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Thursday, 11 September 2003
Page: 19891

Mr MARTIN FERGUSON (2:51 PM) —My question is to the Minister for Transport and Regional Services. It concerns the government's open door policy on aviation and maritime security. Can the minister confirm that just six months ago there was a break-in at exactly the same location and on the same floor as the latest security breach and theft of a laptop which was reported yesterday? Minister, what steps were taken following the first break-in to upgrade security at this location, which I might remind the House is responsible for Australia's national aviation and maritime security? How many security breaches will it take before the Howard-Anderson government takes national security here in Australia more seriously?

Mr ANDERSON (Minister for Transport and Regional Services) —I thank the honourable member for his question. I have no recollection of a break-in six months ago of the sort that happened yesterday. I will check the records and establish whether it happened. I reiterate the point that I made yesterday: in this particular case there is no cause, basis or justification for any concern that those who broke in and removed the laptop, a bottle of scotch and some private belongings were able to gain any access to security sensitive information.

Mr Bevis —Why did you lock the door?

Mr ANDERSON —Why did we lock the door? It was because we do not actually have an open door security policy, I suppose. Let me reiterate from yesterday: so sensitive was the information contained on the laptop that I can now advise all members of the House that it is on the department's web site and they are free to go and have a look at it. We do not take these matters lightly. No-one in the transport industry who is implementing the enormous reform and the security measures that we are insisting upon as a government would say that they constituted the Australian community, the government or the private sector taking security lightly. They just would not. It would be impossible to do so.

The measures that are in place now are far streng-thened compared to what they were prior to September 2001. They are increasingly being strengthened. They are ahead of ICAO international standards. In relation to maritime, we do indeed have a very big task before us. We are taking it forward cooperatively with all the state and territory Labor governments. I think that the Leader of the Opposition would do well to take a note out of the book of the Premier of New South Wales and, in an earlier guise, the member for Batman's book when they warned against making security a political football. I am more than happy to engage in serious debate about real security issues. I do not take them lightly. Again I make the offer to the member for Batman if he wants to be true to what he claimed was his sense of values on this matter in this place just last Monday, when he said:

... issues should be raised in a responsible, constructive manner that does not blow risk out of proportion.

Does anyone believe that they are not trying to scaremonger here? Does anyone really believe that this is not meant to heighten people's concern when they talk about an open door policy for security? Does anyone believe that the National Security Committee of cabinet has not spent hours and hours or that the Treasurer has not had to find hundreds of millions of dollars to enhance the security of the Australian population and that the private sector is not having to find hundreds of millions of dollars? Does anyone believe that it is not simply trying to frighten the Australian people to call this an open door approach to security? It is no such thing, and in the interests of a real debate about it I again say to the member for Batman that on other matters he has frequently requested briefings from my department—

Mr Martin Ferguson —I will continue to request them.

Mr ANDERSON —In that case I suggest that you seek a briefing from us on these security matters and we will give you one in good faith.

The SPEAKER —The Leader of the Opposition will withdraw the reference he made to the Deputy Prime Minister. The Leader of the Opposition referred to the Deputy Prime Minister as a hypocrite.

Mr Crean —I withdraw that, Mr Speaker.