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Wednesday, 15 May 2013
Page: 3374

Mr ALBANESE (GrayndlerLeader of the House, Minister for Infrastructure and Transport and Minister for Regional Development and Local Government) (10:45): I thank the members for their contribution and I thank the fact that this legislation will receive the unanimous support of the House. The introduction of the Aviation Transport Security Amendment (Inbound Cargo Security Enhancement) Bill 2013 is an important step in strengthening Australia's air cargo security measures.

The attempted cargo bomb plot on 29 October 2010 involved improvised explosive devices hidden in printers on air consignments sent from Yemen to the United States. I was in London at the time and, with my officials, had briefings on the incident from the appropriate British authorities. There was a concern that the consignments potentially could explode over British air space. The incident clearly demonstrated the potential for terrorists to stage attacks using the global air cargo system.

In responding to the Yemen incident, my department issued special security directions to prohibit air cargo originating in or transiting Yemen or Somalia from being carried to Australia. Upon the expiration of those directions, the prohibition was continued, with my department directing relevant aviation industry participants to vary their transport security programs. Although this additional measure achieved the desired affect, varying security programs is cumbersome and creates an excessive administrative burden for both industry and government.

The new powers conferred by this bill change that. The ability for the minister to prohibit certain inbound cargo from entering Australia through the use of a disallowable instrument provides the government with a mechanism to respond effectively and efficiently on a national basis to security threats. In preparing this bill my department consulted extensively with other government agencies to ensure that all security, trade and foreign affairs issues were explored. No decision to prohibit inbound air cargo will be taken without consultation with the ministers for foreign affairs and trade, and that is appropriate. Additionally, a disallowable instrument created under this legislation is subject to an appropriate level of scrutiny, transparency and accountability by the parliament.

The government is committed to ensuring the safety and security of Australians and Australian interests. We wish that this did not have to occur but we have to deal with the world as it is rather than as we would like it to be. There are threats to our security and the consequences for our economy of a security incident on an Australian aircraft mean that we need to put in place measures which ensure diligence, which ensure appropriate overview and which ensure a legislative framework that gives confidence to the Australian public that the government ensures their safety is the first priority.

The passage of this bill will provide the government with a sound, transparent and effective legal basis to mitigate specific threats that may arise in the global air cargo system. I thank all members who participated in the debate. I thank the House for its support for this important legislation, which I commend to it.

Question agreed to.

Bill read a second time.

Ordered that the bill be reported to the House without amendment.