Sophisticated anti-terrorism measures will be installed at Wagga Airport as the federal government further tightens air security.
It is understood metal detectors will be replaced by body scanners at almost every regional airport, including Wagga, under a $50 million program announced in last week’s federal budget.
The controversial x-ray scanners, able to detect explosives and other threats, had been criticised for being “digital strip searches”. But the machines already operating in Australia were configured to produce only a generic stick figure image which highlighted areas of the passenger’s body that required investigation by security staff, rather than an actual image of the passenger’s body.
Presently, passengers on JetGo and QantasLink flights go through metal detectors at Wagga Airport, while Regional Express (Rex) passengers are subject to no security screening at all.
A Qantas spokeswoman said the safety of passengers was always paramount and the company would “work closely with Australian law enforcement and security agencies over the coming weeks and months on the plans for increased security”.
JetGo boss Paul Bredereck said he didn’t have a view on the proposed security upgrades due to the lack of information from the government.
“I can’t imagine it will reduce costs,” he said.
A Rex spokeswoman said the company was awaiting further detail from the Department of Home Affairs and would not in a position to provide any comment until the full details were known.
Member for Riverina Michael McCormack welcomed the security upgrades and said it was part of a broader $294 million package to strengthen security at airports and international mail and air cargo facilities across the country.
“The first priority for the government is and will always be to keep Australians safe and secure,” Mr McCormack said. “These upgrades will ensure regional and rural Australians can continue to travel safely and that the aviation sector remains protected from the threat of terrorism.”
In addition to the upgraded screening technology, the government was also increasing the training requirements for security screeners at airports, including a rigorous accreditation test each year.
“These measures are important to ensure our passenger, baggage and cargo screening remains as effective as it can possibly be,” Mr McCormack said.
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