The Australian security continuum: National and corporate security gaps from a surveillance language perspective

Document Type

Book Chapter



Place of Publication

Cham, Switzerland


Lippert, R.K., Walby, K., Warren, I., Palmer, D.


School of Science




Originally published as: Brooks, D., Corkill, J., & Coole, M. (2016). The Australian security continuum: National and corporate security gaps from a surveillance language perspective. In R. K. Lippert., K. Walby., I. Warren., & D. Palmer (Eds.), National Security, Surveillance and Terror: Canada and Australia in Comparative Perspective (pp. 133-154). Cham, Switzerland: Springer. Book available here.


Surveillance is undertaken for a multitude of reasons, often in the pursuit of security. However, security is a diverse term that is multidimensional and practiced across a broad spectrum by many entities and actors. Consequently, surveillance as a concept and in the name of security has diverse meanings, applications, techniques and cultural actors (see also Muller as well as Pratt, this volume). Today, the contemporary security domain encompasses many contexts, such as traditional security with concerns towards safeguarding sovereignty and territorial integrity in the pursuit of national interests, framed as national security, to nontraditional security concerns, stemming from environmental and human security down to corporate security (see Walby, Lippert and Gacek, this volume) and private security functionalities, to name a few.

Such diversity makes it difficult to provide a single encompassing definition for these many contexts, as definition is dependent on applied context and perspective (Bourne 2014, 1; Brooks and Corkill 2014). For example, Zedner (2009) uses the term ‘layers of meaning’ (26) to articulate the concept of security and integrate its contexts towards a unified whole as a pursuit. However, it is suggested that the concept of security within applied context is not truly understood or has been inadequately considered across the broad security spectrum.

The public discourse on security in the post-9/11 world suggests a dangerous and fractured security environment, one dominated by extreme threats from terrorists and organised criminal syndicates. Politicians and public servants actively preach a mantra of security singularity in the national interest, and at the cost of an open and frank discourse on the security strengths and weaknesses of a nation. Perhaps, more important is the discussion concerning the balance of personal freedoms against appropriate security measures, such as surveillance. Furthermore, the exposure of national intelligence secrets and cover-ups by WikiLeaks and the more recent disclosures by Snowden have reinforced the perception of the security singularity. Whereas the disappearance of commercial flight MH370 demonstrates clearly that security singularity is a myth, rather than a reality.

Has modern security evolved into a singular, fully integrated continuum or is it in fact a continuum punctuated by a variety of gaps? This chapter presents the concept of surveillance as embedded in the Australian security continuum (also see Walsh, this volume; Jones, this volume) and its many agencies and actors, arguing that there are still challenging gaps in surveillance capabilities impeding the security singularity. These gaps are argued to stem from a cultural disconnection across surveillance actors’ discourse, impeding functional efficacy. To support such a position, this chapter identifies security areas and draws on variations in the language of surveillance to highlight its cultural disconnection across discourses and ultimately states of security. We use the example of closed-circuit television (CCTV) technology to illustrate our argument. The language of surveillance provides the opportunity to highlight the changing views, needs and applications amongst the many security continuum practice areas and their actors in surveillance discourse.