SECURITY INDUSTRY (OLYMPIC AND PARALYMPIC GAMES) BILL
Debate resumed from an earlier hour.
(Epping) [10.53 a.m.]: The Opposition supports the Security Industry (Olympic and Paralympic Games) Bill, the purpose of which is to enable the issue of a limited licence for security personnel for the purposes of the Olympic Games and the Paralympic Games. I understand that close consultations have been undertaken with the private security industry, and in particular peak bodies such as the Australian Security Industry Association Ltd [ASIAL]. As a moment’s thought probably would indicate, overwhelmingly those already in the security industry - I think they number about 50,000 now - will have significant ongoing responsibilities during the Olympic Games period in carrying out duties that they are already contracted to perform across this city and this State.
The pool of security personnel thus available for specific Olympic work is quite limited. I understand the purpose of the bill is to provide a means of expanding that pool of available security personnel by enabling people to obtain special Olympic security licences to cover the Games period, which for the purposes of this bill is between 1 August 2000 and 30 November 2000. As has been explained to me, the special licences are to work on Olympic sites and venues only. While the training will be rigorous, it does not necessarily fully equate with the training required for a fully licensed guard under present arrangements.
It has been explained to me that the Olympic and Paralympic sites are broken up into precincts and that those precincts will be under the control of the Police Service, and those precincts will be tendered out to the private security industry for the provision of a wide range of security services. The tenders and the services will reflect the differential nature of the security requirements of the private security industry at those locations. Accordingly, in respect of a number of venues and sites, certain types of jobs tendered for will not require the full range of security industry knowledge that is required by a fully-fledged licensee under the current arrangements.
This measure, I understand, will provide a flexible arrangement to attempt to fill a gap in security personnel that currently exists. It allows the Commissioner of Police at all times to have the ultimate say over who gets what licence. I believe that is as it should be. This measure is aimed at tailoring these additional security personnel to the particular security requirements of the Games. One interesting and positive feature is that in the post-Olympic period, whilst those qualifications alone will not of themselves lead to formal recognition of those people in the security industry long term, the training and qualifications that they undergo to
obtain those licences will be taken into account as part credit for more formal qualifications that will hold them in good stead in the security industry down the track.
Although ASIAL has been consulted about this measure and strongly supports the bill, the need for the measure highlights the enormous demands that the Olympic Games make on security services, and on police services in particular. Initially, it was estimated that 4,500 police officers would be required for the Games. That number has now risen to 4,875 according to one of the latest Police Service weeklies. So the number of police estimated only a few months ago as being required for Games security has increased by almost 400: 1,500 of those are being taken from the non-metropolitan area of Sydney and 3,000 from the metropolitan area. One assumes that the balance of 400 will be drawn pro rata from those areas.
This will have an impact in the southern rivers region. There, of a total of 660 police, 31 sergeants and 181 constables will be required in Sydney for the Games period. For country police, the commitment will be for an absolute minimum of three weeks, and quite possibly longer. I have said before, and I think it appropriate to say again, that retired police are a potential resource to be tapped. I know that would not be easy; industrial matters that have caused concerns in the past would need to be addressed. However, as the intake of police seems to be increasing - and I expect that the number of police required will be well over 5,000 by the time the Games come round - we need to look again at trying to involve retired police in Olympic security, at least on some basis.
The Opposition would look at any reasonable and bipartisan approach to try to achieve that without creating industrial trouble, because that is the last thing anybody wants. There are real concerns. The Roads and Traffic Authority recently indicated that it has concerns about a possible increase in the road toll in country areas. Any reasonable proposal to augment Olympic security without overly drawing on police resources should be investigated.
It is in that spirit that the Opposition supports the bill. We really ought to keep an open mind about other ideas that may assist to ease the load on serving police officers. I would like to wish well all those who are involved in Olympics security. This will be a critically important period, during which we will showcase ourselves to the world. I have every confidence that the police will do the job well and will be well supported by the security industry. We wish them all well in their very important roles. I hope they all come through it safely, and provide the best Games that we have ever seen.
(Wakehurst) [11.00 a.m.]: As the honourable member for Epping indicated, the Opposition does not oppose the bill. It is obvious that during the Olympics additional security will be needed. Regrettably, past events during other Olympic Games have shown that terrorism and disarray can arise when least expected. We hope that such disorder will not occur during the Sydney Olympics in the year 2000. However, the level of expertise required to put in place the special arrangements for the Olympics must be recognised.
The Minister for Police, who is rapidly leaving the Chamber, said nothing about the possible use of retired police officers. I am concerned that the bill will permit the issuing of special licences for security work between 1 August and 30 November 2000. The nature of the legislation and the conditions contained within it suggest that security officers issued with special licences will not receive the same level of training as, and in fact will receive a lower level of training than, security officers who would normally look after security and safety of buildings and people in and around New South Wales.
In his reply the Minister for Police might tell us precisely what level of expertise these security officers will have to deal with any major problems that may occur. I hesitate to remind the House that in Atlanta a bomb exploded in a park in the immediate Olympics precinct. As I recollect it, one of the security officers was eventually the subject of lengthy investigations by the Federal Bureau of Intelligence and the police as to his role in the explosion. My recollection is that the allegations were not proven.
