Security risk stays secret

It is unknown at this stage whether Merimbula Airport will be one of the 64 regional airports required to install the new security measures mentioned in Treasurer Scott Morrison’s budget speech.

Australia has more than 64 regional airports but the Department of Home Affairs will not say which ones will be affected by the new security measures.

Airports will be assessed as to the need for security, taking into account the routes and passenger numbers. Basically it will be a risk rating system and so the department does not want to highlight those they consider to be of lowest risk, as by doing so will essentially make them high risk.

The amount of security introduced as various regional airports is likely to be of variable. There may be a lot, some, minor measures or no additional measures.

The Department of Home Affairs said it will contact airports affected but would not say over what time period.

A spokesperson for the Department of Home Affairs said that the Australian government’s first priority was, and always would be, to keep Australians safe and secure.

“Upgrading screening technology is one of the most effective changes we can make to address the increasing sophistication of explosives and other threats,” the spokesperson said.

“Changes will include the use of advanced X-ray equipment with sophisticated capability to detect explosives and other threats. Body scanners will also replace walk-through metal detectors at almost all security screened airports.

“Body scanners have been in use at international airports for some years. They are highly effective and a proven technology; their detection capability far outstrips that of existing walk through metal detectors.

“For obvious reasons, the government does not discuss the exact security measures at each airport.

“The new requirements may see an increase in the time taken to undergo security screening. This is a small trade-off to ensure that air travel and the aviation sector remain safe and secure,” the spokesperson said.

The plans for Merimbula Airport’s terminal upgrade include space for passenger screening and a DA is expected to be lodged soon.

The move to increased screening is understood to be in response to last year's alleged meat-grinder bomb plot at Sydney Airport.

A statement from Regional Express (Rex) last August said the response to terrorist threats must be balanced.

“For example, smaller regional aircraft carry fewer passengers than most buses and it would be senseless to enforce screening on the former while leaving 'vulnerable' the tens of thousands of buses plying the streets each day,” the airline company said in its statement.