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Tuesday, 14 February 2017
Page: 861

Senator FARRELL (South AustraliaDeputy Leader of the Opposition in the Senate) (18:58): I rise to speak this evening on the Transport Security Legislation Amendment Bill 2016. I rise to support the Transport Security Legislation Amendment Bill 2016. Aviation security must always come before partisan politics. This has always been Labor's commitment in both government and in opposition. This legislation provides some simple but necessary changes that will ensure it is up to date with a modern system of transport security, which I am sure you are very familiar with, Acting Deputy President Gallacher. Importantly it seeks to ensure the right balance between privacy and security, upholding Australia's commitment to an equal and non-discriminatory screening program.

All Australians expect the Commonwealth to ensure that ongoing vigilance, particularly in the aviation and airport sector, is awarded the utmost importance. Transport safety in today's world is dynamic. Governments must respond to threats, as they emerge, with appropriate legislative changes. This legislation will play an essential role in ensuring that this continues to occur. It will update the process airports use for screening of people, vehicles and goods which are already in a security zone at the airport, bringing it into line with international standards. While legislation currently permits screening of people, vehicles and goods when entering a security zone, there is no additional provision for the random screening of these when already inside a security zone. The main aim of the legislation is to provide this authority, while also reinforcing that any screening must be consistent with the random and unpredictable approach.

In its simplest form this legislation provides another layer of security at airports. The use of this authority will be a matter between the airport and the Office of Transport Security, the government body that approves transport security plans for each airport. The government has indicated that these in-zone screening arrangements will initially apply at the following nine airports: Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth, Adelaide, Canberra, Darwin Gold Coast and Cairns. Importantly, this legislation sits alongside enhanced security awareness training for employees and contractors who work in security zones. It also authorises greater delegation of powers under aviation and maritime transport security legislation to facilitate quicker responses. While the government has highlighted removal of regulatory constraints as a benefit, Labor believes transport security is too important to simply be an exercise in extending light-handed regulation. Regulatory settings should always be reviewed.

But Labor's main reason for supporting this legislation is first and foremost because it updates security measures so they are consistent with world standards. The legislation also includes an additional sensible option to enhance the central objective of removing threats to aviation security. Australia has always taken aviation security seriously. We are a signatory to the Convention on International Civil Aviation, known as the Chicago Convention. Recently the International Civil Aviation Organization, established under the Chicago Convention, has increased standards for screening of persons, goods and vehicles in security controlled zones at airports. Australian legislation should be updated to reflect this higher standard, which is what this amendment bill will achieve. We know from recent events, including the bombing of the Metrojet flight in Egypt in October 2015 and the attempted bombing of the Daallo Airlines flight in Somalia in February last year, that even potential threats require action.

Of course, these changes must ensure people's rights to equal treatment and privacy continue to be protected. The explanatory memorandum to this legislation outlines its commitment to both of these in the formal statement of compatibility with human rights. On equality and non-discrimination it says:

All people have the right to be treated equally. In keeping with Australia's egalitarian screening regime applied to aviation passengers, selection of airport and airline workers, visitors and contractors for screening inside the security restricted areas (SRAs) of airports will be conducted on a purely random basis. Individuals will not be selected according to their race, religion, gender, or any other personal characteristic.

In respect of privacy it says:

In cases where a frisk search is necessary the individual may request that procedure to occur in a private room or within a screened area. A frisk search will always be undertaken by someone of the same gender as the person being searched.

We expect airports and the government to ensure that appropriate arrangements exist for this to occur on all occasions. Importantly, this statement enshrines people's rights while also underpinning a robust and effective screening program. The explanatory memorandum explicitly states that racial and other profiling will not apply to searches and that frisk searches will be conducted by a person of the same gender.

This builds on Labor's strong track record for aviation and airport security. When in government we oversaw the strengthening of the security regime applying to air cargo, committing $54.2 million to install X-ray screening technology at freight depots. We also invested an additional $200 million in the nation's aviation security. Much of this funding facilitated the introduction of new and improved security technologies at airports, including the latest body scanners, next generation multiview X-ray machines and bottle scanners capable of detecting liquid based explosives. It also provided for increased policing at airports, enhanced security procedures and strengthened international cooperation. We improved security at regional airports, introducing legislation that requires domestic checked baggage screening at all regional airports operating RPT services.

With more than 150 million passengers flying through Australian skies each year, Labor will always support sensible measures that protect Australian citizens and continue the nation's reputation for aviation safety. Australia has an enviable aviation safety record. It is a credit to our existing system of regulation and to all participants in the system, including airports and airlines. This legislation is consistent with maintaining that record.