Thursday, 10 December 2020
Transport Security Amendment (Testing and Training) Bill 2020; Second Reading
I rise to speak on the Transport Security Amendment (Testing and Training) Bill 2020. This bill would amend the Aviation Transport Security Act 2004 and the Maritime Transport and Offshore Facilities Security Act 2003 in order to improve the effectiveness of screening at Australia's security controlled airports and security regulated ports. This is a bill that, in its current form, Labor is supporting. This is a bill that is designed to improve transport security in two ways. It clarifies the ability of aviation security inspectors to test aviation industry participants' security systems, including by specifically allowing inspectors to conduct systems tests with test pieces at locations beyond screening points in an airport terminal, without the risk of committing an offence against other laws. For example, following the passage of this legislation, aviation security inspectors will expand their testing regime to include air cargo examination and also catering facilities. This would establish the framework needed to introduce a national standard of competency for aviation and maritime screening personnel. The bill introduces measures allowing the Secretary of the Department of Home Affairs to prescribe the requirements associated with screeners' training, qualification and accreditation. The government has expressed the view that this would allow screener requirements to be adapted efficiently in response to rapid changes in the security environment, to create a more flexible workforce that is more adaptive to the demands of this important work.
I note this bill originated in the other place. It was introduced and first read on 4 December last year. The original bill put before the other place had certain deficiencies which have now been attended to. I'll briefly articulate them. Firstly, the unamended legislation, if enacted in that form, would have permitted an aviation security inspector to test an aviation industry participant's security system, including by using an item, weapon or vehicle to test its detection. This is a problem that has now been fixed. Secondly, the explanatory memorandum stated they needed test pieces such as imitation firearms and simulated improvised explosive devices designed to be inert and not cause harm. However, as the Scrutiny of Bills Committee noted, this requirement did not exist on the face of the primary legislation. I guess this raises a pretty big question: what kind of government would forget a requirement like this in legislation of this nature, dealing with such a fundamental issue of safety?
This is about keeping people safe in their workplaces as well—plain and simple. Again, the legislative process has worked, and this problem has now been fixed, but a lack of due diligence and attention to detail has become a calling card of the Morrison government, and I commend the Scrutiny of Bills Committee for their work in improving this important piece of legislation, keeping the executive in check and ensuring that this important law is fit for purpose.
Accordingly, I move as a second reading amendment:
That all words after "That" be omitted with a view to substituting the following words:
"whilst not declining to give the bill a second reading, the House notes:
(1) a safe and secure transport sector, managed by the right legislation and regulation, is critical to stay one step ahead of criminals and terrorists;
(3) this tardy and chaotic approach to this bill, combined with recent border security failures such as the Ruby Princess and the lack of a national quarantine approach to bring stranded Australians home, is why Australians can no longer trust the Government on border security".
In conclusion, I note this: the Australian people put great trust in this parliament and in all of its members to ensure that we enact the right legislation to protect Australia's national security and to keep every Australian safe in every circumstance, whilst balancing any new laws with openness and transparency. This year, under the leader of the Labor Party, we have been determined to be constructive in reflecting the concerns of the Australian people that we act always in the national interest. On this side of the House and on this side of the other place, that is the spirit that we have applied to these important laws. We have worked to get them right. And, in this spirit of continuing to build trust with the Australian people and to build trust in this place, which has too often been undermined by the actions of this government, Labor moved amendments in the other place, and we welcome the government's cooperation in responding to those amendments and improving this bill, so that it can pass this House and be enacted into law.
The original question was that this bill be now read a second time. To this the honourable member for Scullin has moved as an amendment that all words after 'That' be omitted with a view to substituting other words. If it suits the House, I will state the question in the form that the words proposed to be omitted stand part of the question.
The year 2020 has tested humanity in new and unexpected ways. The way that we live, work, recreate and, of course, travel has changed. Before COVID-19, there were 38 million people travelling annually through Australian airports and marine ports. As we near Christmas, as state and territory borders reopen, people all over Australia are desperate, understandably, to get home to loved ones. Whilst we're very conscious of being COVID-safe during our travels, the Transport Security Amendment (Testing and Training) Bill 2020 is a timely reminder of the importance of our safety and security from other physical threats while we travel. This bill acknowledges these threats and also ensures that we have the means at our disposal to deal with them.
The government considers that its first priority is the safety and security of all Australian people. This extends to ensuring that critical industries, including transport, remain robust. In a world that is changing rapidly, there are those who seek to take advantage of uncertainty and do us harm. The government has strengthened our national defences, particularly against terrorism, with the investment of an additional $2.3 billion over recent years. It's a constant battle to ensure that Australians have the right tools and training to preserve our national security. Indeed, I have some personal experience of working as a crisis management consultant after leaving the Australian Army. This work included running crisis management training and exercising for teams of people in all manner of environments, including mine sites, businesses and airports.
There are layers of physical and procedural controls which constitute an appropriate security plan. Training and exercising at aerodromes and airports is particularly complex. Firstly, there are a great many moving parts, including not only the vehicles and the aircraft but also, of course, the passage of people through different parts of and around an aerodrome. Secondly, many of the stakeholders involved bring a deal of complexity as they interact, necessarily, with each other. These stakeholders include passengers, police, firefighters, ambulance personnel, airport security and a range of others. I'm particularly fond of some recent comments made by Senator Jim Molan, a former general, who said:
National security is not something which is conducted only by the military, the police or Home Affairs; national security is something which everyone, every element of the nation, is responsible for. National security applies to all of us.
Senator Molan often says that 'the security of the nation takes a whole nation'. Our role in government includes our responsibility to keep our legislation under constant review. Indeed, the Australian government has passed 19 tranches of legislation since 2014, when the national terrorism threat level, which is currently 'probable', was increased. Since September 2014, when the threat level was raised, 102 people have been charged as a result of 51 counterterrorism related responses around Australia.
As threats evolve, so must our response. This bill achieves this in two ways. Firstly, it gives aviation security inspectors explicit powers to test security systems in security controlled airports, on aircraft and in certain other places associated with aviation industry participants. Secondly, it updates training and qualification requirements for screening officers and the means by which they are set. Essentially, this bill allows for more comprehensive and uniform training of aviation security officers to ensure that they can be more thorough as they go about their important role of testing security at our airports, and the associated maritime security measures. Importantly, this bill allows for test pieces to be used in order to identify weak spots that could be exploited. There is no better training that we can give our security personnel than practical, hands-on experience. In fact, it is appropriate that we do so, considering that this is how we train and best prepare all of our frontline security personnel. With those comments, I commend this bill to the House.
I offer my thanks to those members who have contributed to the debate on the Transport Security Amendment (Testing and Training) Bill 2020. In summing up the debate, I note that the testing and training bill 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. This bill has been reviewed by the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee, which recommended that the bill be passed. The bill has also been reviewed by the Senate Standing Committee for the Scrutiny of Bills, and minor but important amendments have been incorporated into the bill on advice from this committee.
I take this opportunity to pay tribute to the hardworking men and women who work at our airports and seaports in screening roles. Whether they be aviation security inspectors or security-point screening staff, the work they do diligently is vitally important and keeps Australians safe. The bill supports the important work that they do, and I commend the bill to the House.
The original question was that this bill be now read a second time. To this, the honourable member for Scullin has moved, as an amendment, that all words after 'That' be omitted with a view to substituting other words. The immediate question is that the words proposed to be omitted stand part of the question.
Question agreed to.
Original question agreed to.
Bill read a second time.