(Corrects year to 2017, not 2019, in 3rd paragraph)
By Colin Packham
SYDNEY, May 8 (Reuters) - Australia announced plans in its annual budget on Tuesday to spend nearly A$300 million to upgrade airport security amid heightened fears of lone wolf terror attacks.
Australia, a staunch ally of the United States, has been on high alert for several years for attacks by home-grown militants returning from fighting in the Middle East or their supporters.
It has also foiled several planned attacks by radicalised locals, most notably in July 2017 when it arrested and charged several men who attempted to smuggle an explosive device onto a plane departing Sydney Airport.
“These terrorist plots showed a very real and disturbing danger,” Australia’s Minister for Home Affairs Peter Dutton said in a statement.
The funds, allocated under the 2018/19 budget, will be used to install body scanners and advanced X-ray machines at all major international airports and 64 regional facilities,Dutton said.
The government also committed nearly A$7 million to extend the employment of Australian security officials at 19overseas airports for another two years.
Dutton said the officials at unnamed international airports have stopped more than 1,000 people traveling to Australia on fraudulent documents over the past five years.
The government will also spend A$59.1 million to develop a national database that would identify terror suspects in public buildings, streets and sporting venues using facial recognition technology.
The country’s state leaders agreed in late 2017 to share photo identification of their residents with the federal government to create that database. (Reporting by Colin Packham; Editing by Jane Wardell)