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Wednesday, 9 September 2009
Page: 9018


Mr ALBANESE (Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government) (11:22 AM) —in reply—I thank members for their contributions to the debate on the Aviation Transport Security Amendment (2009 Measures No. 1) Bill 2009, however confusing some of them might have been, particularly the contribution from the member for Farrer, who gave a critique of this bill but then commended it to the House. I note that no amendments have been moved to this legislation and that the opposition will be supporting it.

This legislation is a part of the government’s ongoing vigilance when it comes to transport security. Australia’s aviation security framework has a number of layers to ensure the deterrence, detection and prevention of acts of unlawful interference with an aircraft. The Rudd government is vigilant to ensure security agencies have the necessary tools to deal with threats to the Australian aviation industry. The Aviation Transport Security Amendment (2009 Measures No. 1) Bill 2009 makes four important amendments to the Aviation Transport Security Act 2004. The government’s aviation security agencies need the tools provided by these amendments to improve security at airports and along the freight supply chain. I note that these are all improvements to the regime that we inherited from the former government, and the shadow minister’s critique of the former government’s transport security regime was very interesting indeed. Indeed, it is quite astonishing that those who were part of the former government forget that they were there for 12 years.

Reference was made to the report today on the maritime security regime at our ports. That is a regime that we inherited from the former government. I believe that the former government were ahead of the curve when it came to instituting the MSIC. That was in response to the circumstances arising from the acts of terrorism in September 2001. The former government did act, did put in place a regime and that was supported by the then opposition. Upon coming to office we instituted an audit of that regime. I received that report just weeks ago, and we are consulting with industry before we announce the details of a tightening of the security regime at our ports. But it is a tightening of the former government’s regime. I do not seek to make points of a partisan nature on this because I believe that any fair analysis will show that the Howard government were ahead of most of our major industrialised countries in taking action, but improvements can be made. But the idea, though, that a shadow minister can make a critique of the former government as though it was our regime and nothing to do with them is, quite frankly, extraordinary.

This bill makes four important amendments to the act. The first amendment will amend the act to allow for greater flexibility in the categorisation of airports for security purposes. All airports where regular passenger transport services land are security controlled airports. At present they are all subject to a standard set of Commonwealth security regulations. This amendment will enable the secretary to designate security controlled airports into categories and insert a regulation-making power to prescribe different requirements for each category of airport. Categorising airports according to their relative risk will allow security resources to be deployed based on risk, giving greater flexibility to the regulation of airports while maintaining security. This measure will not be implemented until there has been consultation with industry, and passage of the bill will allow that consultation to start in the near future.

The second amendment expands the powers of aviation security inspectors from the Office of Transport Security in my department to allow them to make unannounced inspections of air cargo businesses that are not at an airport. Currently, inspections of cargo businesses outside airports can only be undertaken with reasonable notice. While many air cargo companies are located well away from an airport the integrity of their security procedures is important for aviation security because the freight that is packed at those sites ends up in the body of a plane. Amendments to aviation security inspector powers are required to ensure effective compliance monitoring of the Accredited Air Cargo Agent Scheme, which will commence early next year.

The third amendment introduces enforceable undertakings as a middle range enforcement tool under the act to deal with breaches of transport security plans. Currently, there are no intermediate penalties if an operator breaches their transport security plan and offences may trigger cancellation of the plan, which would prevent the cargo operator or airline from operating. Enforceable undertakings are flexible and conciliatory in nature, presenting a particularly useful option considering the often unpredictable nature of the aviation security environment.

Finally, the act will be amended to expand the scope of compliance control directions so that they can also be issued to airports and screening authorities. Currently, the act permits aviation security inspectors to direct the pilot or operator of an aircraft that is in Australia, but not in flight, to take a specified action in relation to the aircraft. Such a direction by an inspector is a compliance control direction. The amendment will allow an aviation security inspector to direct operators of security controlled airports, screening authorities or screening officers to take specific actions. For example, an airport operator or screening authority may be directed to screen or rescreen certain passengers and baggage.

The bill makes important changes to the aviation security legislation framework. The government will continue to monitor the effectiveness of measures within the aviation security framework to ensure that it remains responsive to threats to the travelling public and the Australian aviation industry. We will continue to do this on an ongoing basis, we will make changes wherever they will improve transport security and we will continue—as we have with this legislation—to consult with the opposition to ensure that these measures gain bipartisan support, because it is important when it comes to our transport security framework that it be in the national interest rather than politicised, as the previous speaker sought to do.

Question agreed to.

Bill read a second time.