However, that example emphasises the need to rigorously check the bona fides - background and any connections - of people who are employed in the security industry for the Olympics. Once those rigorous checks have been completed we must consider their capacity to carry out the job. The bill provides for security people to be in the main area of Homebush Bay within the Olympics venue. I would ask the Minister in his reply to tell the House what assurances he can give that appropriate and careful checks will be made on those who are seeking the issue of special licences under the bill.
I am concerned that once special licences have been issued, security officers have the skills and expertise to deal with difficult and trying circumstances. Security officers currently perform a range of duties, for which they are well trained. In recent years there have been very few problems with security officers carrying out their work. But those officers are often either located in buildings in which there are no people or they work at night. If something went wrong at night, it would not affect a few hundred thousand people.
Hundreds of thousands of people will be in the central Olympics area each day during the Olympic Games. I would like the Minister to tell the House precisely what the course or courses will contain to ensure that security officers issued with a special licence are qualified to address any security problems that may arise, particularly if they are in the thick of a major disaster during the Olympics. I join with the honourable member for Epping in suggesting that retired police officers be used. Sometimes this Government gives the impression that it is easier to do nothing and float along in the hope that the bureaucrats will sort things out. That appears to be what is happening now.
I acknowledge, and the Opposition generally acknowledges, that there would be problems with employing retired police officers in regard to their level of expertise and capacity, and industrial issues. There has been a sentiment of goodwill in regard to the Olympics - subject to the current ticketing debacle which, unfortunately, the Minister for the Olympics seems to have let get out of control.
I suspect that if realistic discussions were held with the police union or police officers generally there would be an acceptance of retired police officers serving during the Olympics. They may not serve in the Olympics area, but I suspect that retired police officers who have had a great deal of training and experience would be capable of supporting security officers in the Homebush Bay area.
The Northern Beaches area has already lost about 60 police officers since this illustrious Government came to power in 1995. Our total police capacity has been reduced by about 30 per cent in five years, which has placed enormous stress on the local police and the local community. It is not unusual for a police officer to attend a house or shop break-in hours or days after the event. The police are doing their best.
It is anticipated that between January and July next year up to another one-third of police who patrol the Northern Beaches will be out of action as a result of a direction from the Commissioner of Police that all police officers take their annual leave between January and July 2000. Once they have taken their annual leave they will be expected to be on deck. Then during the Olympics one-third, including senior sergeants, will be taken away from us to look after the Olympics area.
That will obviously present major problems for people in the area of the Northern Beaches. An abundance of retired police officers live in the area and would, with minimal fuss, be able to take on the job of an active police officer during the Olympics. Will the Minister for Police urgently update the House on the possible availability of retired police officers for the immediate Olympic Games period and also for the period during which the commissioner has directed police officers to take their annual leave, which I remind the House is only six or seven weeks away?
This will probably be the last opportunity for the Minister for Police to address this community concern. Will retired police be used between 1 January and 30 June 2000 when officers will be taking their annual leave - resulting in a dramatic reduction of police - and during the Olympics? If so, will he explain how the system will work? If not, will he tell the House and the people of New South Wales why he will not use retired police? In my view they should be used. I thank the House for listening to my concerns. I confirm that the Opposition will not oppose the bill, although it has some concerns. I wish the security officers and police the very best in their work during the Olympics and during the year 2000.
(Charlestown - Minister for Gaming and Racing, and Minister Assisting the Premier on Hunter Development) [11.10 a.m.], in reply: I thank honourable members for their contributions. All applicants for special Olympics security licences will undergo the same high-level checks as security guards. There will not be special exemptions, so the standard will be of the highest order, including criminal record checks. The due processes will not be circumvented. Officers will also have to undertake a high level of training. I seek leave to have a schedule of Olympics security licence training incorporated in Hansard
OLYMPIC SECURITY LICENCE-TRAININGOLYMPIC SECURITY LICENCE-TRAINING
REQUIRED FOR FULL 1A/1CREQUIRED FOR
REQUIRED FOR OLYMPIC SECURITYREQUIRED FOR
NUMBER OF HOURSNUMBER OF
|Site and property protection|
|Safety and Emergency Management|
|Screen baggage and people to minimise security risks|
|Work as part of a security team|
|Sydney Olympic overview|
|Life sustaining training for Olympics|
|Servicing the client|
|Escort and carry valuables|
The following general competencies have been incorporated into the course:
•collecting, analysing and organising information
•communicating ideas and information
•planning and organising activities
•working with others and in teams
•crating and maintaining a safe working environment
Retired police officers would be subject to the same schedule. When police retire they lose their powers of arrest and nobody knows what has happened to them in the intervening period. It could be only yesterday that they retired, or it could be several years ago. They would have to undergo the same appropriate checks and balances. I do not wish to reflect on any individual, but some retired police officers would not pass those stringent conditions.
I was asking about the use of retired police as acting police.
My understanding is that they would have to undergo the same checks and balances. They would receive no special dispensation because they had retired from the Police Service.
That is if they are going to be used as security. I was referring to them being used as police.
I would be surprised if they were used as police, because once police retire they lose their powers of arrest. The same applies to a person who retires from the Police Service in my portfolio. They do not have automatic powers to undertake other activities, such as licensee of a hotel. They are subject to the same conditions as anyone else. I commend the bill to the House.
Motion agreed to.
Bill read a second time and passed through remaining stages.