Thursday 24 June 2010

Laptops and mobiles now being searched at Cairns Airport for pornography

Australian Customs has stepped up surveillance at Cairns Airport, enacting new powers to search travellers' computer laptops, digital cameras and even mobile phones.

Customs now have the power to search all travellers for pornography on electronic devices as they arrive in Cairns.

A 22-year-old New Zealand traveller, who arrived in Cairns from Auckland, was interrogated by Customs for pornography, by the new intrusive powers under the guise of looking for child porn.

"I was pulled aside at Cairns Airport and after they searched my bags and suitcase, they asked me if I had any pornography on my laptop," the Auckland man told Jacqui Stanford from "I said no, but they insisted that I switch it on so they could check."

However it seems that not all passengers are being asked to declare if they have pornography in their luggage. It's understood that only some passenger arrival cards ask if pornography is being carried. If travellers answer "yes", they face the humiliation of having their material examined by customs officers. Ticking "no" if you are carrying pornography, which includes electronic photos, you are breaking the law.

The New Zealand traveller, who was visiting Cairns for a week's holiday, watched customs officers go through his entire computer for more than 10 minutes, in full view of other travellers in the Cairns International Airport arrivals area.
"They didn't find anything remotely pornographic," he told CairnsBlog. "Then they took my laptop into a room to do further searching," he said. "About five minutes later they returned looking rather disappointed that there was nothing to be found. I was also asked if the camera I had with me had ever been used to produce pornography."
"When I was pulled aside by customs, where they went through all of my luggage, they asked me lots of questions about what I was doing and what I did for a job in New Zealand," he said.

"I was also asked why I had a video camera and a still camera and if I had ever used them to make pornography. I explained to them that Cairns was known to be a tourist destination so I had anticipated taking lots of photos of the area. To say that this experience soured my first trip to Queensland would be an understatement."

The overt scrutiny has caused concern for civil liberties.

The Australian Sex Party claims that Customs now has an "unfettered right" to examine all electronic devices, marking a new era of investigation into people's private lives.

"We're demanding an inquiry into why a new question appears on Incoming Passenger Cards asking people if they are carrying pornography," president Fiona Patten says. "If you and your partner have filmed or photographed yourselves making love in an exotic destination or even taking a bath, you will have to answer 'Yes' to the question or you will be breaking the law," she says.

Customs have confirmed to the Sydney Morning Herald there are now references to "pornography" on the passenger arrival cards and new search powers. They have acknowledged that searches conducted by officers may involve the discovery of "personal or sensitive possessions".

Electronic Frontiers Australia says the change has been sneaked in under the radar without any public consultation about the massive privacy issues. "It's hard to fathom what the pressing concern could be that requires Australia to quiz every entrant to the country on their pornography habits, as if visitors would be aware of the nuances of the Australian classification scheme," Colin Jacobs says.

It was Benjamin Franklin who said that the man who trades freedom for security, does not deserve, nor will he ever receive either. Just lucky he didn't own an iPad. Or a digital camera. Or a laptop. Or engage with Australian Customs.


FedAgent said...

As usual Mike your understanding of legal issues is sorely lacking. If you have "nudie pictures" of your spouse, you can safely answer "NO" to the customs question. The word "pornography" has a specific legal definition, and it doesn't mean "any pictures of naked people". The fact that the dirty movie industry has misappropriated the word "pornography" is irrelevant.

The word "pornography" means material that is illegal in Australia.

And customs doesn't go thru computers file-by-file. They have a memory key that searches for specific files of known child pornography. It was developed by the FBI, and works a treat.

Syd Walker said...

More visual cues would be useful to help explain modern Australian ethics to tourists.

Could incoming passengers be given a booklet to help explain in pictures exactly what the government means by 'pornography'? (Better to use photos than translate smutty words into scores of languages).

Perhaps a large photo of a nude child with a red line tastefully drawn over the top would help get the idea across?

I also think the publishment should be clear to our guests.

How about a few transgressors hung, drawn and displayed in small quarters on the road into town from Cairns airport, to instill terror in all sleazebags, while providing the virtuous majority with a new form of socially-acceptable adult entertainment?

I don't watch porn, honest! said...

# creative activity (writing or pictures or films etc.) of no literary or artistic value other than to stimulate sexual desire

# Pornography or porn is the portrayal of explicit sexual subject matter for the purposes of sexual excitement and erotic satisfaction.

The explicit depiction of sexual subject matter, especially with the sole intention of sexually exciting the viewer; The graphic, detailed, often gratuitous depiction of something

No mention of the word "illegal" there.

Al said...

I think FedAgent is wrong. Pornography per se is NOT illegal in Australia. However, certain extreme elements of it are (and everyone knows - or should know, what that is!)
The Customs question is an unacceptable intrusion that has no business on incoming passenger cards. This is just another nail in the coffin of personal freedom and airports have become the front line at hammering them in.
I wonder at what level of the bureaucracy was the descision to include such a wowser question made.

Paul said...

So Fedagent. Is this explained at the time? Everyone has a working definition of what they consider porn that is not necessarily the legalese definition. Do they explain precisely what they are looking for?

What next? Check our itunes folders? Look for seditious articles from non-approved websites?

John Jay said...


