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Thursday, 27 March 2003
Page: 13749

Mr ANDERSON (Minister for Transport and Regional Services) (9:30 AM) —I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

We are all deeply conscious of the need to be vigilant about aviation safety. The Aviation Transport Security Bill 2003 recognises the responsibilities of all aviation security participants, from the largest airport operator down to the ordinary passenger. We must all be involved in aviation security.

As part of the government's commitment to ensuring a safe and secure aviation environment, comprehensive policy reviews of the various elements comprising aviation security legislation have been undertaken in recent years. These have identified a number of measures to strengthen an already robust regulatory framework, which the Aviation Transport Security Bill 2003 serves to implement. This regulatory package implements the decisions of cabinet in relation to passenger and checked bag screening, and access control and aviation security identification cards—ASIC cards.

In particular, this entails the extension of passenger screening at regional categorised ports to ensure that the deployment of passenger screening more accurately matches the emerging role of regional airlines—in tandem with Australia's major airlines—in carrying high volumes of jet airline passengers. Changes to the aviation security identification card regime will impose stricter controls upon those with access to security sensitive areas at an airport. The addition of politically motivated violence background checks goes a long way towards preventing potential terrorists from accessing these critical facilities.

In addition to these changes, the Aviation Transport Security Bill makes a number of important improvements to the existing legislation. Issues such as cargo security, current legislative loopholes, ambiguity in the weapons schedule, graduated penalties, airport categorisation, and the structure of the current legislation have all been enhanced under the bill. These changes serve to improve transparency and clarify the responsibilities and accountability of all industry participants.

The Australian National Audit Office report on aviation security, which was tabled out of session on Thursday, 16 January 2003, endorsed the Department of Transport and Regional Services' response to the events of 11 September and noted that the current regulatory framework for aviation security is comprehensive and robust. However, it suggested that, while the department's monitoring and enforcement regime is essentially sound, it could be improved. I want to assure the House that I take those recommendations very seriously, and I have spent some time with the department working through how best to handle them. The report found that improvements could be made in relation to action taken by the department to correct noncompliance with aviation security standards. In recognising the fact that aviation security is everyone's responsibility, the new enforcement provisions will ensure that penalties are appropriate given the nature of the security breach and the offender's role in civil aviation.

Given the varying roles of aviation industry participants, this bill allows industry greater flexibility in meeting the standards set by government. That is appropriate. The new framework provides broad outcome statements, with security program arrangements giving industry discretion as to how these outcomes are achieved. The onus will remain on industry to prove that they can indeed meet the prescribed standards, but they will have the flexibility to do so in the most cost-effective manner. This system recognises the wealth of practical security knowledge existing within Australia's aviation industries, and it ensures that government outcomes are achieved and maintained in an effective manner. It also capitalises upon the benefits offered by deregulation and economic rationalism. By combining practical flexibility for industry with a suite of appropriate enforcement options, this bill ensures the achievement of aviation security outcomes.

The bill also recognises the fact that aviation security is an issue of global importance. The international standards for aviation security are contained in annex 17 to the Convention on International Civil Aviation (the Chicago convention), to which Australia was a founding member in 1944, and they are administered by the International Civil Aviation Organisation, or ICAO. As a signatory to the Chicago convention, and particularly as one of the original members in 1944, Australia has an obligation to comply with the aviation security standards outlined under annex 17 of the convention.

Since 11 September 2001, ICAO has made a number of amendments to annex 17 of the Chicago convention. The amendments identify additional areas of concern, clarify aviation security objectives in a changing environment, and recommend changes to authority delegation, information sharing, and response mechanisms. These changes are reflected in the Aviation Transport Security Bill.

In the current threat environment, the Aviation Transport Security Bill is clearly necessary to ensure that Australia's aviation security environment is as robust as possible. Aside from restructuring and clarifying aviation security requirements, this bill introduces comprehensive improvements to the existing legislation. Australia's aviation security environment will be significantly enhanced through the introduction of passenger and checked baggage, and access control and aviation security identification card arrangements.

By allowing industry greater flexibility in achieving security outcomes, which is something I am very committed to and which the industry and the department from time to time have had to grapple with—because it does set challenges for everyone; we are not simply dictating every nut and bolt and how things will be done, but I do believe this is the right way to go—and by radically enhancing the enforcement options available, this bill provides for a more effective implementation of aviation security measures. In recognising that aviation security is everyone's responsibility, this bill also reinforces Australia's international role by implementing and exceeding the standards deemed acceptable by the international community. I present the explanatory memorandum to this bill.

Debate (on motion by Mr Rudd) adjourned.