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Tuesday, 2 December 2003
Page: 23505

Mr LINDSAY (8:02 PM) —I thank the shadow minister, the member for Batman, for his support and his recognition of this landmark legislation. Mr Deputy Speaker Barresi, as you know, I represent a large regional community in this country. I have a very significant airport in my electorate, in Townsville in North Queensland, and it finds itself in the situation where it is also a joint-user airport. It is an RAAF base as well as a civil airport and, as such, it is covered by the legislation before the House tonight.

This is landmark legislation; it is appropriate and timely, and I am very pleased to see the support that the opposition are giving to the government with regard to the legislation. The Aviation Transport Security Bill 2003 acknowledges that all participants in the aviation industry play an important role in the overall security of Australian civil aviation. The legislation consolidates existing aviation security provisions into a cohesive package. It is one of the very few pieces of legislation that has come into this House that is easy to read and understand, and I am pleased to see that that is the case.

The government's role and the role of different industry participants are clarified, particularly with respect to emergency and contingency arrangements. The legislation aims to improve the structure of the aviation security regulatory framework and provide adequate flexibility in order to reflect the rapidly changing threat environment. There is an accompanying piece of legislation, the Aviation Transport Security (Consequential Amendments and Transitional Provisions) Bill 2003, which will allow for future amendments and may be extended to other transport sectors. Importantly, the bill will align Australian aviation security with the revised International Civil Aviation Organisation standards and satisfy recommendations from the ANAO report tabled on 16 January 2003.

Townsville airport—which is run by Australian Airports Ltd, under the direction of the CEO, Catherine Rule—is going from strength to strength. Townsville International Airport welcomes the measures in the legislation that is before the parliament. Townsville airport, as I said, is a joint-user airport, with about 75 per cent of air movements being civil and the remaining being military. It is an international airport, although some would say that there are no international arrivals and departures. Indeed, Customs meet over 400 arrivals and departures each year going to Northern Australia.

I will be privileged to be at the opening of new facilities at Townsville airport on 12 December. We will be opening three new aerobridges. I note that some of our capital cities still do not have aerobridges—Melbourne excluded—but Townsville will have four aerobridges, and that is an amazing facility to provide to the travelling public. But hand-in-hand with those kinds of facilities—the new departure lounges, the new airline clubs and so on—goes the need for proper aviation security, and that is covered in the legislation.

Before I deal with the legislation, I want to deal with part (6) of the second reading amendment moved by the shadow minister, which recommends that the government uses the proceeds of the Ansett ticket tax to have screening equipment and related physical infrastructure provided at a number of regional airports. I think that is an unfair request of the government and an unfair request of those who have paid the Ansett ticket tax. At other airports, security facilities are provided under different arrangements. Why should arrangements be different to those normally in place at regional airports? It is not consistent with what happens across the Commonwealth of Australia and, as such, I argue that it would be poor public policy to suggest that the Ansett ticket tax be used for these particular facilities.

You have to be a bit realistic about this. You have to look at the threat assessment and what levels of security are needed. You have to draw a line somewhere and say, `At such and such an airport, you do not need these particular facilities.' We could go to ridiculous extremes and say that there should be screening equipment at Cardwell airport, where I landed last Friday, but it would be patently ridiculous to expect that to happen. So I think we have to rely on the advice that we receive from the department and from those who do security assessments as to where security equipment and screening equipment should be installed.

You have to balance the need to protect passengers against the need to not upset them over ridiculous bureaucratic procedures where there is no threat whatsoever. I see that Wagga Wagga is on the list in the second reading amendment moved by the shadow minister. I flew out of Wagga Wagga only a few weeks ago and it is my view—not as a technical person but as a passenger—that there is no need for screening whatsoever. We have to be reminded that when passengers from regional airports come into city airports they are not secure passengers and they are screened before they get into the sterile areas. So there are provisions in place to make sure that there is no threat to general aviation security in the country. I do not think that I could support this amendment at all, because it is not practical or realistic.

