Australia’s new Airport Security Measures – What it means for travellers and airport workers alike

Australian airport security is recently facing strong pressure to change from two different angles: the extensive terror plot this summer and the US’s tighter security requirements. The terror attempt in August, involving an elaborate explosives scheme, has stirred up debate over transportation security among Australian politicians and government officials.  Malcolm Turnbull and the Minister for Infrastructure and Transport, Darren Chester, issued a joint statement on the government’s plan to enhance security. The measures are focused on airport workers, such as luggage handlers, as the terror plot revolved around sneaking explosives into luggage. Currently, Australia’s airport workers and their belongings are not screened for explosives or dangerous items.

The new measures will take place at the airports of Australia’s major cities (Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Darwin, Perth, Adelaide, Canberra, Cairns, the Gold Coast, and Hobart). All airport staff (Baggage handlers, caterers, engineers and maintenance staff) will face random testing for explosives. The efficacy of such efforts is questionable. These screenings are not regular and there is a possibility that they can be dodged.[1]

Passengers will be affected by other security enhancement measures in efforts to comply with tighter US security rules. All US-bound flights will require passengers to undergo short security interviews. This ‘passenger-vetting’ will help US-bound flights avoid an in-cabin ban on laptops.

Impact on Traveler’s and Airport Workers

For airport workers, the measures are unlikely to significantly impact their daily lives, though this is subject to change as the security debate evolves. These measures still fall far short of the security measures that US airport workers are required to undergo.[2]

It is travellers that will be especially impacted. The Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development has said that new security measures will cause delays for travelers.[3]

US-bound travelers will face the greatest impact. To accommodate the short security interviews, airlines request passengers to arrive a full 3 hours before departure.[4] Additionally, conveniences provided by some airlines for frequent flyers will be scaled back.

For more information on travel safety and security click here. Panoptic Solutions Risk Management team can assist with all you travel security concerns.

For information on general travel advice talk to our team at Panoptic Corporate Travel






Terrorism in Southeast Asia

There is little question that the rise of IS has dramatically changed the security landscape in Southeast Asia. This is particularly interesting considering the diverse political and social landscapes in the region.  Nonetheless, the threat of terrorism in the region is not new and continues to mutate and evolve.  Thus, authorities’ adaptability and innovation is critical to countering such an evolving threat.

In 2014, a formal IS wing for Southeast Asia, known as Katiba Nusantra, was established.  In addition to planning attacks, they drive recruitment, dissemination of radical ideology, and training for IS.  The organisation’s training ground is in Indonesia.  One reason it is so dangerous at present is that as IS loses territory, Katiba Nusantra will manage the returnees, bringing instability to the region.  They will have gained military experience and will be more armed with radical ideology and propaganda tactics to foster the building of networks at home.

In the past two years we’ve witnessed a string of terror attacks in the region.  The IS-inspired attacks in Jakarta in January 2016 were not unlike those witnessed in Europe the same year with the target of a crowded shopping mall rhyming with the IS-affiliated attack on London’s Borough Market or Barcelona’s La Rambla.  Similarly, the 2016 IS-affiliated attack in the Philippines killed 14 and wounded 70 at a crowded market, prompting President Duterte to escalate security measures.[1]

[1] See…

The appeal for IS among the Southeast Asian Muslim community varies by country.  For instance, in Malaysia and Singapore, religious and ideological elements are most important.  In Malaysia, the UNMO-led political system has contributed to the growth of religious conservatism and seeks to derive its legitimacy from its perceived religious integrity.[1]  In Indonesia, on the other hand, religion has remained somewhat more moderate, despite the long presence of a radical fringe.  Kinship networks and group rivalries are more important in driving IS recruitment.  Additionally, Indonesia’s radical Islamic establishment, Jemaah Islamiya, which was responsible for previous terror attacks in the Country, has publicly denounced IS due to ideological differences.

Governance of the Sulu Sea is another critical security weakness of the region. These lawless waters have facilitated the movement of militants and terrorists. Alongside this, the area has developed its own breed of a vibrant economy mainly reliant on human and arms trafficking.[2]

States are undoubtedly taking the threat seriously and investing considerable resources towards security.  Malaysia has arrested 250 terror suspects between 2013 and 2016[3]. Since the 2002 Bali Bombings, the Indonesian Government has grown its counterterrorism capabilities, in particular their preemptive security apparatus. The country’s terror laws have been amended to aid authorities’ enhancement of preemptive (rather than purely reactive) capabilities.