Ignorance of the law is no excuse.

Good Vibrations said...

oops, better leave that vibrator at home next time you travel, it could be considered a tool used to produce pornography.

Real Ranga (Ranger?) said...

School holidays started 'krudd'? Nothing to do except to be clever and witty on your 'pooter?

Lillian at Yorkeys said...

To John Jay - I would suggest your comment - "Ignorance of the law is no excuse" Well, if you are a first-time visitor to a country, do you necessarily read the whole Constitution/Laws/Edicts of a country before you visit? I think not. One might, and hopefully, visit Lonely Planet or other website to sort out the norms of that society, but the whole Law & Nothing But the Law? Phleease.

This is not visitor-friendly.

Whilst I am sure that we all wish to deter pedophilia-friendly porn & violent porn from reaching our shores, there is no need for perps to bring this in on their computer. This can be, of course, quickly sent via the internet.

This whole thing sounds like a Politically Correct, Nanny-State exercise. Who OK'd this?

It will be an international embarassment to Australia, & will also possibly deter people visiting Australia if this sort of thing is allowed to continue.

And thanks to 'I Don't Watch Porn, Honest' above for some concentration of ideas of the subject matter. And good point 'Good Vibrations' - do we leave vibrators & other sex toys at home - because they are verboten in Oz? Where is the line?

And for all of you who reckon regulating porn vis Customs is OK, when is the last time you filled in an Arrival Desination Card in a different language to your Australian English? Capiche?

Smithfield Sam said...

Yo Lillian,

Would you bring naked, non-pornographic pictures of people to Mainland China?

Of course you wouldn't, you'd know of course that it could be trouble. Why shouldn't Australia be shown the same respect?

Lillian at Yorkeys said...

Sam - I don't quite get your point.
If I were to bring a postcard of say, Michaelangelo's 'David' to mainland China, would that be a problem? If I had just visited Italy, or perhaps I am an artist, wanting to carry images to fuel my work?
Clarification, Sam, please?

Disco said...

I dead set thought this was a joke when I first read it.

No one carrying 'offensive material' will make any such declaration. Why would such an individual feel compelled to even physically carry such material when it could be accessed on the internet.

Anyone conducting random searches would be in a league of distain all to themselves above and beyond those currently conducting pointless random explosive testing.

It will only lead to embrassment to law abiding Joe Citizen subjected to well intentioned but such misdirected and pointless application of resources.

This new measure is a deadset embarassment to the Australian Customs and those unfortunates (unless that's their bag) whose job it is to undertake such personally intrusive and ultimately fruitless searches.



been there, done that. Mike's lack of understanding of the legal issues is only shaddowed by the AFP's lack of understanding of legal issues, human rights, and a child's life!

I got wrongfully arrested for pornography, for a legitimate movie file actually passed by the Aussie Censors, was assaulted during the raid, my human rights violated - and those of my 2 children who were subjected to the same redneck vigilante inspired criminal assaults! The arresting Federal Agent is no longer a cop, he resigned - it appears he was under investigation for sexual harrassment! It gets better, another person in the NT had his charges dismissed - for the very same movie file because the person was an adult!!!!

On top of that, the AFP are aware of the legal material out there that they then use to bluff thier charges to try and get a person to plead guilty - most likely to bolster statistics.... those who can't afford to pay for a defence are left with the prospect of plead guilty in the hope they will go easy on them, or face a long time in goal.

In my case, I have recently found out that the arresting 'Agent' knew I was innocent all along. Yep, he knew, yet persisted with the prosecution! I know this because I got access to the investigation documents where it was found he was advised, not once, not twice, but three times that he did not have a case to pursue!

This sort of behaviour is not new to the AFP is it FedAgent! What about Pilot Fred Martins. He was innocent all along, and had the Federal Agents done their jobs and located the appropriate evidence, they would have known that wouldn't they? There again, who cares when you can bribe (opps sorry, pay witness fees) to the 'complainant' to ensure she would not withdraw her testimony.

But in the end, why should Federal Agents care, after all, their actions of freezing this guy's assets caused the death of his infant daughter! All in the name of 'saving the children'.

For those who are really interested, I suggest googling the term "laundering statistics" where you will find an interesting article that exposes the myths and lies the AFP and other LEA's put out there as 'fact'. Very interesting reading.

And, for those interested in the greatest travesty of justice for the past 100 years, read up on how the UK police arrested up to 1500 men, most of which it has been proven that they were innocent victims of credit card fraud. The Police simply lobbied to have the laws changed, so they were charged with Incitement rather than possession of child pornography, because they were not found with the material in the first place. Yep, 24 men that we know of who were innocent actually committed suicide due to the vigilante inspired crime against them, all because the police wanted a very public 'result'. Watch the news in November, the very first appeal is taking place where the corruption will be detailed. It WILL have an on-flow effect in Australia!

Enough said. Our human rights are currently being routinely violated, people wrongfully pursued in the name of a Moral Panic engendered by the AFP, and ultimately people loose their lives because of the difficulty dealing with the publicity. So much for 'Innocent until Proven Guilty' eh?

Yes, I am suing, before the end of the year! Yes, there are currently complaints against the AFP (that they have taken nearly 2 years to complete!) and yes, I will be going public with what I know soon!