Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee

SUMMERS, Mr Dean, International Transport Workers' Federation Coordinator, Maritime Union of Australia

Committee met at 09 :41

CHAIR ( Senator Stoker ): Good morning. I declare open this public hearing for the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee's inquiry into the provisions of the Transport Security Amendment (Serious Crime) Bill 2019. The committee's proceedings today will follow the program that's been circulated.

These are public proceedings being broadcast live via the web and in Parliament House. I remind witnesses that, in giving evidence to the committee, they are protected by parliamentary privilege. It is unlawful for anyone to threaten or disadvantage a witness on account of evidence given to a committee and such action may be treated by the Senate as a contempt. It is also a contempt to give false or misleading evidence to the committee. The committee prefers evidence to be given in public, but, under the Senate's resolutions, witnesses have the right to request to be heard in confidence, described as being in camera. If you are a witness today and you intend to request to give evidence in camera, please bring this to the attention of the secretariat as soon as possible. If a witness objects to answering a question, the witness should state the ground upon which the objection is taken and the committee will determine whether it will insist on an answer, having regard to the ground which is claimed. If the committee determines to insist on an answer, a witness may request that the answer be given in camera. Such a request may, of course, also be made at any other time.

With those formalities over, I welcome everyone here today. Thank you for taking the time to give evidence to the committee. Information about parliamentary privilege has been provided to you and is available from the secretariat. The committee has received the submission of the Maritime Union of Australia as submission No. 6. Do you wish do make any changes or corrections to your submission?

Mr Summers : No, I don't.

CHAIR: Great. Do you have anything to add to the capacity in which you appear today?

Mr Summers : I'm the national coordinator for the International Transport Workers' Federation in Australia. It's a global trade union federation. Our major affiliate in Australia is the Maritime Union, along with a number of other transport affiliated unions. I have been active in the maritime security space for the last 15 years.

CHAIR: Excellent. Would you like to make a brief opening statement before we go to questions?

Mr Summers : Yes, I would. Thank you. Fifteen years ago, the then transport minister, Warren Truss, announced the development of the maritime security identification card. At that time, he was on television and in the print media saying that this would result in the loss of thousands of Australian dock workers' jobs—unionised jobs—and he mentioned that up to 50 per cent of Maritime Union members would not make the standard and would lose their jobs. He seemed happy about that at the time, but I'm happy to report that that wasn't the case. Since that day, we have been represented at every single meeting in relation to the development of the act, now the MTOFSA Act, which is in place to enable the ISPS Code, the International Ship and Port Facility Security Code.

Our major focus has been attention to the conditions under which transport workers—that's all transport workers—can get a maritime security card. For the last 15 years industry and unions have been assured that it's our responsibility to forego normal standards and to submit our members and all transport workers to some of the most invasive background security checks in the name of national security. All the way along, we were assured that at no time would this be applied militarily, industrially or as a policing application. Now we find ourselves debating and arguing the government's position that it should have an additional purpose, and that additional purpose is for the police agencies to add on and to expand those lists of criminal convictions that preclude an applicant from getting a card.

I have to stress that these are identification cards and not access cards. In order to access security zones, as the government will explain later on, you have to have a security pass. I don't know the figures for how many of our members have to have discretionary cards—that is, they don't make the grade on the first cut. For whatever reason, they've crossed the trip-wire: they've had past convictions that match the discretionary crimes. They therefore go into a process to get a discretionary card so that they can continue with their work or so they can get work.

Behind me are some seafarers and dockers from Australia who have the cards and who have had different problems with those cards. I was going to have one of our members, Brendan McKeen, who joined a ship yesterday. He put his card in for reapplication almost 90 days prior to having to join his ship. The fact is that the process let him down, and for 90 days he wasn't able to renew his card. When the time came to come back off leave and join his ship, the card still wasn't there. His crime was 31 years ago, when he got into a fight in a Queensland pub—31 years ago. Since then he's had no other convictions, he's kept it squeaky clean and every time that card comes up for renewal he has to go through the same process. Why it takes government agencies 90 days is beyond me.

I've got a number of other examples of how our members and how transport workers in general are disadvantaged by the slow process that exists now. Expanding the criteria and giving the crime agencies the opportunity to add theirs—in regulation form, I to hasten to add—will make the card even more difficult, will make the process much longer and, in our view, will have competing forces inside the government between countersecurity and countercrime. I just want to reiterate that this legislation we're dealing with enables the international code and only deals with counterterrorism. At no time—and internationally—does it deal with counterpolicing.

The Maritime Union of Australia also wants to stress that our interest in maritime security is paramount, because it's our members and transport workers who are injured when there are terrorist attacks on wharfs, airports and transport modes. We have tried to become partners in the government's push, but because of the way it's been handled over the last 15 years, and because of this constant pressure to expand the list of crimes, our members feel isolated and they don't feel like they're part of the answer. They feel like they're treated as part of the problem—honest men and women going about their work, with this constant, constant pressure on their families. And even if they get a card, their families—their wives and kids—know that two years later they're going to have to go under the same pressures, hoping that the level of bans haven't been expanded to a degree where they can't get their card and they'll be sacked.

