Senate debates

Wednesday, 16 June 2021


Transport Security Amendment (Serious Crime) Bill 2020; In Committee

9:31 am

Photo of Kristina KeneallyKristina Keneally (NSW, Australian Labor Party, Deputy Leader of the Opposition in the Senate) Share this | Hansard source

Yesterday, in the committee debate, I note that Minister Seselja started to make comments about the fact that this important debate on an important national security bill was somehow 'holding up the passage of the bill'. I think it might be useful to put on the record the history of this legislation because if there is anyone holding up the passage of important reforms to transport security clearances it is the Liberal-National government. Let's understand the background of this bill. Similar bills have been introduced in the 44th and 45th parliaments and both failed to pass the parliament. In the 44th Parliament the bill was put forward, Labor senators provided additional comments at a Senate inquiry and the bill was allowed by the Liberal-National government to lapse at the election. We had the 2016 election and this bill which is before the parliament was allowed by this government, this Liberal and National government, to lapse at the election. In the 45th Parliament, Labor supported the legislation in principle, but successfully amended it in 2017 with support from the Greens and Senator Lambie and we have here that One Nation senators did not vote on that amendment. The bill was also amended by then Senator Leyonhjelm. What happened to that bill in the 45th Parliament? The bill was allowed to lapse by the Morrison government at the 2019 election.

Here we have a government that all of a sudden discovers an urgency about the Transport Security Amendment (Serious Crime) Bill 2020. They had a similar bill in the 44th Parliament; they allowed it to lapse. They had a similar bill in the 45th Parliament; they allowed it to lapse. I'm not going to stand here and be lectured by a Liberal-National government that, for some six years now, has had half-hearted attempts to get a transport security bill up in the parliament and keeps letting it lapse, that does not even have the courage to put it forward for a vote. This current bill, introduced to the 46th Parliament, is largely similar to the other bills. There are some changes that have been highlighted in Senate inquiries. More than three years had passed since the legislation was last reviewed by a Senate committee, which is why it was referred to a Senate inquiry again. In that inquiry, there were a number of issues raised about the fact that the bill didn't even have a definition of 'serious crime' even though the bill was called the serious crime amendment, and that the bill did absolutely nothing to address the gaping hole that sits in this legislation around foreign crew on flag-of-convenience vessels. That gaping hole wasn't pointed out by the Labor Party; it wasn't pointed out by the unions; it was pointed out by the Department of Immigration and Border Protection and the national security agencies upon which this parliament should be taking its advice.

As this bill went through the House of Representatives earlier this year, it was the government that moved another amendment to the bill. It was the government that added something onto the bill. Since what they added on was an entirely new process to do with criminal intelligence assessments, an inquiry was supported by the Senate to look at that very issue. Let me be clear: we didn't relish the idea of having to go off to another inquiry. It was the mismanagement of the Liberal and National government with their own legislation; the fact that they introduced legislation that wasn't finished into the House of Representatives and the Senate after the Senate inquiry. Then they go and move an amendment to their own legislation. This Senate, with the support of the crossbench, agreed to another inquiry into that.

If the government had had their act together and put the legislation fully formed before the parliament we might have had a more efficient process. If the government had had their act together and actually put the legislation as amended by this Senate in the last parliament, if they'd put that legislation to a vote, if they'd accepted the amendments, we would have had this regime in place. It is entirely within the discretion of the Liberal-National government, the Morrison government, which sets the agenda in the parliament, to determine whether bills come forward for a vote. They let it lapse in the 44th Parliament, they let it lapse in the 45th Parliament and then they completely mismanaged the process in this parliament. I'm tempted to say it's like a clown car of ministers over there, running around trying to work out what to do with their own legislation.

While all this mismanagement is happening, we had the Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, last week in a clumsy misfire trying to say that Labor is responsible for holding up the national security legislation. It was a clumsy and stupid statement by the Prime Minister. He cited three bills. He cited the Surveillance Legislation Amendment (Identify and Disrupt) Bill 2020. That is currently with the PJCIS, a Liberal dominated committee. He cited the Telecommunications Legislation Amendment (International Production Orders) Bill 2020. That was the subject of a bipartisan, unanimous report by the PJCIS recommending the bill be passed subject to legislative and non-legislative changes, and the government haven't even responded to that report yet. The Prime Minister doesn't even know what his own members are doing on the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security. He seems ignorant of the fact that the PJCIS had a unanimous recommendation supporting the passage of the bill.

So let's not be lectured by the Prime Minister on who is doing what in relation to national security, when he seems completely unaware of what is happening with various pieces of national security legislation. If he had been truthful with the Australian people, he would have acknowledged that it was his government that let the transport security bill lapse at the 2019 election. It was his government that mismanaged this legislation through the parliament. It was his government that brought forward an additional amendment requiring the Senate to have to look at a new process through an inquiry. Let's not be lectured by this government that somehow the appropriate scrutiny that opposition and crossbenchers apply to this bill is somehow holding it up. It is entirely the Liberal-National government, the Morrison government, that is holding up this legislation. If it had just fixed the foreign crew issue in this legislation that the Department of Immigration and Border Protection flagged as a 'gaping hole' in the regime at our ports and airports, this bill would have already been passed. Let's take no lectures from Mr Morrison on national security legislation. He doesn't know what he is talking about.

I also want to point out that the government, which sets the agenda in the Senate, found time this year to prioritise superyacht legislation. It's great that the Senate has dealt with superyachts! We have not yet dealt with national security clearances at our ports and our airports. They set the agenda, they allocate the time and they make those decisions. Why have they prioritised superyacht legislation over the fundamental need to have appropriate security clearance regimes in place at our ports and airports?

Yesterday Minister Michaelia Cash made statements that foreign crew are constantly supervised—that they must be always supervised at maritime ports when they are in a secure area. My question to the minister at the table is: can she confirm that foreign crew do not require additional security checks because they will always be under constant supervision while they are in a maritime port?


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