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Mick Keelty's AFP - No Triple Zero Heroes

By Richard Tonkin
Created 23/03/2009 - 15:56

It would seem, reading our Federal Police Top Cop's version of events, that police didn't react to a man being clubbed to death until somebody rang the public emergency phone number.

All that new counterterrorism technology brought in since September 11 2001 apparently gives no protection to passengers on the ground before a plane takes off. This was demonstrated yesterday as would-be passengers watched a man being clubbed to death with airport equipment, and his attackers casually depart the crime scene by taxi.

Did the AFP, State Police and security contractors watch the man being bludgeoned through their anti-terrorist cameras? Did they hear the crack of bone before the man died of his head wounds? What did they do next? Keelty's comments suggest that they sat on their hands until somebody phoned for help.

Here's Keelty's vindication of the police response, as reported in the Daily Telegraph [1]:

"The first call went to triple-0 at 1.43 yesterday afternoon," he said.

"The first call to the airport police command came in at 1.46. And the first police responded at 1.47, one minute later.

"So in terms of response times, it's all within acceptable practice."

Perhaps police and security were determining if the fracas was a diversion for more sinister activities? Maybe they thought the bikies were fakes and bombs were being slipped into luggage as the fight took place? You'd like to think so, but it seems more likely that the airport's video monitors must have been replaying last weeks episode of Border Security, City Homicide or some other copper "feelgood." Surely they couldn't have been displaying somebody dying literally on their front doorstep without action being taken?

What has been plainly demonstrated by this lack of action is that Australian airport security has little to do with the protection of Australians on Australian soil. It's something many have suspected for a while, and now it's quite justifiable to think that airport law enforcement is much too focussed on what lives might be lost in the air than on what blood might be spilled at the check-in counter.

For Keelty to explain to us that all the security measures we've endured for the last eight years were meaningless, ,and that his forces acted only in response to a phone call from a concerned Samaritan, should be regarded as an admission of police neglect That he could allow Mahommad Haneef to be locked away because of something happening at an airport in Glasgow and yet leave Australian citizens to watch a man die in a departure hall (till one of them rang for help) suggests that he and his police desperately need to re-examine their priorities.

Tuesday Update:

It gets worse. Now we have not only an altercation beginning on the plane, with the players making mobile phone calls tor people on the ground to arrive in readiness, but also the security guards watching the fight begin and moving passengers away from the fisticuffs being only able to contact police (150 being the airport's full compliment, and that many being on duty on the day) by relaying a message through their head office, and the fatality and unopposed departure of the fighters.

[Australian [2] extract]

PASSENGERS and crew on a lunchtime Qantas flight from Melbourne to Sydney knew trouble was brewing when six heavily tattooed and muscular men became agitated and started using their mobile phones mid-flight.

After landing, they bolted from their seats on flight QF430 before they were told to leave, with one shouting, "C'mon boys, let's go".

Qantas staff watched as they shouted and shoved each other as they left via Gate 5 of the domestic terminal – with one staff member calling for security to direct other passengers away from the men.

Court documents say senior members of the Hells Angels and the Comancheros were on the flight. Police suspect they had called reinforcements to the airport. During the ensuing fight which continued through the terminal, spilling out between the check-in counters and into the public waiting area, the brawling men were allegedly heard yelling "I am going to kill you, c..t. I am going to kill you."

But the message about the potentially dangerous passengers never made it from the plane and the security at the gate to the airport police.

When the violence exploded in terminal three, and about a dozen gang members began laying into one another with knives, knuckle dusters and bollards, police and security were nowhere to be seen

Peter Faris QC, also writing in today's Australian [3], asserts that the combination of the Haneef incident and this one demonstrates that the AFP are not capable of overseeing Australian counterterrorism procedures. His worries about the exposure of Sydney airport as an easy terrorist target are worth contemplating:

After Mumbai and Lahore, what is even more frightening to consider is that jihadist terrorists could arrive at Sydney airport by taxi, shoot hundreds of people in the terminal, and escape by taxi. It seems there would be no intervention by AFP security or anti-terrorist police. This, of course, is much more attractive to the jihadists, because they would not need to die in suicide bomb attacks.

Faris has this advice for the PM:

Rudd needs to do four things. First, accept the simple principle that citizens pay their taxes and are therefore entitled to be safe on the streets. The primary purpose of government is to protect its citizens. Rudd must accept that the ultimate responsibility lies (or should lie) with the federal Government, which, after all, has almost all the funds. Two, fund a national anti-terrorist FBI-type force and remove this work from the AFP. Three, fully and properly fund the ACC as a national crime force. Four, review the failed AFP and get rid of Keelty.

Reading Sydney Airport's Securty page [4], it's amazing that such a major Achilles Heel has not been identified before now, especially by the AFP.


The AFP at Sydney Airport is commanded by an Airport Police Commander (APC). The APC commands the unified policing presence to provide the delivery of appropriate services at the airport to ensure public reassurance, prevention of incidents, the proactive and reactive investigation of crimes and offences, keeping the peace as well as deterring and responding to terrorism. The APC is responsible for strategic and operational oversight and coordination of Commonwealth Agency Security related activity and command and control of law enforcement activity within the Airport Precinct.

Reporting to the APC are the following assets:

1) Counter Terrorism First Response

2) Joint Airport Investigation Team (JAIT)

3) Joint Airport Intelligence Group (JAIG)

4) Police Aviation Liaison Officer (PALO)

5) Airport Uniform Policing – Community Policing

• Provision of a general policing function

• Patrols of landside

• Crime Prevention patrolling

Airport Uniform Police are responsible for all airport community policing issues.

This includes a response to all crime and other disturbances in and around Sydney Airport

Faris and the other contributors to the Australian are spot-on: if the AFP wasn't able to foresee such an easily implemented attack (let alone that the bollards might be used as weapons) we can only wonder what other forms of anarchy are sitting right under their cameras and noses, and what other confidence-inspiring words of theirs are yet to be revealed as air-filled ineptitudes in hindsight's bloody face?

By the way ... in response to South Australian Premier Rann's use of this tragic event as a tool for advocacy (and implied vindication) of adoption of Attorney-General Atkinson's [5] (passed but not yet enacted, according to a police spokesman on ABC Local Radio last week)) anti motorcycle gang legislation, there's a simple question: Would current security measures at Adelaide Airport (or at any other in Australia, for that matter) have prevented such an event occurring? Doubt it.

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