Welcome to Australia, now pay up

Visitors to Australia will have to wait longer in queues at airports and pay more for the privilege as a result of the federal budget.

Despite projections of soaring inbound passenger numbers, budget funding for frontline border staff has been cut, while government charges for passengers movements will increase, the Tourism and Transport Forum claims.

"We will be saying to our overseas guests: 'Welcome to Australia, please queue up over there for up to an hour while we decide if you can come in.'

"What kind of first impression does that give?" said the forum's chief executive John Lee.

Funding for Australian Customs and Border Protection Service to process passengers is being cut by $6 million in the next two years while the passenger movement charge (PMC) will rise 17 per cent from $47 to $55 from July 1, the forum said.

"It is extraordinary to think that international passenger movements will rise by 27 per cent over the next four years, generating $3.7 billion in PMC revenue alone, while funding for passenger facilitation will remain stagnant," Mr Lee said.

On top of that, tourists will increasingly have to cover the cost of stationing Australian Federal Police at airports, he warned, as airports will be charged about $40 million a year for their presence.

"We are effectively asking passengers to pay for their own protection, instead of providing police for valid reasons of national security," Mr Lee said.

The capability of airport security services is being tested at Melbourne Airport today in a counter-terrorism exercise, codenamed Operation Hades.

Police from Victoria, NSW, South Australia, the federal police and emergency services including firefighters, are involved in the exercise scenario, which involves a simulated incident on an airliner.

Operation Hades is designed to test how organisations and agencies respond and recover from a terrorism event.

"Exercise Hades is a scenario-based exercise that is being held to test the ability of Victoria Police and other government agencies to respond quickly and cohesively to the occurrence of a significant terrorist event in Australia," Victoria Police Assistant Commissioner Stephen Fontana said.

"It is important that we are prepared for any kind of attack as we don't know what kind of terrorist threat we will be facing until an actual event occurs."

It comes just days after the CIA seized a new-generation underwear bomb in Yemen that intelligence agencies believe was to be used in another terrorist attack on a flight to the US.

The FBI is investigating whether the underwear bomb, which contained no metallic parts, would have passed undetected by new body scanners being installed at airports around the world.

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