News National Viability of regional and rural airports under threat amid costly counter-terrorism measures

Viability of regional and rural airports under threat amid costly counter-terrorism measures

regional airports
Regional airports have been identified as a 'weak link' in security. Photo: AAP
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Expensive full-body and baggage screening are expected to be included in soon-to-be announced counter-terrorism measures instituted at regional and rural airports across Australia.

In response to a terrorism plot to smuggle a bomb aboard a flight at Sydney Airport earlier this year the federal government is set to reveal major security upgrades in January.

Aviation security consultant Roger Henning told The New Daily that scanning technology might be “overkill” at some regional airports and the technology must be treated as a tool, rather than a solution to fight aviation terrorism.

The expected upgrades come amid concerns some airports may not survive financially, especially in remote locations.

He said small rural and bigger regional airports were more vulnerable than capital city airports to terrorism, noting that “if you’re generous” only 300 people out of the 300,000 people who work in Australian airports had security-awareness training.

One of the major recommendations in the Senate inquiry into airport and aviation safety in 2016 was to ensure security awareness training to all airport staff.

“They haven’t got a clue what to do if someone who is disturbed or … wants to have five minutes of fame or wants to create havoc turns up at the airport,” Mr Henning said.

The ABC reported Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton is expected to announce the changes in January, as transport safety issues are absorbed into his new and wide-reaching home affairs portfolio.

Opposition infrastructure and transport spokesman Anthony Albanese has warned the cost of the new security regulations could be passed onto owners and operators of regional airlines, threatening the viability of services.

“I’d be concerned about a number of regional airports that operate at very low margins now, that are run by the local margins now, that are run by the local governments,’ Mr Albanese said.

Mr Henning told The New Daily baggage and passenger screening at smaller rural and regional airports had brought them to their knees.

“That impost has brought them to near insolvency and … failed to involve anyone being trained,” Mr Henning said.

“You can still put an IED – a bomb – on a flight from a regional or rural airport because air freight is not scanned,” Mr Henning said.

“If you’re going to rely on scanning, do it properly.”

Newly appointed Home Affairs Minister Mr Dutton said in a statement the new portfolio was an opportunity to leverage the very best of Australia’s world-class law enforcement and operational agencies.

“The scale and complexity of our challenges are increasing; exacerbated by the evolution of technology and the sophistication with which criminals and terrorists operate,” the statement said.

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