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Good governance ensures security for the G20 Brisbane

Strong Risk management & strong Stakeholder engagement approach to ensure security success for the G20 in Brisbane.

I was fortunate to hear Commissioner Katarina Carroll (Commissioner at Queensland Fire and Emergency Services) speak at the Women in Governance Luncheon Governance Institute of Australia in March 2017.

Katarina Carroll grew up surrounded by strong women and when she joined the police force in 1983 there were only 4% women in the service, in fact it was the norm then that when women got married they left employment. The uniform didn’t exactly assist them in doing their job either with a short skirt, high heels and a hand bag to put your gun in.

When she joined the licensing commission, 3 weeks later many of her bosses were jailed which was a shock, however it meant that new regulations which where implemented, resulted in it becoming a more professional unit:

  • The staff were higher qualified,

  • there were more women, and

  • promotion was based on merit rather than on seniority.

Katarina was appointed the Assistant Commissioner for the G20, this post would be seen by most as a poisoned chalice role as previous G20s in democratic countries (where protest and free speech are permitted) hadn’t been hugely successful (security wise). When it was held in locations which were on a peninsula or where in a secure-able areas, you had a greater chance of securing it.

Katarina built a team and they approached the planning for the event by studying previous major events. They brought people in from across the world to peer review all aspects of the plan. This was tough on the team at the start however it was the bravest and smartest decision.

They changed the business model by introducing new legislation which allowed protests to occur (it was pointed out that protesting was not completely permitted before that time) and worked to build trust of the protesting groups, some of which were passive and some aggressive. The relationship building approach worked very well with the 90% of of groups who wanted to work with the police.

They adopted a risk management approach for all decision making and documented every decision, they also provided a safe environment in which changes of decision were possible. With the level of documentation of decisions in place, it was easy to trace the reasons behind previous decisions therefore supporting the emergence of new information and the rationale behind the change.

The event was extremely well planned and tested which was just as well because:

  • 6 weeks before the event the security rating went from a medium to medium / high.

  • 1 week out Barack Obama decided to make the speech at University of Queensland campus at St Lucia, which was outside of the secure G20 zone.

  • They had 26 world leaders which represented 3/5th of the world population and 3/4 of the world GDP.

During the event, police negotiators remained very close to the protesting groups and if you recall the temperatures were extreme that weekend of the G20, topping a record 40 degrees in Brisbane, the strength of the relationship between police & protesting groups was evident when the groups shared their water with the police and vice versa.

Katarina’s advice that if you get an opportunity no matter what it looks like, you must never let it pass as you never know where it will take you.

A question was asked: when you have to change direction, how do you do this? Her advice is to spend a lot of time on the communication of the decision:

  • Explain your ‘why’

  • Research the evidence and then explain, and

  • Ensure the focus is clear

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