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Wednesday, 16 March 2016
Page: 2211

Senator CASH (Western AustraliaMinister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Public Service, Minister for Employment and Minister for Women) (19:01): I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

I seek leave to have the second reading speech incorporated in Hansard.

Leave granted.

The speech read as follows—


Organised crime is a serious threat to our security and prosperity as a nation. Recently, the Australian Crime Commission estimated that organised crime cost the Australian economy $36 billion annually. In 2013, this Government made a commitment to ensuring that people with a history of serious or organised crime would not receive a security clearance to work at our Australia's airports and seaports. In 2015, the Government also committed to comprehensive action on the drug ice. The National Ice Taskforce, in its final report released late last year, estimated that there are currently well over 200,000 Australian users of the crystalline form of methamphetamine (commonly known as the drug 'ice'). The National Ice Taskforce identified as a key priority the need for targeted and coordinated law enforcement efforts to disrupt the supply of ice, specifically by protecting the aviation and maritime environments against organised crime by strengthening the eligibility criteria for the aviation and maritime security identification card schemes, also known as the ASIC and MSIC schemes.

The Transport Security Amendment (Serious or Organised Crime) Bill 2016 will amend the Aviation Transport Security Act 2004 and the Maritime Transport and Offshore Facilities Security Act 2003 (which I will henceforth refer to as the Aviation and Maritime Acts). This Bill is aimed at reducing criminal influence at Australia's airports and seaports by strengthening the ASIC and MSIC schemes.

The Aviation and Maritime Acts establish a regulatory framework to safeguard against unlawful interference with the aviation and maritime sectors. Unlawful interference is defined in the Aviation and Maritime Acts as conduct that threatens the safe operation of aircraft and airports, ports and ships, and thus, behaviour which may cause harm to passengers, crew, aviation and maritime personnel and the general public or damage to property. This Bill will create an additional purpose to prevent the use of aviation and maritime transport or offshore facilities in connection with serious or organised crime. This additional purpose will only apply in relation to the administration of the ASIC and MSIC schemes and not the regulation of the aviation and maritime sectors more broadly.

The ASIC and MSIC schemes are important security measures that are intended to protect Australia's aviation and maritime sectors. The ASIC and MSIC schemes require all persons, including foreign nationals, who require unescorted access to secure aviation and maritime areas, including offshore oil and gas facilities, to undergo a comprehensive background check. The background check includes a criminal history check, a national security assessment and for non-citizens an immigration status check.

Under the current system, if an applicant for an ASIC or MSIC is convicted of a wide range of serious and minor aviation or maritime security-relevant offences, this person is likely to be given an adverse security status. The list of aviation and maritime security relevant offences is contained in the Aviation Transport Security Regulations 2005 and the Maritime Transport and Offshore Facilities Security Regulations 2003 (or the Aviation and Maritime Regulations), and is collectively known as the eligibility criteria for the ASIC and MSIC schemes. Applicants who receive an adverse security assessment are ineligible to be granted an ASIC or MSIC. However, they can make an application to the Secretary of the Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development for discretionary approval to be granted an ASIC or MSIC, depending on the nature of the offence (known as the discretionary card process).

The amendments proposed by the Bill provide the regulatory framework to enable the introduction of new eligibility criteria for the ASIC and MSIC schemes. The new criteria better targets serious or organised crime, and will ensure that people with a history of serious or organised crime do not receive clearance to access secure areas and exploit our aviation and maritime sectors in connection with serious or organised crime. However, modelling suggests that the new eligibility criteria will also result in more people with minor criminal offences being found eligible for an ASIC or MSIC, without needing to go through the discretionary card process.

The new eligibility criteria will be set out in the Aviation and Maritime Regulations and introduce additional categories of offences such as offences under anti-criminal organisation legislation, foreign incursion and recruitment offences, illegal importation of goods and interfering with goods under Border Force control.

Currently, the same offence can have different implications depending on whether you are applying for an ASIC or MSIC. This Bill will provide for the alignment of the eligibility criteria in the Aviation and Maritime Regulations, so that the same criteria apply across the aviation and maritime sectors.

The Bill also promotes greater consistency between the Aviation and Maritime Acts. The changes will also result in greater transparency and accountability, with express regulation-making powers, for the administration of the ASIC and MSIC schemes, rather than the current reliance on general regulation-making powers in the Act. Specifically, the Bill will amend the Maritime Act to clearly provide for all persons seeking to access secure maritime zones to undergo background checks. This change in the Bill seeks to reinforce and clarify the legislative basis for a system that is already in place in administering the ASIC and MSIC system, and reflects existing provisions in the Aviation Act.

This Bill will continue to give effect to Australia's international obligations under the Convention on International Civil Aviation, the International Convention for the Safety of Life At Sea and the International Ship and Port Facility Security Code. It will also improve the Government's ability to combat transnational and domestic organised crime.

Importantly, this Bill implements one of the government's key strategies in the fight to combat the drug ice. In December last year, the National Ice Taskforce, chaired by Ken Lay APM, released its final report, which made 38 recommendations across five priority areas. One of these recommendations, adopted by the Government in its response to the final report, was to continue to protect the aviation and maritime environments against organised crime by strengthening the eligibility criteria for holders of ASICs and MSIC. This Bill will give effect to this element of the Government's comprehensive package of action across the five key priority areas, which together are intended to tackle Australia's ice problem head on.

I commend the bill to the House.

The PRESIDENT: In accordance with standing order 115(3), further consideration of this bill is now adjourned to 11 May 2016.