The guy I mentioned earlier, Brendan, had been employed in a very good job in the offshore oil and gas industry for 11 years. His employer was demanding last Thursday that either he commit to flying to his job on Monday or tell them why he can't come to the job. He's faced with admitting—embarrassingly—that 31 years ago he got into a pub fight and was charged with assault, something that he thought in every other aspect of his life he had put behind him. And yet the Maritime Security Identification Card continues to bring that up.

He works in an industry that's been decimated by some of the ravages of the flag-of-convenience system, and we have given evidence time and time again at how bad the flag-of-convenience system is and what a security threat that poses to Australia. The Australian fleet has been decimated, replaced by cheap foreign workers, on the Australian coast—not coming to and from Australia but working on the Australian coast—and they're exempted from the maritime security background checks because they're foreign nationals and all they have to have is a maritime crew visa. Because a major part of my work is to look after the interests of those seafarers, I know that the captain's put in a sheet, a crew list, to the Australian Department of Home Affairs, and back comes a check for everyone on that ship to have a crew visa to allow them to come and go in and out of Australian ports and airports.

CHAIR: Mr Summers, I'm conscious that we need to keep to a timetable. I can see there are people who likely have questions for you. Is there an awful lot more of your opening statement?

Senator STERLE: Chair, I would rather hear from Mr Summers. I'll pass up my time.

CHAIR: Are you sure?

Senator STERLE: I would rather hear from Mr Summers. He's lived and breathed this. In fact, I do have to declare that Mr Summers and I not only have been mates for 30 years but we worked together—me on this side of the argument, as a senator, and Mr Summers with the ITF and MUA for a time when the implementation of the maritime security identification card came in, so I'd much rather—

CHAIR: There's no crime in having friends, Senator Sterle. That is okay.

Senator STERLE: Absolutely!

CHAIR: Do you have questions, Senator Carr?

Senator KIM CARR: I certainly do. But Senator Sheldon is an expert in this field. So I'll be—

CHAIR: Just for time management, how much more do you have, Mr Summers?

Mr Summers : Senator, there is an awful lot more. But I will round it off in the interests of the covering the ground with the questions.

CHAIR: Are you able to touch on the key points you'd like to make in the next five minutes—

Mr Summers : Yes, let me round it off in one minute.

CHAIR: and then I'll hand over to Labor senators to ask questions?

Mr Summers : Thank you.

CHAIR: Thank you, Mr Summers.

Mr Summers : So the thrust of our submission and our position is that maritime security is so very important that it shouldn't be shared with policing. This shouldn't be piggybacked on the back of an existing system that's been ongoing for 15 years—something that our membership and the broader transport sector has dealt with for 15 years. There are huge gaps in maritime security in that there is no Australian shipping industry left. None of the fuel—zero fuel—is transported around our coast by Australian seafarers. I have seen ships that have operated on this coast for 10 years without leaving the coast, with foreign seafarers manning those ships coming through the airports and the crew changing. Those ships come in and out of ports that I can drive a car through and go to the gangway and go straight up to see the captain on. They are very porous borders. We know that senior management, who are in charge of diverting ships, telling ships where to go and what berths to do, and all the organisational structure and the logistics is done by people that don't have to have maritime security background checks. If that's not a problem, I don't know what is. Security of packing containers is done outside of that zone, and, again, is not subject to these schemes. So, while there are huge gaps to maritime security, we want the government to focus in, change, and fix those gaps before something happens, and let's just leave security for security because it's so very important to all Australians.

CHAIR: Thank you.

Senator KIM CARR: Mr Summers, you're the secretary of the international federation of seafarers; is that right?

Mr Summers : I'm the national coordinator for the ITF.

Senator KIM CARR: Apologies. I just want to be clear about that. Given that this proposal has been considered by this parliament numerous times before—there have been a number of occasions when this has been dealt with—how does this model or this approach compare with those of other countries like Canada? Do they have this sort of approach in Canada?

Mr Summers : At the time we were drafting the legislation in Australia, I travelled to Canada and the US and had a look at what's going on there. They have the MFRAP scheme in Canada, very similar to ours, but as far as I know—and I have spoken to the unions there, it is still very concentrated and focused on counterterrorism. In the States, they've got the TWIC system and the same situation arises.

Senator KIM CARR: We're not picking up the experiences from those jurisdictions?

Mr Summers : No.

Senator KIM CARR: The second question is: how does this regime apply to flags of convenience?

Mr Summers : It doesn't. They're completely exempted because they're foreign seafarers, and they just have to have maritime crew visas, available within 24 or 48 hours.

Senator KIM CARR: What sort of percentage of our trade is now carried by foreign ships?

Mr Summers : For our coastal trade, the oil and gas is 100 per cent foreign ships. We've got a few ships, a handful of ships, with Australian registry and Australian seafarers.

Senator SHELDON: Mr Summers and I have known each other for 15 years and had a long relationship dealing with matters on our waterfront and on various other ports and aviation and security matters. Questions have been raised by some of the other agencies and also some of the question about when you get an MSIC. You're aware that to get an MSIC card you have to be checked by ASIO.

Mr Summers : That's right: ASIO checked, Australian Federal Police background checked, immigration checked.

