Australia strengthens background checks for bioweapons handlers

Australia will be enhancing its already stringent requirements to secure biological disease agents following the passing of a new measure.

Any person handling biological agent that could potentially be used for a terrorist attack, including anthrax, smallpox and the plague, will face new background checks as part of the measure that was recently introduced to parliament.

Health Minister Nicola Roxon, noting that the country already had a series of stringent requirements covering the handlers of the biological agents, which are known as security sensitive biological agents, said that the new measure will allow greater access to background checks by the government.

The new measure will enable the federal health minister to determine that the background checking for handlers of SSBA's is conducted by the Australian Background Checking Service, also known as AusCheck, of the Attorney General's Department.

AusCheck, Roxon told parliament, will then coordinate the background checks, which will consist of an assessment of both a person's criminal history and security checks against a set of disqualification criteria.

By adding these greater checks as a requirement for authority, any SSBA's will, the parliament hopes, be kept out of the hands of those who might use them for harm or aid others who would use them from harm from obtaining them.