Hope and terrorism

Hope is not a viable response to terrorism. Which makes the Rudd government’s approach to airport security in Australia criminally culpable. How many lives will it take to substitute sensible coordination of police services in place of Ministerial egotism?

Two state Police Commissioners – those of Victoria and Western Australia – have both criticised the Australian Federal Police (AFP) for an institutionalised slow and heavy-handed culture to the sharing of intelligence and evidence. Their implicit criticism is that security at the nation’s 11 international airports is being compromised by de facto turf wars between the AFP and state police services.

It is hardly surprising that an agency such as the AFP would be reluctant to readily relinquish vital intelligence to other agencies whose security standards might not be of the same standard. But what guarantees do we have that the AFP is the benchmark by which all others should be judged? We certainly hope they are but we have no conclusive evidence that this is the case.

This makes the determination of Rudd’s Home Affairs Minister, Brendan O’Connor, to insist that the AFP will have sole control of security at these 11 airports within three to five years an outlandish act of hope rather than a sensible policy initiative.

For a start, if the AFP is allegedly as good as the Minister’s support indicates, why would it take half a decade for the nation’s premier disciplined service to be able to assume full responsibility for airport security? Has the Rudd government diminished the AFP’s operational capability by stretching it too far with offshore commitments? It is wonderful that the AFP can respond to numerous international crisis situations but if the consequence is an inherent weakening of its ability to fulfil fundamental domestic requirements through a lack of requisite resourcing then Rudd must accept responsibility.

The current change of leadership at the AFP will inevitably impact morale and culture. What we, the public, need to be assured of is the force’s ability to appropriately accept enhanced responsibilities. We need unequivocal reassurance that officers are ready, willing and able to keep the nation’s major airports safe. That same unequivocal reassurance will be just as eagerly sought by the AFP’s own dedicated officers. They need practical, pragmatic support to do the job. Glib words unaccompanied by necessary human and financial resourcing simply sells them down the drain. Minister O’Connor has much to answer for and as the latest Delta Airlines terrorist outrage in the United States proves, the clock is ticking.

We demonstrably cannot stop bikies killing each other at our airports, so what makes O’Connor or anyone else confident we can stop dedicated terrorist attacks?