It’s a cosy world in the security industry.
Steve Jackson is Qantas’s new General Manager of Security. With immaculate timing, he replaced the retiring Geoff Askew this week, although Jackson has been Askew’s deputy for the last five years.
Jackson was previously a senior Australian Federal Police officer. He was operational commander during the 2000 Olympic Games and received the Order of Australia for his performance as Field Commander of the joint investigation with the Indonesians into the Bali bombings.
It’s fair to say that neither Qantas nor Jackson’s former colleague Mick Keelty have covered themselves in glory in the aftermath of last Sunday’s events at Qantas’s terminal at Sydney Airport.
In particular, the prosecution of the men involved in the incident may be endangered by the lack of CCTV footage, despite the brawl commencing in the departure lounge area and rolling into the check-in concourse. While having vision of every inch of an airport would be impossible, or prohibitively expensive, this failure of the CCTV system and its monitoring is remarkable. While not as ubiquitous as in the UK, the reliance on CCTV by security operations has increased massively in Australia in recent years. The average bank branch, for example, is covered by 12 cameras.
This is not the first time Qantas has had problems with cameras. In 2005 a Sydney baggage handler was sacked for taking a camel costume from passenger luggage, having been spotted by the owner wearing it on the tarmac. CCTV footage confirmed the theft, but Qantas promised to install more cameras both in baggage handling areas and in aircraft holds. The incident came at the time when Schapelle Corby’s lawyers were peddling a conspiracy theory that baggage handlers were using luggage to transport drugs — a theory that couldn’t be disproven given security cameras were either not working or pointed in the wrong direction on the day she travelled.
Then-Qantas chief Geoff Dixon expressed concern about the lack of a single authority in charge of airport security, but suggested “as long as we are in charge of our own areas I think it’s OK.” Qantas may have a different view now.
Ex-Qantas sources say Steve Jackson was responsible for upgrades of Qantas’s camera system since 2005.
2005 was also the year that British expert Sir John Wheeler conducted an inquiry that concluded Australian airport security was “often inadequate and dysfunctional”. The previous Government only began responding to the review after it was leaked to the press. One of its responses was to prosecute the alleged leaker, Allan Kessing.
As if to confirm that Jackson has absolutely immaculate timing, he recently gave an interview to Security Insider magazine. In words that have a particular prescience, Jackson observed that “one of the greatest enemies that private security … face is complacency … We need to be very, very careful in the Australian space, particularly, that we do not fall into a false sense of security, because at home, on home soil we might be going through a time where we are not experiencing the [same] degree of security incidents, security situations, that other countries might be.”
But whatever its CCTV problems, Qantas’s role in the incident was purely incidental. The brawl could have happened anywhere. The more substantial problem is the lack of an appropriate law enforcement response to motorcycle gangs.
NSW Police and security industry sources have argued the NSW Government’s current “crackdown” on bikies will be hopelessly ineffective. Additional manpower has been sought from across Sydney for the operation, with station commanders — in the finest bureaucratic tradition — using it as an opportunity to offload their poorest quality officers, who are unlikely to trouble hardened gang members. Police veterans say that a more organised approach is required, due to the evolution of bikie gangs in recent years.
“The bikie structures have been taken over by Middle Eastern crime gangs,” one former detective told Crikey.
“A lot of old-style bikies, who sorted out their problems without endangering the public, and mainly stuck to amphetamine production and distribution, are getting out. Middle Eastern criminal elements have moved in and use the gang structures as part of their drug importation and distribution operations. It’s very handy to have forty of your mates show up ready to rock and roll if you get into trouble. They don’t care about the police or the public. There’ll be another Milperra at some point.”