Senate debates

Tuesday, 14 August 2012


Aviation Transport Security Amendment (Screening) Bill 2012; Second Reading

6:44 pm

Photo of Lee RhiannonLee Rhiannon (NSW, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

This bill paves the way for compulsory full-body scanners to be introduced in major Australian airports. It could also pave the way for longer queues at our airports because the responsible minister, Mr Albanese, has failed to address many of the problems with the technology and he has failed to work with groups which could have helped sort out the serious problems that many other countries have recognised with this technology. The Greens are ready to support antiterrorism measures such as full-body screening where the government demonstrate that the risk warrants such technology, where they demonstrate that the technology actually works and achieves the stated aims and where the proper health and privacy safeguards are in place.

The bill as it is before us does not meet any of those requirements. I will be moving amendments when we go into the committee stages, and those amendments are largely based on recommendations that came from the Senate inquiry into this legislation. It was my colleague Senator Scott Ludlam who referred this bill to an inquiry when he was the Greens transport spokesperson, particularly because of the health and privacy concerns that have been widely identified. He reiterated concerns raised at the time when the bill was first proposed. That was clearly needed because these full-body scanners are enormously invasive. He also questioned how effective the technology actually would be and whether this technology would have a measurable impact on security at our airports.

I do thank Senator Ludlam for his work in this area, because if he had not taken it to that inquiry very valuable information that was presented in submissions from a number of organisations would not have come before the Senate. However, the inquiry was rushed. Again, the government seemed to see this as something that just had to happen, rather than approach it in a serious and comprehensive way—to actually take advice, and take that advice on board. In the end there were about 16 submissions, and many of those submissions did address issues to do with privacy and health concerns. Civil Liberties Australia, as well as civil liberty organisations in New South Wales and Queensland, put in submissions. The Office of the Australian Information Commissioner also provided some useful information, and I particularly found the Australian Airline Pilots' Association submission very informative. But all up there were only 16 submissions, and I think that was because it all had to be done so quickly, with only two weeks to get a response in.

First off, I would just like to share with the senators some of the issues to do with full-body scanners. The Italian government actually did bring them in for a period of time, but after a six-month trial they dropped the use of full-body scanners for security checks in airports because they identified that they were too slow and ineffective. That is why I go back to the point that I made in my opening remarks, that we already know about the delays at airports, and if the technology is used in its current form that is when we could well be thinking of the legislation that the minister, Mr Albanese, has chosen to rush through, and that he did not choose to tighten it up. The delays that we already experience could blow out even further when we consider what the overseas experience has shown.

The president of Italy's aviation authority actually conceded that the trial did not deliver good results, as the scanners took a long time to examine a person—in fact, more than a manual inspection. Also, the experience in Germany was interesting. There, the trial was conducted at the Hamburg airport. In this case it was police who criticised the machines, saying that they triggered an alarm unnecessarily in seven out of 10 cases. The machines reportedly were confused by layers of clothing and zippers, and this experience has also been found in Australia. But just sticking with the experience in Germany, they found that in 10 per cent of cases it was actually the posture of a passenger which set off the equipment incorrectly.

Those scanners which I just referred to were produced by the same manufacturer as will be used in the Australian trial.

Debate interrupted.