How Australian bureaucracy protects you from terrorism

"Hundreds of security cards giving people access to restricted areas at Sydney Airport are lost or stolen each year, a parliamentary inquiry has heard. Qantas security boss Geoff Askew today said thousands of Aviation Security Identification Cards (ASIC) were issued every year to people who worked in restricted areas at Sydney airport, including the airstrip and baggage rooms. But Australia's largest airline could not account for 384 of the cards, handed out by the Department of Transport and Regional Services in the past two years, Mr Askew told the Public Accounts and Audit Committee in Sydney. Of the cards, which expire in 2006, 24 were indirectly stolen while the "vast majority" had simply been lost, the committee's inquiry was told.

The parliamentary committee re-opened its investigations into aviation security after issues were raised in the Schapelle Corby drugs case and a leaked report showed Customs concerns about crime at airports. Mr Askew told the committee Qantas was concerned by the large number of unaccounted for cards. "(But) we would be concerned if we lost a laptop or any other piece of equipment as well," he said.

Mr Askew said the airline filed a police report once it was aware a card was missing. It then disabled the card so it could not work in the control access system. But a spokesman for Sydney Airport later confirmed the card could still be used to get into areas that were manned. "If they were going through a gate they would not need to swipe the card but a security guard would be expected to check their photographic ID," the spokesman said.

Sydney Airport Corp's airport security manager, Ron Elliott, told the inquiry the Federal Government needed to establish a national centralised ASIC database. This would help to weed out loopholes and address the system's shortcomings, he said. "It would be a matter for the government to do ... through the attorney general," Mr Elliott said.

In October, two former Qantas contractors were able to use their ASIC cards to access an area of Sydney's international terminal where they were not authorised to work. The workers, who face court next month, were arrested and charged with breaching security regulations but they claimed it would never have happened if they had been given the correct security passes in the first place".


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