The legislation covers a whole raft of very comprehensive matters. I would like to draw the parliament's attention to some of them. Firstly, aviation industry participants are required to have programs for aviation security. Under this legislation, operators of a security controlled airport and operators of a prescribed air service are required to have such a program. Secondly, the content and the forms of the programs must cover how the participant will manage and coordinate aviation activities; how the participant will coordinate the management of aviation security with other parties; the technology, equipment and procedures to be used by the participant to maintain aviation security; how the participant will respond to aviation security incidents; the practices and procedures to be used by the participant to protect security compliance information; and so on. It is extraordinarily comprehensive.

The legislation also establishes areas and zones. It establishes what is a security controlled airport and what is a joint-user area. It talks about airport areas that are airside and landside. In terms of airside security zones, the legislation covers what might be prescribed—for example, controlling the movement of people, vehicles and goods within airside areas; restricting areas to zones within airside areas; providing cleared zones; preventing interference with aircraft, including unattended aircraft; and ensuring the security of control towers, fuel storage areas, general aviation areas, cargo and baggage handling facilities, navigational aids, critical facilities, structures and so on. In the landside security zone, the legislation controls the movement of people, vehicles and goods within landside areas, which is very important; restricts access to zones within landside areas; provides cleared zones; prevents interference with aircraft, including unattended aircraft; and ensures the security of various facilities. It is very comprehensive indeed.

In relation to controlling these particular zones, the legislation, by way of regulation, will deal with access to the airside area; patrolling the airside area; the provision of lighting, fencing and storage facilitates; identification and marking of the airside area; the approval of building works within and adjacent to the airside area; the screening of people, vehicles and goods for entry; security checking; the movement, management and operation of aircraft and so on; the management and integrity of the airside area; access to aircraft, including unattended aircraft; and the management of people and goods, including the management of unaccompanied, unidentified or suspicious goods in the airside area and so on. It is extraordinarily comprehensive.

It is the same with the control of the landside areas and zones. Those listening to this debate tonight will be able to gather from this that it is very comprehensive legislation. It covers all of the key issues related to protecting the security of airports. In the landside areas, it covers access to the landside area; patrolling of the landside area; the provision of lighting and fencing and so on; approval of building works within that area; screening of people, vehicles and goods; security checking, including background checking of persons who have access; the movement, management and operation of aircraft; and the management and integrity of the landside area and so on.

The legislation goes on in a comprehensive way to deal with things like weapons—weapons in the airside area and the landside security zones, the clearing of weapons through the security point, weapons on board an aircraft and the reliability of that, and the failure to comply with the regulations. The legislation talks about prohibited items. It allows regulations to proscribe things such as prohibited items and establishes restrictions in relation to prohibited items that parallel the restrictions which apply to weapons under division 3 in this particular legislation. The legislation goes on to comprehensively talk about onboard security and provides for regulations dealing with aircraft security, including control of passengers on board aircraft and the management of baggage.

The legislation then proceeds to provide control of aviation security inspectors and states how they can be appointed for security purposes, what powers they might have, what powers they can exercise and how they can determine whether a person is complying with the act. The legislation talks about the duties of law enforcement officers, who can stop and search people and vehicles at airports, remove people from aircraft at the airport, remove vehicles from an airport and so on. The legislation then goes on to talk about the roles and responsibilities of airport security guards and screening officers, who meet us every time we wish to go into the sterile area. Finally, the legislation comprehensively deals with reporting requirements—reporting by aircraft operators and airport operators—so that we can track where incidents might occur and determine how we might better deal with those sorts of issues in the future.

This is one of the most comprehensive, timely and important pieces of legislation that I have seen come before this House for some time. It is also, as I said earlier, one of the most readable pieces of legislation that I have seen for some time. I am pleased to support this. I thank the opposition for supporting it. I commend the legislation to the House.