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Airport audit shows police mind luggage

Airport audit shows police mind luggage

Hobart Airport Terminal - Photo YSSYguy.
Hobart Airport Terminal – Photo YSSYguy.

The AFP’s special aviation police spend more time on luggage items than any other duty, and AFP formal documents are woefully out of date, a recent ANAO audit shows.

Airport audit shows police mind luggage

The Australian National Audit Office has taken a fine tooth comb to the expensive national airport policing business, finding that “all is well”…except that the federal police officers have to learn local state laws

But the audit also shows that the main activity airport police perform is dealing with “unattended item”, which comprises 16% of their entire workload. It seems taxpayers are shelling out top dollar for a luggage-finding and minding service by federal police which could be provided by airline staff.

The ANAO audit also – inadvertently – reveals that the Australian Federal Police’s formal policy documents, guidelines and formal Commissioner’s Orders are woefully out of date.

Slipshod AFP management has allowed reviews of about one-quarter of all AFP protocol-like documents – across all the AFP, not just the Aviation police – to be at least 12 months late…and counting.

A closer reading of the ANAO audit basically confirms what most people in the know already knew: the federal government decision to increase numbers of police at airports, in some cases more than doubling numbers, was not based on any objective risk analysis of the actual security environment.

It is yet another example of governments attempting to use security measures to treat political risk, when only political measures can treat political risk, a security expert has advised Civil Liberties Australia. Further, airport operational enforcement efforts are still not based upon overall security and criminal threat assessments, or even transport security plans, which all operators are required to establish and maintain.

In another major surprise, ANAO said the cost of performing the audit was $511,000.  Based on professional services rates, a private sector auditor could have done the job for probably less than $100,000. Who audits the auditor, CLA asks?

Here are excerpts from the ANAO audit, Policing at Australian International Airports, Report No 23 of 2014, available at:

There is no clear linkage between the AFP’s planning for its Aviation function and external assessments of the threat and risk environments across Australia’s aviation sector. Although the AFP advised that a number of factors have been taken into account in determining the agency’s resourcing levels at individual airports, increases or decreases in staffing levels have been largely historical and based on the funds available to the Aviation function. An explicit assessment of the inherent security risks presented by each airport and the nature and level of criminality have not formed part of that determination.

Australia’s airports generated a total economic contribution to Australia of around $17.3 billion. There are 177 ‘security controlled’ airports in Australia, with the highest level of security controlled airports known as ‘designated airports’.  Currently, there are 10 designated airports. Table S.1 lists these airports, and the number of passengers using them in 201213.
Policing at airports is currently delivered through the AFP’s Aviation function which is headed by the National Manager Aviation (NMA), an officer of Assistant Commissioner rank. At 15 November 2013, there were 618 sworn officers at the 10 designated airports and the Aviation function’s 201213 budgeted expenses were $74.1 million.

Monthly Airport Traffic Data
Monthly Airport Traffic Data

Until 2005, policing of airports was undertaken by Australian government agencies (the Commonwealth Police, the AFP and the Australian Protective Services), with the community policing elements undertaken by state and territory police forces. Following a review of airport security and policing in 2005, a ‘Unified Policing Model’ (UPM) was introduced. Under the UPM, the Australian Government, through the AFP, met the cost of policing but the actual workforce comprised approximately 450 AFP Protective Service Officers (PSOs) to deal with Counter Terrorist First Response and a notional 328 officers seconded from state and territory police forces to deal with community policing.

Policing at the designated airports was reviewed again in 2009. This review (known as the Beale review) concluded that the UPM was flawed and recommended that all airport police officers should be sworn employees of the AFP and capable of undertaking both counter terrorism and community policing functions. This approach was termed the ʹAll Inʹ model. The then Government accepted this recommendation and the process of moving from the ‘unified’ model to the ʹAll Inʹ model was completed in June 2013.

