15 August 2022

More police but Airport security measures likely to stay the same

| Ian Bushnell
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man at Canberra Airport

Canberra Airport CEO Stephen Byron in front of a full board: “It’s back to normal.” Photos: Ian Bushnell.

There has been no immediate beefing up of security measures at Canberra Airport, apart from an increased police presence today, and it appears unlikely that the current arrangements will change in the wake of Sunday’s shooting incident.

Ali Rachid Ammoun, 63, faced court on Monday (15 August) accused of using a revolver to shoot windows at the airport, causing chaos at the facility and sending it into lockdown.

He was remanded in custody and will undergo a psychiatric examination.

Both the Australian Federal Police and the Department of Home Affairs declined to comment when asked whether there would be a review of security at Canberra Airport.

An AFP spokesperson said the matter remained an ongoing investigation.

READ MORE Alleged Canberra Airport shooter named as Ali Rachid Ammoun

A Home Affairs spokesperson said: “The Australian Government continues to work closely with Australian airports to ensure the appropriate security settings are in place to keep the travelling public safe.”

Canberra Airport CEO Stephen Byron said that apart from a normal review of an incident like this, the airport was not contemplating a specific investigation, but that would be a matter for the government and the AFP.

Mr Byron questioned what more could be done given the shooting took place in a public part of the airport.

“In terms of a wider review of security, there’s nothing glaring at all,” he said.

“We’re in the public area of the terminal just as you would be in any terminal around Australia or around the world, and there is a police presence in place, and the travelling public is moving through in a calm and relaxed manner.

“How far back do you push the barrier? I mean, apparently, the gentleman came from Sydney.

“We don’t screen everyone who comes into Canberra at the borders. We don’t screen everyone before they get to the airport a kilometre away.”

Bullet holes in glass

The three bullet holes in the glass panels at Canberra Airport.

Mr Byron said Canberra Airport was no different from airports around the world.

“It’s a public area, and people can come in and out of it, and that’s as it should be. There is a presence of security to deal with any threat, and they did that yesterday,” he said.

“I’m very happy with the measures that are in place and, as I said, you can see the public that is travelling is calm and relaxed.

“It is safe to travel and people are going about their business. It’s back to normal.”

Mr Byron said the Airport staff trained for such an incident, and it was the first shooting the airport had experienced.

“I’m very pleased that the AFP responded as promptly and efficiently as they did. The AFP, and indeed the airport, train and are aware of the risk of the armed offender incident,” he said.

“It’s been identified as a risk and all the training and measures cut in and took place and were effective.”

READ ALSO Defence strategic review to look at ‘most concerning threats’

Mr Byron praised staff for the way they looked after people stuck outside the building waiting for the area to be made secure.

He said staff had been offered support and counselling, and were being monitored for any delayed impacts.

“Qantas is exceptional at that, but some of the other organisations and counsellors were in place from last night,” he said.

“The thing that we’re looking at is that sort of trauma doesn’t always materialise in the immediate aftermath.

“So this would be an ongoing monitoring situation to provide the support.”

Mr Byron urged any member of the public at the airport yesterday who may be feeling traumatised to contact the airport so it can provide support.

A total of seven flights had to be cancelled yesterday – five Qantas and two Virgin flights – and were rescheduled this morning.

Mr Byron said the maximum delay was just over the three-and-a-quarter hours of the entire episode.

“But once we reopened by a quarter to five, the delays were down to an hour, hour-and-a-half and then pretty quickly eliminated,” he said.

The only damage to the airport was to three panels of glass, which had three clear bullet holes.

Mr Byron said they would be replaced in time, but until then, the holes would be covered with film.

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Capital Retro3:04 pm 16 Aug 22

If he had pulled this stunt in most other countries than Australia we would have no need for this conversation.

daveinhackett3:04 pm 16 Aug 22

What was he doing carrying a handgun? Media not addressing this as far as I can see.

What I can’t understand is, you can get dropped off at departures, and check in without a security check but, you can’t pick up someone at arrivals, even though they’ve been cleared by security. Imagine if this had happened at Qantas check-in on a Thursday or Friday afternoon, when all the pollies are heading home. Be a very different “security revue” then.

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