Security demands new airport powers: PM

Lisa Martin
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has announced tighter security measures at the nation's airports

Keeping Australians safe justifies giving police new powers to check people's identities without cause at the nation's airports, Malcolm Turnbull believes.

The prime minister has been out spruiking new security measures outlined in last week's budget, including millions of dollars for full body scanners and advanced X-ray equipment at major and regional airports.

Proposed new laws will also allow Australian Federal Police officers to conduct identity checks at airports and order people to leave the premises.

Mr Turnbull seized on recent "brutal" terrorist attacks in Indonesia's second largest city, Surabaya, to highlight the threat posed by terrorists in the region.

"It reminds us of the need to be ever vigilant," Mr Turnbull told reporters in Melbourne on Tuesday.

"There is no place for 'set and forget' in defending Australians."

However, Greens senator Nick McKim argued 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 said.

"Demanding people produce documents on the spot is a hallmark of police states."

Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton said he was worried about gels, liquids and explosive devices being taken onto aircraft.

"This is the most comprehensive investment in aviation security in decades," he said.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said Labor was waiting a briefing on the security changes.

"We approach this in a constructive mindset," he told reporters in Brisbane.

But Mr Shorten expressed concerns the government may have underfunded the security promise and it will put the viability of some regional airports under stress particularly in Queensland and Western Australia.

A Home Affairs Department spokeswoman said the body scanners were safe and do not emit ionising radiation like X-rays.

"One scan is comparable to a mobile phone being used several metres away," she said.


* Body scanners and advanced X-ray equipment will be rolled out across major and regional airports

* More than 140 counter-terrorism officers will be deployed at airports, with another 50 officers providing them with tactical intelligence and support

* Proposed new laws will allow federal police officers to conduct identity checks at airports and order people to leave the premises

* Inbound air cargo and international mail will be subjected to stricter screening as part of a $122 million equipment upgrade

* Airport screening staff will face stricter training and security checks