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Homeland Security

SLUG: 2-304023 Australia-Air Security (L-only)
DATE:
NOTE NUMBER:

DATE=06/05/03

TYPE=CORRESPONDENT REPORT

TITLE=AUSTRALIA / AIR SECURITY (L-ONLY)

NUMBER=2-304023

BYLINE=PHIL MERCER

DATELINE=SYDNEY

CONTENT=

VOICED AT:

INTRO: Australian authorities have arrested a man on a domestic passenger flight after he was overheard making threats. It is Australia's second airline security scare in a week. From Sydney, Phil Mercer reports.

TEXT: The plane was taxing onto the runway Thursday in the Melbourne when passengers say they overheard a man make the threat to hijack the flight bound for Brisbane.

Passenger Eric Thain was sat near the man when the hijacking threats were made.

/// THAIN ACT ///

Sitting in aisle one, which was the seat closest to the cockpit, when this all happened so I really had a bird's eye view of the prelude. What alerted them was just verbal abuse rather than physical.

/// END ACT ///

The crew of the Virgin Blue plane abandoned the flight and taxied back where security guards arrested the passenger. He was unarmed but was being interrogated by police.

It is the second security incident in Australia in a week.

Late last week, a passenger - armed with sharpened wooden stakes - stormed the cockpit of a Qantas flight between Melbourne and Tasmania. Detectives say only the heroism of two flight attendants prevented a major tragedy.

The suspect, 40-year old David Mark Robinson, has been charged with attempted hijacking and assaulting a crew member. He goes on trial and August and faces a possible life sentence.

In the light of recent events, Australia's Parliament has set up an inquiry into aviation security.

It is part of a wide-ranging review of Australia's domestic security arrangements, ordered after the attacks on New York and Washington in September 2001. That review was given greater urgency after the terrorist bombings on the Indonesian Island of Bali last October, in which almost 90 Australians were killed. (Signed)

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