Advanced technology brings mandatory full-body scans to Australia

advanced technologyUsing advanced technology that makes passengers appear as stick figures, mandatory full-body scans are being rolled out at all of Australia’s major airports. Successful trials at Sydney and Melbourne airports last year signal the end of a loophole in legislation that had allowed passengers to request a pat-down instead of having to pass through a metal detector.

“I think the public understands that we live in a world where there are threats to our security and experience shows they want the peace of mind that comes with knowing government is doing all it can,” said Transport Minister Anthony Albanese in the Australian.

The new scanners, part of a $28 million overhaul, tested successfully year on more than 23,000 passengers in trials from August 2-19 in Sydney and September 5-30 in Melbourne.

The Australian government is touting the technology as the most advanced available, with the equipment able to detect metallic and non-metallic items beneath clothing with few radio waves emitted.
Made by L-3 Communications, the same company used in the United States to supply the scanners, the unisex images are discarded after each passenger has been cleared, satisfying privacy concerns.

The proposed Aviation Security Amendment (Screening) Bill 2012 will make it mandatory for any passenger selected, except those with serious medical conditions, to participate in a body scan and will be rolled out at a total of eight international gateway airports including Adelaide, Brisbane, Cairns and Gold Coast Perth.


TSA Eliminates Nude Body Scans With New Software



Flickr photo by DWissman

Australia rail travel a bargain for backpackers

rail travelQueensland Rail Travel (QR) provides Urban and Interurban rail and bus services throughout South East Queensland in Australia. Looking to deliver a greater number of international tourists to the state’s regional tourism hotspots, QR is offering special savings for overseas backpackers who want to travel between multiple locations

“Backpackers travel to several different locations up the east coast and this new offer gives them the flexibility of being able to move from point-to-point in a quick and convenient way,” Queensland Rail Travel general manager, Max Kruse said.

International visitors who have a valid hostel or backpacker card can save up to 40 per cent off the normal rail travel fare for point-to-point journeys on Queensland Rail Travel’s long distance services.

“Queensland Rail Travel’s network provides the gateway to all the tourism hotspots including the Gold Coast, Sunshine Coast, Fraser Coast, the Whitsundays, Townsville and Cairns,” said Kruse.

Rail travel passes are also available for backpackers who want to travel between Cairns, Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne allowing travelers the flexibility to hop on and off east coast trains over a six-month period.

With five World Heritage-listed sites and other extraordinary places in between, Queensland has lot to offer. Traveling in comfort onboard QR’s traditional and modern trains can make rail travel all the better.

Queensland Rail Photo


A Guide to Australia's Outback Area

Photo Gallery: Queensland, Australia

queensland australiaUsually we’re uncomfortable posting direct press pitches, but these pictures are too good to resist. Queensland, Australia, is often regarded as one of the most beautiful destinations in the world. Home to various UNESCO World Heritage Sites, beautiful beaches, breathtaking city skylines, a tropical climate, and wildlife that you can experience up-close, it is no wonder that 2.1 million people visit the region each year.

Interested in visiting the region yourself? Here are some suggested itineraries on how to make the most of your time in Queensland:

  • Go whale watching at Hervey Bay. Right now, the area is seeing a drastic increase in the amount of whales migrating along the coast. In fact, there are more whales at Hervey Bay now than there have been in the last 25 years. For more information or to book a whale watching tour, click here.
  • Scuba Dive the Great Barrier Reef. This is the ideal way to see this UNESCO World Heritage Site, as well as the aquatic life that inhabits it, up-close. For more information, click here.
  • Spend some time on the beaches of Surfer’s Paradise. Learn to surf, explore beachfront markets, ride a jet ski, or just layout and relax. And when the sun goes down, the area has plenty to offer in terms of dining, entertainment, and nightlife.
  • Get adventurous in Cairns. From skydiving to bungee jumping at AJ Hackett Tower to white water rafting on the Tully River, there are plenty of activities here for thrill seekers.