Senator SHELDON: How many coastal seafarers who are on flags of convenience are ASIO checked?

Mr Summers : None.

Senator SHELDON: How many seafarers do you estimate that there are on coastal shipping in Australia?

Mr Summers : Foreign seafarers?

Senator SHELDON: Foreign seafarers.

Mr Summers : All of them.

Senator SHELDON: Do you have a rough estimate on numbers?

Mr Summers : It's very difficult, but I think there are something like a hundred thousand ship movements around the Australian coast.

Senator SHELDON: How many of those are checked for AFP?

Mr Summers : None.

Senator SHELDON: In the case of checks that are carried out now, you mentioned earlier the delays in the administration of those checks that are carried out by the agencies now and some of the circumstances where people are waiting in limbo for many months before a check is actually finalised.

Mr Summers : That's right. The department has given us details in statistics. We know there are lies, damn lies and statistics. It doesn't help our guys who have to go home every night waiting for a call to say, 'You can go back to work.' The employers are saying, 'If you don't have a card you're going to be forced onto unpaid leave.' That's not the worst of it. Some people can lose their jobs, lose opportunities. At sea, if you're going for a swing for eight weeks at a time, if you don't get to start the swing you miss the whole eight weeks and your employer wants to know why you've put them through that expense. It's not fair that they have to fess up and lose opportunities.

Senator SHELDON: Regarding the proposed amendments, the Maritime Union submitted:

Our understanding is that there are no parallel additions to the US and Canadian models which are closely designed with the Australian legislation.

Can you explain more about those discussions you had. You said you had actually looked at the Canadian models and also the US model. Can you explain that a bit further.

Mr Summers : Immediately after 9/11, the international shipping community and transport community needed something to fill the gap, and so it took a little bit of time. They developed the ISPS Code and that hung off the SOLAS convention, the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea. At exactly the same time we were developing our legislation. I have to say we were in the thick of it, as were the TWU and other unions, in developing this legislation, to create fairness for our transport workers. At the same time we were doing that in Canada. The US had already hit the ground running with TWIC, the Transportation Worker Identification Credential, which has undergone a number of changes. I understand the Australian government sent some people to Canada from Australia to help guide thinking in Canada as well. As far as I understand, it's closely aligned.

Senator SHELDON: One question that has been raised is that the additional purposes to the aviation and maritime acts may cause existing purposes of those acts, in particular counterterrorism, actually to be less effective. Have you got a view on that comment?

Mr Summers : I do. I think that this legislation focuses solely on counterterrorism. Everybody in the room has a mindset on counterterrorism. It doesn't mean that people that do bad things get maritime security or aviation security cards. It means there's a focus on counterterrorism as the thing that we are most worried about. I know and I note that there have been recommendations from other inquiries, namely the National Ice Taskforce, and it doesn't say anything about an added-on purpose to the existing legislation. That's what we're most concerned about.

Senator SHELDON: So you're saying that the problem is that we have legislation proposed which is mixing up the two issues, counterterrorism and matters of what might be considered as criminal activity?

Mr Summers : That's right. I'm just a worker getting around the waterfront. I don't understand the machinations of parliament, but I couldn't imagine that there wouldn't be competing agendas and competing forces if you have got a dual system working under one piece of legislation.

Senator SHELDON: In light of some of the non-experts that are coming, I think you're probably the closest to being the expert and knowing the workings of the waterfront in Australia. How many containers come through the waterfronts in Australia?

Mr Summers : That's a pretty tough question. There are many—hundreds of thousands.

Senator SHELDON: And how many of those are checked by various authorities?

Mr Summers : The biggest problem with the shipping containers—the Australian Border Force touched on this in a hearing into flags of convenience on the Australian coast—is that the flags of convenience shipping present opportunities for terrorism and organised crime. Our own Border Force has warned of this and we haven't taken any measures to deal with it, and we haven't taken any notice of what they've said. We agree with Border Force about that.

But then you put the containers on board. The containers are taken to an area outside, a container-packing yard, and filled. We know that there is a very transient workforce there; people are just carrying stuff from the trucks onto the containers. The containers are sealed outside and then left there as a unit. They come through all of those security checks and balances on a ship. They go all the way through a destination, out through the security and are only then opened up there. So what goes in here will come out there with nobody looking inside other than believing what's on the transcript or the manifest put in by the companies. That's the biggest problem. I think that's why we X-ray containers, because we don't always believe the exporters and importers, and that's where I understand there has been a lot of smuggling and—

Senator SHELDON: So you're saying the system is porous, there are a lot of holes?

Mr Summers : Absolutely it's porous, and that's a big problem. Those workers inside those container-checking yards, container-packing yards, should be checked so that the whole process is aligned and there are no gaps in it. Right now there are huge gaps this end and that end—in fact, maritime security protects people who want to do bad by making sure that whatever is locked in their container is protected all the way through.

CHAIR: Can you clarify for me: are they X-rayed, those containers?

Mr Summers : The department will tell you how many are X-rayed, but I would not be surprised if it was about one per cent, and I think they do it on a—

Senator KIM CARR: They do samples.

CHAIR: We'll ask them.

