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Thursday, 26 November 2015
Page: 9107

Senator CAMERON (New South Wales) (13:00): It is a fact of life in 2015 that governments must be constantly vigilant about safety and security in transport systems, and this is especially the case with aviation. Travellers know only too well the levels of security checks that have become necessary in this day and age. Nobody likes the inconvenience or the queues, but we all know that this is serious business. Our approach must be based on the principle of 'safety first'. It is not only about aircraft passengers. We need to ensure that our systems for handling air cargo are also up-to-date and efficient and we have to balance that security requirement against the need to keep goods moving in the name of efficiency and productivity. The time involved in checking cargo is significant, and the Aviation Transport Security Amendment (Cargo) Bill 2015 seeks to grapple with the need to carefully balance the competing needs of public safety and keeping our economy moving.

The opposition will support this bill in the public interest. The impetus for this change has its roots in our relationship with the United States. US law requires that all airlines transporting cargo into the US inspect each and every item piece by piece, and the US has noted that existing arrangements in Australia do not meet that standard. As a result, Australia has negotiated a two-year transition period during which we will move to satisfy the US requirements.

The bill seeks to make industry a partner in this process. It establishes a 'known consignor' category in the transport security regulatory network. This invests the responsibility to screen cargo with the shipper or originator of the goods and establishes a system that maintains security across the supply chain. It will also mean that the cargo handled by a known consignor will not need to be inspected at an airport. In addition to this piece of legislation, the transition to a US-compliant system is already underway. Some businesses have already been approved to conduct their own security checks away from airports, removing the need for double handling at airports.

Labor treats aviation security as a non-political issue. We have our arguments here about policy, about ideology and about politics, but when it comes to securing the safety of the travelling public we are on a unity ticket. Our joint policy is 'safety first'. Labor can always be relied upon to take matters to do with aviation seriously. Labor will support this bill.