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Wednesday, 21 June 2006
Page: 183

Mrs HULL (11:10 AM) —It does give me great pleasure today to speak on the Aviation Transport Security Amendment Bill 2006, which amends some previous legislation and will enable improvement of the operational arrangements for aviation security. There are three areas here, but I will start with the first area. I wholeheartedly welcome the first set of amendments in the bill, because I have been involved in events over many years and I can see that the first amendment, which focuses on managing events and specialised activities at security controlled airports, is desperately needed. There are many occasions where airport operators manage events or specialised activities that are outside their usual business. These include receiving and farewelling dignitaries at international airports, managing large commercial ventures such as air shows and hosting community events at a regional airport. I believe that the special events security rules being tailored to suit the type of event being held show particular merit.

There is a proposed aviation conference and exhibition to be held in Wagga Wagga, which is expected to attract more than 5,000 visitors each year by 2009 to 2011. That is pretty exciting for the business operators, the motel industry and the events industry. The whole of our community and region at large would get a major financial and economic benefit from something like this happening. The organisers have had discussions with me. They have talked about a similar event that is held in a town in the US with a similar population to that of Wagga Wagga—about 62,000 people. This event in the US has grown and now attracts about 750,000 visitors annually, and facilities have been set up to make it an owner-operator stopover. That event provides an enormous contribution to their city and their district.

I do not see the event in Wagga Wagga attracting 750,000 visitors annually, but I certainly hope that it will achieve its target of 5,000 visitors. That would have a significant impact once a year and provide enormous benefits. If we have this event in Forest Hill at the airport, there will be a great spin-off. It is important that we promote tourism in regional areas, and it is my view that this bill will make it easier for the organisers of the event in Wagga Wagga to continue to plan and to have it as a calendar event in the shortest possible time.

My area, the Riverina, is ideally placed as a central fly-in destination. David Lowy has invested big time in the Temora Aviation Museum. It is an attraction to behold, and I encourage anybody who is interested in aviation to visit Temora. It is something you would expect to see only in a major metropolitan city placed in a tourism zone, and yet here in Temora, with the assistance of the Temora Shire Council and the absolute commitment of the industry, we have seen the Temora Aviation Museum grow and prosper and become a place of renown. It is something that they need to be very proud of.

The entire region has good prospects for continued aviation, and while I believe the existing scheme of airport security zones is well adapted to those routine activities, the industry has indicated that there is a need for a more flexible structure in order to manage these specialised areas and many of these things in rural and regional airports. The bill provides for a system of event zones, which will make it far easier to appropriately vary or suspend some of the usual security arrangements for the duration of an event, such as the one I have just spoken about. For example, some events that we have are so strictly managed that it is simply not necessary to require everyone present to wear an aviation security identity card.

I go to an example of that in relation to a regional express airlines fundraiser. Rex, our fantastically successful regional carrier, has a fundraiser each year. Last year that fundraiser was for Country Hope, which supports kids with cancer. It was a sensational day. There was airside access, but it was tightly controlled. It was a great family day, raising significant dollars for Country Hope to meet the needs of the local children who are suffering from cancer. This is another area of need that is addressed by this bill. Rex requires measures such as these not only to contribute to regional airline and aviation opportunities for regional people but also to go further and offer the services of all of its staff and the finances and economics of its business in order to put in place fundraisers which benefit country kids with cancer. I very much support schedule 1 in the bill, which will improve the regulatory arrangements for airport security by creating event zones that may be used when an airport conducts an activity that is not part of its usual transport business.

Schedule 2 of the bill looks at the way in which we deal with cargo. We all know that the new aviation security regulatory framework came into effect in March 2005 following the passage of the Aviation Transport Security Act and subsequent making of the aviation transport security regulations. The purpose of that framework was to prevent unlawful interference with aviation through an entire range of mechanisms and measures, one of which has been to install security in airports right across Australia.