Senator KIM CARR: Border Force will tell you: they do a sample, and it's on the basis of a risk assessment.

CHAIR: Thanks. We'll ask them. Please continue.

Senator SHELDON: With regard to the adequacy of the existing ASIC and MSIC eligibility criteria, including the opportunity for review by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal, do you have any views about that circumstance?

Mr Summers : Originally, there was a review—the proposal in the first iteration of this legislation was that there was no review, I understand. That has been revised, so there is a review to the AAT. But, really, the problem that we have is the broadening of this criteria and how many more people that will capture. I wouldn't say we have negotiated, but we have worked through the list of maritime security related offences that already exist. By opening up a proposed new list, a new regulated list, then that just gets completely out of control and captures a whole bunch of people.

Senator KIM CARR: Are you concerned those matters aren't in the primary legislation? This is a matter concerning this parliament, the amount of material that goes into regulation. Are you concerned about that matter?

Mr Summers : Absolutely we are.

Senator KIM CARR: And what issues specifically are your concerns in that regard?

Mr Summers : The comparative ease in which the regulations can be changed, and that the competing agenda that I mentioned before can be expanded by a government from time to time. We're not accepting that it even should be legislated, but because it's going to be regulated then it is so much easier to expand that list.

Senator KIM CARR: The nature of these types of inquiries is there will be a suggestion that we could amend the bill. What's your view? Should this bill be opposed or is it possible to redeem it by amendment?

Mr Summers : I think it's got to be opposed because of the reasons I mentioned before, if we're relying solely on the National Ice Taskforce recommendations. Recommendation No. 24—so it wasn't recommendation No. 1—of the Ice Taskforce said that there should be consideration of two things. It says that consideration should be given into organised crime. It doesn't say 'an added purpose'. It also says to introduce 'criminal intelligence'. We've been through this: we argued furiously and all parties, I think, saw the benefit of our argument and backed off. We argued that if the police agencies have secret intelligence that a cardholder is not a proper person to hold that card then they will just take that card off them. The cardholder will lose their job, they're out on the street, but the agencies don't have to justify that. We're really worried about that sneaking in.

Senator KIM CARR: I want to put this to you, and I would like the union's response. The minister, Mr Dutton, said on 23 October:

The Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission … has identified that almost 300 ASIC or MSIC card holders have known criminal links to organised motorcycle gangs and other serious and organised crime groups on the ACIC's National Criminal Target List.

What do you say to that?

Mr Summers : I can't say anything on that because this is secret information. When they argued this in the first instance, they said there were 11; now there are 300! They wanted to introduce this legislation when there were 11 people that they said were in this basket of evildoers. I don't know who they are; I don't know where they are. If they've got MSICs or ASICs then they've only got identification cards. That's all they're used for, to identify that person.

Senator SHELDON: When the legislation was first brought in for MSIC and ASIC, at the time there was an assertion by politicians that 50 per cent of the workforce would be excluded.

Senator STERLE: From a previous minister.

Senator SHELDON: From a previous minister, yes. We've had previous occasions, when variations were proposed to this legislation, where there were 11 people. Now we have 300. Does that seem—

Senator STERLE: Allegedly.

Senator SHELDON: Allegedly.

Mr Summers : The first was, I think, a reflection of then Minister Warren Truss's hatred of transport workers; he said it was going to hit thousands and thousands of them.

CHAIR: I encourage you not to refer in a pejorative way to members of parliament.

Mr Summers : Okay, his disconnection with transport workers. He made these outlandish statements, and said that our membership was going to be decimated, that our membership would fall by 50 per cent. It was pretty distasteful to us too, Senator. That wasn't the case. Later on, the department said, in 2016, 'We know there are 11 or 14 bad guys that have got an MSIC or an ASIC,' and that they needed to introduce this legislation to get rid of those 11 or 14 people. And now—this is the first time I've heard it—I'm surprised to hear there are 300 people. Next week there will be 500 or 1,000! I'm just not sure how they qualify that, and we've never really seen those details.

CHAIR: Can I ask a follow-up question? Is that alright? Let's say it is 11. You don't have the ability to fact check that because it's coming from the agency's side. But let's say it's 11 and not 300. If there are 11 people with serious links to organised crime, isn't that alone justification for including this kind of information as part of the screening process?

Mr Summers : I can't see that. If there are 11 people and they know who they are, the least of their problems is that they've given them an identification card—a driver's license, but an identification card. Remember, this isn't access; this is ID. Access is subsequent.

CHAIR: I understand, but—

Senator HENDERSON: It is ostensibly a right to work.

Mr Summers : Exactly, and that's what we call it.

Senator HENDERSON: You need to hold that card in order—I'm sorry to interrupt, Chair—to work, and therefore I think the question is a very legitimate one. Why should you support workers who have that sort of history and have those known links with organised crime? Why should those people be given a permission to work at all?

Mr Summers : You're exactly right: it's a right to work, because our members who don't get that card don't have the right to work anymore.

Senator KIM CARR: Mr Summers—

Senator HENDERSON: So it's more than an identification card.

Senator KIM CARR: I did have the call.

