AFP say tough new airport powers designed to stop 'mass panic'


The intelligence committee has questioned the Australian Federal Police over when it would use powers to demand ID papers at airports and move people on

The Australian Federal Police have told parliament’s intelligence committee they would likely use proposed powers to remove someone from an airport if they waved an Islamic State flag in the terminal, or did anything else to cause “mass panic”.

AFP officials raised the ISIS flag example under questioning from the committee, as members tried to narrow down when the powers, which are yet to pass parliament, might be used.

The proposed legislation would give police the power to demand ID for any reason within airports, as well as new “move on” powers.

If a person refused to give their ID, police would be allowed to order them not to get on a flight or ban them from the airport for up to 24 hours.  

The IS flag was used as an example by AFP officers.
The IS flag was used as an example by AFP officers.
Getty Images

They could also use the powers if they believe there is a threat to “aviation security”, under the draft laws.

“Aviation security” is defined as including the maintenance of “good order”, which AFP officials said was a deliberately broad term to capture a broad range of threats.

Labor’s shadow attorney-general Mark Dreyfus asked if waving an ISIS flag was a crime, anywhere in Australia.

Police confirmed it was not, unless accompanied by some other behaviour that made it a crime.

Shadow Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus.
Shadow Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus.

But they said police would move people on if they did anything to cause “mass panic” in an airport – as opposed to “anxiety” to a single person.

“The ISIS flag was used as an example. It’s not directly related to that, but any behaviour by an individual that would cause large-scale anxiety in a secure environment like an airport would be a concern,” the AFP’s Ciara Spencer told the committee.

Earlier, representatives from the Law Council of Australia urged the cross-party committee to consider changes.

They argue the powers should be more clearly defined and restricted to cases where police believed they were preventing a crime.

The council also suggests a new “expedited” review process through the courts, given the potential for passengers to miss flights.

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