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Airport staff to face extra ID checks, passengers under more scrutiny after terror alert lifted

written by australianaviation.com.au | September 18, 2014
The heightened terrorism threat level will necessitate increased scrutiny of passengers.
The heightened terrorism threat level will necessitate increased scrutiny of passengers.

The federal government’s move to lift the terror alert level to high will result in a bolstered presence from law enforcement agencies at airports and may cause longer wait times for travellers and additional security checks for staff, Australia’s security bodies say.

Airports and airlines, however, have not been asked to do anything extra as a result of the national terrorism public alert level being lifted from medium to high on September 12.

“The heightened threat level will necessitate an increased scrutiny of passengers, crew and/or goods at entry and exit control points having regard to available intelligence,” an Australian Customs and Border Protection Service (ACBPS) spokesperson said in an emailed statement to Australian Aviation.

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“ACBPS will take the steps necessary at our borders to protect our national security. At times, this will mean that national security takes priority over the convenience of the travelling public.”

ACBPS started adding about 80 Border Force officers as part of a Counter-Terrorism Unit at airports across Australia from August 22, before the national terrorism public alert level was raised to high. The unit’s role was to help ACBPS staff deal with inbound and outbound national security threats, and intervene in suspicious circumstances or intercept persons of national security interest in customs controlled areas, the agency said.

The Office of Transport Security, which is part of the Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development, said Australia’s aviation community had a strong security focus and aircraft and airport operators already had “robust security measures” in place.

Those included passenger and luggage screening, background checks, access controls to sensitive areas and face-to-ID checks.

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Moreover, there was closed-circuit television monitoring at airports and a rigorous audit and compliance regime for security measures, among other things.

“At this time, the Australian Government is not proposing to require airport or airline operators to implement any additional security measures,” the Office of Transport Security said in an emailed statement.

However, the OTS said industry participants had been asked to “reinvigorate” security awareness around their facilities, increase vigilance around unattended and suspicious items, review active shooter plans and emergency management programs and increase security signage and communication at the airport. Staff should also expect an increased frequency of “face-to-photo identification checks for staff working in secure areas of the airports”, the OTS said.

The OTS said the Australian Federal Police was increasing patrols at major airports.

“The Department will continue to work with partner agencies and the aviation industry to assess the situation,” the OTS said.

“We encourage industry participants to remain vigilant and to continue to implement current measures and obligations.”

ACPBS said the use of automated departure eGates, to be rolled out at Australia’s eight major international airports from the middle of 2015, would also aid in identifying suspicious people.

“Implementation of eGates allows ACBPS officers to focus their attention on travellers who pose a risk to Australia, while legitimate, law-abiding travellers will be facilitated more efficiently with less manual intervention,” the ACPBS statement said.

“eGates use facial biometric technology to confirm the identity of the traveller and will also authenticate travel documents.

“The Government is aiming to provide legitimate, law abiding travellers with an experience that is efficient, seamless, low-touch and high-tech. This technology will both improve the departures experience for legitimate travellers and improve border security outcomes.”

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9 Comments

  • Anonymous

    says:

    Lets look at the facts. If the government didn’t intervene in Iraq last week, a battle that’s not their battle to fight, then this wouldn’t happen. All that’s achieved is painting a giant target on Australia’s forehead.

  • Adrian

    says:

    Thought the following extract from the Recommended Security Guidelines for Airport Planning, Design and Construction Revised June 15,2006 U.S. Department of Homeland Security issued for American airports might be of interest.
    Configuration of Domestic Baggage Claim Areas
    The current designs of the claim areas for baggage arriving on domestic flights include vulnerabilities
    that should be hardened in new designs. Such features as claim areas accessible from the street, bags
    stored on floors, and conveyor belts that loop back through curtains into the SIDA, should be
    eliminated or subjected to heightened surveillance and monitoring.
    In contrast, claim areas for baggage arriving on international flights are completely within the airports’
    secure areas where no unscreened persons or bags enter. They are not accessible from the street.
    Arriving passengers move from the aircraft to the claim areas without leaving the sterile area, claim
    their bags, and then exit to the public area to leave the terminal. International baggage claim is much
    less susceptible to unwanted contact or access.

    Australian Terminals have the above vulnerabilities and are easily designed out by placing domestic baggage reclaim air side, unfortunately the new T4 Terminal at Melbourne being built does not. When it comes to security, simple things do matter as much as all the techy bits.

  • Raymond

    says:

    Very interesting point Adrian, thanks. One would have thought that at least new terminals (Melbourne’s T4 for example) would be built to this spec.

  • bill

    says:

    Ok does that mean they will open the observation deck at Tullamarine again , I just love watching planes and I no most security people just don’t get that .

  • Adrian

    says:

    Something else interesting, I wrote a letter to Melbourne Airport on the 31 August regarding T4 and got no reply.
    So I wrote a letter to Aviation Security Branch, Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development and got no reply.

  • Adrian

    says:

    Bill
    Not likely to reopen observation deck due to changes to the International Terminal Building obstructing the view (probably the real reason for closing the observation deck).
    There is a viewing area corner of Sunbury Road and Oaklands Road.
    There is a car park in Operations Road just before Golf Drive and my personal preference is the Operations Road Spotters car park for aircraft taking off on southerlies.
    Hope this helps

  • John

    says:

    Wouldn’t you just avoid the 8 Airports with Egate and go out a small international airport if you were trying to avoid detection ?

  • John Harrison

    says:

    Why aren’t Australian airports for domestic departures using the all over body scan system they use on international departures. I personally am already on higher security check’s due to have metal knee replacement, every time I travel with in Australia domestic, I have to jump through hoops to keep the staff happy at security check points. Believe me its no fun, but part of life in the modern world I guess.

  • Adrian

    says:

    And why the difference regarding liquids and gels between international and domestic?

    Perhaps all the this security in the news is more about good video for media in order to push through policy rather than a good security environment.

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