Securing Public Places: New Zealand’s Private Security Sector as a National Security Enabler

Author: Dynon, N.
Published in National Security Journal, Volume 1, Issue 1, October 2019

Hayes-Jonkers identifies rhetorical and discursive strategies used in news reports to undermine bouncers’ credibility and portray the security industry as staffed with vio­lent, undertrained, criminal personnel. “Under- and over-statements, metaphors, and metonymic concepts, together with lexical choice, styles and structures,” states Hayes-Jonkers, “are used freely by the news media to vilify, discriminate against and discredit bouncers.60 In research on press depictions of Sydney’s night-time economy, Wadds argues that print media reflects public ambivalence and insecurity by representing the private security industry as unruly and violent, and with links to criminality.61

Light touch regulation

The authors of the ASPI Special Report, noting the training, standards and perception challenges facing Australia’s security industry, suggest that a nationally consistent vet­ting, training and licensing system would “greatly enhance the ability of licensed securi­ty officers to identify, prevent and respond to critical incidents and hostile threats, such as terrorism.”62 They recommend the establishment of a federal Security Industry Au­thority (SIA) responsible to Australia’s Minister for Home Affairs. Its functions would include: (i) the integration of the private security manpower sector into Australia’s counter-terrorism strategy; (ii) ‘fit and proper person’ definition and assessment; (iii) training development and monitoring of delivery standards; (iv) external confirmation of testing and competencies; and (v) the development and promulgation of additional CT awareness and training information.

Compared to the UK, US and Australia, New Zealand’s private security industry is lightly regulated. The existing regulatory regime provided by the PSPPI Act, and which includes the Private Security Personnel Licensing Authority (PSPLA) within the Min­istry of Justice and the Complaints, Investigation and Prosecution Unit (CIPU) within the Department of Internal Affairs, is widely regarded as a ‘light touch’ model focused on vetting and administration as opposed to enforcement and best practice. This re­gime, states Bradley, “leaves the New Zealand public with a state centered regulatory system that is insufficiently comprehensive to achieve marked improvements.”63 Mor­rison observes, however, that recent prosecutions reflect the move to a more punitive approach. He notes the recent conviction and fining of Sean Micheals for operating the businesses Corporate Group International Limited, Corporate Protection and Security International Limited and HD Security Services Limited without a licence. “Security services are often in positions of authority and having unlicensed cowboys in the indus­try puts the public at real risk,” Marty Greentree of the Department of Internal Affairs told media in relation to this case. “If people break the law, we will catch them.”64 Thor­burn argues that in order for there to be sufficient trust of the security industry by those interacting with it, there needs to be a greater focus by the PSPLA on prosecutions “such as what happens with the SIA in the UK and more recently within Australia.”65