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Wednesday, 24 February 2010 03:27

Australia to require biometric visas

Australia will spend $69 million building the technology infrastructure for biometric checks of visa applicants from countries considered a high risk of producing potential terrorists as part of Government's long-awaited Counter-Terrorism White Paper.

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said applicants for new electronic visas from about ten countries will need to present themselves in person at visa application centres in their countries and submit fingerprints and a biometric facial image.

Security agencies are working with the Department of Foreign Affairs and overseas counterparts in the UK and US to identify countries where the new requirements will take effect, although Yemen, Somalia and Indonesia appear likely to be on the list.

The announcement is another big step in the long march of biometric identification technology into the mainstream.

Mr Rudd said it would also invest in a high-tech, "multi-agency counter-terrorism control centre within the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation" to coordinate "our intelligence efforts on the ground, in the field."

The announcement is the second in two weeks involving a big-ticket slabs of technology, pointing to a windfall 2010-11 Budget of new work coming out of Canberra.

Mr Rudd and Infrastructure Minister Anthony Albanese announced a fortnight ago a raft of airport security measures that included a $200 million allocation for full body scanners and enhanced explosive detection devices at major international gateway airports.

Attorney-General Robert McClelland said the new Counter-Terrorism Control Centre would draw together experts from the intelligence community to a centre within (ASIO.)

"It will look at increasing the capacity to gather intelligence, analyse intelligence (and) to communicate it to those agencies that may require that intelligence, or indeed to simply cross-check the intelligence," Mr McClelland said.

"So that will be a significant enhancement through combining existing capabilities of our intelligence-gathering capability."

Despite the raft of new measures adopted, the Counter-Terrorism White Paper has already drawn criticism for its lack of analysis of technology-based terrorist threats - including those related to the radicalisation of young men.

In particular, the White Paper contains for detail and no strategy on the emergence of social media tools like chat rooms, instant messaging and even sites like Facebook for enabling improved communications between possible terrorists.
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