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Wednesday, 15 August 2007
Page: 165

Mr VAILE (Minister for Transport and Regional Services) (10:02 AM) —I present the explanatory memorandum to this bill and I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

Aviation security is a high priority for this government and remains under constant review to ensure that the regulatory framework is responsive to changing threats to the Australian aviation industry.

This bill contains a range of amendments that are minor or technical in nature. These amendments are the result of industry suggestions and government administrative experience. There are four significant amendments in this bill.

Firstly, the Aviation Transport Security Act 2004 is amended so that regulations can be made to prohibit activities or conduct performed outside a security controlled airport that disrupts or interferes with the operations of a security controlled airport or aircraft. The amendment is consistent with requirements from the International Civil Aviation Organisation, of which Australia is a member. The amendment permits regulations to be made that capture disruptive conduct that takes place outside airport boundaries that directly disrupts airport operations or air services.

There is concern in the aviation industry about the increasing incidence of lasers being used to interfere with aircraft, particularly on approach to and on take-off from airports. The Civil Aviation Act 1988 is amended so that a person who threatens the safety of an aircraft, either by laser or by other means, commits an offence.

Secondly, the Aviation Transport Security Act 2004 now contains further powers for Australian Customs officers at airports. My officers have worked with Customs to develop a sensible model that implements one of the recommendations from the aviation security report by Sir John Wheeler. In order to improve aviation security, the amendment utilises Customs officers at parts of the airport where uniformed police are unlikely to routinely visit but which are visited by Customs officers. The intention of the amendment is to complement but not replace the law enforcement role.

The implementation of this recommendation demonstrates the commitment of the government to strengthening aviation security.

Thirdly, is an amendment to the Aviation Transport Security Act 2004 which will provide, through regulations, for the most senior dignitaries, their spouses and minors to be exempt from aviation security screening. Other dignitaries and VIPs will still be able to apply for aviation security screening exemptions on a case-by-case basis. This change to dignitaries that may be exempt from security screening is limited and reflects a balance between Australia’s international legal obligations and security outcomes.

One amendment includes enhancements to the transport security program regime so that it mirrors maritime security legislation. The sensible enhancements will improve the administration of transport security programs and enhance the existing aviation security regime through:

  • the ability of an aviation industry participant to request conclusion of their transport security program;
  • administrative arrangements whereby the time taken to process transport security program applications is temporarily suspended for the time taken to provide additional information when requested; and
  • more flexible approval arrangements for the lifespan of a transport security program.

Finally, the Civil Aviation Act 1988 is amended to enable CASA to introduce a mandatory drug and alcohol regime in the civil aviation industry. This initiative was announced in the 2007-08 budget. The drug and alcohol regime will have two elements: firstly, companies in the industry will be required to have drug and alcohol programs that will be regulated and audited by CASA, will be self-funded, and will involve testing, education and support for their employees.

Secondly, CASA will carry out its own testing program, to test people in the industry, such as private pilots and contractors, who have safety sensitive jobs but who are not covered by a company program, and to satisfy itself that the company programs are effective. To promote compliance, these elements will be supported by a range of potential enforcement options available to CASA.

The drug and alcohol testing regime will foster a safer workplace for civil aviation workers and the public will benefit broadly from a safer aviation sector. It will introduce drug and alcohol testing in the Australian civil aviation industry in line with other civil aviation industries around the world and with other safety sensitive industries in Australia.