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AFP boss can’t say what will happen if people can’t show their ID at airports

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Australian Federal Police (AFP) Commissioner Andrew Colvin cannot explain what the penalties would be for people failing to provide identification to his officers in the nation's airports, arguing the legislation is still being drafted.

Key points:

  • The Government wants to give more powers to AFP officers to ask for ID in the nation's airports
  • AFP Commissioner says the laws are still being drafted, and therefore he cannot say what the penalties would be
  • Commissioner says debate about not needing ID to check in and board planes needs to be taken up with airlines

Last week Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton announced the plans, citing the "dangerous times" facing the nation as a reason to allow officers to make the request without suspicion an individual was about to carry out a serious offence.

Under questioning from senators today, Commissioner Colvin was unable to say what the consequences would be if people were unable to comply.

"Well, that's to be worked out in the legislation, of course, as to what a penalty may be if somebody is not able to satisfy the police officer of their identification," he replied.

"So, I can't answer that, Senator, because it's still a part of the drafting of the bill."

He said there was work being undertaken within the Home Affairs Department on the exact wording of the legislation. It is understood the bill could be presented in a few weeks' time.

Crossbench senator David Leyonhjelm raised the prospect of people being barred from catching flights if they were unable to prove their identification, despite identification not being needed to check in and board domestic flights.

"My assumption of the options would be that it might be an offence not to provide ID, it might be that they can't remain in the airport — they're compelled to leave — or they might be told they can't, which is sort of a subset of the 'can't remain in the airport'," he said.

"Assuming that you get what you're talking about in terms of legislation, it would still be possible for an individual to board a domestic flight without showing ID."

Commissioner Colvin said any debate about passengers needing to show identification to check in and board flights was a matter for the Government to discuss with airlines.

He stressed there needed to be a balance between security and the "business model" that had been developed by airlines, allowing passengers to check in on their mobile phones or at airport kiosks.

"We want people to get about their business at airports, like anywhere else, and that includes ease of passage through airports," Commissioner Colvin said.

"Having travelled internationally, as I'm sure everyone on the panel does, passage through our airports in Australia — domestic and international — is a reasonably painless affair compared to what it can be in some jurisdictions.

"And I think we should welcome that, and we try and preserve that."

Lower threshold or no threshold?

When announcing the new proposal, Mr Dutton described current arrangements as "an absurdity", and said there was too high a threshold for officers to demand identification from members of the public.

Commissioner Colvin was forced to backtrack after saying the new laws would mean there was "no threshold" for officers to question individuals, arguing it was merely "lowering" the bar for what needs to be suspected.

"I'd be very disappointed if an officer just went up to someone and said 'papers please'," he said.

Earlier this week the Secretary of the Home Affairs Department, Mike Pezzullo was quizzed by Greens senator Nick McKim on the merits of the proposal.

He said it was "best practice", but was unable to name what other countries give their police similar powers.

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