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Australia spends US $29.2 million on airport body scanners

This July, 8 major Australian international airports will be fitted out with advanced new passenger scanning technology.

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This US$29.2 million (AUD $28 million) passenger screening program offers an additional layer of security at major airports — with an improved ability to detect metallic and non-metallic objects.

This latest initiative supports the Australian Government’s US$209 million (AUD $200 million) Strengthening Aviation Security Initiative. This initiative is designed to protect key transport hubs and gateways.

Once introduced, Australia’s passenger screening technology will support a “no-scan, no-fly” policy. This policy enables airport staff to randomly select passengers for additional screening.

Passengers refusing additional screening will not be allowed on flights, with medical exceptions.

More than 13 million people fly out of Australia’s international airports each year – raising concerns about the effectiveness of current screening practices.

New screening machines will be used with screening technology already deployed at departure points.

The latest initiative is supported by an amendment to Australia’s Aviation Security Amendment Screening Bill (2012) currently being debated in Parliament.

This proposed amendment was introduced in Federal Parliament earlier this year by Prime Minister, Julia Gillard.

The amendment closes a loophole offering passengers the option of a pat-down rather than a full body scan, where selected for further screening.

This week, Members of Parliament get a first-hand look at this scanning technology at security gates at Federal Parliament in Canberra.

These “live demos” demonstrate the ease of using screening machines, at the same time, allaying privacy concerns about body images being displayed on public monitors.

Australia’s passenger screening technology is one of most advanced to be used elsewhere, says Minister for Transport, Anthony Albanese.

Unlike other overseas airports, this technology provides a “generic” outline of scanned passengers, as “stick figures,” tackling issues involving passenger privacy.

As a safeguard, scanned images will be discarded after a passenger is cleared.

The strength of radio waves from these screening machines is comparable to that from a regular mobile phone used several metres away.

Passenger health, privacy and safety issues were tackled during trials at airports in Sydney and Melbourne.

Consultations were also held with industry and privacy groups.

Photo:Copyright (Australian Business Traveler)

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