CHAIR: Hang on. Excuse me; I will bring it back to you in a moment, Senator Carr. Senator Henderson, you don't really have the call, so let's finish this up and then we'll send it back to the other side.

Senator HENDERSON: I just wanted to pick up on that question.

Mr Summers : The department issues identification cards, and then it's up to the employer to issue access: two different roles; two different bodies.

Senator HENDERSON: But it's just that—

Mr Summers : Why wouldn't—sorry.

CHAIR: Can I come back to you once the Labor senators have had their opportunity, because we've got to manage the time well. I'll bring it back over here.

Senator KIM CARR: Sure, I understand. But we gave you the call, and then it was handed along the line.

CHAIR: It's back with you. Let's just get on with it.

Senator KIM CARR: Glenn, did you want to interject?

Senator STERLE: It will please some people to know that I've got to be out of here at 25 past, so I won't be long. I want to go back to the most important thing. This form of work is not new to the rural, regional and transport affairs committee; we've been working for many, many years to set this up. But I want to come back to something very simplistic, Mr Summers: no-one in this room would ever justify criminal activity on our ports. We understand that and we want to target and focus on national security—that's fine. But let's get back to the crux of the matter: we have hardworking men and women on our ships and on our ports—what's left of them who are Aussies and paying tax here. If they have been on the ports or on the ships for so many years, walk me through the system, Mr Summers, when Glenn Sterle says, 'Because the department's made me, I have to renew my MSIC.' What do we actually do? I can't believe it's 90 days to renew something. I can go and do my licence online; why can't I get my MSIC, if I haven't done anything wrong?

Mr Summers : If we have a look at Brendan—and I've spoken to Brendan and he's happy to share this experience, because his whole family were sweating on him getting it—when he finally got the card it was only a matter of hours before he could go and catch the plane and fly to his job. It was that fine a line. Brendan, as I said, 31 years ago got into a fight in a pub and got charged with assault, and that stuck on his record. That comes up as a maritime security related offence. He can't get a full card. He has to apply for a discretionary card, and that takes some time, some processes. In order to make sure he was clear, on this iteration he applied just under 90 days before, in December last year.

Senator STERLE: So 90 days before the expiration of his current pass?

Mr Summers : Exactly. He was still working but he had applied for the renewal. In the renewal process he kept on at the department—the union helps people to expedite that where possible—and it just rolled on and rolled on until such time as he almost, within hours, ran out of time and couldn't go back to his work.

CHAIR: So the concern is one about the uncertainty for them as they wait for processing to occur?

Mr Summers : And the threat to their employment—

CHAIR: The threat should they not have a card?

Mr Summers : Well, if they can't get the card in time then they can lose their job, or on the waterfront in other jobs they have to take unpaid leave.

CHAIR: I understand.

Senator KIM CARR: But, Mr Summers, I'm particularly interested in this claim—

CHAIR: I think Senator Sterle was still going.

Senator STERLE: All I want to stress here—and, just for new senators listening in, this is not a union versus the bosses argument; this is really simple—is that these men and women have done nothing wrong, for crying out loud. I must say, Chair, if I may: there are hardworking men and women in Australian intelligence and the AFP, but we have had gaping holes. We've got reports, and I've written recommendations. We have had gun runners and murderers running on and off our coast, and you don't have to cop—

CHAIR: Is there a question, Senator Sterle?

Senator STERLE: Yes, there is an absolute question: why would Australian working men and women get subjected to 90 days of crap when some officials sitting in a department could go: 'Glenn still wants his card. We don't have any dramas. He's been doing the same thing. Give the man his damn card, because if he misses the ship it's eight weeks without pay.' I'd like to see all the bureaucrats go eight weeks without pay. This is bulldust, having this argument.

CHAIR: That's not a question, but we can ask—

Senator STERLE: I'm over it.

CHAIR: Senator Sterle, behave. We'll have an opportunity to question the department about that. You're being very theatrical. Senator Carr.

Senator Sterle interjecting

Senator KIM CARR: I'm interested in this very specific question.

Senator HENDERSON: It's improper to ask a question and not wait for the answer.

CHAIR: Senator Henderson!

Senator KIM CARR: It goes to the question of what sort of report we write to the parliament. There's an assertion here that 300 people have known criminal links to organised motorcycle gangs and organised crime. And there seems to be a suggestion that the current laws are not sufficient to remove those people from the waterfront. Somehow or another it's suggested that if, on the basis of suspicion, a police officer or someone else is to assert that person X is in this category of 300 then, without any due process, they should not be entitled to work. That seems to be the claim that's being made before us. Is it the current practice that, if a person is denied a card, they have to go through some sort of judicial review process if it's said they had some practice in the past that officials believe is inappropriate to work?

Mr Summers : I understand that once the discretionary process has been exhausted then the only avenue of review is the AAT.

Senator KIM CARR: Senator Sterle has made the point that there's an injustice in the delay and all the rest of it. But apparently it's the case that this legislation is said to be necessary because a minister or an official can't unilaterally remove someone from the right to work on a wharf on the basis of some declaration, without any—

CHAIR: Where is that said?

Senator KIM CARR: I just want to be clear about this.

CHAIR: I just want to understand where it's coming from. I don't understand.

