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Clubs call for tougher laws on security

Written by Hugh Hadgraft

A tight-crop photo of a security guard.Hugh Hadgraft

The door man: a familiar sight to Brisbane pub revelers
Brisbane pub workers are calling for tougher self-regulation of the security industry after it was revealed that Queensland’s private security laws lagged behind other states.

Bryan De Caires, chief executive of the Australian Security Industry Association,  revealed last month that almost half of the applications made by would-be security personnel in New South Wales used a “licensing loophole”, where accreditation under relaxed rules like those in Queensland was accepted elsewhere as part of the Mutual Recognition Act.

The lack of regulation received attention last month as erstwhile security guard Emmanouil Ntaras was charged with bashing 19-year-old Nicholas Barsoum in the basement of Sydney’s Ivy bar. Mr Ntaras completed his security training in Queensland.

But some Brisbane hospitality staff have said that it is the security industry’s failure to appropriately discipline their bouncers that leads to recurring pub violence.

“I don’t think the problem is with who’s being employed, so much as what they’re allowed to get away with,” former Fortitude Valley bar manager, David Warner said.

“Instead of removing bouncers when they’ve done the wrong thing, security companies just move them on to the next venue. If you’ve had a bad experience with security at one pub, chances are you’ll see the same guys the next weekend at a venue down the road,” he said.

In Queensland, applicants for a security guard license must have no recorded conviction of a disqualifying event in the past ten years, or no unrecorded conviction in the past five. The first half of accreditation takes place as online correspondence, followed by a two day, face-to-face training session.

The criticism of private security comes as Queensland Police’s latest annual report details a seven per cent increase in reports of public nuisance offences, and a two per cent increase in common assault charges.

Emma Egerton, former door staffer of prominent Brisbane city bar Jade Buddha, believes that the potential for security situations to get out of hand stems from a lack of synergy between venues and security subcontractors.

“It seems that there is the potential with subcontracted security for bouncers to overstep the line, because they don’t really have anyone to answer to,” Ms Egerton said.

“That’s why [Jade Buddha] has always employed their own security guards rather than using subcontractors; the doormen feel responsible for whatever happens during the night, and if they overstep the line, then they face the very real possibility of losing their job.”

Legally, security personnel may only use reasonable force to evict a patron. In situations where greater than reasonable force is necessary, it is a legal requirement that police are called, and the patron will be issued with an on-the-spot, $550 fine.

However Townsville bouncer Karim De Ridder feels that while there are security guards that use unnecessary force in the line of duty, it’s unfair to tar the entire industry with the same brush.

“The problem is, for every 100 blokes doing their job legitimately, there’s going to be a couple who want the confrontation,” Mr De Ridder said.

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