BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific Arabic Spanish Russian Chinese Welsh
BBCi CATEGORIES   TV   RADIO   COMMUNICATE   WHERE I LIVE   INDEX    SEARCH 

BBC NEWS
 You are in: World: Asia-Pacific
Front Page 
World 
Africa 
Americas 
Asia-Pacific 
Europe 
Middle East 
South Asia 
-------------
From Our Own Correspondent 
-------------
Letter From America 
UK 
UK Politics 
Business 
Sci/Tech 
Health 
Education 
Entertainment 
Talking Point 
In Depth 
AudioVideo 


Commonwealth Games 2002

BBC Sport

BBC Weather

SERVICES 
Monday, 24 December, 2001, 10:36 GMT
Air marshals set to deploy
Confiscated objects
Airlines are already are confiscating sharp objects
By Phil Mercer in Sydney

A squad of undercover air marshals has completed training and is ready for deployment on Australia's airlines.

The sky guards will be armed. The authorities won't say what sort of weapons they will have but it is thought they will be issued with low velocity firearms using ammunition that will not penetrate the fuselage of an aircraft.

The Australian Government has put the country on a higher state of alert this Christmas after receiving what it says is new but as yet unsubstantiated information about terrorist threats.


We know virtually nothing about the training that these people will have, what they're allowed to do on board and what sort of weapons they'll have. It is very worrying.

Mark Burgess, chief executive of Australian Police Federation
The Attorney General, Daryl Williams says targets may include American and British interests in Australia.

Mr Williams says the 22 Australian Air Security Officers, or air marshals, are ready to join the country's expanded security network.

"When and where they will be deployed is still the subject of discussions with the airlines," said Mr Williams.

Security cost

"They will be randomly placed and you won't be able to tell by looking at a person that yes, this is a security officer. They will look like an ordinary member of the public," he said.

The scheme to protect Australia's air passengers will cost up to $30m (US$15m). It is unclear who will pay for it.

Both the Federal government and the airlines are insisting it is the other's responsibility. If the airlines are forced to foot the bill, the costs will be passed onto passengers, with every journey costing $1 extra.

A passenger accused of carrying explosives in his shoes has again highlighted security
A passenger accused of carrying explosives in his shoes has again highlighted security
The Australian newspaper reports that civil liberties groups are questioning the legal basis of the marshals' power to carry weapons and arrest people on planes.

The secretary of the Australian Council for Civil Liberties, Cameron Murphy, said it was unclear what right the marshals had to act against suspects - arrest them or fire weapons.

The flying guards are selected from the ranks of the Government Protective Service. It is the government's own security force and looks after dignitaries and provides security at embassies and airports.

The use of its personnel as sky marshals has caused concern among police officers. Mark Burgess, the chief executive of the Police Federation, a union representing the majority of officers in Australia, says his members are more suitable for the job.

More planned

"We know virtually nothing about the training that these people will have, what they're allowed to do on board and what sort of weapons they'll have. It is very worrying."

Eventually the Australian Government plans to have more than 100 marshals on both domestic and international flights.

In a further move to reinforce in-flight security, Qantas has been given the go-ahead to strengthen the cockpit doors on its fleet.

In America, air marshals have been deployed since the 1970s. The US programme provides a covert, armed security force capable of carrying out anti-hijacking operations.

For many years, El Al, the Israeli airline, was the only carrier to have armed guards on all its flights as a matter of routine.

See also:

26 Sep 01 | Business
UN agency reviews airline security
Internet links:


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more Asia-Pacific stories are at the foot of the page.


E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Asia-Pacific stories