Senator KIM CARR: That's the point here, isn't it? If this legislation is passed, people can be removed from their right to work on the basis that someone thinks that they have some links with a criminal organisation, without any appeal rights. That's the proposition.

Mr Summers : Recommendation 24 from the ice says that. And that's where these regulations are heading towards.

CHAIR: This bill doesn't provide a unilateral right to the minister, though.

Senator KIM CARR: Of course it does. That's exactly what happens here, if this legislation is passed in this form. This is what has been rejected in the past, because it's effectively an extension of the power of the state to remove people's right to work.

Mr Summers : Exactly.

Senator KIM CARR: That's the point here. That's what the union is concerned about.

CHAIR: If they have links to serious organised crime.

Senator KIM CARR: It doesn't have to be proven, because it has already been heard that this number seems to grow quite extraordinarily, without any evidence. We already have these administrative questions.

Senator SHELDON: Can I ask a question of the witness? I'll be able to clarify the issue.

CHAIR: I'm going to need to hand the call around a bit. This group were meant to finish at 10.15. I'm conscious that we started a bit late.

Senator SHELDON: On previous occasions there has been—including a capacity for regulations to be made in this bill—is it your view that the minister can extend the circumstances and the conditions that someone can be dismissed because of an allegation of links with organised crime?

Mr Summers : I believe that's where it's going. The first iteration was that the criminal intelligence component be included, so that when they did have this information—now on 300 people, they say—then they could just take their cards away with no explanation.

Senator SHELDON: I'll reiterate this, because I think it's important. We've got 50 per cent, as was once said by a previous minister, were to be thrown off the waterfront because of MSIC and ASIC. Then we had 11 to 14, the department briefings, that were going to be thrown off because of the changes that would take place. Now it's being alleged that there are 300 people on the waterfront that are in these circumstances. It seems like someone is fishing for an opportunity to turn around and make arbitrary decisions, not based on facts. That's why we oversight police. That's why we oversight the law. That's what this parliament does, in what laws we're putting forward—so that that sort of abuse doesn't occur.

Mr Summers : That's exactly our concern.

Senator HENDERSON: Mr Summers, can I clarify with you: do you think it's reasonable that maritime or aviation workers with a serious history of links with organised crime should be able to work at Australia's airports and ports?

Mr Summers : I don't understand what a link is. Is it married to? It is brother-in-law? I don't understand what that means.

Senator HENDERSON: I'll just ask that question again: do you think it's reasonable that people with serious links—have been actively involved in organised crime—should be able to work on Australia's ports and airports?

Mr Summers : So you're saying if people are actively involved in organised crime, should they be able to work—

Senator HENDERSON: That's right.

Mr Summers : No, they should not. But I have to add—

Senator HENDERSON: What are the dangers or the risks if people who are actively involved in organised crime are working at Australia's airports and ports?

Mr Summers : This has already been covered in the regulations as they exist.

Senator HENDERSON: I realise that, but for the benefit of the committee could you explain what the risks are? What are the risks if people who are actively involved or actively linked with organised crime are working—you've said that that's not reasonable—in our airports or ports?

Mr Summers : You'll have to ask the police agencies. That's not my area. What I'm saying is that if people that have those links—

Senator HENDERSON: But you've made that conclusion. I'm just wanting to know what—

Mr Summers : It's almost like us and them. We work there. It's our men and women in the front row of this stuff all the time. Our children and our brothers and sisters are subject to the same things as everybody else. We're not protecting anybody.

Senator HENDERSON: Can I bring you back to the question? We've talked about the fact that it's not acceptable for people with active links to organised crime to be working in our airports and ports.

Mr Summers : Of course.

Senator HENDERSON: You've accepted that position. I want you to expand on that answer and explain for the benefit of the committee what some of the risks are associated with that.

Mr Summers : I don't know. Are you saying that if a bad person walks inside an airport, what are the risks? Bad things can happen, that's the risk. There are the same risks if the manager is corrupt or if the manager is part of a bikie gang and doesn't have an MSIC. That's the risk.

Senator HENDERSON: Let me take you back to the question. There is a risk that bad people can do bad things.

Mr Summers : Yes. We can agree on that.

Senator HENDERSON: Therefore, the position that we should make sure that the very best people work in our ports and airports, who've got an appropriate history, is a proper basis for issuing the cards.

Mr Summers : That's what we've been working at for 15 years. But we don't want people persecuted for no particular reason.

Senator HENDERSON: I understand.

Senator CHANDLER: I want to go back to a conversation we were having about 10 minutes ago around this issue between ASICs and MSICs being identification cards or access cards. Can you explain what you see the difference being?

Mr Summers : Access lets you in the gate. Identification says you are who you are.

Senator CHANDLER: In terms of being able to work on the basis of that—we're probably going over ground that's been covered, but I want to clear this up—do you see one being imperative to working over the other?

Mr Summers : Yes, of course. The legislation says that you have to have a proper background check as prescribed, as laid out over the last 15 years, to ensure that you justify and meet those criteria. Then you can apply to the company to get access.

Senator CHANDLER: So where does the identification card come into that? Is it part of that initial process?

