The Federal Government is tightening security at Australia’s major and regional airports. Picture: Brook Mitchell/Getty Images
The Federal Government is tightening security at Australia’s major and regional airports. Picture: Brook Mitchell/Getty Images

‘Dangerous times’: Big changes coming to airports

"DANGEROUS times" require police to be given special new powers to check passengers' ID at airports and eject them if necessary, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has warned.

The prime minister is spruiking security measures outlined in last week's Budget, including millions of dollars set aside for full-body scanners and advanced X-ray equipment at major and regional airports across Australia.

The government has also proposed new laws that will allow Australian Federal Police officers to carry out identity checks at airports and, if necessary, eject people from the premises.

Mr Turnbull acknowledged it was a "big step" but was necessary because of "dangerous times".

"You've got to keep people safe," Mr Turnbull said on Melbourne's 3AW radio on Tuesday.

"You don't have to [carry ID], there's no law that requires you to but it's hard to think of anyone that wouldn't have some ID and wouldn't be able to say a bit about themselves.

Australian Federal Police will have the power to check passengers’ ID and eject them from the premises. Picture: Brook Mitchell/Getty Images
Australian Federal Police will have the power to check passengers’ ID and eject them from the premises. Picture: Brook Mitchell/Getty Images

"The police are being trained to observe behaviour. They place very close attention to people who are looking anxious or creating a suspicious environment."

Mr Turnbull referred to "brutal" terrorist attacks in Indonesia's second largest city, Surabaya, to highlight the threat posed by terrorists.

"It reminds us of the need to be ever vigilant," Mr Turnbull told reporters in Melbourne.

"There is no place for 'set and forget' in defending Australians."

The boost to airport security outlined in last week's Budget appeared to have been triggered by an alleged plot to bring down an Etihad A380 from Sydney in July last year.

Police allege the foiled plot involved detonating a bomb hidden inside hand luggage on the July 15 flight, bound for Abu Dhabi, with 400 people on board.

Two men have pleaded not guilty to two counts of acting in preparation for, or planning, a terrorist attack.

An alleged plot to bring down an Etihad A380 from Sydney in July 2017 prompted a review of Australia’s airport security measures.
An alleged plot to bring down an Etihad A380 from Sydney in July 2017 prompted a review of Australia’s airport security measures.


Had the plot gone ahead as planned, it would have been Australia's most catastrophic terror attack, and the world's biggest airline disaster in three decades, outstripping the 239 victims who died on MH370 in 2014.

As the government committed $300 million to aviation security changes in last week's Budget, Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton described the alleged terror attack as unprecedented and sophisticated.

"These terrorist plots showed a very real and disturbing danger," Mr Dutton said.

"The government and industry responded immediately to disrupt and contain the threat, increasing law enforcement and strengthening security screening."

WHAT WAS IN THE BUDGET FOR AIRPORT SECURITY

* Body scanners and advanced X-ray equipment will be rolled out across Australia's major and regional airports

* More than 140 counter-terrorism officers will be deployed at airports, with another 50 officers providing them with tactical intelligence and support

* Proposed new laws will allow federal police officers to conduct identity checks at airports and order people to leave the premises

* Inbound air cargo and international mail will be subjected to stricter screening as part of a $122 million equipment upgrade

* Airport screening staff will face stricter training and security checks.


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