For more information on security matters in the APAC region, contact Panoptic Solutions. We tailor risk assessments, threat assessments and travel advice to you, your family or your company. Go to or email us at

Security for Australia’s Former Prime Ministers

The assault on Tony Abbot from a campaigner brings our attention to the question of security for Australia’s former Prime Ministers.  Currently they are not provided with permanent executive protection / close personal protection / security details. At least in this incident, it is clear that Tony Abbot was under-protected.  The intoxicated assailant could easily have had and used a weapon.  Though not in the PM’s office, former PMs remain highly political symbols. This is likely true even if they are not involved in the public political discourse, unlike Tony Abbot.

While this incident underscores the reality that former PMs do face risks, it is somewhat unclear if they should be provided with tax-payer funded, permanent security details. The Australian PM office tends to change frequently which would make lifetime, publicly-funded security a significant fiscal burden and may also make it less necessary, assuming shorter-tenure equates to less post-office risk.[1]

Heads of State Executive Protection & Security

In the United States, all former US presidents and First Ladies receive the lifetime protection of the Secret Service, though significantly scaled-down from time in office.  One of the main justifications for this expenditure is under national security grounds.  Due to their knowledge of national security secrets (without CIA training) and highly symbolic nature, their kidnapping by a foreign government or non-state actor would undoubtedly be national security catastrophe.  The same could be true for Australia’s former PMs, though the risk calculus may differ.

In Canada, former PMs have a drastically reduced security detail, regardless of if they have a particularly public life.  This can be scaled up when there is a threat. When leaving office, the duty is transferred from the Prime Minister Protection Detail to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Divisional VIP Protection.[2] The issue is somewhat complicated in Canada due to the failure of official security to fully protect former PM Jean Chrétien from threats on two separate occasions (including a protest pie thrown in his face).[3]

For Australia, one of the main reasons a permanent security detail is not provided for former PMs is due to limited number of appropriately trained Close Personal Protection Federal Police and the large cost to the tax payer of increasing this resource.

This may provide a role for private security contractors with specific military, law enforcement or diplomatic security experience similar to those employed and contracted within Panoptic Solutions executive protection teams to take up the job.  The high-cost of AFP personnel is likely due to their extremely high training requirements and the lack of private sector competition to bring down the price of all associated costs.[4][5]  Similar to other countries, former PMs could be provided a scaled-down security detail from a private security firm, both protecting them from threats like those faced by Tony Abbot, and likely costing a fraction of the tax-payer dollars of a permanent Close Protection AFP detail.

For further information about executive protection in Australia and Asia Pacific contact Panoptic Solutions via our website or email

Australia’s Strategy for Protecting Crowded Places from Terrorism

Crowded landmarks are a terror target for their symbolic power, with recent IS attacks making this disturbingly clear.  In light of this, Australian National Security has declared a strategy for tackling the threat to crowded places.  According to their announcement, the core of the strategy is to improve the security of such places by fostering networks of information sharing and partnership among private and public sector stakeholders, generating a more sophisticated ecosystem of security.[1]  In this category of “crowded places” are sports stadia, transport infrastructure, shopping centers, pubs, clubs, hotels, places of worship, tourist attractions, movie theatres, and civic spaces.

According to this policy, owners and operators of crowded places will be able to join the Crowded Places Partnership which places them in a network with a broad spectrum of public authorities including counter-terrorism officials, police, local and national authorities, etc.  Owners and operators will receive expertise from authorities on strengthening security.  Additionally, the ongoing exchange of information related to threats is intended to increase the speed and flexibility of responses to threats.

To ensure maximum protective security, authorities recommend a system for what they call “layered security”, which means employing complementary security measures which reinforce each other and reduce the likelihood that any measure will fail.  Additionally, owners and operators are offered a number of protective security tools including a Crowded Places Self-Assessment Tool, Crowded Places Security Audit, Hostile Vehicle Mitigation Guidelines, Chemical Weapon Guidelines, and others.

Interestingly the Crowded Places Self Assessment Tool states “It is important to remember that this self assessment needs to be conducted from the perspective of a would-be attacker; not from your perspective as to the current level of security you have at your location”. This view is in line with Panoptic Solutions Red Team Operations when conducting penetration and security testing of installations, organisations and workplaces.

