Mar 13, 2010

Asia-Pacific Ministerial Conference on Aviation Security

Asia-Pacific Ministerial Conference on Aviation Security

Tokyo

The Hon Anthony Albanese MP

The Minister for Infrastructure, Transport,

Regional Development and Local Government

Leader of the House

Member for Grayndler

13 March 2010

Minister Seiji Maehara, my respected international counterparts,

I’d like to thank everyone involved in organising this Ministerial Conference, and in particular thank Seiji Maehara, for hosting this conference.

It’s a pleasure to be here with you, although I wish the circumstances that brought us together, were different.

The attempted bombing of a US-bound plane on Christmas Day underscored the fact that no country can be complacent when it comes to security.

The potential consequences of the attempted bombing have given pause to the world’s governments, airlines, security advisers and passengers.

I want to take this opportunity to outline Australia’s response and put it within the context of our aviation policy development processes.

International co-operation

In December 2009, the Australian Government released an aviation White Paper – Flight Path to the Future.

This Long term strategy reaffirmed safety and security as the number one priority for aviation.

The Australian Government was in a strong position to consider our response to the 25 December attack and act quickly to introduce a comprehensive package of measures designed to strengthen our domestic and international aviation security.

Australia has a world-class security regimebut we remain vigilant to new and emerging threats.

Part of that vigilance is working in concert with our friends and allies on aviation security.

Aviation has played a significant part in the globalised nature of the modern world.

Aviation security is an international issue, and international co-operation is fundamental to safer air travel.

We have an obligation to all air travellers to ensure that every effort has been made to make their journey as safe as possible.

Flowing out of our White Paper, the Australian Government released a $200 million aviation security package which recognised the importance of cooperation both within the Asia Pacific region and globally.

This is why a major part of the Australian Government’s $200 million response to strengthen aviation security focuses upon international co-operation in the Asia – Pacific region and internationally.

What this means is that we will be expanding cooperative inspections and security assessments of last ports of call airports for flights coming to Australia.

This arrangement has been working well to date and we will be looking to build on its success.

Australia will also be conducting a trial in partnership with the United States and the United Kingdom based at an Australia airport, which will examine technology- based responses to detecting liquid- and gel-based explosives.

New technology

We will also be investing in new and improved technologies, increased policing at airports and strengthened security procedures.

Body scanners will be introduced progressively at screening points servicing international passengers by early next year.

While respectful of privacy concerns, we believe they can be met by the advancements in technology, without compromising safety standards.

We can strike the right balance between safety and privacy.

In addition to the body scanners, we will increase the number of firearms and explosive sniffer dogs by 50 percent at Australia’s major international airports. These highly-trained dogs and their handlers provide an effective, highly visible contribution to aviation security.

The Australian Government will also be using biometrics and investing in new technology to secure our air cargo supply chain. This investment will be used to assist industry install cargo x-ray screening and explosive trace detection technology at particular locations.

As foreshadowed in our Aviation White Paper, the Australian Government will also be extending screening at regional airports, but will be bringing forward its implementation to 2012.

Information gathering

Investment in new technology is necessary as we deal with the changing nature of terrorism, but at the end of the day our security systems are only as good as the people who work in them.

The Australian Government understands the importance of intelligence sharing, and respects that U.S. inquiries into the Christmas Day bombing attempt revealed what President Obama called "systemic failures".

In President Obama’s speech on the failed bombing, he stressed the importance of sharing and comparing intelligence between agencies.

As the President said, the U.S. had early signs of the terror plot, but the different pieces of the puzzle were not pieced together collectively.

That is why the Australian my Government is providing nearly $25 million for new technology to enable Australian Customs to assess a larger number of passengers faster, and to be able to share intelligence with border management and law enforcement agencies.

There is no point in collecting information, if it is not used properly.

Conclusion

Each of our Government’s has the safety of our citizens as our highest priority.

Australia already boasts a world-class security regime, but the measures I’ve outlined for you will strengthen them further.

The Australian Government also knows that we are not in this alone. The nature of the world, bound by international flights, makes this an international issue.

Access to one airport can mean access to the entire global aviation system.

It demands international co-operation.

This must be a core issue for ICAO, with forums such as this important to improving and strengthening the way nations work together.

The Australian Government intends to work closely with its friends and allies, and we recognise the particular importance of Japan.

We’re regional neighbours and we share a busy flight network between our two countries.

I would like to thank you for hosting me today, and for your continued vigilance on this important matter.

Thank you.

[ENDS]