Air­port worker ‘fired gun near staff’

The Weekend Australian - - THE NATION - MICHAEL OWEN

A main­te­nance worker em­ployed at Mel­bourne air­port is set to be charged af­ter a six-month in­ves­ti­ga­tion by the Aus­tralian Fed­eral Po­lice into his use of a gun near col­leagues while at work.

It can be re­vealed that the worker, whom The Week­end Aus­tralian has cho­sen not to iden­tify, was re­ferred to the AFP by his em­ployer, Airser­vices Aus­tralia, in March.

The AFP yes­ter­day con­firmed the on­go­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tion af­ter in­quiries by The Week­end Aus­tralian.

It is un­der­stood the worker, the fa­ther of a young girl from Dig­gers Rest, 33km north­west of Mel­bourne, al­legedly brought an un­li­censed gun into Mel­bourne air­port and fired off sev­eral live rounds inside a work­shop.

Sources said the in­ci­dent was deeply dis­turb­ing in terms of air­port se­cu­rity and the man’s co­work­ers were shaken, con­cerned for their own wel­fare and that of the trav­el­ling pub­lic.

Other em­ploy­ees of Airser­vices Aus­tralia said they were as­tounded the mat­ter had not been re­solved, hav­ing oc­curred in Oc­to­ber last year, and claimed it had been cov­ered up by author­i­ties.

Airser­vices Aus­tralia, a gov­ern­ment-owned cor­po­ra­tion that pro­vides avi­a­tion ser­vices in­clud­ing telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions, nav­i­ga­tion and res­cue and fire fight­ing, re­ferred the mat­ter to the AFP only in March, five months af­ter the al­leged in­ci­dent took place.

The man has worked as an emer­gency ve­hi­cle tech­ni­cian for Airser­vices Aus­tralia for more than five years. It is un­der­stood he is not cur­rently work­ing at Mel­bourne air­port.

Airser­vices Aus­tralia spokes­woman Sarah Ful­ton re­fused to an­swer any ques­tions from The Week­end Aus­tralian about the mat­ter, but in a brief state­ment said the or­gan­i­sa­tion took “safety and se­cu­rity se­ri­ously”.

Airser­vices took “ap­pro­pri­ate steps to man­age any known or po­ten­tial risks to our op­er­a­tions and safety of our peo­ple”, the state­ment said. “As the mat­ter is un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion by the AFP, It would be in­ap­pro­pri­ate to com­ment.”

An AFP spokes­woman said an in­ves­ti­ga­tion was on­go­ing.

“The AFP can con­firm that in March 2017, Airser­vices Aus­tralia re­ferred a mat­ter to the AFP for in­ves­ti­ga­tion,” she said. “The in­ves­ti­ga­tion re­lates to an al­leged in­ci­dent at a re­mote fa­cil­ity of Mel­bourne air­port in Oc­to­ber 2016. There was no threat or any on­go­ing risk to the trav­el­ling pub­lic as a re­sult of this al­leged in­ci­dent.”

The man’s wife hung up with­out com­ment when con­tacted by The Week­end Aus­tralian.

The revelations come as Bill Shorten yes­ter­day pledged to re­in­state AFP of­fi­cers at Ho­bart’s air­port un­der a La­bor gov­ern­ment. The Op­po­si­tion Leader said La­bor would al­lo­cate 16 AFP of­fi­cers to the air­port at a cost of about $13 mil­lion if it won the next fed­eral elec­tion. “We un­der­stand in these very dif­fi­cult times of se­cu­rity that we need to make sure we have the AFP at our cap­i­tal city air­ports,” he said.

Of­fi­cers were with­drawn from the air­port in Oc­to­ber 2014, mak­ing Ho­bart the only cap­i­tal city ter­mi­nal with­out an AFP pres­ence. The Trans­port Work­ers Union yes­ter­day warned that safety and se­cu­rity at air­ports was at risk be­cause of cost­cut­ting and un­der­staffing.

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