What we know so far:
Six to 10 men of “Middle Eastern appearance” arrived at Terminal Three and asked staff for directions to arrival gate five where they bashed Mr Zervas, the brother of a Hells Angel, dead with an iron bar. All in broad daylight and in front of other passengers.
Ismail Erden, 26, of Kingsford, Maher Aouli, 28, of Casula, Pomare Pirini, 21, of Georges Hall, and Zoran Kisacanin, 22, of Ingleburn, have each been charged with one count of affray. More from The Age
THE Australian Federal Police and its Commissioner Mick Keelty have once again demonstrated that they cannot manage security issues. First it was the fiasco of the Haneef affair and now it is the bikie riot and alleged murder at the Sydney airport terminal. Security at airports is the responsibility of the AFP, yet it was nowhere to be seen when a bikie was bashed to death in the terminal in front of the travelling public. The alleged attackers then escaped by taxi.
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.
All of this shows that the AFP is the wrong organisation to deal with security. At the very least, these matters should be dealt with by state police, who have experience in dealing with violent criminals.
The AFP officers, all of whom have university degrees but no experience in dealing with street crime, do a sufficient job in tax and importation of drugs crimes but terrorists are way beyond their capabilities. Ideally, Australia should have an FBI-type organisation, staffed by the best and most experienced (and toughest) state police.
Between Haneef and the bikie incidents, the AFP has demonstrated it cannot handle suspected terrorists or fatal riots at the airport. There is much to be concerned about here.
The other federal law enforcement problem is that the Australian Crime Commission has grossly inadequate resources and funding. The ACC has had a bikie gang inquiry proceeding for some time but there is little evidence that it has had any impact on the gangs that are out of control in Sydney and Perth. Kevin Rudd’s recent cash handouts to citizens are no doubt very popular and buy votes, but in my opinion the money would be better spent on law enforcement.
It has often been pointed out that criminals do not recognise boundaries. Australia has seven police forces plus the AFP. In one sense we are over-policed but, because of the size of our country, there are usually not enough police to go around.
The state governments say they have no money and are unable to increase the size of their police forces. Certainly, in central Melbourne uniformed police are almost never seen on the streets and at night it is very dangerous near the clubs and bars: there are regular stabbings and deaths. Apparently nothing can be done.
The federal Government needs to become primarily responsible for law and order and the safety of its citizens, be it in a bar in Melbourne or an outback Aboriginal township. The state police must be the first line of attack, but the Prime Minister needs to greatly increase federal funding for law and order, both to the AFP and to the ACC. In the end, we pay nearly all our taxes to the federal Government. The economic recession we are suffering is being dealt with, rightly or wrongly, through huge cash handouts. That is all very well, but most people would rather forgo a $900 payment if they can feel safe in the streets or at airports.
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.
Peter Faris QC is a former chair of the National Crime Authority.