Unless some clear cut guidance emerges from the Minister of Transport, Mark Vaile, it appears that REX has metaphorically torn the cockpit doors off the massive investment that has been made in anti-terrorism measures in Australia since 9/11.

Last Friday REX allowed a passenger to fly in the cockpit jump seat of one of its SAAB 340 turbo-props from Sydney to Lismore rather than bump him off a fully booked aircraft. Overnight the Civil Aviation Safety Authority has confirmed REX’s statement to Crikey yesterday that it has done nothing illegal.

And a spokesperson for the Minister, who is having the report investigated, said:

It should be noted that as a flight departing Sydney all passengers would be routinely screened.

It would be inappropriate to comment any further until the full facts of the matter are known.

So, are we to conclude that all of the speeches and protestations by the Minister and cabinet colleagues and airport managers about the rigorous creation of multiple layers of anti-terrorist security are a sham. Does it mean we really don’t need the hundred million dollars worth of reinforced cockpit doors because passengers are being screened (but not at Avalon, or other “secondary” jet airports).

Alternatively will the government immediately abolish passenger screening processes because the doors are there, and just give REX a sharp talking to for not resisting the temptation to put a paying passenger on the other side of the reinforced multi-locked doors we were told were absolutely essential to keeping out terr’ists.

Can the minister explain how a c-ck-up like this can be allowed in the relevant acts and regulations when the community spends millions of dollars a year on legal experts who are paid to devise foolproof enforceable rules?

If the doors really don’t matter more than the convenience of a regional airline, why can’t we put an end to all this security nonsense and go to our flights without shuffling around holding our shoes and belts, having our computers inspected, or seeing our toothpaste, deodorants and shaving creams confiscated.

Maybe we all owe REX a huge vote of thanks, for making the patently stupid look so obvious.

Peter Fray

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