Australian Baggage Handlers Could Face Covert Surveillance

SYDNEY -- Airline baggage handlers could be placed under covert surveillance after damaging allegations that corrupt staff are smuggling drugs through Sydney Airport. NSW Premier Bob Carr today signalled he is willing to amend workplace surveillance laws, while Qantas chief Geoff Dixon said cameras should be installed in baggage handling areas at all airports and in plane holds. Federal Customs Minister Chris Ellison has also backed tougher airport security measures. The three were commenting following allegations that Qantas baggage handlers were paid $300,000 to smuggle almost 10kg of cocaine through Sydney Airport. Thirteen people have been arrested in connection with an alleged conspiracy to import millions of dollars worth of cocaine into Australia. Mr Dixon today said he could not rule out a link between corrupt baggage handlers implicated in a cocaine smuggling racket and claims by accused smuggler Schapelle Corby that handlers had planted drugs in her luggage. Corby's bodyboard bag was processed at Sydney Airport's international terminal on the same day a Qantas baggage handler allegedly smuggled the 10kg of cocaine out of the airport from another plane. "I can't rule out any link," Mr Dixon told the Seven Network. "All I can say is that we have looked very carefully over the past five months, we've known what's been going on and we haven't found any connections, but I can't say anything more than that." The airline yesterday said there was no evidence of any connection between the cocaine smuggling ring and Corby. Mr Carr said he believed employee surveillance was already possible at Sydney Airport because the terminals were covered by federal law. "We will design specific legislation with Qantas to see that there is covert surveillance allowed at the airport to see that drug dealing through baggage handling is brought to a swift end," Mr Carr told reporters. "Bear in mind they could have done it under our existing legislation, other employers have, and second they can do it under federal law because ... federal law applies at the airport," he said. Mr Dixon also defended the majority of Qantas's 38,000 staff as "decent hard working people".

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