An airport in my electorate that has been high on the agenda and that recently received some funding—it is its third stage of funding of $202,000 to upgrade security—is Griffith Airport. It was one of 147 regional airports that were required to have a transport security program approved by the Australian government to strengthen aviation security around the country. But there were some problems, particularly in Griffith, because an aviation industry was set up in a boundary and a zone that was airside. That presented a problem for a particular industry operating out of Griffith Airport. Through no fault of its own, it had established Skycroppers, which found that access to their supplier was going to be limited by the impact of the security legislation.

To their great credit, the minister’s office and the Griffith City Council have been working with the owner-operator of Skycroppers to try to resolve this difficult situation. Whilst it is great to insist on implementing security at Griffith Airport we have businesses to think about. It was a stressful time for the operator of Skycroppers. He could not seem to work his way through the mire of issues that were going to see him unable to accept the sort of customer he had in the past. His was one of those industries that have come under consideration, bearing in mind that he has agricultural chemicals on board. We had to do something to ensure that access to this business was controlled and secure, with ASICs, et cetera. But the guy had to be able to continue to operate his business. He could not be stymied by this type of regulation, about which people have spoken so passionately, in our efforts to enforce security across Australia. He is just one example of how it is not possible to do this in a carte blanche way. It is not possible to do a one-size-fits-all without impacting on people who have done nothing wrong, who established businesses before any of these processes were put in place as a result of the terrible terrorism events that we witnessed.

The good news and the upside is that through negotiation and discussion and some compromise—but certainly no compromise in the security area—we found a way forward until such time as this business is in a position whereby it will have no difficulty in complying with Griffith airport’s safety and security plan. At Griffith a large amount of both export and domestic air cargo is currently loaded aboard aircraft without any form of screening or inspection. A small business man was being impacted upon, although the issue was a large one, confronting cargo right across Australia. There is a definite risk to the aviation industry if somebody decides they are going to unlawfully interfere with aviation by putting illegal consignments of unauthorised explosives or explosive devices aboard a plane with the intention to detonate such items whilst that plane is in the air. Other risks exist with mislabelled high consequence dangerous goods. The primary focus of schedule 2 of this bill is on mitigating the risk of an active unauthorised interference with aviation.

We might have heard in debate that we should have in place a far more rigorous security process throughout Australian aviation. The way the minister is going about it, responding to and putting in place recommendations, is the way he should go. We should be dealing with things when we know we can manage them so we do not have unintended consequences. Schedule 2, in creating a new division 2(a) of part 4 of the act, which deals exclusively with how cargo will be examined to ensure that it is safe to be carried by aircraft, was drafted with a lot of thought, a lot of information and an understanding of the long chain of events involved in how a product comes to be a part of the cargo on an aeroplane. Somebody 46th or 84th down the chain should not be impacted upon. At the beginning of the process, in a one-off situation, that carrier might have to pick up a piece of cargo that ultimately ends up in many hands thereafter, yet he is expected to have the same rigorous security principles and clearances as somebody at the front end.

This security of cargo has been an evolving issue. Implementing a security airport upgrade has enormous unintended consequences, particularly for small businesses, which have done absolutely nothing wrong. We need to recognise that there is a propensity for that to happen and the potential is there for severe unintended consequences that could put people out of business simply because we have been too rigorous and used too much gusto in the way we have implemented these measures of security. There is no one way that airline and aviation can be totally 110 per cent protected from an event taking place. We want to ensure that there is a sense of importance about aviation security. We want to implement, as it becomes available, a program to ensure further airport and aviation security for the traveller and to ensure that we keep in the minds of people that it is safe to travel on airlines.

Let us be very clear: there will be mechanisms and ways for people to break laws, but the intention to continue to try to interface with people in order to establish and introduce new amendments to our legislation is an excellent way forward to ensure that our airline industry is as protected as possible and our consumers are as protected as possible. But in doing so we must ensure that our small businesses and people who could be impacted on in an enormous way through unintended consequences are also considered in the introduction of these measures. I support the minister and I support the commonsense approach to the way in which the aviation transport security bill is being added to. I support these sensible amendments. There will probably be many more but I think this is the exact way that policy should be implemented to ensure that there are as few as possible unintended consequences.