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Monday, 20 August 2018
Page: 7668

National Security

Dear Mrs Wicks

Thank you for your letter of 20 June 2018, regarding petition EN0571, which seeks arrangements to enable passengers to opt-out of a body scan and undergo an alternative method of security screening.

Under Australia's aviation security legislation, passengers at Australian airports are not able to select the method of screening to be applied, and when presenting at a screening point are taken to consent to all methods of screening other than a frisk search.

As body scanners have significant security benefits, the Australian Government has a no opt-out policy for body scanner screening. Body scanners are the most advanced passenger screening technology available, and are capable of detecting a range of sophisticated threats that other screening technologies cannot. The only alternative that offers an equivalent level of screening to a body scanner is an enhanced full body frisk search. This would involve a thorough frisk of the entire body, including sensitive areas, as well as the possible loosening and/or removing of some clothing. As this is very intrusive, the search is not part of Australia's aviation security arrangements. For these reasons, passengers who are selected for body scan cannot choose alternative screening methods.

Persons with medical or physical conditions that prevent them from undertaking a millimeter-wave body scan will be offered an alternative screening method suitable to their circumstances. However, in the absence of such a condition, and if a person refuses to undergo a body scan, they will be refused clearance and not allowed to pass through the screening point for 24 hours.

The Government understands that some travellers may have concerns regarding the potential health impacts of body scanners. The body scanners in use at Australian airports use non-ionising radio frequency energy in the millimetre-wave spectrum. Body scanners using ionising radiation (such as X-ray technology) are not permitted for use in aviation security screening in Australia.

The Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA), the Department of Health and the Therapeutic Goods Administration have all advised that there are no known health risks from undergoing a body scan. The United States of America Transportation Security Administration has stated that one body scan emits 10,000 times less energy than an average mobile phone call, which is significantly less than the maximum permissible exposure levels for the public set by ARPANSA. The exposure someone receives during a two second millimetre-wave body scan is similar to the exposure received as a result of someone else using their mobile phone several metres away.

More information on body scanner health and safety is available at the Department of Home Affairs' aviation security website Trave1SECURE at:

https://www.homeaffairs.gov.au/travelsecure/passenger-screening/body-scanners.

Thank you again for taking the time to write to me on this matter.

Yours sincerely

from the Minister for Law Enforcement and Cyber Security, Mr Taylor