SENATOR KRISTINA KENEALLY
DEPUTY LABOR LEADER IN THE SENATE
SHADOW MINISTER FOR HOME AFFAIRS
SHADOW MINISTER FOR IMMIGRATION AND CITIZENSHIP
SHADOW MINISTER FOR GOVERNMENT ACCOUNTABILITY
SENATOR FOR NEW SOUTH WALES
CATHERINE KING MP
SHADOW MINISTER FOR INFRASTRUCTURE, TRANSPORT AND REGIONAL DEVELOPMENT
MEMBER FOR BALLARAT
URGENT REVIEW OF AIRPORT BORDER SECURITY NEEDED
Federal Labor is calling for an urgent review of security at Australia’s airports, following revelations in tonight’s 60 Minutes program, and follow-up reporting in the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.
It is highly disturbing that the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission boss Mike Phelan has revealed tonight that federal law enforcement officials and dozens of Qantas employees might be facilitating the entry of drugs into Australia.
The untold story of COVID-19 is that organised crime syndicates have not only adapted but thrived in the COVID-era, all while the Morrison Government has been asleep at the wheel on airport security.
It is also frustrating that the Liberals have held up the passage of improvements to airport security legislation for five years because they have refused to simultaneously address maritime security threats posed by foreign crew. If the Liberals had accepted Labor’s amendments to this important legislation, these new laws could have been in place and helping law enforcement agencies keep Australia safe.
Mr Phelan recently told Senate Estimates that, “Australia has an insatiable demand for all types of drugs”, and that the border closures represented little more than a “hiccup” for the criminal syndicates that successfully import drugs into Australia.
The last comprehensive review of airport security was some 15 years ago. While the Wheeler Review did result in lasting change, the combination of these revelations and the challenges of COVID-19 mean that it’s now time for a new independent review.
Since the pandemic began confusion has reigned at our airports, as different bureaucracies have pointed the finger at each other when things have gone wrong.
More recently, airports have scrambled to introduce ‘red zones’ and ‘green zones’ to ensure passengers from COVID-free countries like New Zealand don’t interact with passengers from other international flights.
But we have already seen two red zone passengers wander into the green zone at Brisbane Airport for around two hours, mingling with almost 400 other passengers.
We also do not know what impact the hastily organised green and red zones might have had to airport security mechanisms, or if these zones could be making it easier for criminal gangs to operate in airports.
Complacency and a lack of urgency has held back Australia’s vaccination program, we can’t afford complacency to infect the Morrison Government’s approach to security at our airports.
Before COVID Australia’s airports contributed to more than 200,000 jobs, including 8,700 direct jobs. Many of these workers have taken a significant financial hit as a result of the pandemic recession.
It’s been a difficult year for airport workers: they have suffered job cuts, been refused access to JobKeeper by the Morrison Government, most notably Dnata workers. Qantas has outsourced its ground staff, slashing pay and conditions. In recent weeks, there have been reports of dangerous safety breaches and lowering of service standards. Now we are learning of security breaches and criminal gang activity. The Morrison Government has put in place no national plan for aviation, allowing standards to get dragged down to the point that drugs are being imported through airports. Airport workers deserve better than this.
Transport security at our airports is fundamental to controlling our borders and national security.
Labor is calling for an independent review of security at our airports to ensure we have the right experts, command and coordination in place to keep Australians safe from organised crime and drug syndicates.
SUNDAY, 6 JUNE 2021