Australian Minister's Sensible Comments on Airline Security Sparks Outcry
I'm the first to admit that I don't know anything about Australian politics. I don't know who Amanda Vanstone is, what she stands for, and what other things she's said about any other topic.
But I happen to think she's right about airline security:
In a wide-ranging speech to Adelaide Rotarians, Senator Vanstone dismissed many commonwealth security measures as essentially ineffective. "To be tactful about these things, a lot of what we do is to make people feel better as opposed to actually achieve an outcome," Senator Vanstone said.
During her Adelaide speech, Senator Vanstone implied the use of plastic cutlery on planes to thwart terrorism was foolhardy.
Implied? I'll say it outright. It's stupid. For all its faults, I'm always pleased when Northwest Airlines gives me a real metal knife, and I am always annoyed when American Airlines still gives me a plastic one.
"Has it ever occurred to you that you just smash your wine glass and jump at someone, grab the top of their head and put it in their carotid artery and ask anything?" Senator Vanstone told her audience of about 100 Rotarians. "And believe me, you will have their attention. I think of this every time I see more money for the security agencies."
The Immigration Minister also told of a grisly conversation with Mr Howard during a discussion on increased spending on national security.
Senator Vanstone said: "I asked him if I was able to get on a plane with an HB pencil, which you are able to, and I further asked him if I went down and came and grabbed him by the front of the head and stabbed the HB pencil into your eyeball and wiggled it around down to your brain area, do you think you'd be focusing? He's thinking, she's gone mad again."
Okay, so maybe that was a bit graphic for the Rotarians. But her comments are basically right, and don't deserve this kind of response:
"(Her) extraordinary outburst that airport security was a sham to make the public feel good has made a mockery of the Howard Government's credibility in this important area of counter-terrorism," Mr Bevis said yesterday. "And for Amanda Vanstone to once again put her foot in her mouth while John Howard is overseas for serious talks on terrorism is appalling. She should apologise and quit, or if the Prime Minister can't shut her up he should sack her."
But Mr. Bevis, airport security is largely a sham to make the public feel better about flying. And if your Prime Minister doesn't know that, then you should worry about how serious his talks will be.
Vanstone has been defending herself:
Vanstone rejected calls from the Labor Party opposition for her resignation over the comments they said trivialised an important issue, saying she was not ridiculing security measures.
"If the day has come when a minister can't say what every other Australian says and that is that plastic knives drive us crazy, I think we're in desperate straits," the minister told commercial radio on Monday.
Vanstone said she did not believe the security measures should be scrapped.
"What I have said is that putting a plastic knife on a plane doesn't necessarily make you very much safer. Bear in mind there are other things that are on planes," she said.
"People should not feel that because plastic knives are there, the world has dramatically changed -- because there are still HB pencils."
Plastic knives on airplanes drive me crazy too, and they don't do anything to improve our security against terrorism. I know nothing about Vanstone and her policies, but she has this one right.
Posted on November 22, 2005 at 1:41 PM • 97 Comments