While the guards worked for a variety of firms, it is understood that many had been subcontracted by AIG Security, whose client base includes entertainment venues such as the Palais Theatre and the Forum, shopping giant Aldi, and the AFL-owned Marvel Stadium.
Marvel Stadium’s security, including its controversial team of ”behavioural awareness officers”, has come under the spotlight in recent months for its overzealous approach, including eviction of football fans for relatively minor transgressions.
The controversy prompted a recent review by management, after the sporting venue’s chief executive, Michael Green, conceded some patrons felt intimidated by the more-visible security presence.
But the suspensions also point to wider problems within the industry, which has long been the subject of concerns about worker exploitation, poor training and lacklustre regulation.
Such problems will soon form part of a broad-ranging inquiry announced by the Andrews government in the lead up to last November’s Victorian election.
Ben Redford, state secretary of the United Voice union, said the industry was ”overrun by cowboy operators’.
”Every day we see security contractors, large and small, cutting corners as they scramble to increase their profit margins …”
“It’s time this industry was put under a microscope. We also want to see the government beef up the powers and resources of the regulator to weed out these dodgy operators.”
Asked about the suspensions this week, a police spokesman confirmed that its licensing and regulation division was reviewing “a number of private security individual licence holders in relation to the validity of applications”.
The spokesman said police could not comment further at this stage, noting that “the provision of information relating to the specifics of the operation may compromise the progress of the investigation”.
However, a letter sent to one guard and obtained by The Age informs the worker that the police’s licensing division had suspended the guard’s licence, effective immediately, on the grounds that “the Private Security Individual Operator Licence application submitted contains false/forged and/or fraudulently obtained documentation”.
The letter also informs the guard that any attempt to renew the licence was likely to be refused on the grounds that the “incident indicates a discreditable behaviour” and the licensing division could not be satisfied they would meet probity requirements.
In order to get a security licence in Victoria, guards must generally undertake a recognised security course with a registered training organisation, and also have a reference from someone who has known them for at least 12 months and so can guarantee they are a “fit and proper person”.
In this case, some applicants were allegedly able to get around this requirement by paying a referee to vouch for them. It is understood that person, who sources believe has since fled the country, now forms part of the police investigation.
AIG Security did not respond to repeated requests for comment. However, a security industry insider said some of the guards used by AIG had no basic training.
“It’s become a joke really. You’ve got registered training organisations churning out graduates who can’t even use a radio, let alone defuse a dangerous situation.
“And a lot of the foreign blokes don’t have any English [language skills], which makes it hard for them to deal with crowds,” the source said.
Representatives for Marvel Stadium did not respond to phone calls or emails.
Farrah Tomazin is a senior journalist and investigative reporter for The Age, with interests in politics, social justice, and legal affairs.
Senior Crime Reporter