Monday, 13 February 2017
Transport Security Amendment (Serious or Organised Crime) Bill 2016; Second Reading
I am pleased this afternoon to rise to speak on the Transport Security Amendment (Serious or Organised Crime) Bill 2016. Just before I start on the notes I had prepared, I would like to make a quick comment on the member for Grayndler. I welcome his concern about the seriousness of terrorism and the issues that this nation faces, but there is one thing that I would like to point out. The member for Grayndler talked about the highly profitable Sydney and Melbourne airway route. That may very well be true, but I would note that someone flying from Sydney to Melbourne tomorrow could get a flight for $102 on Tiger. If they were prepared to not have any check-in luggage, they could get that price down to $89. You can even do better than that. If you went on Jetstar and you had luggage, you could travel from Sydney to Melbourne tomorrow for the princely sum of $86. And if you were able to get away with just your hand luggage for an overnight stay, you could fly from Sydney to Melbourne tomorrow for $69, including GST. If you were coming back from Melbourne to Sydney the next day without any check-in luggage—with just your hand luggage—you could get back for $69. This is what competition does and it is something that we should never forget. So, although it may be a highly profitable route—and I hope it is, because we need highly profitable companies—to be able to get a return fare today, in 2017, from Sydney to Melbourne and back for $138 is what competition does and we should never, ever forget that. So many people think that when you deregulate things the prices go up. The airline industry is a classic example of what happens when you allow the forces of competition into markets.
I go back to the specifics of the bill. The coalition government has made a specific commitment to ensure that people with a history of serious or organised crime would not receive security clearance to work at Australian airports or seaports, and that is exactly what this bill addresses. The purpose of the Transport Security Amendment (Serious or Organised Crime) Bill is to amend the Aviation Transport Security Act 2004 and also the Maritime Transport and Offshore Facilities Security Act 2003 in order to reduce criminal influence at Australia's airports and seaports by strengthening what is known as the aviation security identification card and also the maritime security identification card. Those are identification cards that are issued to people, including foreign nationals, who legitimately require unescorted access to secure aviation and maritime areas, including offshore oil and gas facilities, and have successfully undergone background checks. The problem that this legislation attacks is that currently there are different eligibility criteria applied to the aviation security identification card and the maritime security identification card. This can result in persons convicted of the same criminal offence being treated differently in the aviation and maritime sectors. It is that anomaly that this legislation addresses.
There are five specific things that the bill does. Firstly, it creates an additional purpose in the aviation and maritime acts in relation to access to aviation and maritime areas and zones to prevent the use of aviation and maritime transport or offshore facilities in connection with serious or organised crime. Of course, serious crime does not have to be organised. Secondly, it establishes a regulatory framework supporting the implementation of harmonised eligibility criteria for both cards which will better target serious or organised crime related offences. Thirdly, it will clarify and align the legislative basis for undertaking security checking of both cards for applicants and holders. Fourthly, it will allow for regulations to be made prescribing penalties for offences against the new serious or organised crime requirements that are consistent with existing penalty provisions across both schemes. Fifthly, it will insert an additional severability provision to provide guidance to a court as to the parliament’s intentions. These amendments taken together provide for the implementation of new eligibility criteria for both cards that better target serious and organised crime. The new eligibility criteria will be specific to the aviation and maritime regulations, will introduce new offence categories, such as offences under the anti criminal organisation legislation, foreign incursion and recruitment offences, the illegal importation of goods, and interfering with goods under border control. Further, this bill will continue to give effect to Australia's international obligations under the Convention on International Civil Aviation, the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea, and the international ship and port facility security codes. It will also improve the government's ability to combat transnational and organised crime.
Importantly, this bill implements one of the government's key strategies: to fight the dreaded menace of the drug ice. Last December, when it released its final report, the National Ice Taskforce, which was commissioned by this government and is chaired by Ken Lay, made 38 separate recommendations. In response to the final report, one of the recommendations is adopted in this legislation, and that is to continue to protect the aviation and maritime environments against organised crime by strengthening the eligibility criteria for holders of both cards. This bill gives effect to the element of the government's comprehensive action across these five priority areas, which together intend to tackle Australia's ice problem head on.
