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Wednesday, 1 June 2005
Page: 124

Mr LLOYD (Minister for Local Government, Territories and Roads) (6:23 PM) —in reply—I would like to thank the members for Barton, O’Connor, Batman, Throsby, Prospect, Shortland and Melbourne Ports for their contributions and also thank the opposition for their support of the Maritime Transport Security Amendment Bill 2005. The comment I would like to make first up is that I had the opportunity to listen to most of those speeches and they would make you think that those opposite are the only ones who ever knew about seafarers or cared about the welfare of some of the hardest working men and women in Australia—those that are on the oil rigs and around Australia’s coastline. I am sure that most honourable members opposite do not know that for almost a decade I was a member of the Firemen and Deckhands Union and the Merchant Service Guild and that I was on a 224-foot vessel with a crew of 28 for some five years. So when opposition members get up and say that this side of the House does not understand about the welfare of seafarers and ships I would like them to know that lots of people on this side care about seafarers around the Australian coastline.

There are two parts to the amendment bill. The first part is designed to protect Australia’s offshore oil and gas facilities from a potential terrorist attack. Such an attack could have severe consequences for Australia’s economy and environment as well as jeopardising the lives of industry workers. The second part of the bill allows for the introduction of the maritime security identification card, the MSIC scheme. The MSIC will be introduced to cover all personnel who are required to have unmonitored access in a maritime security zone. The amendment bill requires all offshore oil and gas facility operators and other prescribed offshore industry participants to undertake a risk assessment of their facilities and then to develop and comply with security plans.

In developing this amendment bill the government has consulted extensively with representatives from the offshore oil and gas industry and with the state and Northern Territory governments. I am pleased to report that industry is in general agreement with the proposal to extend the act to cover the offshore oil and gas facility industries and agrees with the need to have security risk assessments and security plans for offshore oil and gas facilities. Regulations will be introduced in early July 2005 which will confirm further information for the offshore oil and gas industry on the content and form of the offshore security plans.

The MSIC will provide the maritime industry with a nationally consistent identification card that identifies the cardholder as having met the minimum background requirements to be unmonitored in security zones of a port, port facility, regulated Australian ship or offshore oil or gas facility. I should point out—there seems to be some confusion on this among members opposite—that the MSIC will not be an access control card. Existing access arrangements as approved in maritime security plans will continue to operate. However, the MSIC is sufficiently flexible to enable employers to add access control onto the MSIC for the purposes of an all-in-one access and identification card for employees. The incorporated access features on an MSIC will not be regulated. Background checking for the MSIC will commence from 1 October 2005 and the roll-out will span nine months to 1 July 2006.

I want to take this opportunity to assure members that during this roll-out phase only the Australian government will have access to background checking information. Industry and employers will not have access to personal information about their employees. The MSIC issuing bodies will receive written advice from the Australian government. That advice is limited to whether an MSIC can or cannot be issued. The MSIC regulations are being prepared to reflect this commitment. From 1 July 2006 the MSIC scheme will be subject to a full audit and compliance regime conducted by officers from the Office of Transport Security. The amendment bill builds on the excellent work that has already been done in developing the Maritime Transport Security Act 2003.

In conclusion, the bill further strengthens Australia’s maritime security regime, ensures that both national and international confidence in Australia’s oil and gas facilities is retained, strengthens Australia’s relations with international trading partners and provides the mechanism for dealing with a potential terrorist attack on oil and gas facilities

Question agreed to.

Bill read a second time.