Under a massive security overhaul, Australian airport security upgrades will be slated in the federal budget, Australia’s Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton confirmed on May 7, 2018. The security upgrade, prompted by the alleged terrorist plot to down an aircraft leaving Sydney airport (SYD) in July 2017, will bring domestic travel in line with international flights across the country’s airports.

On May 7, 2018, Dutton told reporters that Australia’s airport security upgrades will be funded in the 2018 federal budget, scheduled to be handed down on May 8, 2018.  In a country that has had very few domestic terrorist attacks, the alleged bomb plot discovered at Sydney airport in July 2017 has raised serious concerns over airport security procedures and prompted the aviation security announcement, the Australian SBS News reports. "We know that airports, forecourts within the airports, are targets for terrorist organizations around the world. We have seen that in Europe," Dutton was quoted as saying by the media channel.

Prior to Dutton’s announcement, on May 4, 2018, news emerged that full-body x-ray scanners will be installed at screening points of domestic airports as part of the major security changes in Australia‘s airport security protocols, the details of which are yet to be announced, The Sydney Morning Herald writes. Fairfax Media also indicates that restrictions to liquids and other carry-on items may also be part of the security updates, which would bring Australian airport security protocols in line with the standards applied by the European Union.

To date, passengers on domestic routes have been subjected to far less scrutiny than those traveling abroad. Now, Dutton says, officials are looking at ways to provide support, particularly to regional airports, in security and passenger screening. "We are worried about the settings at our domestic airports," he told reporters on May 7, 2018, according to SBS News. "Obviously there is a different security setting at our international airports where we do have full body scanners." The Sydney Morning Herald reports that the federal government will allocate money in the budget to domestic airports to cover the cost of the security upgrades.

On July 15, 2017, Australian police foiled a developing terrorist plot targeting Sydney airport, after two men allegedly tried to smuggle an explosive device hidden in a meat grinder onto an Etihad Airways commercial flight from Sydney, Australia, to Abu Dhabi, the UAE. Two suspects - brothers Khaled and Mahmoud Khayat – have been charged on May 4, 2018, with two counts of acting in preparation for, or planning, a terrorist attack, The Sydney Morning Herald writes.

Calls for strengthening screening growing louder

Stricter passengers and luggage screening procedures at airports across Australia were put in place immediately after the alleged bomb plot was discovered by the police. Speaking to reporters at the time, Dutton said the incident could prompt longer-term airport security changes. “It may be that we need to look at the security settings at our airports, in particular our domestic airports, for an ongoing enduring period,” Dutton was quoted as saying by Reuters.

In the wake of the incident, airline pilots also began voicing their concerns over the major holes in screening they had observed. According to The Guardian, pilots claimed that staff with access to aircraft, such as cleaners, baggage handlers, and catering staff, were not being properly screened, and called for domestic passengers to show identification before boarding. In addition, pilots were concerned that private contractors were doing the security screening rather than a government agency.

The developments at Australian airports resonate with the ever increasing passenger screening at U.S. airports. Amid growing concerns about the possibility of hidden explosive devices, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) began stricter scrutiny of electronic devices by U.S. travelers back in the summer of 2017, requiring domestic travelers to remove all electronics larger than mobile phones from carry-on baggage for screening. Now, a new memo from the agency states that it wants foreign airports to adopt those procedures as well, Reuters reported on May 4, 2018. The TSA is asking foreign airports to tighten screening of U.S.-bound passengers’ carry-on electronics and adopt U.S. domestic security procedures implemented in 2017.