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Thursday, 28 August 2008
Page: 3988


Senator LUDWIG (Minister for Human Services) (9:45 AM) —I move:

That these bills be now read a second time.

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

Leave granted.

The speeches read as follows—

AVIATION LEGISLATION AMENDMENT (2008 MEASURES No. 1) BILL 2008

Australia’s aviation security system has a number of layers to ensure the travelling public and the aviation industry is safe and able to respond quickly against threats of unlawful interference with a plane.

This Bill makes amendments which will enable regulations to be made which will enhance one of these layers, namely the operation of the Air Security Office Program.

The Air Security Office Program involves the placement of covert, armed security officers on select domestic and international flights to protect the flight deck.

Currently, the Air Security Officer Program has underpinnings in the Aviation Transport Security Act 2004, the Aviation Transport Security Regulations 2005 and the Civil Aviation Regulations 1988.

These regulations, and the Acts under which they are made, effectively permit an Air Security Officer to engage in conduct necessary for the performance of duties that would otherwise be contrary to Commonwealth legislation (e.g. the possession of a firearm on an aircraft). 

However, existing regulations do not allow an Air Security Officer to lawfully discharge a firearm in an aircraft without the risk of prosecution. 

This problem is currently being addressed through periodic notices issued under regulation 144 of the Civil Aviation Regulations 1988, which effectively allow on duty Air Security Officers to lawfully discharge a firearm in an aircraft without the risk of prosecution.   

There have been some concerns that the issuing of these exemptions under the Civil Aviation Regulations 1988 is inconsistent with the purpose of safety legislation as it inherently implies that it is safe to discharge a firearm on board an aircraft.

This Bill makes the necessary amendments to the Aviation Transport Security Act 2004 and the Civil Aviation Act 1988 which will allow the current exemptions to be replaced with new regulations under the aviation security legislation. 

Under the regime established by this Bill, a lawful discharge of a firearm could only occur in the course of the Air Security Officer’s duties. Which might be, for example, preventing unlawful interference with an aircraft.

Of course, an unlawful discharge would risk prosecution - making the system broadly equivalent to that applying to police officers.

As such, the amendments made by this Bill will provide a more appropriate and permanent platform to deal with the lawful discharge of firearms by Air Security Officers.

One of the key amendments made by this Bill is to enable regulations to be made under the Aviation Transport Security Regulations 2005 which will operate extraterritorially.

Such regulations would only have extraterritorial operation if specified, and would only apply to Australian aircraft or aircraft engaged in Australian international carriage, and the crew and passengers on board these aircraft.

In effect, the proposed amendments will allow regulations to be made permitting Air Security Officers to lawfully discharge their firearms on board an aircraft in Australian territory or an Australian aircraft in foreign territory.


AVIATION LEGISLATION AMENDMENT (INTERNATIONAL AIRLINE LICENCES AND CARRIERS’ LIABILITY INSURANCE) BILL 2008

The Aviation Legislation Amendment (International Airline Licences and Carriers’ Liability and Insurance) Bill 2008 will improve and modernise two regulatory programs related to the aviation industry.

Those two programs are:

  • The system of International Airline Licences; and
  • The system of mandatory airline insurance.

The bill will overhaul the system of International Airline Licences so that existing licences can be reissued with standardised and consistent conditions. It will also enhance the Government’s ability to check that airlines are complying with Licence conditions, and rectify a range of administrative deficiencies.

The system of International Airline Licences is established under the Air Navigation Act 1920 and its accompanying Regulations. It ensures scheduled international air services are operated in accordance with bilateral agreements and arrangements between Australia and our international aviation partners. They also act as a final checking mechanism to ensure safety and security approvals are in place prior to the commencement of operations.

There are several problems associated with the current administrative framework for International Airline Licences. For example, once a licence is issued it remains in force indefinitely unless an airline contravenes a provision in the Air Navigation Act, the Air Navigation Regulations or conditions in the licence itself.

As a result, many licences remain in force even though the airlines they were issued to have since ceased to exist or operate services to Australia.

The framework is also unnecessarily complicated by the regulatory structure of the Licence scheme. Currently, some aspects of the regulatory structure are contained in the Air Navigation Act, and other aspects are contained in the Regulations. This complicates the ongoing management and auditing of the Licence process.

This bill will move the entire regulatory framework for International Airline Licences into the Air Navigation Regulations 1947. The bill allows for the granting, variation, suspension and cancellation of international airline licences by the Secretary of the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government under Regulations.

Regulations will be drafted to update and rectify the current administrative deficiencies in the International Airline Licence system.

The bill also removes a range of redundant definitions in the Air Navigation Act.

The definitions relate to issues such as aviation security, which are now dealt with under the Aviation Transport Security Act 2004.

The second regulatory program overhauled by the bill is Australia’s system of compulsory non-voidable insurance for passenger carrying air operators.

Under the Carriers’ Liability Act, carriers are required to maintain minimum levels of insurance to protect passengers in the event of an accident. The scheme is supplemented by provisions in the Civil Aviation Act, which allow the Civil Aviation Safety Authority - or CASA - to enforce the requirements as part of their management of safety issues via the Air Operator’s Certificate.

The bill will improve the ability of CASA to proactively enforce insurance requirements for air carriers. It will also streamline administrative processes.

Under the new system, carriers will no longer need to obtain a certificate of compliance from CASA before flights are operated. Instead, operators will be obliged to provide CASA with a declaration indicating they have obtained insurance. Failure to notify CASA would incur a small administrative penalty. However, operators will continue to be authorised to operate services as long as they have an appropriate contract of insurance.

