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Thursday, 21 March 2013
Page: 2889

Mr ALBANESE (GrayndlerLeader of the House and Minister for Infrastructure and Transport) (09:00): I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

Australia’s aviation security framework is under continuous review to ensure it is responsive to changes in the aviation security environment including the deterrence, detection and prevention of acts of unlawful interference with an aircraft.

It is apparent that at times it may be necessary for Australia to place restrictions on certain cargo being carried on Australian aircraft, or being carried into Australia on foreign-nationality aircraft.

This fact was highlighted on 29 October 2010, when two improvised explosive devices were discovered on board aircraft in Dubai and the United Kingdom.

The devices were hidden in printers and sent from Yemen to the United States as air cargo consignments.

They were intercepted en route following an intelligence tip-off.

Such events show the potential for inbound air cargo to pose an unacceptable security risk to Australians and Australian interests.

While providing for a security framework covering outbound international air cargo, current provisions under the Aviation Transport Security Act 2004 do not provide specific mitigation measures to counter the threat posed by inbound international air cargo.

The proposed legislative amendment addresses this issue and will ensure that the government has a sound, transparent and effective legal basis to mitigate the threat posed to Australia by international inbound air cargo in the future.

In 2010, responding to the Yemen incident, the government moved to prohibit air cargo originating in, or transiting through, Yemen or Somalia from being carried to Australia.

This was initially achieved through the issuing of Special Security Directions.

However, Special Security Directions only operate for a six-month period as they were deliberately created as a short-term measure, providing an appropriate means to quickly deal with emerging security threats.

Upon their expiration, the effect of the prohibition was continued by requiring relevant aviation industry participants to vary their Transport Security Programs.

Under the current legislation, this is the only way the framework can address lasting threats such as those presented by the 2010 Yemen incident.

While this mechanism has the desired security effect, it is cumbersome and creates an excessive administrative burden, requiring each aircraft operator to manually amend its security program, and for the government to individually assess each amendment.

This bill changes that by introducing a mechanism to quickly and efficiently respond to security threats on a national basis.

The proposed changes allow the government to prohibit all air cargo entering Australian territory, or be limited to a variety of types of cargo, depending on the nature of the threat.

Some of the current examples of the types of cargo that might be regulated are:

Cargo originating from a particular country or countries; or

Cargo packaged in a particular way

This flexibility allows for currently unknown threats to be dealt with effectively and proportionately.

The threat of improvised explosive devices concealed in air cargo is real and the consequence of such a plot succeeding would be catastrophic.

As such, the bill contains a strict liability offence.

The government believes this is an appropriate deterrent against acts or omissions committed by aviation industry participants that may contribute to the success of an attack.

The penalties for an offence under the bill are $34,000 for an aircraft operator and $17,000 for any other aviation industry participant.

These penalties are consistent with similar existing penalties for strict liability offences within the Aviation Transport Security Act.

Another consideration in developing the bill is that lasting prohibitions on cargo have the potential to affect trade and foreign relations.

This bill addresses this by providing an appropriate level of scrutiny, transparency and accountability through the use of a disallowable instrument.

No decision will be taken without consultation with the Minister for Foreign Affairs and the Trade minister.

The bill makes a technical amendment to the act which arose out of the Aviation Transport Security Amendment (Air Cargo) Act 2011.

The Yemen incident has been a key driver for the strengthening of Australia’s air cargo security measures.

Ideally, all countries throughout the world would secure their own domestic and outbound cargo to a global minimum standard.

However, as this goal remains aspirational, the government must take steps to ensure it has the right tools to take action when needed to protect Australia’s interests.

The security of inbound cargo is a key aspect of the government’s overall aviation security strategy.

The government’s first priority is ensuring the safety and security of Australians and Australian interests.

This bill ensures that the government has a sound, transparent and effective legal basis to mitigate the threat posed to Australia by international inbound air cargo in the future.

I commend the bill to the House.

Debate adjourned.