ACT News


Going ballistic on top security

From high-tech glass and fire-proof doors to old-fashioned guards, these experts have got you covered.

IT IS not hard to guess Trevor Leisk's clientele. Although the top-class locksmith with the Essex accent won't reveal his customers, it is important to note he works in a town of spies, diplomats, department heads and politicians. What he will say is that he is good at his job. A perfectionist, in fact.

''If anyone broke into my house, it would be a personal slight against me,'' says the British-born 50-year-old adopted by Canberra two decades ago.

Leisk is standing in his Mitchell office showing off a serious-looking door. Not found in the average residential home, this door costs $15,000 to $20,000. The top-of-the-range version comes with fire-proof and ballistic glass.

He tells me a house in upmarket O'Malley has installed one of these recently by putting the door in first and building the home around it.

''Canberra is the best place to have the business,'' Leisk says. ''It's small in comparison to the other cities but a very big player in the security market. It would have been a hell of a lot more difficult in another city. The type of people we deal with on a regular basis are here.''

Leisk started his career with a large company, stripping the insides of English banks to install anti-bandit screens and ballistic glass.


After moving to Australia, he soon began his own business in the ACT 24 years ago. Since then he has invented and patented many of his own locks, hundreds of which are installed in places such as Parliament House.

The British government even contracted him to invent a new lock following the 2005 London bombings.

People around the world were shocked to see a bomb made from hydrogen peroxide had peeled the top off of an iconic London bus like the lid of a tin can and killed many of its passengers. Following the attacks, locks made by Leisk were used throughout Britain on canisters carrying the chemical to track the popular hair bleach and explosives ingredient.

''I'm very pernickety when it comes to the finish of the work,'' Leisk says.

Canberra is a quiet place in security terms, punctuated by the odd protester who takes things too far. Men rampaged through the Syrian embassy in Canberra in February, for example, but no one was hurt.

However, Canberra is a place that has to use the best material to prepare for the worst eventuality. And this includes the widespread use of bullet and bomb-proof glass.

One seller of the bullet-proof variety says the best material sold to Canberra-based embassies in the past five years is at least 46 millimetres thick - enough to stop bullets from a high-powered rifle fired from just three metres away.

Costing $5000 to $6000 a square metre, it did not shatter from the force of a truck bomb 50 metres away when tested at the Woomera Rocket Range, according to Andrew Briggs, a sales manager with Sealeck Group, which specialises in top-of-the range doors and windows.

The tests were done in the aftermath of the 2004 bombing of the Australian embassy in Jakarta.

Some of the ''thinner'' glass here is 29 millimetres thick, all the protection you need from a Magnum handgun.

When it comes to security glass, thicker is generally better, but one Melbourne company has cashed in by adding less than a millimetre of width to windows.

George Mariotto's business installs blast-proof film.

This film covers about 22,000 square metres of windows at Canberra Airport - an invisible defensive line just two-tenths of a millimetre thick that performs a vital role in the efforts to halt potential terrorists.

Costing up to $500 a square metre, the film reduces a bomb's biggest killer - flying glass that can travel up to four kilometres - by holding the glass together.

Mr Mariotto, who is general manager of MEP Films, says some versions of film are made to stop phone and computer hackers from outside the building by blocking telephone signals.

His business is heavily influenced by international events.

''You have a bomb go off and you get five inquiries,'' he says.

So with slivers of film, thick windows, security cameras, alarms and impenetrable locks and doors, what has happened to good old security manpower?

Has the advancement of technology and innovation hurt firms supplying security guards?

Tony Arrouk, managing director of Australian Security Patrol, says business is tough, partly because customers are using these other options.

Mr Arrouk is steadfast in his belief that guards stationed at a site cannot be fully replaced.

He says he has pulled his patrol cars off the road, simply because the criminals have left the scene by the time alarms and other monitors have been activated.

In his opinion, brainpower will never defeat the abilities of manpower.

It is perhaps one reason the most secure embassies - that of Israel and the US - have their own security workers as well as Australian Federal Police positioned nearby.

Many of these guards, however, are stationed in little buildings or houses protected by glass, locks and doors not found in the usual suburban home.