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Monday, 13 February 2017
Page: 742


Mr CHESTER (GippslandMinister for Infrastructure and Transport) (15:15): In summing up, I would like to thank speakers from both sides of the chamber for their contributions to the debate. The Transport Security Amendment (Serious or Organised Crime) Bill 2016 introduces an additional purpose to the Aviation Transport Security Act 2004 and the Maritime Transport and Offshore Facilities Security Act 2003 of combating serious or organised crime at Australia's airports and seaports. The aviation security identification card and maritime security identification card schemes are a critical part of securing the aviation, maritime and offshore oil and gas sectors.

This bill will prevent the exploitation of aviation and maritime transport or offshore facilities by individuals with links to serious or organised crime. It will ensure that such persons cannot gain access to aviation, maritime and offshore facilities. These amendments will provide for the regulatory framework to support the introduction of new and harmonised eligibility criteria for the ASIC and MSIC schemes that better target serious or organised crime related offences. The revised eligibility criteria will be set out in the Aviation Transport Security Regulations 2005 and the Maritime Transport and Offshore Facilities Security Regulations 2003.

In addition, to the amendments already mentioned, the bill will clarify and align the legislative basis for undertaking security checking of ASIC and MSIC applicants and holders. It will allow for regulations to be made prescribing penalties for offences against the new serious or organised crime requirements that are consistent with the existing penalty provisions across the ASIC and MSIC schemes. And it will insert an additional severability provision to provide guidance to a court as to parliament's intention.

This bill gives effect to the government's election commitment to strengthen background checking regimes to ensure that individuals with links to serious or organised crime cannot gain access to our airports or seaports. This will in turn keep illegal guns off our streets and keep our communities safe. Previously, people with a serious criminal history were able to obtain a security clearance to work at our airports and seaports. This will no longer be possible with implementation of these legislative amendments.

In addition, the bill will also complete a key action identified in the government's December 2015 response to the final report of the National Ice Taskforce, to prevent serious and organised crime by strengthening the ASIC and MSIC schemes. Organised crime, in particular the importation of illegal drugs, is a serious threat to our nation. These changes are a substantial step forward in the fight to disrupt the distribution of these drugs, including ice.

This bill was previously introduced in the House of Representatives on 11 February 2016. It passed the House on 16 March 2016, but lapsed at prorogation on 17 April 2016. Following referral to the Senate Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport Legislation Committee in the last parliament, the bill was recommended to progress to the Senate without amendment. The Australian government agrees with this recommendation and thanks the committee for its consideration of this complex issue. The Australian government does not agree with the assertion in the additional comments to the report and does not agree with the recommendations presented by the dissenting report.

The revised eligibility criteria, which this bill enables, is the culmination of extensive stakeholder consultation across the aviation and maritime sectors. This consultation concluded that extending the current ASIC and MSIC schemes is more efficient and effective than developing a new and separate scheme to counter serious or organised crime at our airports and ports. The existing ASIC and MSIC schemes are well understood by industry, and introducing a new scheme would likely impose additional costs and lead to confusion and inadvertent noncompliance.

The proposed changes will lift the threshold for less serious and lower-level criminal offences. As a result, more applicants are expected to be found initially eligible for an ASIC or MSIC, reducing the impact on their employment and increasing the staff available to employers.

This bill not only improves the government's ability to combat transnational and domestic organised crime; it also strengthens the scheme's existing national security assessment and the ability to protect Australia's airports and ports against acts of terrorism. I thank members for supporting the bill to ensure the earliest possible implementation and therefore impact of these vital measures.

The SPEAKER: The original question was that this bill be now read a second time. To this the honourable member for Grayndler has moved as an amendment that all words after 'That' be omitted with a view to substituting other words. The question is that the amendment be agreed to.