Beazley wants beefed up security at airports
By Shan Goodwin
Of the 56,000 passengers who fly in and out of Lismore Airport each year, Federal Opposition Leader Kim Beazley is one who would draw a fair bit of attention.
Still, he'd have no problem with being scrutinised or having his baggage screened.
Terrorists, he said, made their way into capital cities via airports like Lismore.
The threat in a place like Lismore was real. And it was time we moved away from debating civil rights and got practical about defending ourselves, he said.
Mr Beazley visited Lismore yesterday in his bid to draw attention to what he calls the 'gaping holes' in Australia's terrorism defences.
"Four years on from September 11 and what we have is not good enough," he said.
"The war on terrorism is a practical war and we have to start with the basics, and that is surveillance of all airline baggage and decent training of all staff at regional airports.
"The thing about the people who run regional airports like Lismore's is that they tend to know everyone.
"That is a valuable tool. The staff here have the capacity to know when someone unusual is passing through.
"What they need now is technical back-up."
Mr Beazley said laws were needed which gave police additional powers, not the Federal Attorney-General.
"We are dealing with lawless people in dealing with terrorists. The Attorney-General does not represent the last line of defence, the police do," he said.
"I use small aircraft a fair bit and it makes me very conscious of how they could potentially be used by terrorists."
Mr Beazley said people travelling in regional Australia should not be treated as second-class passengers.
"Their security is no less important than capital city passengers," he said.
Mr Beazley said the cost of beefed up security should be laid directly at the feet of the Federal Government, not put back on airline passengers in the form of increased fares or surcharges.
It was a quick visit to Lismore for the Opposition Leader and while airport security was his main agenda, he did not let the opportunity pass to mention Telstra.
His message for the bush was it's not too late. "Telstra is not sold yet. The legislation may be through but nothing, as yet, has happened," he said.
"The Government was offered a very good deal by Telstra on improving services in regional Australia.
"We have to get broadband access, at decent speeds, to every part of this country. We have to get mobile access, reliably, to every part of this country.
"Pressure must be put on the Government not to privatise but to guarantee these services."