House debates

Tuesday, 8 December 2020


Transport Security Amendment (Testing and Training) Bill 2020; Second Reading

7:25 pm

Photo of Ben MortonBen Morton (Tangney, Liberal Party, Assistant Minister to the Prime Minister and Cabinet) Share this | | Hansard source

I present the revised explanatory memorandum to this bill and move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

Australia's transport sector is one the safest and most secure in the world. However, the sector remains an enduring target for terrorists, and we need to do all we can to ensure that security arrangements are robust and responsive to this threat.

The Transport Security Amendment (Testing and Training) Bill 2020 amends the Aviation Transport Security Act 2004 and the Maritime Transport and Offshore Facilities Security Act 2003 to improve the effectiveness of screening at Australia's security controlled airports and security regulated ports.

The bill does this in two ways. Firstly, it improves the capacity of aviation security inspectors to perform their important work in testing aviation industry participants' security systems. Secondly, it will establish the framework needed to introduce a national standard of competency of aviation and maritime screening personnel.

Aviation security inspectors play a pivotal role in ensuring Australia's aviation security systems remain resilient against terrorist attacks. Inspectors test airport security systems to ensure that security obligations are being met by aviation industry participants. These tests probe for potential weak points in aviation security arrangements, and in doing so ensure that gaps can be addressed. This bill introduces measures to clarify the ability of aviation security inspectors to carry out this important work. In particular, inspectors will be able to conduct system tests with test pieces at locations beyond screening points in an airport terminal, without the risk of committing an offence against other laws.

This means that the department will be able to expand system tests to cover a wider range of locations, security measures and aviation industry participants. For example, following passage of the bill aviation security inspectors will expand their testing regime to include air cargo examination and catering facilities.

In addition to strengthening the ability of aviation security inspectors to fulfil their important role, we must also ensure that we have in place sound education and training requirements for security screeners.

Security screeners perform a vital role in securing our airports and seaports. They prevent weapons, such as firearms or explosives, from making it onto an aircraft or cruise ships, ensuring we can all travel safely and securely—when we can.

The Transport Security Amendment (Testing and Training) Bill will ensure that the education, training and testing requirements for screeners remain effective and flexible in an increasingly complex security environment. It will establish the necessary framework so that screeners are well-equipped to respond to threats now and into the future.

This bill introduces measures allowing the Secretary of the Department of Home Affairs to prescribe the requirements associated with screeners' training, qualification and accreditation. This will allow screener requirements to be adapted efficiently in response to rapid changes in the security environment, creating a more flexible and agile workforce.

This measure responds to a 2016 Inspector of Transport Security inquiry into aviation and maritime transport security. The inquiry highlighted a need for a specialised qualification, the introduction of national accreditation tests, on-the-job training, and continuing professional development for screening of equipment operators. The bill also introduces measures explicitly requiring screeners to complete relevant training or accreditation before exercising certain powers. Currently, certain screening powers are automatically granted to screeners. This change will support industry by developing an environment where individuals can screen in some tasks when competent, while still completing training in more challenging functions.

Collectively, the amendments in this bill will further strengthen security at Australia's airports and seaports. The bill will assist in ensuring the safety of the thousands of Australians and international travellers who transit our ports of entry and departure daily.

This bill has been reviewed by the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee and the Senate Standing Committee for the Scrutiny of Bills. Government amendments have been incorporated into the bill in the Senate to adopt the committee's recommendations.

I thank the opposition for its collegiate approach to the bill and I commend the bill to the House.

Debate interrupted.