Australian government officials are considering implementing US-style airport security restrictions and procedures in the wake of the foiled terrorist plot to bring down an Etihad Airways flight originating from Sydney International Airport July 15.

The Australian said Aug. 6 that the country’s border protection, justice and transport ministers have met to discuss and prepare enhanced security measures for presentation to the Australian federal cabinet “within weeks.” New measures may include prohibitions on anyone passing through domestic security checkpoints without a valid boarding pass, reintroduction of liquid/gel limitations (which had been relaxed), implementation of biometric ID checks and full-body scans.

The measures are being considered as the Australian Federal Police announced terrorism charges against two Australians Aug. 3, alleging the men were part of a plot to plant an IED-style device on an Etihad Airways jet. According to police, the device was disguised as a commercial meat mincer and was handed off to one of the suspect’s brothers, who was unaware the bag contained the explosive. According to the police, at some point the bag was determined to be too heavy to take on board the aircraft, and the bag with the device was returned to the suspect who left the airport with it. Australian media and police reports indicate the device never reached a check-in counter. The device was apparently found in police raids conducted in Sydney July 29.

Security at Australian airports nationwide was ratchetted up July 30, as additional security measures were put in place at Australia's major airports in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Darwin, Perth, Adelaide, Canberra, Cairns, the Gold Coast and Hobart.

The measures complemented security arrangements already in place, Australia’s Infrastructure and Transport Minister Darren Chester said and “[were] being applied as an extra precaution, in coordination with counter terrorism raids in Sydney last night.”

At an Aug. 4 news conference, Australian Federal Police deputy commissioner Michael Phelan said parts of the IED were sent to Australia via an unidentified international air cargo carrier originating in Turkey. Phelan said Islamic State operatives in Syria were behind the shipment of the explosive’s components and had instructed the Australian suspects on how to build the device.

Phelan described the plot as “one of the most sophisticated plots that has ever been attempted on Australian soil.”

Turkey’s federal police bureau, in a statement released Aug. 5, said it will work with Australian authorities “about the possibility that the substances used in the construction of the explosive, corresponding to the sending process three months ago, were sent from our country.”

Security screening at regional Australian airports flying to the country’s large cities has come under scrutiny. “It may be that we need to look at the security settings at our airports, in particular our domestic airports, for an ongoing enduring period,” Australian Immigration and Border Protection minister Peter Dutton told reporters Aug. 7.

The Australian government is reevaluating its national security governing infrastructure and in July designated Dutton as the country’s new Home Affairs minister, with oversight of the country’s counterterrorism, intelligence, immigration/ border enforcement and federal police.

Mark Nensel mark.nensel@penton.com