Three peak industry bodies have called on the small business community to accept its role as a key part of Australia’s national security.

Kate Carnell from Australian Chamber of Commerce & Industry (ACCI), Innes Willox from the AI Group and Peter Strong from Council of Small Business Organisations of Australia (COSBOA) have highlighted the special position that small business people have in their communities, when it comes to gathering information to help inform our law enforcement and security organisations.

Small business people are found in every community in Australia whether that be urban, regional or remote. Small business people are also heavily represented in the online business community.

Small business people are inherently aware of what is happening in and around their businesses; by their very nature they will know when something is amiss or not quite right.

We know that small business people do not have time to become busy body vigilantes but we also know they are vigilant for the safety and security of their businesses and employees.

What we ask is that business people make a call to the relevant authorities if they have a concern. The authorities are professional and will deal with the information as necessary.

In this current global conflict, information is vital for security organisations and anything odd should be reported.

National Security Hotline 1800 1234 00


Small Business People and the Nation’s Security
Joint Statement

The events in Paris and indeed too many events over the last twelve months highlight a need for people to be aware of what is happening around them and to report anything odd or suspicious. Small business people have a key role in our national security.

This current conflict is one that has no frontlines and makes the gathering and assessment of relevant information more important for our law enforcement and security organisations. Information will inform further information and help create a picture of where any threat might be, and who might be involved in that threat.

There are over 2 million small business people in Australia. We are truck drivers, manufacturers, retailers, hairdressers, farmers, real estate agents, financial advisers, newsagents, café and restaurant owners, wholesalers, contractors, builders, fitness advisers, health experts, panel beaters, tradespeople and the like. We cover nearly all aspects of life in our society and importantly, we are found in all communities – urban, regional and remote as well as in the fast developing online business community.

The fact is that business people have always been part of the security awareness of our communities. Normally this is keeping an eye out for potential thieves, felons or working with authorities and fellow business operators to identify fire traps, safety problems or just being there when needed. Often a local small business, perhaps a newsagency, cafe or a pub, is a place people go to for news and to share news during local and national crises.

We are however, like most other Australians, often reluctant to "dob on" people when we have no real evidence; or perhaps we just don't think it is right to contact authorities because that is not the Australian way. Sadly times have changed, our nation is at the highest level of security alert since the days of the World Wars. All of us, not just small business people, have to get over our reluctance, make that necessary phone call to the security line and then leave it to the authorities, they will do what is best.

 That doesn't make us vigilantes, business people don't have time to be annoying busy bodies, but we can make a phone call.

By the nature of business, when we are in or near our business premises our awareness is naturally enhanced. Any recent change in local conditions will be noticed and any strange person or event will be watched with suspicion until proven good. When operating our businesses we will also note any odd business transaction, this is particularly important for, say, small business people in the financial sector where money laundering is a concern for security agencies and where even accessing loans for strange activities can shed a light on unlawful behaviour. Banks can monitor activities through technology and reports but the small business person can also see the people involved and they will know when something is odd, something that a financial report might not highlight.

We know stock and station agents will also note and report any odd purchases of agricultural chemicals. This can apply equally to many industries with access to chemicals including: hairdressing; panel beating and auto repairs; most trades such as painting; retailing; cleaning; transport and many others.

As the heads of our organisations we know that alarming people is counter-productive. We do however agree that a message needs to be sent to all small business people – if you see something odd or someone acting suspiciously or something that just doesn’t feel right, then don’t be alarmed but do contact the authorities and let them know your concerns. The authorities will deal with the issue in a professional manner.

In the end, we know that small business people are not just the backbone of the economy but are also integral to our culture, our social cohesion, our wellbeing, our health and our security, whether that be national or local security, we see what is happening and if necessary will report our concerns. So, yes, we can and should report suspicious behaviour to the right authorities.

National Security Hotline 1800 1234 00