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Friday, 18 May 2018 05:14

Labor undecided on support for increased airport ID checks Featured

Mark Dreyfus says Labor wants to see the ID checks law before deciding whether to support it. Mark Dreyfus says Labor wants to see the ID checks law before deciding whether to support it. Courtesy Seven News

The Australian Labor Party has said it will wait to see the complete text of the Coalition Government's proposed law on increased identity checks at domestic airports before deciding whether to support it or not.

Mark Dreyfus, Shadow Minister for National Security, told iTWire in response to a query: "This is the first Labor has heard that the government intends to proceed with changes to identification checks at domestic airports. We will await the proposed legislation before we comment further."

The government made its proposal known on Tuesday, with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull saying the measure was being advanced because there were "dangerous times" facing the country, according to an ABC report. A sum of $294 million has been set aside to increase security at Australian airports and put in new measures in regional centres.

Turnbull and Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton announced legislation to give the police the power to carry out random identity checks at airports without any cause.

At the moment, police can only ask people for ID at airports if they suspect that the individual concerned has, or will, commit a serious offence.

Turnbull said: "The justification for changing the law so that police at an airport can ask you to identify yourself, the justification is the safety of the Australian people."

Dutton was quoted as saying: "There's certain conditions that need to be met at the moment before police can ask for that identification, which is an absurdity, and it is an issue the police have raised with us. We're addressing an anomaly and a deficiency in the law at the moment."

Dreyfus added: "However, Labor always puts the safety of Australians first and, of course, if this is a change that our security agencies and police say is necessary, then it is something we will seriously consider.

"That consideration will also include the need to address any privacy concerns that arise when responding to the security demands at our airports.

"We are aware that the security environment is constantly changing and there is a need to respond to the evolving threat."

Greens Justice spokesperson Senator Nick McKim said Dutton’s plans to demand documents from people at airports without justification must be resisted.

“People should be free to live without arbitrary harassment and being forced to carry ID wherever they go,” Senator McKim told iTWire.

“Demanding people produce documents on the spot is a hallmark of police states. This is the slow march of authoritarianism. It starts in airports – how long until it’s random checks on the streets or in people’s homes?”

He said Dutton had repeatedly demonstrated he could not be trusted with the powers he already had.

“It’s time for Labor to finally stand up against this ongoing erosion of fundamental rights and freedoms,” Senator McKim added.

Last month, it was reported that the Coalition Government was contemplating plans for the Australian Signals Directorate to extend its spying powers to Australian citizens.

This was later denied, with Foreign Minister Julie Bishop saying: "The current laws safeguard the privacy of Australians but also provide us with an opportunity to keep Australians safe."

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Sam Varghese

Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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