Full-body scans for domestic airports in major security overhaul
4 May 2018
Full-body x-ray scanners will be installed at domestic airport screening points under a major overhaul of Australia’s airport security protocols to be announced next week, which could also include restricting liquids and other items in carry-on baggage.
The federal government will allocate money in Tuesday’s budget to help regional airports pay for the massive upgrades to passenger and baggage security checks, Fairfax Media can reveal.
Fairfax Media can also reveal Peter Dutton’s new Department of Home Affairs super ministry was prompted to update Australia’s existing airport security infrastructure by last year’s alleged meat-grinder bomb plot at Sydney Airport, which law enforcement officials have described as one of the most sophisticated terror plots ever hatched on Australian soil.
The security upgrade will significantly change how passengers pass through the country’s airports.
Brothers Khaled and Mahmoud Khayat have been charged with planning to smuggle an improvised explosive device hidden inside a meat grinder onto an Etihad Airways flight from Sydney to Abu Dhabi on July 15.
Mr Dutton’s office would not answer questions about the new rules on Friday. But Fairfax Media has confirmed several key details of the overhaul, which is understood to bring Australia in line with standards in place in the European Union.
For passenger screening, the government will mandate the installation of full-body computed tomography (CT) scanners at the entry to domestic terminals, which currently use only metal detector gates.
The technology has been controversial because of privacy concerns, with critics describing them as a “digital strip-search”.
Full body scanners are currently used at international screening points.
However the machines already operating in Australia are configured to produce only a generic stick figure image which highlights areas of the passenger’s body that require investigation by security staff, rather than an image of the passenger’s body.
The overhaul’s second major element to is to replace standard luggage x-rays with more detailed CT scanners for carry-on and checked luggage for both domestic and international services.
The government has also given serious consideration to restricting liquids, aerosol cans and gels on domestic services. These items are currently only restricted on international flights.
The Office of Transport Security, which now sits within Mr Dutton’s Home Affairs office, has also considered putting restrictions on powders — such as baby formula — on both domestic and international services, several sources said.
The government has considered restricting liquids on domestic flights.
Frequent flyers could welcome the upgrade to CT luggage scanners, with some models used in Europe allowing passengers to keep laptops and liquids inside their hand luggage as they pass through security.
CT scanners for checked luggage are significantly larger and heavier than the luggage x-rays currently in use, and installing them will be a major infrastructure project.
While the government will help regional airports cover the costs, Australia’s major airports will be expected to pay for the multi-million dollar upgrade themselves, it is understood.
Sydney Airport and Melbourne Airport, the Australian Airports Association, and Australia’s two largest airlines, Qantas and Virgin Australia, all declined to comment on the impending overhaul.