Amendments to the Civil Aviation Act will ensure that the authority to carry passengers under an Air Operator’s Certificate will only be valid while operators hold an appropriate contract of insurance.

If an operator allows its insurance to lapse, authorisation to carry passengers will automatically lapse, but can automatically be reactivated as soon as an operator secures appropriate insurance. If at any time an operator carries passengers without appropriate insurance, it will be subject to administrative and criminal sanctions.

Additional amendments will be made to provisions in the Civil Aviation Act relating to the short term approvals for non-scheduled international flights that are granted by CASA. In the case of these special approvals, the bill proposes that carriers which do not have a commercial presence in Australia will be required to prove that they have an appropriate contract of insurance before they are granted approval to operate the service. In such cases, the carrier will not be able to make a declaration after conducting the service. This is due to the increased difficulty of auditing a carrier that does not have a commercial presence in Australia.

The bill will improve carrier compliance with the insurance requirements. This is achieved by providing CASA with the necessary powers to regularly audit carriers, to ensure carriers have maintained appropriate insurance at all appropriate times. If CASA identifies an operator that has carried passengers without appropriate insurance, the carrier will be subject to a range of administrative actions and criminal penalties under the Civil Aviation Act, in addition to criminal penalties that are currently imposed under the Carriers’ Liability Act.

These two regulatory proposals have been the subject of significant industry consultation. When a discussion paper was released some three years ago in 2005, no objections to the proposal were raised.

A Regulation Impact Statement relating to the proposal to reform the system of IALs was prepared in 2006 and is included in the Explanatory Memorandum.

The expected financial costs to the Government to implement this bill are anticipated to be minimal.

Although the Regulation Impact Statement anticipated a small administrative impost to Government, this estimate has since been revised, and it is now expected that any additional financial impact will be able to be absorbed by current resources.

The bill provides long overdue and significant improvements to two important regulatory systems that promote a safe and efficient Australian aviation industry.


NATIONAL GREENHOUSE AND ENERGY REPORTING AMENDMENT BILL 2008

The purpose of the National Greenhouse and Energy Reporting Amendment Bill 2008 is to make a number of minor amendments to the National Greenhouse and Energy Reporting Act 2007, to improve the administration of the Act and to make modifications to what information can be published by Government under the Act.

The National Greenhouse and Energy Reporting Act 2007 was introduced by the previous Government and enacted on 28 September 2007.

It establishes a framework for mandatory reporting of greenhouse gas emissions and energy production and consumption by industry.

Corporations which exceed certain thresholds are required to apply to register under the system by 31 August 2009, and to provide data concerning their emissions and energy use, commencing with the 2008-09 financial year. The first corporation reports by industry are due by 31 October 2009.

Data collected by the National Greenhouse and Energy Reporting System (or NGERS) will facilitate policy making on greenhouse and energy issues.

A goal of the system is to eliminate duplicative industry reporting requirements under the existing patch-work of state, territory and Commonwealth greenhouse gas and energy programs. It provides a repository for data which may potentially serve the needs of all Australian governments. The Government is working with the states and territories through the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) to identify opportunities for streamlining national reporting requirements via this system.

In addition, the system aims to underpin the introduction of an emissions trading scheme, and will assist the Government to meet Australia’s international reporting requirements.

The amendments set forth in this bill are, for the most part, administrative amendments to improve the functions of the Act. They do not impose new regulatory burdens on industry. The measures will not have a budgetary impact.

In some cases, the amendments are required to better reflect the original policy intent behind the Act when it was introduced. In other cases, these administrative amendments will increase flexibility for business to comply with the Act.

An example of the greater flexibility provided by these amendments is the area of registration of corporations under the Act. The proposed amendments will ensure that a corporation may apply for registration well in advance of meeting one of the emissions or energy thresholds specified in the Act, as opposed to waiting until the day a threshold is met. In addition, it will no longer be necessary for a corporation to provide evidence that it has met a threshold at the point of registration. This will significantly reduce the red-tape burden imposed on industry at the start of their involvement with the scheme.

Another administrative amendment set out in this bill is to clarify the distinction between reporting of projects leading to reductions and removals of greenhouse gases, and reporting of offsets. Currently, the Act allows a corporation to report on offsets arising from a project undertaken by itself or a member of its group. This would prevent a corporation from reporting offsets which could be generated by activities carried out beyond the corporate boundaries of the group. A new provision inserted by this bill will allow separate reporting of offsets and other types of projects.

The bill clarifies that a member of a corporation’s group must provide assistance to an external auditor during audits of the corporation’s group. This will assist in ensuring that the external audit regime imposed by the Act is robust.

The one area where the amendments proposed by this bill go beyond existing policy is in the area of public disclosure. Even here, the amendments do not impose a new reporting burden on corporations. Instead, the effect of the amendments will be to increase the amount of information collected by the system which may be publicly disclosed.

The bill will ensure the public and investors have access to information on both a corporations Scope 1 (direct) and Scope 2 (indirect) greenhouse gas emissions. This distinction has been added following public consultation. Corporations will benefit from a greater public understanding of how their emissions profile is composed, rather than from the publication of a single total. In some sectors, Scope 2 (indirect emissions) can compose a significant share of a corporation’s total greenhouse gas emissions footprint.

The bill also allows corporations to disclose to the public the methods used to measure their emissions, and for the accuracy rating of methods to be disclosed publicly. This will lead to far greater transparency concerning the accuracy and reliability of data published.

This bill will make the National Greenhouse and Energy Reporting System simpler to administer, and provide clarity for industry on administrative procedures.

Debate (on motion by Senator Ludwig) adjourned.

Ordered that the bills be listed on the Notice Paper as separate orders of the day.