Call for new body to govern air security

June 04, 2005

A NEW body to govern police, Customs and ASIO at the nation's airports is being considered

 by Transport Minister John Anderson, who has conceded a lack of co-operation could be contributing to growing organised crime.

Mr Anderson yesterday said he was concerned by claims that federal authorities responsible for monitoring secure areas of the airport were not passing on vital intelligence about criminal networks.

Sydney Airport chief Max Moore-Wilton called for an airport body to be urgently set up, and for governments to "get their act together".

NSW Police Minister Carl Scully backed the plan, insisting the crime alleged in the leaked classified Customs report detailed in The Australian this week, occurred solely in areas governed by the commonwealth.

"There needs to be a co-ordinated approach to dealing with all issues relating to crime and security at Sydney airport, and indeed at all major airports in Australia and that clearly still doesn't happen," Mr Moore-Wilton said.


 

The federal Government has made counter-terrorism a priority at airports since the September 11 attacks and has given the Australian Protective Service little more than a terrorism first-response role.

Mr Anderson admitted last night more needed to be done to fight other forms of crime at Australian airports.

Airport security officials joined Mr Anderson and Mr Moore-Wilton in acknowledging that terrorism could no longer be treated in isolation from criminal issues.

 "The whole issue of law enforcement in airports I think is now open to question, Mr Moore-Wilton said.

"And I think the general public is now concerned that airports are not as safe as they should be."

The comments follow four days of embarrassment from the secret Customs report alleging baggage handlers, airport security screeners and other airport workers with secure passes, were involved in organised crime.

Mr Anderson strongly defended his record on aviation security and his claim to federal Parliament that the concerns raised in the Customs report had largely been addressed.

He also said he had acted quickly on a letter written two weeks ago by Mr Moore-Wilton alerting him to the need for more co-ordination.

"As soon as that was received it was passed to the Prime Minister."

He said another crackdown was needed on issuing secure airside passes and said ASIO found the need to get access to five different state and federal databases before issuing a pass "frustrating".

Mr Anderson said the NSW Government had removed state police from the airport and its offer to return them at $80 each an hour was "ludicrous".

He called on NSW to urgently reopen the airport police station it closed last year.

Mr Scully dismissed the suggestion, insisting airports were clearly a federal responsibility.

He said no airport worker should have a serious criminal conviction. And he called for law changes to ensure airport workers were banned from associating with any known criminal and for their bags to be checked entering and leaving work.

After announcing another baggage handler had been sacked yesterday, Qantas chief executive officer Geoff Dixon called on the state Government to commit to a permanent police station at Sydney Airport. "Of the 100 major airports in the world, only three do not have a permanent, uniformed police presence dedicated to community policing - Brisbane, Sydney and Mumbai," Mr Dixon said.    from this link