Wednesday, 16 June 2021
Transport Security Amendment (Serious Crime) Bill 2020; In Committee
The minister has made several statements about the ACIC assessments in maritime ports. The very amendment that we are dealing with, which is my amendment on sheet 1117, actually only deals with schedule 1. If the amendment were accepted, it won't deal with schedule 2, which means that the criminal intelligence matters that you point out can go ahead in maritime ports. Unfortunately, I don't think the minister has properly read the amendment and I think that demonstrates yet again the lack of attention to detail the government has when it comes to this legislation. They let the bill lapse in 2016, they let the bill lapse in 2019. They brought it to the parliament in this term of parliament, the 46th Parliament, and then they amended their own legislation halfway through, causing the Senate, including the crossbench, to vote for an additional inquiry.
They don't seem to understand that what Labor is seeking to do here is to take what we see as a good bill and make it better. That's what this is about: strengthening the security clearances at our borders. We say their bill has good intention. We supported it in the 45th Parliament. It's not our fault that the Morrison Government let the bill lapse in 45th Parliament. They control the agenda; they determine what legislation goes forward. They let it lapse. They write the bills. In the 46th Parliament, this parliament, they presented a bill that was half-finished. They amended it part way through. The amendment that I'm moving would allow the entire regime to be implemented immediately for aviation. It only affects schedule 1, not schedule 2, so the concerns the minister raises around criminal intelligence assessments can be dealt with for maritime workers as well. What we're seeking to do is to get the government to acknowledge what the former Department of Immigration and Border Protection had already said. The minister wasn't here yesterday, so let me make clear for her what the then Department of Immigration and Border Protection told the Senate Standing Committees on Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport References Committee in 2017. I note no minister has wanted to touch this advice with a barge pole in this debate. They seem to want to ignore the fact that a national security agency, one that is concerned with border security, has given clear evidence to this chamber that there's a hole in our border security. The minister says that somehow the hole exists from the opposition crossbench asking legitimate questions. Let me read to the minister what the then Department of Immigration and Border Protection said to this chamber in 2017:
There are features of flag of convenience registration, regulation and practice that organized crime syndicates or terrorists may seek to exploit.
Reduced transparency or secrecy surrounding complex financial and ownership arrangements are factors that can make flag of convenience ships more attractive for use in illegal activity, including by organized crime or terrorist groups. This means that FOC ships may be used in a range of illegal activities, including illegal exploitation of natural resources, illegal activity in protected areas, people smuggling, and facilitating prohibited imports or exports …
That is the Department of Immigration and Border Protection.
My question to the minister—and two ministers ducked this yesterday—is this: does the government accept this advice of the Department of Immigration and Border Protection? Can the government point to any steps they have taken since 2017 to improve the security arrangements around flag-of-convenience vessels and foreign crew?