Mr Summers : Initially you should be identified to say that you are who you are and that you've been subjected to these very invasive background checks.

Senator CHANDLER: In terms of these background checks, we've got in the legislation before us adding in a number of new criteria for these. Do you accept that jobs at Australia's borders are positions of trust, and to that extent it's not unreasonable to expect that the people working on these borders are honest and of good character, and that some of the new ineligibility criteria do turn our minds to that idea that we need to have honest people working on our borders?

Mr Summers : We do have honest people working on our borders.

CHAIR: But we need to have processes in place to make sure that that is the case.

Mr Summers : That is the case. Those processes are in place.

Senator CHANDLER: What processes beyond adding in the criteria in this legislation would you say—if we're not going to do it this way, how would you propose doing it?

Mr Summers : That's a great question, thank you. The senior managers, who never go inside the physical gates, don't have to have background checks. So those people who are most able to direct, divert and influence cargoes coming in and out aren't background checked.

CHAIR: I don't think that was my experience. Just help me understand. Your knowledge is obviously more on the waterfront side. My experience of airports is that everybody—managers, administrative staff, lawyers—all have to have the card. Is it different at the waterfront.

Senator SHELDON: That's not actually correct.

CHAIR: I've seen it with my own eyes.

Senator SHELDON: That's actually incorrect. I've been working at the airports for 30 years. It doesn't work.

CHAIR: You're not giving evidence, Senator. Can we get Mr Summers to explain—

Senator SHELDON: He doesn't work in the airports.

CHAIR: whether there is a requirement for managers and administrators and so forth at the waterfront to have these cards.

Mr Summers : These cards are for people who want to get inside a gate in the workplace. They want to come and go.

CHAIR: Into the secure area.

Mr Summers : Into the secured zone. For senior management and those people who will determine where ships go, timetables, recruitment—all of those things that are the most vulnerable parts of the whole chain of employment and work—are outside the gates and don't have to have background checks.

CHAIR: So managers who go into that secure area need a card, but managers who are strictly in the office and would never go into that area don't need one?

Mr Summers : Managers that sometimes go in there can be escorted, and often are. If you've got a card you can escort me through the gate.

CHAIR: So it's not quite a free for all.

Senator CHANDLER: If we're talking about who's in a position to know what's going on in the day to day at a port, surely people on the ground, the people who are required to have these cards, the ASICs and the MSICs, they're the ones who know what's going on. They're the ones who are in a position to be able to do the right thing or not, so to speak.

Mr Summers : Maybe in 1960 that was the case, but now that we have containerisation, they are sterile units being taken off a ship, onto a terminal and then shipped out in a truck and vice versa coming in. We're talking about container terminals now. That's what happens. The crew are foreign. They're usually from developing nations. They are able to access and egress that through buses. They come out, go into the city and come back in with no background checks. They're on our coast. I have to point out the difference between international cargoes and cargoes that are continually rotated around our coast. Very important are high-consequence dangerous goods cargoes like ammonium nitrate, carried in one-tonne bulk bags with crews that have no background checks other than maritime crew visas.

Senator CHANDLER: So these crew don't have to have an ASIC or an MSIC?

Mr Summers : That's right.

Senator CHANDLER: Talking about these secure containers and the processes that exist, obviously you have an opinion on the process working well at the moment. But do you accept that criminal groups seek to recruit workers with access to our airports and seaports to facilitate illicit imports?

Mr Summers : I accept that, and I accept what the Australian Border Force said at the time of the FOC inquiry, that the flag-of-convenience system offers crime gangs and terrorist organisations opportunities because of the nature of flag of convenience.

CHAIR: I accept that, but that's a different question. I can understand your criticism in relation to foreign workers.

Mr Summers : It's an important factor in maritime security.

CHAIR: Sure, but that's not really an answer to the question. Do you accept that criminal groups seek to recruit workers that have access to our ports to facilitate illicit imports?

Mr Summers : Yes. Criminal groups seek to get into every area of operation in Australia, including crime organisations.

Senator HENDERSON: Obviously you may not know about that, but when you do find out about that, how seriously does the union treat the attempts to recruit illicit workers for the purpose of engaging in this sort of criminal activity?

Mr Summers : I don't know how we'd find out about it.

Senator HENDERSON: I accept that, and I made that clear in my question. If you are apprised of that information, this is obviously something that you would treat very seriously, because it undermines the reputation of your members.

Mr Summers : Absolutely. We don't support that in any shape. There seems to be an idea, certainly back from Minister Truss's position, that we're 50 per cent criminals. That's just outrageous.

Senator HENDERSON: That's absolutely not at all. I'm inviting you to make it very clear that that sort of recruitment exercise by criminal gangs of your workers is repugnant—

Senator KIM CARR: The witness made that clear.

Senator HENDERSON: and that you would not want to see the reputation of any worker tainted at all by allowing these criminal links to infiltrate our ports and airports.

Mr Summers : Of course not. I would invite any member of the committee to come onto a worksite, either at a port or airport, and how see how professional our workers are. They are professional, usually young, men and women just trying to do a job and trying to get through this big hurdle that continues to come up.

Senator HENDERSON: So maintaining the reputation of your workforce is really important, isn't it?

