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Wednesday, 15 May 2013
Page: 3375

Mr KEENAN (Stirling) (10:51): I rise to talk on the Court Security Bill 2013 and Court Security (Consequential Amendments) Bill 2013. The bills seek to implement a new framework for the security arrangements of all Commonwealth courts, including the Family Court of Western Australia and the Administrative Appeals Tribunal. It removes the courts and tribunals currently covered by the provisions of the Public Order Act and replaces it with an updated security framework. The Court Security Bill 2013 responds to concerns raised by the heads of jurisdiction of the federal courts. The current Public Order Act does not meet the security needs of the modern court environment. The bill aims to ensure that the courts are able to reduce the risk of security incidents where possible and, if needed, respond appropriately to incidents as they arise. The consequences from a breach of security in these circumstances are a serious issue and it is vital that all cases before these courts are heard without fear, intimidation and/or violence.

The Court Security Bill 2013 seeks to amend the current legislative framework for the Commonwealth court and tribunal security arrangements as would expand the range of powers available to security officers and authorised court officers. Current security at most of the federal courts and tribunal premises has been provided through security guards, but under current legislation it assumes that there is a presence of police officers on the court premises, which is most often not the case. As a result, security officers are uncertain of their powers to temporarily detain people of concern or confiscate certain materials. The current legislative framework does not contain an appropriate range of powers and the necessary safeguards when exercising these powers.

The bill seeks to implement a comprehensive framework which will enable the federal courts and tribunals to manage a wide range of security issues that they face. The courts will be able to appoint security officers and authorised court officers and clearly establish the powers that these officers are able to exercise. The powers outlined in this bill include search and screening powers, powers to give directions and limited powers to use necessary and reasonable force. However, only appropriately trained and licensed security officers will be able to use force in clearly defined circumstances as outlined in this bill.

As well as the safeguards of appropriate training and licensing, this bill also provides safeguards in the form of identification requirements, complaints mechanisms and oversight by the Commonwealth Ombudsman. The bill allows that for times when security officers are not present at all courts—especially the case at regional courts—the court officers may exercise a limited range of basic security powers when necessary. The range of powers that may be exercised differs between security officers and authorised court officers. Only security officers will be able to exercise the broader range of powers. The bill prescribes certain offences related to noncompliance with the exercise of the powers of security officers and authorised court officers. Security officers are provided with the power to escort people to and from court premises as a protective measure. Given the different security needs of the courts and tribunals, this bill seeks to implement flexible security arrangements to cover a range of different guarding arrangements.

The bill balances a person's right to enter and remain upon court premises with the rights of judicial officers, court staff and members of the public to a safe and secure environment. The Court Security (Consequential Amendments) Bill replaces the current security framework for federal courts and tribunals under the Public Order (Protection of Persons and Property) Act 1971. The current framework is outdated and does not meet the security requirements of our current courts and tribunals. The bill allows for the implementation of this new framework, and will achieve this by removing the existing provisions in the public order act, in order to prevent the provisions from overlapping with the court security bill.

The government contends that the bills have been developed in consultation with the Commonwealth courts and tribunals. As I have previously noted, concerns have been raised by the heads of jurisdiction of the Commonwealth courts that the existing framework for court security does not meet the needs of the modern court environment. It is unclear how frequently security incidents are arising on court premises and how adequate are the current security arrangements. However, the consequences of a breach of security in the circumstances are very serious issues, and the measures proposed in the bill seem reasonable and proportionate. It is important that cases are heard without fear, intimidation or violence.

These bills provide the necessary powers so that the security needs of the modern court environment are now sufficiently clear. These bills ensure that our courts and tribunals are safe and secure places for members of the public to have their disputes heard, and they are therefore worthy of support by this House.