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Thursday, 18 November 2010
Page: 1625

Senator BRANDIS (1:49 PM) —The purpose of this bill is to strengthen the existing legislative framework surrounding Australia’s international and domestic aviation security regime by ensuring that aviation related crimes carry appropriately severe penalties and by making sure that an appropriate range of offences are applicable. Under the amendments in this bill, the penalties in the act will fall within four tiers. The severity of the penalty in each tier corresponds with the type of offence falling within each tier.

Tier 1 provides for life imprisonment to continue to apply to offences such as highjacking or destroying an aircraft while it is in flight. The attempted terrorist bombing of American flight NW 253 would have fallen within this tier if it had occurred on an Australian interstate or overseas flight.

Under tier 2 a maximum penalty of 20 years imprisonment will apply to very serious offences that pose danger or cause harm to whole groups of people, such as endangering an aircraft while it is in flight. Offences in this tier have had their maximum penalties raised from a range of seven, 10 or 15 years.

Under tier 3 a maximum penalty of 14 years imprisonment will apply to offences that are generally against aircraft or aviation environments, such as disrupting a major airport or destroying its facilities. These offences currently carry maximum penalties of seven or 10 years.

Finally, tier 4 provides for imprisonment for up to 10 years for offences such as hoaxes and taking control of an aircraft, which currently carry maximum penalties of two and 10 years respectively.

The amendments also support the move from the current unified policing model to an all-in policing and security model at airports, whereby the Australian Federal Police will be responsible for policing at Australia’s 11 major airports. Under these changes, the AFP will take full control of the community policing role at the 11 airports, replacing the hybrid model involving the AFP and state or territory police officers. The AFP will also move to a fully sworn presence, so that all AFP personnel deployed at the airport will have the same training and powers. This will involve a three- to five-year transition period.

The all-in mode was an outcome recommended by the Federal Audit of Police Capabilities which was conducted by Mr Roger Beale AO in 2009. The government’s response to the Beale report and its decision to make changes to airport policing arrangements were announced by the Minister for Home Affairs on 18 December 2009.

The coalition fully supports measures designed to ensure the safety and integrity of our airports and aviation facilities. We regard this legislation as carrying on the work of reform conducted during the course of the Howard government. Accordingly, we are pleased to support the bill.