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Aviation security vulnerable amid financial c -

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Aviation security vulnerable amid financial crisis

The World Today - Friday, 13 March , 2009 12:38:00

Reporter: Simon Lauder

TANYA NOLAN: A former head of security at Qantas is warning that aviation security could be a
victim of cost cutting as airlines feel the pinch of the global financial crisis.

The comments were made at an aviation conference in Melbourne this week and an industry consultant
says there's already evidence of it.

The Federal Government is considering a review of Australia's aviation security laws but security
managers at Australia's major airlines want more frequent background checks for airport workers.

From Melbourne, Simon Lauder reports.

SIMON LAUDER: With the arrest of a teenage boy and his brother at Cairns airport this week,
aviation security is once again in the spotlight. The 14-year-old was allegedly found with guns,
ammunition and knives he'd taken with him on a flight from Perth.

Now a summit on Asia Pacific airport and aviation security has heard a warning about what happens
when airlines come under financial pressure.

Geoff Askew was the manager of security at Qantas for 17 years. Mr Askew says when the times are
tough, airlines pressure airport operators to reduce security costs.

GEOFF ASKEW: Reduce security audits, inspections and training programs. Screening authorities are
asked to review the number of screeners on duty. Of course if this proposition is not properly
thought through it will only add pressure to an already stressful environment resulting in longer
lines, additional facilitation problems, not to mention the possibility of a failing in the
security outcomes.

SIMON LAUDER: Philip Baum is in the business of providing security training for airlines. He's seen
how it works from the inside. He says there's already evidence security measures are being reduced
at some airports.

PHILIP BAUM: Absolutely. I think we already see a reduction in the number of audits because audits
require people to travel, travel requires people to spend money. You only have to look at a lot of
the checkpoints around the globe where there are some checkpoints that are unmanned and long, long
queues of people waiting to go through other checkpoints.

I am concerned about the queues at checkpoints anyway because I think they present a terrorist with
a new target.

The airport security checkpoint of now, 2009 looks pretty much the same as in the 1960s. It is
still an archway metal detector which only detects metal.

We need to be much more intelligent. We need common sense security.

SIMON LAUDER: Under Australian law, airport staff including baggage handlers and air crew have to
submit to background checks every two years. That's just one of the rules addressed by a recent
review of Australia's aviation security laws.

The manager of security with the Qantas Group, Paul Jones, says airport staff should have to
undergo background checks more often, and they should also have to declare when they're charged
with a criminal offence.

PAUL JONES: Well there is a requirement within the regulations that people report when they are
convicted of a criminal offence and those with experience in law enforcement know that that could
take a very long time in some instances.

Should we know about those instances when people are charged? My view is yes we should.

SIMON LAUDER: The Security Manager at the Virgin Group Gary Bowden agrees that airport staff should
be scrutinised more frequently.

GARY BOWDEN: Things can change quickly and when you are only checking a person's background every
two years, a lot can happen in two years.

SIMON LAUDER: Mr Bowden also complains it's too difficult to check on ex-pats who've returned to
work in Australia after some years working overseas.

GARY BOWDEN: We are getting at the moment into Australia, a lot of ex-pats returning back to
Australia seeking employment back into this country as pilots, cabin crew and ground crew. And once
they leave the countries that they are based in, it is very, very difficult for them to get police
background or criminal history checks to supply to us and it's extremely difficult for us to get
them.

SIMON LAUDER: Paul Jones from Qantas also confirms that security costs are often under scrutiny at
the airline. But he says obligations are taken seriously.

PAUL JONES: But often the question that comes from that level of those who hold the purse strings
are, you know, do I need to do this? Why do we have to do it? Show me where we are required or we
have to comply with existing regulation.

It's a little bit of a difficulty, a bit of quandary in some respects that whilst we would like to
reduce where it's unnecessary regulation, in some respects it's also a tool for us to get done some
of the things that we need to because there is very strict compliance.

SIMON LAUDER: A spokesman for the Federal Transport Minister Anthony Albanese says the Minister has
just received the report on security screening at Australia's airports and no date has been set for
the Government to respond to the review.

TANYA NOLAN: Simon Lauder reporting.