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STANDING COMMITTEE ON RURAL AND REGIONAL AFFAIRS AND TRANSPORT
19/02/2008
INFRASTRUCTURE, TRANSPORT, REGIONAL DEVELOPMENT AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT PORTFOLIO
Inspector of Transport Security

—Mr Palmer, do you wish to make an opening statement?

Mr Palmer —No, thank you.

Senator SCULLION —Mr Palmer, welcome. Some great bureaucrats come from the territory.

Mr Palmer —Nice to see you here.

Senator SCULLION —Indeed. You understand we have to try to keep this as brief as possible. There may be things that you will take on notice, and I accept that.

Mr Palmer —Sure.

Senator SCULLION —I will just refer to some media reports. No doubt you will be very familiar with the wind back of the sky marshal program on commercial flights. I understand the decision to wind back the security arrangements was on the basis of an operational risk assessment review for the Australian Federal Police; is that right?

Mr Palmer —I am not aware of that review. I was not involved in it.

Senator SCULLION —Are you aware of any reports or circumstances that would lead us to believe that the new reduced arrangements in place would benefit the security arrangements? Is there any sort of information that you have that means that we should do less in the air?

Mr Palmer —There is none particularly available to me, but I have not looked at it. As I do not have an own-motion responsibility, I only do those matters directed to me by the minister, which has not included this area.

Mr Tongue —I think those are questions that you need to put to the Australian Federal Police, which have responsibility for the air marshal program.

Senator SCULLION —The reason I put it to the Inspector of Transport Security is that I thought you may have availed yourself of it, and I appreciate that you may not specifically have a view. I respect that, and if you have either not seen the report or are across those other issues, you would obviously not be inclined to answer. I will accept that, and thank you for attending.

Senator McGAURAN —I am a little interested that the whole issue of marshals is out of your hands.

Mr Palmer —As Mr Tongue said, it is managed and oversighted by the AFP. It is not a matter—

Senator McGAURAN —So there is no communication with you at all? No briefing? No understanding or anything?

Senator SCULLION —Mr Palmer, you have already, in answer to the question, just clarified that you are not aware of a report or a circumstance that has downgraded the need for security at whatever level at the moment. You are just simply not aware of one?

Mr Tongue —I might jump in there. The way the Inspector of Transport Security legislation is created, the inspector undertakes reviews or investigations as tasked by the Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government. So the inspector’s focus is deliberately designed by legislation to be, if you like, project specific around tasking that the minister may make from time to time. So the inspector does not have a standing capacity to be engaged in what I would call the wider policy debate. The inspector has had no tasking around the air security officer program. That is all within the remit of the Australian Federal Police.

Senator SCULLION —Whilst I appreciate that, I think it is also reflected that the director of transport security has not heard of the particular report—and the minister, I am sure, would have provided me with it if he knew—he is absent for that. I will make sure that we get to the bottom of why we have downgraded our security in the air. I will obviously ask the right people. My apologies for that. Thank you.

CHAIR —No further questions. Thank you very much. Thank you, Mr Palmer. We will now stop for the dinner break and we will be back at 7.30.

Proceedings suspended from 6.35 pm to 7.30 pm