There is another area of specific concern regarding our nation's borders and the exportation and importation of goods. I draw your attention to the issue of car thefts in Australia. Firstly, when it comes to car thefts there has been some good news. There has been, over the last decade, a significant reduction in the number of cars stolen in Australia. In fact, in New South Wales we have seen a greater than 50 per cent decline in the number of cars stolen per head of population. We should be truly thankful to the New South Wales Police and the New South Wales government for the work that they have done in reducing that rate of car theft.
But what is of concern is that over the last 12 months, we have seen that trend reverse. Over the last 12 months, we have seen car thefts across the nation increase by 8.4 per cent. Last year, across the nation we had 55,571 cars stolen. That is almost 1,000 cars a week, six cars every hour or one car stolen in this nation every 10 minutes. If we were to speak for just an hour on this piece of legislation, there would be six cars across the nation that are stolen.
A real concern is the breakdown of what is happening with car thefts across the nation. Over the last 12 months, we have seen another decline in car thefts in New South Wales. According to the official figures, over the last 12 months there has been an 11.7 per cent decline in New South Wales. Car thefts are down from 13,465 in the previous 12 months to 11,893.
But in contrast to New South Wales, in Victoria we have seen a truly remarkable increase in car thefts. We have seen a 31.4 per cent increase in Victoria in 12 months alone. They have gone from 14,371 to 18,884. If we compare figures from New South Wales, a larger state with a greater population and more cars on the road, there were just over 11,000 cars stolen, but Victoria is approaching 19,000 cars stolen. If someone with a car registered in New South Wales were to drive across the border into Victoria, on the latest numbers they are 66 per cent more likely to have their car stolen there than in New South Wales. With such similarities between those two great states, something is seriously amiss in Victoria.
Along with this recent increase in car thefts, also of concern is the very large increase in the number of cars that vanish completely. A decade ago, only 15 per cent of stolen vehicles were never recovered; so 85 per cent were recovered. But this year, 31 per cent of stolen vehicles were never recovered. We have doubled the number of cars that are never recovered after they are stolen. Again, those numbers are most dramatic in Victoria.
In New South Wales, over the last 12 months, we have seen a decline of 18.6 per cent for vehicles that are never recovered. Again, that is a tremendous effort by the New South Wales government and the New South Wales police. But in contrast, in Victoria we have seen an increase of 35.9 per cent—virtually a 36 per cent increase—of cars stolen and never recovered.
What is also of concern is that the value of cars that are never recovered is increasing. The cars never recovered are now worth $20,500 each, and it gets worse. It is now shown that in years gone by most cars were stolen from shopping centre car parks, but now it is reported that up to 70 per cent of cars are stolen from outside someone's residence, and many times the car thief breaks into the house. Not only do we have the cost of the car theft and the violation it involves, the breaking into of someone's house is an added crime.
In fact, the estimated annual cost of car theft in this nation was $763 million—that was from the National Motor Vehicle Theft Reduction Council—but that excluded the cost to the community associated with police investigations, court costs and corrections. So we are looking at over $1 billion in costs to this nation from car theft.
One of the issues we need to look at is our borders. There are many reports that many of these cars that are stolen and disappear are actually being exported. It was noted back in 2005 that one upstanding citizen was jailed for almost two years for stealing 48 cars, mostly Toyotas, for the export of parts to Lebanon under his business. He made a profit of between $2½ thousand and $5,000 per car. That is a $400,000 theft, and yet he only got two years.
One of the concerns pointed out is our export process practices for cars. I quote from Peter McRae, who is an internationally recognised customs broker and senior lecturer in customs banking, who says we have black holes in our export process. He said:
Exporting a car in this country is a simple matter. The exporter calls a shipping company or a freight forwarder directly and advises that they wish to export a motor vehicle from Australia. The booking is made, the car/s are secured inside the container, the Export Declaration Number is processed through Border Force [Customs] before the container is loaded onto the vessel and exits our shores.
He also said:
The paperwork does not require the exporter to record a VIN/Chassis number for the vehicle/s and even if the VIN/Chassis are recorded, there is no requirement from the state levels … that the registration be cancelled, produced … or verified prior to exporting …
Secondly, there is no requirement from the federal level … that the VIN/Chassis be entered, recorded, saved or retained to verify against police registers … as being stolen.
This growing problem is something we need to tackle on our borders.