I spent most of the week down in Canberra, where I attended the Safeguarding Australia Summit with Karen and a few other NICTA people. The summit consisted of a plenary stream, a NICTA stream, and a satellite technology stream. The last day of the summit was taken up by the Research Network for a Secure Australia (RNSA) Conference. A number of good speakers gave keynotes in the plenary sessions. Perhaps the most impressive talk was given by Deputy Assistant Commissioner Peter Clarke of the Metropolitan Police in the United Kingdom. His presentation covered a whole set of operations that the police carried out and are carrying out in relation to recent terrorist activities in the UK. For the most part, the keynote presentations avoided Left/Right political bias, but there were times, during the panel sessions, where political bias quite visibly crept in. One slightly uncomfortable moment arose when, during a panel session on “Homegrown Terrorism”, Ameer Ali, Chairman of the Muslim Community Reference Group, fielded a question from a Zionist lobby group about Hezbollah. However, during the same session, Federal Agent Frank Prendergast of the Australian Federal Police, gave what I thought was a very considered presentation on the role of the AFP in combatting terrorism within Australia, and the relationship of the AFP with the Australian mainstream Muslim community, who, for obvious reasons, are one of the community groups most directly affected by ongoing investigations into terrorism and so on.
The conference was quite different from what I’ve been used to in the past. The plenary stream was very interesting, but the technology streams were more or less a bunch of industry people trying to market their wares.