News ‘Dangerous times’: Turnbull defends new powers for airport police

‘Dangerous times’: Turnbull defends new powers for airport police

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Security at Australian airports will be boosted following the federal budget. Photo: AAP
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Malcolm Turnbull has justified giving new powers to allow police to demand IDs at airports as warranted in “dangerous times”.

The Prime Minister spruiked the new security measures, announced in the budget, on Tuesday, which included millions for full body scanners and advanced X-ray equipment to be rolled out across major and regional airports.

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

Mr Turnbull seized on recent “brutal” terrorist attacks in Indonesia’s second largest city, Surabaya, to highlight the threat posed by terrorists in the region.

“It reminds us of the need to be ever vigilant,” he told reporters in Melbourne.

“There is no place for ‘set and forget’ in defending Australians.”

Under current laws, police can only ask for proof of identity if they suspect a person has or will commit a serious offence.

The Prime Minister acknowledged the new powers were a “big step”.

Asked why they were needed, he told 3AW: “Dangerous times.”

“You’ve got to keep people safe,” he said.

“There was a couple of people that came very close to blowing up an A380 with the best part of 400 people on it the other day.”

Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton said it was an “absurdity” that police currently needed a reason to ask for IDs.

“We’re addressing an anomaly and deficiency in the law at the moment,” he told reporters.

Mr Dutton said he was worried about gels, liquids and explosive devices being taken onto aircraft.

“This is the most comprehensive investment in aviation security in decades,” he said.

Labor will wait for a briefing on the security changes before taking a position, Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said.

“We approach this in a constructive mindset,” he told reporters in Brisbane.

But Mr Shorten expressed concerns the government may have underfunded the security promise and it will put the viability of some regional airports under stress particularly in Queensland and Western Australia.

In the budget for airport security:

  • Body scanners and advanced X-ray equipment to be rolled out across Australia’s major and regional airports
  • More than 140 counter-terrorism officers to be deployed at airports, with another 50 officers providing 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

– with AAP

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