Thursday, 26 June 2008
Aviation Legislation Amendment (2008 Measures No. 1) Bill 2008
That this bill be now read a second time.
Australia’s aviation security system has a number of layers to ensure the travelling public and the aviation industry are safe and able to respond quickly against threats of unlawful interference with a plane.
The Aviation Legislation Amendment (2008 Measures No. 1) Bill 2008 makes amendments which will enable regulations to be made which will enhance one of these layers, namely the operation of the air security officer program.
The air security officer program involves the placement of covert, armed security officers on selected domestic and international flights to protect the flight deck.
Currently, the air security officer program has underpinnings in the Aviation Transport Security Act 2004, the Aviation Transport Security Regulations 2005 and the Civil Aviation Regulations 1988.
These regulations, and the acts under which they are made, effectively permit an air security officer to engage in conduct necessary for the performance of duties that would otherwise be contrary to Commonwealth legislation—for example, the possession of a firearm on an aircraft.
However, existing regulations do not allow an air security officer to lawfully discharge a firearm in an aircraft without the risk of prosecution.
This problem is currently being addressed through periodic notices issued under regulation 144 of the Civil Aviation Regulations 1988, which effectively allow on-duty air security officers to lawfully discharge a firearm in an aircraft without the risk of prosecution.
There have been some concerns that the issuing of these exemptions under the Civil Aviation Regulations 1988 is inconsistent with the purpose of safety legislation as it inherently implies that it is safe to discharge a firearm on board an aircraft.
This bill makes the necessary amendments to the Aviation Transport Security Act 2004 and the Civil Aviation Act 1988 which will allow the current exemptions to be replaced with new regulations under the aviation security legislation.
Under the regime established by this bill, a lawful discharge of a firearm could only occur in the course of the air security officer’s duties—which might be, for example, preventing unlawful interference with an aircraft.
Of course, an unlawful discharge would risk prosecution—making the system broadly equivalent to that applying to police officers.
As such, the amendments made by this bill will provide a more appropriate and permanent platform to deal with the lawful discharge of firearms by air security officers.
One of the key amendments made by this bill is to enable regulations to be made under the Aviation Transport Security Regulations 2005 which will operate extraterritorially.
Such regulations would only have extraterritorial operation if specified, and would only apply to Australian aircraft or aircraft engaged in Australian international carriage, and the crew and passengers on board these aircraft.
In effect, the proposed amendments will allow regulations to be made permitting air security officers to lawfully discharge their firearms on board an aircraft in Australian territory or an Australian aircraft in foreign territory.
Debate (on motion by Mrs Bronwyn Bishop) adjourned.