Airport body scanners coming down under

Summary:Controversial full-body security scanners may be coming soon to an airport near you following legislation tabled in the House of Representatives this week.

Controversial full-body security scanners may be coming soon to an airport near you following legislation tabled in the House of Representatives this week.

Minister for Home Affairs, Brendan O'Connor, tabled legislation in parliament yesterday to amend the Customs Act to allow body scanner technology to be implemented in Australian airports to weed out drug mules.

According to a statement from the minister, the scanners would be used to supplement hospital examinations of suspected drug mules carrying illicit substances internally.

Those suspected of carrying illicit drugs must give written consent in order to be subjected to the scanners, which are set to detect travellers trafficking banned substances.

However, the minister's office was quick to assure travellers that the technology it's seeking to implement is "completely different" to the scanners used by the Transit Safety Authority in the United States.

"These scanners are not the same at all," the minister's office said.

"The technology produces images similar to a medical x-ray showing internal body tissue, skeleton and, where present, internal drug concealments," the minister said in a statement, adding that the scanners would be housed in a separate room to general screening checkpoints and wouldn't be used on every traveller.

"Body scanning technology will not be used on all travellers or used randomly — it will only be used where there is a reasonable suspicion that a person is carrying drugs internally. In addition, a suspect must consent to the use of body scanning technology," he said.

Australian Customs will look to implement technology and emulate a screening policy similar to that of the United Kingdom, and enlist the help of the Office of the Information Commissioner to ensure the images are subject to appropriate storage, access and destruction controls.

A one-year trial of the new scanning technology is set to kick-off within the next three to six months at airports around Australia.

The minister's office refused to reveal where the scanners would be located, due to the fact that drug mules would choose to avoid those terminals if they were aware of the presence of scanners.

Topics: Security, After Hours, Government : AU


A fresh recruit onto the tech journalism battlefield, Luke Hopewell is eager to see some action. After a tour of duty in the belly of the Telstra beast, he is keen to report big stories on the enterprise beat. Drawing on past experience in radio, print and magazine, he plans to ask all the tough questions you want answered.

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