Under the National Counter Terrorism Plan, agreed between the Australian and state and territory governments, state and territory governments have responsibility for the operational response to a terrorist incident in their jurisdiction. Under the ʹAll Inʹ model, this responsibility is acknowledged in Memoranda of Understanding (MOUs) between the AFP and the state and territory police forces, with the AFP providing CTFR until the relevant police force is able to take control of the response. The MOUs also allow for state and territory police forces to provide operational support for nonterrorist incidents, to be determined on a case by case basis. In addition, should the need arise, the AFP could draw upon its own resources located in its main office in the state or territory. These arrangements provide a ‘surge’ capacity for the AFP airport police when responding to major incidents, whether or not they are terroristrelated.

Following the transition from the previous ‘hybrid’ model to the ʹAll Inʹ model, the AFP is effectively managing the delivery of policing services at Australia’s international airports. The transition process (known as Project Macer) was well managed and met its objectives. As a result of the Project, 274 PSOs and 71 former state/territory police officers successfully became sworn AFP officers. The Project was completed in less than the estimated five years and at a cost of $16 million, significantly less than the anticipated $32 million. The ʹAll Inʹ model has delivered resource efficiencies resulting in annual savings of the order of $10 million (from $84 million in 200910 to $74.1 million in 201213).

On average, in each year over the last three financial years, the AFP has dealt with 21,146 incidents and made 2621 apprehensions and 312 arrests across the 10 airports. The number of arrests has increased by 42.6% over the three year period from July 2010 to June 2013. The offences ranged from offensive and disorderly behaviour to matters relating to aviation and aircraft security.

Across the 10 airports, there are some 300 relevant pieces of state or territory legislation and more than 400 relevant provisions of Commonwealth legislation. Although state and territory police forces provide training in their respective legislation, the duration of this training varies considerably from state to state, and from zero to 10 days.

In 201213, the overall number of complaints and associated conduct issues arising at airports (36 and 62 respectively) compared favourably with ACT policing which had 229 complaints and 419 conduct issues in the same period.

As at 30 June 2013, the approved staffing level for police at the 10 designated airports (not including headquarters) was 689. At 15 November 2013, there were 618 sworn officers at the 10 designated airports and the Aviation function’s 201213 budgeted expenses were $74.1 million.

Key activities undertaken by the AFP’s Aviation function at airports are:

  • targeting crime in the aviation sector;
  • deterring acts of terrorism;
  • maintaining a community policing presence and providing high visibility patrols;
  • providing the first response to acts of terrorism and emergency incidents;
  • collecting and analysing aviation intelligence; and
  • conducting investigations.

(Note: the reality is 16% of AFP Aviation activity is ‘luggage’ – ed.)

Guidance supporting policing at airports

In a highly operational environment such as policing, AFP officers require training which is underpinned and supported by appropriate organisational policy and guidance to carry out their duties. Such guidance ranges from orders with which officers are required to comply, such as Commissioner’s Orders, to more general guidance materials, such as Practical Guides. Collectively, this guidance is known in the AFP as the Governance Instrument Framework (GIF). The GIF is maintained on an electronic system accessible to all AFP staff and is located on the AFP’s intranet, referred to as the Hub.

The Aviation Governance Team and Aviation Operations decided in March 2013 to improve the AFP’s information management and governance framework. Proposed strategies included:

  • reviewing the information management policy;
  • establishing its own guidance for the use of information management tools, including the Hub, SPOKES78, the Investigator’s Toolkit and PROMIS79;
  • including in nonGIF documents a statement outlining the document’s compliance requirements; and
  • establishing a working group to ensure currency and accuracy of Aviationspecific information on the Hub.

The AFP advised in November 2013 that it had made progress on this project, but that its completion was dependent upon some changes to IT systems which were underway.

Reviewing GIF Instruments

GIF instruments are to be reviewed every two years, or sooner if the need arises. The Governance Coordination and Review team sets a regular review cycle, and it is the responsibility of the instrument owner (generally the relevant National Manager) and business area governance teams to review GIF instruments.

ANAO reviewed 555 GIF instruments from 22 functions across the AFP.  As at May 2013, 254 instruments (45.8%) were overdue for review, with the majority (63.4%) being overdue for review by almost 12 months. These included two Commissioner’s Orders. The AFP’s National Guideline on the Governance Instrument Framework had been due for review for five months.

(The ANAO examined 12 AFP Policies, 100 National Guidelines, 104 Practical Guides, seven

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