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Monday, 2 June 2003
Page: 15583

Mr WINDSOR (2:17 PM) —My question is to the Prime Minister. Today I flew from Tamworth to Sydney in a 36-seat Dash 8 aircraft, with one flight attendant to ensure the safety of passengers, without going through any security screening. I then flew from Sydney to Canberra in a security-screened, 36-seat Dash 8 aircraft. Prime Minister, given the heightened terrorist alert, as instanced by the increased security of Parliament House and other buildings, and numerous statements of yours, will the government use any of its increased national defence budget to boost security at regional airports, so that city and country travellers have equity of safety—regardless of where their journey commences—or will it be left as an unaffordable dilemma for local government airport owners?

The SPEAKER —Before I recognise the Prime Minister, in order to be consistent I point out to the member for New England that the use of the term `yours' is not appropriate.

Mr HOWARD (Prime Minister) —I will answer the honourable member's question in two parts. As for Tamworth, I am informed by the Deputy Prime Minister that Tamworth does have a security plan and that it is based on a risk assessment. I am quite sure that, if the honourable member wants some more information about that, it will be provided by the Deputy Prime Minister.

Speaking more generally, there is of course no limit to the amount of money that you could spend on airport security in this country—no limit at all. You could spend an unlimited amount. I do think it is important, particularly in the wake of the incident last week, that the country keep a sense of proportion. We have very safe airlines in Australia. This is the first major incident of this kind in more than 20 years. There is no suggestion that this incident was in any way related to an act of terrorism. The Deputy Prime Minister has already pointed out that the passenger who has allegedly offended boarded the aircraft in Melbourne, which is an airport which is subject to a very high level of security checks.

I think we have to have a sense of balance and a sense of proportion. We are all concerned about security, we are all concerned about the dangers, but I suggest to the honourable member—and to all honourable members—that it could well be that the causes of this particular attack are causes that could have emanated whether or not we lived in an environment of a heightened threat of terrorism.

Opposition members interjecting

Mr HOWARD —I am simply saying that, if the honourable member is asking for a reaffirmation of a commitment from this government to putting the maximum resources towards airport security, I give him that reaffirmation. If the honourable member is asking for the expenditure of such an amount of money as would cover all conceivable risks, however remote, no government could give that undertaking, and I do not intend to try to do so.