Qantas security boss Geoff Askew said yesterday thousands of Aviation Security Identification Cards were issued every year to people who work in restricted areas at Sydney airport, including the airstrip and baggage rooms.
But Australia's largest airline could not account for 384 of the cards, issued by the Department of Transport and Regional Services over the past two years, Mr Askew told federal parliament's public accounts and audit committee in Sydney.
The committee reopened its investigations into aviation security after revelations in a classified Customs report published in The Australian in June about serious safety breaches at Sydney airport.
Mr Askew told the committee Qantas was concerned by the large number of cards unaccounted for.
"We would be concerned if we lost a laptop or any other piece of equipment as well," he said.
Mr Askew said the airline filed a police report when a card went missing and disabled the card so it could not work in the control access system.
But a Sydney Airport spokesman said later the card could still be used to get into areas that were staffed.
"If they were going through a gate they would not need to swipe the card but a security guard would be expected to check their photographic ID," the spokesman said.
Sydney Airports Corporation's airport security manager, Ron Elliott, told the inquiry the Government needed to establish a national ASIC database.
This would help to close loopholes and address the system's shortcomings.
'It would be a matter for the government to do ... through the attorney-general," Mr Elliott said.
In October, two former Qantas contractors used their ASIC cards to access an area of Sydney's international terminal where they were not authorised to work. The workers, who face court next month, claim it would never have happened if they had been given the correct security passes.
The inquiry will take evidence on aviation security in Melbourne today.
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