Mr Summers : Of course.

Senator HENDERSON: So, if there are ways that we can weed out the bad eggs, the people who do bad things, surely that is a good thing for your members and for the reputation of workers more generally?

Mr Summers : It would be a good thing for all government departments, as well. But what sacrifice do we have to make for that to happen? If you are suggesting that the crime agencies whisper in our ear and tell us who the bad guys are—

Senator HENDERSON: No, I'm not suggesting—

CHAIR: If we have this legislation in place, this will do it for you, won't it?

Mr Summers : Why does a secondary purpose have to be tacked onto something that's been going on for 15 years, focusing on one of the most important things the world has to face and that is—

CHAIR: You don't get to ask questions. You answer questions.

Senator KIM CARR: The witness is entitled to respond to the propositions you put to him. You're not there to badger him to give an answer that you want.

CHAIR: I'm not badgering him. I'm inviting him to answer the question rather than ask questions.

Senator SHELDON: I think he was being rhetorical about the irony of the question you're putting to him. He was making a point quite clearly. I thought that was quite clear.

CHAIR: Just let him answer the question.

Mr Summers : There is no disproportionate representation of criminals, bad people or terrorists inside the transports sector in Australia. There is none. We are professional, hardworking men and women and this continuous effort to try to weed out every single bad doer in our ranks is offensive. Let's have a look at the crime agencies and start weeding out those people.

Senator HENDERSON: With respect, that suggestion hasn't been made. It just goes back to the point that the government wants to ensure that the integrity of the workforce at our ports and airports is first class and cannot be questioned. Surely this law will aid in maintaining the integrity of the good men and women who work so hard in their jobs.

Mr Summers : Is that a question?

Senator HENDERSON: Yes.

Mr Summers : This amendment will hurt transport workers, because they are already losing work, they're losing money, and a never-ending expansion of the criminal criteria is just an impediment for workers, and a manufactured impediment. If there are 11 or 300 bad eggs out of 250,000 then why isn't there already enough power inside ASIO, the Federal Police and crime agencies to weed those out? It's got to be there already.

CHAIR: Let's assume it's a rhetorical device. Let's wrap this up. I have one far-less-charged matter before we wrap this part of our questioning up, and that is to direct you to some things you said earlier about the National Ice Taskforce's report and recommendations. You said some things about the recommendations that this bill seeks to implement. Recommendation 24: you suggested that meant it was a low priority, because number 24 is pretty far down the list. Have I encapsulated accurately what you were trying to convey?

Mr Summers : No, I was suggesting that recommendation 24 did not say that there should be a dual purpose to our national security legislation.

CHAIR: I'll go to the detail of recommendation 24 in a moment. It's important to note that the fact that it's number 24 doesn't mean it's low priority. They are categorised by subheading—health issues, law enforcement issues and so forth—and the law enforcement section commences at 24 and goes through to 31. So, the numbering of itself doesn't mean it's low priority. Let's go to the words of it:

The Commonwealth Government should continue to protect the aviation and maritime environments against organised crime by strengthening the eligibility criteria for holders of Aviation Security Identification Cards and Maritime Security Identification Cards; and establishing a legal mechanism to enable compelling criminal intelligence to be used in determining suitability of workers to hold such a card.

This bill doesn't tack some ulterior motive onto the recommendation and this isn't a recommendation that has come from Mr Truss or indeed from this committee. The bill directly, and without any other agenda, implements just that. I want to give you an opportunity to respond to this. In your earlier evidence about this recommendation, you haven't entirely accurately explained the direct translation from 24 to this bill. They do, in fact, directly implement one of the recommendations—they directly implement recommendation 24. Do you agree?

Mr Summers : No.

CHAIR: I disagree.

Senator SHELDON: The bill actually goes further than that. It actually allows the minister—

Senator HENDERSON: You're not here to answer questions.

Senator SHELDON: It actually allows the minister to turn around and make regulations, and that's an expansion of what was even raised in ice.

CHAIR: The use of a regulation to implement recommendation 24 is not contrary—or different to—or ulterior in any way. If you disagree, that's okay. You've put your answer on the record. Can we thank you—sorry, did you have something additional to say?

Mr Summers : Yes. I just got a chance to say I disagree but I wanted to go on a little bit. It asks government to 'strengthen the eligibility criteria'; it doesn't say to tack on another purpose.

CHAIR: What are you quoting from? Because those are not the words of recommendation 24.

Mr Summers : It says: 'maritime environments against organised crime by strengthening the eligibility criteria'.

CHAIR: Okay. Right.

Mr Summers : But I don't see it reading—

CHAIR: But you've got to keep reading the rest of it: 'by enabling criminal intelligence to be used in determining suitability to hold a card'.

Mr Summers : So that's the objective: to introduce criminal intelligence—by regulation.

CHAIR: That's what the bill does.

Mr Summers : We're worried that the regulation will continue to blow out and blow out and blow out.

CHAIR: Okay. Thank you very much for the time you've given us today, Mr Summers.

Mr Summers : Thank you, Chair.

CHAIR: You have been very generous with your expertise and you are both thanked and excused.

Mr Summers : Thank you.