Turnbull defends new airport security body scans and police powers

Australian security and counter-terrorism

Australian prime minister says police must have the right to request identification from anyone
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Malcolm Turnbull and Peter Dutton inspect a body scanner during an airport security announcement at Tullamarine airport in Melbourne on Tuesday.Photograph: Ellen Smith/AAP

Almost all airline passengers will be body scanned before boarding flights and police will be given new powers to request identification from anyone they deem suspicious in changes to airport security across Australia. The prime minister, Malcolm Turnbull, said the government was left with no choice but to adopt the new measures given the "dangerous times" the world was facing. He said they were necessary for the "safety of the Australian people".

Almost £300m was set aside in last week's budget to upgrade security at Australian airports, including additional body scanners to replace metal detectors and more police. Sign up to receive the top stories in Australia every day at noon

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Under the changes Australian federal police will not need to have a reason to ask anyone for their identification and boarding pass, or order people to leave an airport. Turnbull admitted it was a "big step", but said it was necessary.

"You have to keep people safe," he told Radio 3AW. "There was a couple of people that came very close to blowing up an A380, with the best part of 400 people the other day ... so it is alleged." Turnbull said he would be surprised if people left home without their identification. "You don't have to, there is no law that requires you do, but it is hard to think of anyone who wouldn't have some ID and wouldn't be able to say a bit about themselves," he told Mitchell.

"The police are being trained to observe behaviour, they pay very close attention to people who are looking anxious or creating a suspicious environment." In the same interview, Turnbull said the recent bombings in Surabaya in Indonesia, where three families used their children to target churches and police, "potentially" put Australia under an increased risk of a terrorist attack. "We, obviously - in Indonesia they have 500, we think, around 500 people who have returned from the conflict zone," Turnbull said. "Of course the man who used his family, killed his family, in these attacks had not come back from Syria but nonetheless it is a real challenge.

"About 40-some families have come back [to Australia from Isis conflict zones]. We keep a very close eye on these things, a lot of the Australians who went to fight in the conflict zone will never come back because they have been killed and a number of them will not come back obviously because they don't want to end up going to jail." Turnbull said his government would not be bullied into changing Australia's permanent migration policy.

"Immigration is run solely in the national interest in Australia. It is constantly under review ... by the government," he said. "We are constantly ensuring that we get the highest quality of migrants we can.

You talk about numbers as if every person is exactly the same. This is a talent business. We are in a war for talent.

"What we want to have is not one more person coming to Australia, not one, that we do not need want or need.

I'm giving you this commitment - that my government and my government alone, the Australian government, elected by the Australian people determines who comes to Australia - whether they are on the humanitarian program, whether they are on family reunion, whether they are on skilled migration or a student."

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