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Tuesday, 2 December 2003
Page: 23427

Mr SIDEBOTTOM (2:47 PM) —My question is to the Deputy Prime Minister. Is the Deputy Prime Minister aware of the independent review of regional airports in New South Wales by the Southern Cross group, which concluded that our regional airports were a launching pad for terrorism because, amongst other things, commercial passenger aircraft were left unguarded overnight, commercial vehicles were not being checked and airports had no terminal guards? Deputy Prime Minister, given that it has now been more than two years since 11 September, why hasn't the government secured Australia's regional airports?

Mr ANDERSON (Minister for Transport and Regional Services) —I thank the honourable member for his question. I am of course aware of those media reports in relation to the review of regional aviation security by the Southern Cross group. I note that they asked neither the government nor my department nor me for any input. I would also think that it is very important to put before this House the fact that the country's intelligence agencies have undertaken a major review of our aviation safety arrangements in this country. They have certainly not indicated that there is any information available to them which would indicate that the very concerning claims made in that report are to be vindicated or acted upon at this stage.

The first point that I would make is that there is no distinction between regional and non-regional airports; rather it is between what we call `categorised' and `non-categorised' airports. It is a question of the nature of the types of airports, the types of aircraft that move through them and the security risk that is assessed to pertain to those airports and those aircraft as ascertained—and I think I can say this on the basis that we enjoy bipartisan respect—by Australia's respected intelligence agencies. I can also inform the House that in response to the major overview of our security arrangements in relation to aviation, which was completed a little while ago by our intelligence agencies, the government has formulated a further set of responses in addition to those which were announced last year and which are being implemented as we speak. I will be making a full and detailed explanation of those over the next few days.