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Tuesday, 28 November 2006
Page: 14

Senator O’BRIEN (1:38 PM) —by leave—I move opposition amendments (1) to (25), (28) to (56) and (63) to (67) on sheet 5139 together:

(1)    Clause 10, page 10 (lines 7 and 8), omit subclause (2), substitute:

         (2)    The Inspector may inquire into such matters in accordance with a direction from the Minister or in accordance with section 11A.

 (2)   Page 11 (after line 18), after clause 11, insert:

11A Inspector may decide to conduct inquiry

The first principle that we would seek to be enshrined in this legislation is a degree of independence vested in the Inspector of Transport Security. As I indicated in my contribution to the second reading debate, the framework for independent inquiry and recommendations in relation to transport security matters and offshore security matters is subject to authorisation by the minister. I understand that Minister Vaile has made some statements about this bill, but, frankly, he has not adequately dealt with the justification for the minister being in a position to limit the ability of the Inspector of Transport Security to conduct an inquiry. If we are passing legislation to empower the inspector, then the inspector, having been appointed, ought to have enough latitude to inquire into matters as he or she sees fit.

In our view the independence of the inspector would be dependent on the absence of such a limitation. Without these amendments we could, of course, see the Inspector of Transport Security, in dispute with the minister, wishing to inquire into significant matters affecting the security of Australian travellers while, for political reasons, the minister might wish to constrain the inspector. The opposition think that is bad principle. We think that, upon reflection, the government ought to change their view and empower the inspector—if they have any confidence in the position that they are creating—to conduct an inquiry into matters without the limitation that the bill currently contains.

So we will be persisting with these amendments, which, in effect, give the inspector the power to investigate on his or her own motion matters relating to the federal jurisdiction. We do think that, in relation to investigating matters in other jurisdictions, there ought to be an amount of consultation about those inspections, given that, of course, the issue of constitutional power may arise and the Commonwealth cannot exceed its constitutional capacity in this regard. We are unaware what issues the inspector might seek to investigate which might be within the realm of state power and we would not want to constrain the inspector from investigating those matters, subject to agreement by the state jurisdiction to such an inspection taking place. In a sense, that is the impact of the group of amendments which I have moved. I commend them to the Senate.