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Wednesday, 9 May 2012
Page: 4362


Mr CHAMPION (Wakefield) (17:46): On behalf of the Standing Committee on Infrastructure and Communications I present the committee's report entitled Advisory report on the Aviation Transport Security Amendment (Screening) Bill 2012, together with the minutes of proceedings.

In accordance with standing order 39(f) the report was made a parliamentary paper.

Mr CHAMPION: by leave—This bill was introduced on 16 February 2012 by the Minister for Infrastructure and Transport and the unanimous decision of the committee is to recommend that this legislation be passed. I note that the Senate Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport Legislation Committee is also looking at this legislation via an inquiry.

This bill proposes amendments to the Aviation Transport Security Act 2004. Specifically, it allows for the introduction of body scanners at Australia's international airports. The aim of this is to enhance Australia's aviation security. This enhancement has been brought about due to the security risk identified by the so-called 'underwear bomber' who attempted to detonate an explosive on a flight between Amsterdam and Detroit in 2009. That device was not metallic and so therefore did not trigger an alarm. It is useful to note that in the last week or so another plot to use a similar device on an American airline has been foiled. The proposal is that body scanners be introduced to deal with this threat. That is the heart of the bill, alongside other security measures. This bill also removes the opt-out provision. Currently, passengers can decide to opt out of a body scan and have an alternative screening, which is a frisk or a pat down. It removes that option and people will no longer have the opportunity to opt out. It is worth noting that there was a seven-week trial of this technology in both Sydney and Melbourne airports and some 23,000 scans were conducted.

The issues identified by this inquiry were the nature of the technology used, any health impacts of such technology, security effectiveness, the removal of the opt-out provisions and the privacy implications. The technology that will be used in Australian airports is active millimetre waves, which are emitted by an L-3 ProVision device. The scan has a two-second duration, which causes less exposure to radiation than the average mobile phone call. Other types of body scanning, including backscatter X-ray technology, will not be used in Australian airports, even though they are used elsewhere in the world. According to expert advice from the Department of Infrastructure and Transport, there is no evidence of any health risk to the public from body scanners, including to those persons with implanted medical devices. Indeed, the committee heard that many people with those devices will opt to use these scanners rather than the metal ones because they do not detect metal hips and the like.

With regard to security effectiveness, there were some submissions that said that this might not be the most effective way of screening passengers. The committee accepted the advice of the department, and the privacy impact assessment, that the only alternative method of detecting these sorts of explosive devices was an enhanced frisk search—and one can imagine that would have to be pretty enhanced to detect devices! These scanners offer the greatest chance of detection because they can detect and pinpoint the location of metallic and non-metallic items within or underneath a person's clothing.

In regard to privacy implications, and these are obviously of concern to the public, it is important for the public to understand these scans are not like a virtual strip-search. They will not generate body-scanned images of individuals; rather, they produce a generic, gender-neutral figure that simply identifies where there might be items that may be explosives. They do not have a dramatic impact on anybody's privacy. Most importantly, images will not be stored, transmitted or printed.

I conclude by saying the committee decided it was not its job to go through the inquiry processes that led to this legislation being introduced to the House. There was a long period of discussion and, as I said, there were trials in Sydney and Melbourne airports. It is not our job to replicate that process. We simply looked at some of the concerns raised and considered them, and have no problem recommending that this bill be passed.