07 January 2016
by Nicole Hasham
'You want me to touch that thing with my bare hands?': Calls for airport security overhaul
Security at Australia's airports is under the spotlight under a new inquiry.
A transgender airline passenger was forced to remove a genital prosthetic and present it for inspection in a "demeaning" encounter that adds to calls for an overhaul of unnecessary security at Australian airports.
An airline training captain has also questioned why items such as pocket knives and screwdrivers are barred from flights when everyday objects allowed on planes could easily be turned into weapons. He also called for mid-flight passenger visits to the cockpit to be reinstated.
I suggest you look into sensitivity training and put some guidelines in place for your employees.
A Senate inquiry into airport and aviation security is examining reports of apparent breaches and considering if new measures are needed to enhance public safety.
An airline training captain wants in-flight cockpit visits to be reinstated.
The National LGBTI Health Alliance, the peak body for the wellbeing of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people, told the inquiry of "pervasive discrimination" in airport security.
It cited an incident in 2015 involving a transgender person and an unnamed major domestic airline.
In a written complaint, the passenger said a body scanner detected a prosthetic "worn in my underwear".
"In full view of other travellers, the supervisor approached me putting rubber gloves on … When I asked him what the gloves were for, he told me that he was going to do a 'private search'," the traveller wrote, adding the measure was "demeaning and unnecessary".
The person was taken to a small room and "pulled out my prosthetic enough for them to see".
The supervisor put on a second glove and when questioned by the traveller, replied: "'You want me to touch that thing with my bare hands?'"
The transgender person placed the prosthetic in a tray and underwent a pat-down.
"[The staff member] opened the door for me to leave [with] my prosthetic still sitting in the tray. I asked him to close the door so that I could have some privacy … He closed the door and both men stood watching me as I put it back in place.
"I suggest you look into sensitivity training and put some guidelines in place for your employees," the passenger said.
Robin Darroch, a training captain for a large, unnamed Australian regional airline, told the inquiry that many aviation security regulations "tend towards the wasteful and pointlessly obstructive" and distract security staff from identifying genuine threats.
He asked why pocket knives, screwdrivers, metal cutlery, and small scissors were prohibited from flights when they were "considerably less threatening than makeshift weapons someone could make by breaking a laptop computer screen, or even by sharpening a credit card".
He said some regulations should potentially be repealed, including the prohibition on passengers viewing the cockpit during a flight, if the pilot consented.
"[Eight] year old children (or 80 year old children-at-heart) in awe of the miracle of human flight are not our next big security threat," Mr Darroch wrote.
He questioned why he, as a pilot, was sometimes screened for weapons and other objects before entering his aircraft, despite having access to a "sizeable axe" on the flight deck used for emergency escapes.
In a submission the Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development said growth in passenger numbers were a future challenge to security. It was focused on a "risk-based, proportionate" approach to ensure effort was "applied to areas of highest risk, rather than being misdirected to very low risk areas".
The inquiry is due to report in May 2016.