Australian sports fans have already begun to experience tighter security at large sporting events.  Following the Manchester Area attack in May, the Adelaide Oval limited the number of bags allowed inside and subjected fans to metal detector searches.[2]  In the same month, Melbourne stadiums considered allowing only clear plastic bags inside.[3]

If the implementation of Australia’s new strategy for protecting crowded places is successful, operators of large sporting events will be more flexible and fluid in enhancing security.  “Greater security” will not necessarily equal more airport-style security checks.  In its design, the strategy appears to maximise enjoyment of crowded places while still ensuring much tighter security.  Australian National Security hopes that the integration of private security entities, such as the security administration at the Adelaide Oval, national security authorities, and other contracted security firms similar to Panoptic Solutions will generate this outcome.



“Adelaide Oval Increases Security in Wake of Manchester Attack”, (May 24, 2017), ABC. Retrieved from:

“Clear Bad Rule Considered for MCG and Melbourne Stadiums”, (May 24, 2017), Herald Sun. Retrieved from:…

“Australia’s Strategy for Protecting Crowded Places from Terrorism”, (2017), Commonwealth of Australia. Retrieved from:…

Australia’s Recent Terror Arrests and What this Means for Travellers

Australia’s Close Call

The recently foiled terror plot in Sydney underscores the risk potential for travelers in Oceania.   Australia has faced an increasing number of such threats in recent years.  Since September 2014, the nation’s terror threat level has been elevated, according to national security authorities.[1]

On Saturday, July 29th, Australian police defeated a plot to bring down an airplane, arresting 4 suspects in the Sydney suburbs.[2]  Though detailed information is still unfolding, the elaborate plot of the men now in custody involved detonation of an improvised explosive onboard the aircraft. Australian Federal Police Commissioner Andrew Colvin stated that this is believed to be Islamic-inspired terrorism.[3]  No information has been offered as to how this plot was discovered.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has offered some insight into the bigger picture of terror threats the nation faces.  “We face a range of terrorist threats, some of them are lone actors, who activate very quickly, with very little warning. On other occasions, you get quite elaborate conspiracies. This appears to be in that category.”[4]

Since 2014, Australian law enforcement thwarted 15 terror plots in their advanced stages.[5] Of 31 counterterrorism police operations, 70 suspects have been charged.[6]  Despite a small number of sophisticated plots, the primary terror threat is believed to come from lone actors and small groups carrying out simple plots with low cost weaponry.[7]

Implications for Travelers

Authorities have since enhanced security measures at airports and had previously recommend travellers to arrive more than 2 hours before their departure time for extra baggage searches and delays caused. At the time of the incident, Virgin Australia advised passengers to arrive 3 hours before departure for international flights. Enhanced security measures were in place in more than just the Sydney Airport. These recommendations were, however, revised as of 4 August. Travellers are advised to remain vigilant, however, to revert to previous time frames recomended by their airlines.

Travellers and those with a long-term interest in the region will want to keep in mind the uncertainty and risk that this incident underscores.  While the authorities can rightfully be credited for their skill in disrupting a sophisticated plot while it was still in planning stages in the Sydney suburbs, this threat is very much a wildcard among mostly unsophisticated terror plots. Moreover, even the highest authorities are candid about the risk and uncertainty.  In response to this attack, Andrew Colvin stated that, “Terrorists are becoming very ingenious about ways to defeat our security mechanisms.”[8]  Those involved in the region will want to bear this uncertainty in mind when making their plans in the region. To discuss Travel Risk advice across the APAC region, contact Panoptic Solutions Risk Consultants for further information.


“Australian authorities arrest 4 in alleged airplane terrorist plot”, (2017, July 31), CNN. Retrieved from…

“Australian police foil ‘elaborate’ terrorist plot to detonate bomb on plane”, (2017, July 30), The Guardian. Retrieved from:…

“Four arrested in Australia as police thwart terrorist plot to bring down a plane”, (2017, July 30), The Telegraph.  Retrieved from:…

“National Terrorism Threat Advisory System”, Australian Government. Retrieved from:…

“The other ‘imminent’ terror attacks Australia narrowly escaped”, (2017, July 31st), Retrieved from:…