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Blowing the whistle on hypocrisy

MPS is no "friend" of the views espoused by Janet Albrechtson, columnist in The Australian, much less the fact that with her rigid and often extreme right-wing views the Howard Government has seen fit to add her to the already right-wing people "stacked" on to the ABC Board.

Nevertheless this week Albrechtsen in her column takes on a worthy cause and raises an issue which should be of grave concern to fair-minded people:

"MEMO TO MEMBERS OF THE HOWARD GOVERNMENT: next time you pack your bags and jump aboard a plane at one of the nation’s airports give thanks to Allan Robert Kessing. You can feel that much more secure about travelling due to his efforts to expose dangerously lax security at the nation’s airports, issues such as surveillance blind spots and airport workers with serious criminal convictions. Now, at least, you can be certain that David Hicks won’t be turning up as a baggage handler when he gets out of prison next year.

It was not always so certain. Thanks to Mr Kessing, a former Customs officer, the federal Government ordered a major review of airport safety. That review, by British aviation security expert, Sir John Wheeler confirmed that policing at our major airports was “often inadequate and dysfunctional”. His report recommended co-ordination between state and federal police, special police commanders to combat terrorism and organised crime at airports, a more rigorous system for issuing Aviation Security Identification Cards to airport employees and tougher filters to rout out those with criminal convictions. The Howard Government responded promptly, accepting all the recommendations under a $200 million package to better protect our airports from criminals and terrorists. Good news for all of us.

Except for Mr Kessing. In case you have not heard, Mr Kessing was found guilty just over a week ago of leaking the contents of two classified reports that detailed serious security lapses at our airports. Those reports, one of which was buried for two years and never made it onto the desk of a senior bureaucrat or minister, were published in The Australian. Public concern over the exposé forced the Government to commission the Wheeler Review, which in turn led to one of the biggest security upgrades of airport security. If ever there was a case of a whistleblower deserving our eternal praise, this is it. Instead, he is facing prison."

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