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Friday, 29 November 1985
Page: 2598

Senator McINTOSH —Has the attention of the Minister representing the Special Minister of State been drawn to comments made by the industrial officer of the Australian Federal Police Association, Mr Col Dorber, asserting that Perth Airport is wide open to a terrorist attack? Is it true, as Mr Dorber says, that the airport has been classified as grossly understaffed by the Australian Federal Police, with a severe lack of counter-terrorist equipment and nobody trained to deal with an attack?

Senator WALSH —Senator Gietzelt may have something to add to what I say on this because it is an aviation question as well as a question for the Special Minister of State. As far as SMOS is concerned, yes, I have seen the report. I noticed that it comes from the industrial officer of the Federal Police Association. I think that is probably a significant fact in that he says that there is a need for a vast increase in the number of Commonwealth police at airports. It is not unusual for union officials to say that there should be vast increases in the numbers of their members all over the place.

On the substance of the matter, the national anti-terrorist plan caters for the entire spectrum of foreseeable terrorist activities, including aircraft hijacks. The anti-hijack plan produced by the Department of Aviation deals with aircraft in airports. Senator Gietzelt may like to say something about that later. But the major responsibility for reacting to terrorist incidents at airports, should one arise, rests with the State police. The Federal police provide the coverage deemed necessary to fulfil a holding role until the State police arrive.

The question of airport staffing by the Federal police will be taken into account by the review of AFP resources which is either about to be finalised or has been finalised. It may be decided in the final analysis that this is a function which could be performed by another body. But the more specific question of airport security is, as I said, the responsibility of the Department of Aviation. Senator Gietzelt may have something to add, if that is in order, Mr Deputy President.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT —Senator Giet- zelt, do you wish to add to the answer?

Senator GIETZELT —Yes, Mr Deputy President. It was suggested that as this matter also came within the province of the Department of Aviation I might add some comments. My advice is that as a result of the recent incident to which Senator McIntosh referred, Australia's aviation security procedures have been re-examined and also tightened up. I inform Senator McIntosh that the Department of Aviation is responsible for the security standards and, to that extent, it liaises with the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation, as well as with the Australian Federal Police. I think it goes without saying that the Australian Government deplores acts of terrorism in all its manifestations. Whilst it is true that we have not had any hijackings of any major international significance as spectacular as those we have seen in recent times, nevertheless the Department of Aviation has kept this matter constantly under review. That has applied particularly since 1960, when strong domestic law was passed by the Parliament relating to an unlawful interference with aircraft. As a result of the Trans-World Airlines Pty Ltd incident, Australia's aviation security has been re-examined in respect of Athens Airport, where it appears that the terrorists' weapons were taken on board the Egypt Airlines flight. Qantas Airways Ltd, as a major user of Athens Airport, is having that matter very carefully re-examined to make sure that our security procedures will prevent any similar occurrence when Australia's major airlines use Athens Airport.