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Full body airport scanners: Govt ‘opts out' of duty to protect privacy, health

Media Release
Lee Rhiannon 15 Aug 2012

Labor and Coalition MPs joined in the Senate today to vote down Greens’ amendments to the controversial rollout of full-body scanners at airports around Australia in the Aviation Security Transport (Amendment) Bill 2012.

Greens Senator and transport spokesperson Lee Rhiannon moved amendments to:
•             introduce an ‘opt out’ model where passengers can choose a frisk search over a full-body scan, without having to provide physical or medical reasons;
•             ban ionising backscatter x-rays; and
•             ensure that any new technologies are rigorously assessed for compliance with health regulations prior to their introduction.

“The Greens are ready to support improvements to airport security where the government has proven those measures are required, effective and have sufficient safeguards. The bill before the Senate today failed on those standards”, said Senator Rhiannon.

“Labor and the Coalition have overreached by giving the go-ahead to a tough ‘no scan, no fly’ approach, in the face of a clear recommendation from a cross-party Senate Inquiry.

“Transport Minister Anthony Albanese is being more heavy-handed than the US government, which gives passengers a right to request a frisk search as an alternative to a full body scan.
“The large number of false positives gives little confidence that full-body scanners will make air travel safer. The Department of Transport has admitted that during seven weeks of trials at Sydney and Melbourne’s airports, 43 per cent of people going through the full body scanners triggered alarms and required further searching. 

“France and Germany have rejected millimetre wave full-body scans, proposed to be used in Australia, because of ongoing false alarms triggered by buttons, buckles, zips, medical  and sweat outweighed any security benefit.

“Full-body scanners are a recipe for long lines of frustrated and often humiliated people, taken aside for further searches or forced to divulge intimate medical issues such as prosthetics or colostomy bags every time they hop on a plane. 

“It is disappointing that the major parties voted down a Greens amendment to rule out the use of ionising backscatter x-rays. The EU has banned this form of scanning because of possible health risks.

“Minister Albanese has said this technology will not be used at this stage in Australia but his reluctance to spell this out in legislation is worrying.

“In the Senate Inquiry into the bill, the Australian Air Pilots Association, NSW and Queensland Council of Civil Liberties, Civil Liberties Australia and the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner all warned against accepting this bill unamended”, said Senator Rhiannon.

Contact: 0487 350 880

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