The attempted terrorist attack aboard a US-bound Christmas Day flight has prompted the Federal Government to introduce body scanning technology at international airports, as part of a $200 million airport security boost.
Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said the measures were designed to strengthen the aviation security regime in Australia.
He announced $28.5 million will be spent on the new body screening technologies, along with the implementation of next-generation multi-view x-ray machines and bottle scanners capable of detecting liquid-based explosives.
“Over four years the Government will invest a further $200 million on new and improved security technologies, increased policing at airports, enhanced security procedures, as well as strengthening international cooperation,” Rudd said.
“Body scanners will be introduced progressively as an additional screening measure at screening points servicing international departing passengers by early 2011.”
$24.9 million was also included in the security plan to go towards funding new technology as part of the enhanced passenger assessment and clearance program, which will enable customs officers to assess a larger number of passengers and share relevant data with intelligence agencies.
Transport Minister Anthony Albanese acknowledged the privacy concerns associated with body scanning technology, but insisted all privacy issues will be dealt with involving the Privacy Commissioner.
“We have a responsibility to use the best technology available [and] the advice is that this is the best technology currently available,” Albanese said.
Even though trials of the body scanning technology reported a six minute delay in passenger processing, Albanese maintained the Government was “unapologetically on the cautious side”.
“We’ve been in consultation with industry, we will be working with them, both the airlines and the airports, to make sure that we minimise disruption to the travelling public,” he said.
Recent statistics from Australian Customs and Border Protection Service provided to Computerworld, showed that 35.5 percent of passengers with an ePassport used the Federal Government's SmartGate technology to pass through immigration upon arrival at airports across Australia.
While this figure was better than expected, an industry expert warned delays in processing passengers by border control agencies has economic consequences for tourism.
In the US last month, a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report called on the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to ensure that body scanner technology deployed at airports around the country first undergo thorough operational and vulnerability testing.
The report said the TSA expects to deploy about 200 whole body imagers, or Advanced Imaging Technology (AIT) scanners, across the US by the end of this year.