and, increasingly, corporate security managers. An associated exhibition and sponsorship subsidised the event, which not only meant the conference was priced to suit security department budgets but also generated a profit of more than $70,000, which the Attorney-General’s department used to fund outreach projects. All this and at no real cost to the department, since organising the entire event was outsourced. Someone somewhere decided to scrap the event. No one understands why.
The fact is, 90 percent of critical infrastructure in Australia is privately owned — and even more rely on private security for protection. To have an annual event that briefs, educates and informs is eminently desirable. To be able to do so at a profit seems eminently sensible.
This lack of understanding of the relationships between all concerned with the protection of the nation has had a knock-on effect for the Trusted Information Sharing Network (TISN).
To be sure, the TISN has been successful in the area of the financial sector, which was allowed to run its own race and, indeed, funded a project officer to assist it. Other sectors, however, did not get to the same level of understanding and, thus, were unconvinced about funding further development.
In the past four months, A-G’s has gone through at least three reshuffles and Mr Brandis’  position as Attorney-General is tenuous at best.  And, no wonder, given the lack of leadership. The fact is the security profession has had no clear engagement since Mr Ruddock and, to an extent, Mr McClelland, both of whom would attend industry events and spend time with people at the sharp end of the stick. When I suggested to an AGD senior staffer that the current A-G would do well to follow suit, I was told: “Good luck with that, if you don’t have the CEOs there”.
Mr Brandis did recently reach out to CEOs with an invite to a sit down with him on national security matters. The CEOs naturally checked with their security managers and advisors, most of whom, if not all, told them not to bother. Most declined, offering to send their senior security person. However Mr Brandis made it clear it was a “personal invitation” and there was no need to send anyone else; clearly talking to people knowledgeable about security was not the aim.
When I was commenting on how recent dealings have tipped me from frustration to serious concerns about Australia’s ability to respond to and to recover from a serious event, a friend asked: “So, what are you going to do about it?”.
Well, firstly, as convenor for the Safeguarding Australia National Security Summit in Canberra this coming May, I have organised a workshop as part of the Summit, which will take place on May 2, the day before the summit proper begins.
Mr Alastair Milroy, former head of the Australian Crime Commission, who is acutely aware of the need for information sharing and the difficulties of cooperation, has agreed to chair the workshop. Two of our overseas speakers, Professor Babak Akhgar, head of CENTRIC, who runs operations with European law enforcement, and Mr Peter Davies, the former head of the UK Child Exploitation Online Protection Service (CEOPS), have also agreed to bring to bear their wealth of experience. I have also organised a few knowledgeable locals to come along, whom I will not name, as the workshop will be confidential insomuch that the thoughts, ideas and actions discussed will be shared in the Summit without necessarily publicly attributing them to individuals, to accommodate those who can’t speak freely because of their positions.
Secondly, in response to the ”good luck …. without the CEOs” challenge, I have invited two participants, highly respected in the business world: Ms Kate Carnell, The Office of the Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman (ASBFEO), and Chris Jenkins, CEO, Thales Australia & New Zealand and National President of the Australian Industry Group. In addition, Bryan de Caires, CEO, Australian Security Industry Association Ltd (ASIAL) will offer insights into the world of security suppliers.
Between the two sessions — along with audience input — we should have a pretty clear picture of what needs to be done.
We have invited people from A-G’s — but have not heard back yet.

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