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Wednesday, 23 March 2011
Page: 2859

Mr ALBANESE (Minister for Infrastructure and Transport) (9:10 AM) —I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

The legislative framework of Australia’s aviation security regime consists of a suite of measures designed to deter and prevent acts of unlawful interference with aviation. The framework is constantly reviewed to ensure it adapts to evolving threats to the security of the Australian aviation industry.

The Aviation Transport Security Amendment (Air Cargo) Bill 2011 (the bill) contains four key amendments to the Aviation Transport Security Act 2004 (the act) to simplify and strengthen the existing security regulatory framework for supply chain security. These amendments are critical in terms of improving security outcomes.

The bill:

  • improves Australia’s capacity to respond to events of heightened transport security threat;
  • provides transitionary arrangements to ease the regulatory burden on air cargo industry members while Australia moves to implement the new air cargo security initiatives announced by the government on 9 February 2010;
  • allows for training requirements of air cargo industry members to be prescribed by legislative instrument which will increase the transparency of training requirements and allow scrutiny by the parliament; and
  • simplifies the air cargo clearance process by removing terminology that is not relevant or that is inconsistent with operational procedures used in the air cargo industry.

In late October 2010, terrorists operating from Yemen concealed improvised explosive devices inside printers and sent them as air cargo consignments to the United States of America. Intelligence information led to the successful disruption of this attempted terrorist targeting of the aviation sector. This event reinforced the need to be able to respond quickly to address emerging threats.

The Australian government took immediate action to protect the travelling public and the Australian aviation sector, strengthening measures against inbound cargo originating from Yemen and Somalia. This was achieved through special security directions issued to regulated air cargo agents (RACAs) which initially required screening of inbound air cargo arriving directly from the Middle East and later banned carriage of air cargo from Yemen and Somalia.

This bill continues to strengthen Australia’s air cargo security through four measures.

First, this bill will amend the definition of ‘aviation industry participant’ to include accredited air cargo agents. Under the current legislative arrangements, accredited air cargo agents are not defined as a type of aviation industry participant and therefore are not subject to the full suite of regulatory obligations that apply to aviation industry participants.

Adding accredited air cargo agents to the definition of aviation industry participants in the act will allow special security directions to be applied to accredited air cargo agents in times of heightened security threat and require them to comply with incident reporting requirements. This amendment will provide for consistent security obligations to be applied to all aviation industry participants.

Second, the bill extends the validity of regulated air cargo agents’ transport security programs to ease the burden on both industry and the department during the transition to a new air cargo security framework that aligns with world’s best practice. The framework was announced by the government on 9 February 2010 and included the establishment of a regulated shipper scheme and funding to assist industry to procure appropriate examination technology such as x-ray and explosive trace detection equipment to secure air cargo. The proposed transitional provisions will enable the air cargo industry members to determine the most appropriate regulatory scheme for their business, reduce compliance costs and streamline regulatory requirements during the progressive implementation of the new framework. This amendment will extend the validity of existing transport security programs to 31 December 2012 unless the transport security program is revised prior to this date.

Third, the bill will allow for a legislative instrument to clearly prescribe security training requirements for regulated air cargo agents and accredited air cargo agents. This will ensure consistency in training outcomes and increase the security of air cargo across the industry. A legislative instrument also increases the transparency and scrutiny by the parliament of the training prescribed.

Finally, the bill includes some minor technical amendments which will simplify the air cargo clearance process by:

  • removing ‘certification’ provisions to accurately reflect operational procedures applied by industry whilst maintaining the integrity of air cargo security measures; and
  • removing all references to the term ‘freight’ and replacing them with the term ‘cargo’. Cargo is a term which is more relevant to industry practices and terminology, and is consistent with other existing provisions in the act.

In summary, the bill will provide a more secure air cargo environment. The proposed amendments:

  • increase flexibility and responsiveness to situations of heightened security threat;
  • reduce the regulatory burden and cost to industry members during the progressive transition to the new air cargo security framework;
  • allow for greater scrutiny, consistency and transparency of training requirements for air cargo industry members; and
  • simplify terminology appropriate to industry practices and procedures.

Such changes are necessary in the continual refinement and improvement of the security arrangements to ensure Australia is positioned to respond to emerging security threats and continue to meet world’s best practice in our transport sector.

Debate (on motion by Mr Andrews) adjourned.