Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and state leaders look on as NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian signs an agreement at a special meeting on counter-terrorism of the Council of Australian Governments, at Parliament House, Canberra.
Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and state leaders look on as NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian signs an agreement at a special meeting on counter-terrorism of the Council of Australian Governments, at Parliament House, Canberra. LUKAS COCH

Airports to get facial recognition software by next year

AUSTRALIAN airports should have facial recognition software as early as next year, after Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull secured the support of state and territory leaders yesterday to introduce a raft of new counter-terror measures.

State premiers and chief ministers were quick to agree to all of the measures on the table at the national security summit in Canberra, with the meeting lasting less than two and half hours.

That included agreeing to allow Federal authorities access to driver's licence photos to enable the facial recognition software to be established.

They also agreed to make it a criminal offence to launch a terror attack hoax or to possess material on how to undertake a terror attack.

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palazszcuk called for the biometric data sharing to happen as soon as possible so the facial recognition software could be in place for the Commonwealth Games.

Under another measure, extremists can be detained for questioning for up to 14 days without charge.

Mr Turnbull announced another summit would be held in 12 months, reiterating there was no room for "set and forget” on national security laws.

He later clarified to media that the facial recognition software would not automatically scan CCTV in real time for people identified as threats.

Rather it would allow security officials at airports and other venues to check images of people they wanted to identify, through a system that would be able to access drivers' licence, visa and passport photos.

Law enforcement officers were already able to check state-held photos eventually, but not instantly.

"It shouldn't take seven days to be able to verify someone's identity or seek to match a photograph of somebody that is a person of interest,” Mr Turnbull said.

Earlier, state premiers signalled their support for the measures, saying public safety was more important than civil liberties.

"Notional considerations of civil liberties do not trump ... the very real threat of terror in our country today,” Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews told reporters.

"We are going to have to curtail the rights and freedoms of a small number of people in order to keep the vast majority of Australians safe.”

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian agreed, saying: "All of us are having to reconsider our civil rights and compromise on those things but I think the vast majority of the public wants us to put security first.

"They appreciate that because of the unusual circumstances and unfortunate circumstances in which we find ourselves, that we have to resort to these laws,” she said.



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