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Wednesday, 25 May 2005
Page: 6


Mr LLOYD (Minister for Local Government, Territories and Roads) (9:29 AM) —I move:

That the bill be now read a second time.

It is a reality that national security remains a high priority for this government. It is essential that we continue to protect the maritime industry from very real threats. It is in this context that I present the Maritime Transport Security Amendment Bill 2005 for the parliament’s consideration.

Maritime security is under constant review to ensure that measures remain appropriate given current intelligence threats to the Australian maritime industry. During 2004 a review of maritime security was undertaken and a range of measures to further strengthen Australia’s preventative maritime security arrangements were recommended.

This included the establishment of a special task force to undertake a comprehensive review of the security arrangements for offshore oil and gas facilities and the introduction of the Maritime Security Identification Card. The MSIC will be issued to persons requiring unmonitored access to maritime security zones on completion of satisfactory background checks.

The Maritime Transport Security Amendment Bill 2005 has two parts. The first part will security regulate Australia’s offshore oil and gas industry and is necessary for the protection of offshore oil and gas industry personnel, to safeguard oil and gas supplies, and for the protection of offshore oil and gas infrastructure. The second part of the bill introduces a range of minor amendments to support the introduction of the MSIC scheme.

There is evidence to suggest that Australia’s offshore oil and gas industry is a potential terrorist target. Indeed, in newspaper reports this year the following statement appeared:

In 2002, Ubeid al-Qurashi, a pseudonym of an Osama Bin Laden lieutenant, wrote an article saying that Western economies cannot stand high oil prices. One way to strike fear into the West, he wrote is by repeated attacks on oil installations or on tankers. After the attack on the French tanker Limburg, in October 2002, the al-Qa’eda political bureau described the attack as not merely an attack on a tanker. Rather, al-Qaeda said, it was an attack against international transport lines and an attack on the West’s commercial lifeline, petroleum.

In addition, in April 2004 terrorists attacked two offshore oil facilities south of the Iraqi city of Basra, using multiple boat-borne explosives. Three coalition sailors died intercepting this attack. Al-Qaeda has recently threatened to target Western economies, including the oil and gas industry. There is therefore a need for the implementation of effective security measures to limit the capacity of terrorists to adversely affect the Australian offshore oil and gas industry.

The potential impacts of a terrorist attack on an Australian offshore oil and gas facility include economic loss, loss of life and the disruption of Australia’s domestic and international oil and gas supplies. The annual contribution of the oil and gas sector to the Australian economy exceeds $18 billion. Victorian industrial and residential gas supplies were interrupted for two weeks following the 1998 Longford gas explosion. The impact of this disaster and the substantial contribution of the oil and gas sector to the Australian economy emphasise the need for the implementation of appropriate offshore oil and gas preventive security measures.

Given the intent and potential capability terrorist groups have to target offshore oil and gas facilities, the Australian government decided to establish the Taskforce on Offshore Maritime Security. This task force reviewed the security arrangements of offshore oil and gas facilities. In December 2004, following the recommendations of that task force, the Australian government announced it would be extending the Maritime Transport Security Act 2003 to security regulate Australia’s offshore oil and gas industry.

The Maritime Transport Security Amendment Bill 2005 security regulates offshore oil and gas facilities located within the boundaries of Australia’s territorial sea, the exclusive economic zone and the continental shelf. The bill applies to offshore oil and gas facilities used in the extraction of oil and gas, including fixed production platforms and floating production and storage facilities. The bill also security regulates offshore oil and gas service providers, such as helicopter and supply vessel operators servicing offshore oil and gas facilities. The security regulation of offshore oil and gas facilities will contribute to the secure transit of security regulated ships currently interacting with offshore oil and gas facilities.

The Maritime Transport Security Amendment Bill 2005 establishes an outcomes based security framework for Australia’s offshore oil and gas industry. Offshore oil and gas industry participants will be required to submit security plans that consider the practical needs of the operators, as well as the special nature and location of individual facilities. These security plans will need to be based on the findings of offshore facility site-specific security risk assessments and should complement, rather than duplicate, existing management and safety plans.

The Department of Transport and Regional Services will be responsible for regulating the offshore oil and gas industry’s security arrangements. Offshore oil and gas industry participants will be required to submit security plans to the Department of Transport and Regional Services for approval. This department will also be responsible for auditing offshore oil and gas facilities to ensure these facilities are compliant with the regulations set out in their approved security plans.

Like maritime industry participants, offshore oil and gas industry participants will be responsible for funding the security measures specified in their security plans. The Australian government recognises that this may impose costs on offshore oil and gas facility operators. However, given the global security environment, these costs are now part of the cost of doing business.

Now moving on to the Maritime Security Identification Card, currently there are no legislative requirements to check the backgrounds of people working in Australian ports, ships and offshore oil and gas facilities, as is the case in the aviation industry. The MSIC scheme will provide the maritime and offshore sectors with assurance that personnel requiring unmonitored access to sensitive areas have met background checking requirements.

Whilst the current provisions in the Maritime Transport Security Act 2003 provide the power to make most of the regulations required to introduce and implement the MSIC scheme, the amendment bill clarifies and makes explicit two aspects of the scheme. The bill ensures that any reasonable costs incurred by MSIC issuing bodies in the issue and production of an MSIC can be recovered.

The second amendment enables regulation-making powers in the disclosure of information between entities involved in coordinating and conducting background checks of applicants for the purpose of determining if a person is eligible to hold an MSIC. The Maritime Transport Security Amendment Bill 2005 is vital for the protection of Australia’s offshore oil and gas infrastructure, for the protection of offshore oil and gas industry personnel and for ensuring the uninterrupted supply of Australian oil and gas to both the domestic and international energy markets. The bill also includes amendments to support the introduction of the MSIC scheme. The MSIC scheme will require maritime and offshore oil and gas personnel to undergo background checking before they can be granted unmonitored access to the maritime security zones. I commend the Maritime Transport Security Amendment Bill 2005 to the House and I present the explanatory memorandum to this bill.

Debate (on motion by Mr Stephen Smith) adjourned.