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Tuesday, 14 February 2017
Page: 864


Senator STERLE (Western Australia) (19:13): I too rise to make my comments on the Transport Security Legislation Amendment Bill 2016, which we know has passed through the other house. We also know that Labor supports this bill; there is no argument. There is nothing more important in terms of transport than the security of our ports and our wharfs. And I can say that with a bit of background, because it was the Rural, Regional Affairs and Transport Committee, back when I first walked into this place, that was doing the inquiry into the MSIC—the Maritime Security Identification Card. But the previous card, the ASIC, as you would well know, Mr Acting Deputy President Gallacher, with your experience, like mine, around the airport—actually, you have far more experience around the airport, being a worn-out old baggage handler, which I say with the greatest of respect, because that is a tough gig, especially when you are doing it in Darwin or Alice Springs, like you did for many, many years, and kept those flights going. You were a magnificent servant to our nation, Mr Acting Deputy President.

An honourable senator interjecting

Senator STERLE: Do you not believe me? He was a baggage handler. While you lot all sat there sipping champagne in the chairman's lounge, he was loading the plane. That is what he was doing.

An honourable senator interjecting

Senator STERLE: He was shearing sheep back then, but he is not now, is he? It is like me—I am not moving furniture anymore. But I digress.

Government senators interjecting

Senator STERLE: You see, Mr Acting Deputy President, how dare I congratulate an old blue-collar worker with dirt under the fingernails who has done the hard stuff? They still pounce on me. With the born-to-rule mentality on that side of the chamber, it is hard to be serious and make a wonderful contribution to transport security.

So, to go back, when I first walked into this building, that was one of the first inquiries I walked into. The other one was the canker inquiry, and I will talk about that later, on another date. So I do know the importance, and, as Senator Rice said very clearly before me, we cannot overscreen.

Senator Williams: You are sucking up to Senator Rice.

Senator STERLE: I am not sucking up to Senator Rice. Senator Williams, that is a bit harsh. Crikey, we are all on the same side on this one. But I too worry about the security of our airports. I have done inquiries over the years where we have travelled the nation and we have talked up a good fight about security. I remember the 'don't be alarmed, be alert' and all that sort of stuff. I have sat with other members from the other side of the chamber at Karratha Airport and we had wonderful screening going on in the terminal. That was fine, but there was a three-foot wire fence you could jump over and you could do whatever you liked on the other side. We have come a long, long way.

This bill, very clearly, takes that next step, where we can screen machinery, vehicles, workers and contractors once they are in the secure zone, which has never happened before. We should continue to keep going further. With your experience, Mr Acting Deputy President, you would know that we cannot overscreen freight. A lot of the time, in a lot of our ports, we have no idea what is coming through in these containers or whatever they may be. So this is a first step and a good step, and we should absolutely be able to instil in the travelling public in Australia that this government and governments to follow and previous governments put an absolute best foot forward to make sure, with the madness that is going on around the world, that Australian travellers can rest assured that there are no shortcuts in security—in aviation and on the waterfront. There is no argument at all. It is with great pleasure that I can make my contribution and talk this up and say to the government: 'I would like you to keep going. I would like you to put the big boy pants on and take one step further and instil in our national security a little bit more foresight in having a look at who is coming into our nation.' While I do not want to demean the work of the government, with the opposition and the minor parties supporting this, you still need to continue.

It is all very well to talk up the tough fight, but—this digresses a little bit, but it is very important I share this with you—we have flag-of-convenience vessels, and in 2012 a captain came in on one of the largest coal carriers in this nation, and, strangely, two seamen lost their lives on his ship. I want to mention the great work that the Rural, Regional Affairs and Transport Committee is doing. And I will tell you why it does: because it has members like Senator Williams, Senator O'Sullivan and Senator Back, who support me and you, Mr Acting Deputy President, when you were on the RRAT committee, and other members. We do take this seriously. I am proud to say that this is the most bipartisan Senate committee in this building, because it just puts the best interests of Australia and Australians first.

A Filipino captain who had lost two of his seafarers to terrible deaths came into our port. Then he confessed to being a gun-runner. I am not making this up. This sounds like a bad American B-grade movie. Unfortunately, it is true. But the kicker in this is that he sailed off. He went off. The Japanese owned the vessel and the Japanese were doing the investigation. I cannot believe I have to say this. Then there was a coronial inquest. It is still going. There was a coronial inquest in Sydney. The lawyers were up there, in the absence of Captain Salas. He was nowhere to be found. No-one knew where he was—ASIO, the AFP—no-one had a clue. So they were having the coronial inquiry in Sydney, and Owen Jacques, a reporter from north of Brisbane who had been following the case since 2012, flew down from the Sunshine Coast and was sitting in the spectator area listening to the prosecutor running the case about Captain Salas. At the smoko break, Owen Jacques walked up to the main lawyer said, 'Guess what, I know where Captain Salas is.' ASIO did not know. AFP did not know. Border control and Immigration did not know. He knew. He said, 'They are coming into the Port of Gladstone' on whatever ship it was. There was a flurry of activity.

Debate interrupted.