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Thursday, 26 June 2003
Page: 12649

Senator IAN CAMPBELL (Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasurer) (10:19 AM) —I table the explanatory memorandum relating to the bill and move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

I seek leave to have the second reading speech incorporated in Hansard.

Leave granted.

The speech read as follows—

This Bill, the Australian Protective Service Amendment Bill 2003, contains amendments to the Australian Protective Service Act 1987. The Bill represents an important part of the Government's efforts to protect the safety of all Australians following the horrific terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001 and in Bali last year.

It addresses the need for enhanced security for persons and places for which the Commonwealth has security responsibility, including, but not limited to, the aviation industry.

Australia has an obligation under international law to protect the premises of foreign diplomatic and consular missions against intrusion or damage, to prevent any disturbance of the peace of foreign missions or the impairment of dignity, and to prevent any attack on the person, freedom or dignity of a diplomatic or consular official.

The Australian Protective Service provides a first response security role at airports, diplomatic and consular premises, Defence establishments and other Commonwealth buildings.

Protective service officers currently have the power to arrest without warrant in relation to certain Commonwealth offences, and to search and seize certain items from arrested persons.

The Government has decided to confer three additional powers on protective service officers to ensure they are equipped to deal with threats to Australia's security.

The powers will authorise protective service officers, in appropriately limited circumstances, to request a person's name, address and reason for being in or in the vicinity of a place or person, and to stop and detain a person for the purposes of conducting a search and seizing items that could be used to harm people.

The enhanced powers will permit a graduated response by protective service officers in circumstances that may arise when performing protective service functions.

The powers will provide protective service officers with the flexibility to act quickly in suspicious circumstances where the exercise of the arrest power is not immediately necessary.

The powers are proactive, rather than reactive or investigative.

Consistent with the proactive aim of the enhanced powers, they are not as intrusive as the existing arrest power.

The power to request information can only be exercised where a protective security officer suspects on reasonable grounds that the person poses a threat to security.

The power will enable protective service officers to ascertain the identity of persons acting suspiciously in places where the Australian Protective Service is performing its functions.

The Bill includes an offence for failing to provide the information requested, or for providing false information.

There is a defence where the person has a reasonable excuse.

The power to stop, detain and search a person will permit protective service officers to take action where they have security concerns, particularly where the circumstances might not be sufficient to justify the use of the existing arrest power in the Act.

The seizure power will permit a protective service officer to seize an item located during a lawful search that poses a serious security threat.

Currently, where a protective service officer locates an item during a search which has not been used in the commission of an offence and where the possession of the item is not unlawful, the protective service officer has no authority to act.

For instance, the Act would not necessarily authorise a protective service officer to seize an item that has been modified for the purpose of stabbing someone.

The new seizure power will permit the protective service officer to seize such an item to prevent a person using the item to cause serious harm or death.

The powers will only be exercised where protective service officers are performing functions under the Act.

The powers take personal privacy considerations into account.

For instance, a search will only be performed by a person of the same sex as the person being searched.

The powers also incorporate safeguards to ensure they are not abused.

For instance, the Bill does not authorise more than the minimum amount of force necessary to conduct a search.

In addition, a seized item must be handed into the custody of the police as soon as practicable, and must be returned to its owner unless returning the item will create a security risk.

The exercise of the powers will rely on an objective test.

The protective service officer will need to have `reasonable grounds to suspect' before exercising any of the powers.

This standard does not require proof of a matter, but requires that there are sufficient facts to induce the suspicion in the mind of a reasonable person.

The powers are intermediary and are designed to be preventative.

They do not confer police investigatory powers on protective service officers.

The powers conferred by the Bill will allow the Australian Protective Service to act quickly and effectively in suspicious circumstances.

This Bill represents a significant step in the Government's commitment to the protection of all Australians and the fight against terrorism.

Ordered that further consideration of the second reading of this bill be adjourned to the first day of the next period of sittings, in accordance with standing order 111.