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Australia floods leave tourist industry in peril

Brisbane, brisbane, Australia, australia
The terrible floods in Queensland, Australia, have destroyed thousands of homes, done billions of dollars of damage, and have left at least a dozen people dead. Queensland is a major coal exporter, and with the rising waters hampering shipments and flooding mines, world coal prices have risen. A major consumer of Queensland coal are Asian steel mills, which are already feeling the pinch. This has led to a rise in steel prices. That’s a double dose of bad news for the economic recovery.

Another Queensland industry has also been hard hit–tourism. The tourists have fled along with the residents, but it’s the long-term effects that are more harmful. If rising coal and steel prices hurt the economic recovery, that’s bound to hurt the tourism industry pretty much everywhere. Brisbane, Australia’s third-largest city, is the center for Australia’s Gold Coast, a major draw for Australia’s $32 billion tourist industry. Floods are damaging popular beaches and will require costly repairs. Coastal and riverside hotels and shops are being destroyed. The Brisbane Times reports that toxic materials washed into the sea could have an effect on delicate coral reefs and fish populations. With snorkeling and scuba diving such popular activities on the Gold and Sunshine Coasts, this could do long-term damage to tourism.

Meanwhile, airlines are worried about how this will affect them. Virgin Blue has already seen its shares drop by 3.4 percent today because investors fear there will be a drop in bookings. Qantas shares also dipped slightly. Airlines are issuing fee waivers for passengers who want to change their flights to, from, or through Brisbane.

It looks like Queensland residents will suffer from the flood long after the waters recede.

[Photo of Brisbane sunset courtesy user t i m m a y via Gadling’s flickr pool]

Australia’s Kakadu National Park floods trap tourists after they ignore closed road signs

Australia floodsWhat is it with German tourists and Australia’s Northern Territory? If they’re not getting eaten by crocodiles or succumbing to dehydration, they’re blatantly ignoring road signs and driving their way into croc-infested floodwaters. NT News online reports that four wayward Germans visiting remote Kakadu National Park drove their rented four-wheel-drive–allegedly at 80mph, no less–through the flooded crossing at Magela Creek and Oenpelli Road. The group were en route to see the famed Aboriginal rock art at Ubirr, in the East Alligator region of the park.

The car stalled out, leaving the foursome stranded in three feet of water, smack-dab in the middle of a 300-foot crossing. Despite their apparent inability to heed large, glaring warning signs and screams from more intelligent roadside onlookers, the Germans possessed enough survival instinct to clamber to the top of their vehicle, where they were rescued by police 30 minutes later.

Look, I’ve spent a lot of time in Australia, including Kakadu. I’ll be the first to point out that the international media and popular film and literature make the country out to be some kind of fauna-invoked death wish. If the great whites and saltwater crocs don’t get you, the box jellyfish, blue-ringed octopi, brown snakes, taipans, or redback and funnel web spiders will.

I’m not disputing the deadliness of these creatures. And I can’t deny that certain situations like the current floods in Queensland make an encounter more likely. The advice to avoid “crocky” areas of tropical Northern Australia is no joke, and should be taken very seriously. In general, however, it’s easy to avoid crocs and the rest of these much-maligned critters; your odds of ever seeing one (even if you’re Australian) are unlikely. It’s a huge continent, guys, and like most venomous or aggressive species, most of these animals won’t attack unless provoked.

When I visited stunning Kakadu (with a seasoned outfitter from the region, because there’s no shortage of untrained, self-proclaimed, even downright dangerous guides in the world), it was this same time of year; the “Wet,” or monsoon season. It’s low season for tourists because many roads are flooded, and as such, that does make for greater statistical odds for a croc encounter. But more to the point, why would you intentionally disobey safety precautions, especially when you’re in a foreign environment/they’re prominently displayed/designed for easy comprehension by international visitors?

The bottom line is, whether you choose to explore isolated places alone or with an environmentally-responsible, accredited professional, use your brain. Obey the rules, because they exist for a reason. Behave with respect for the land, flora, fauna, and people. Your stupidity or carelessness often cause more than just inconvenience to others. It can result in great expense and lost lives, including those of your rescuers. If nothing else, you’ll become fodder for global news outlets, who use you as an example of what not to do.