Thursday, 14 May 2020
I seek leave to amend general business motion of motion No. 583, standing in the names of Senators Watt, Chisholm and Green, relating to aviation security in Queensland.
I, and also on behalf of Senators Watt, Chisholm and Green, move the motion as amended in the terms circulated:
That the Senate—
(a) notes that:
(i) the management of transport security is critical to our national security and to regional communities in Queensland;
(ii) on 8 May 2018, the Morrison Government announced measures to "further strengthen Australia's domestic and international aviation security", which included the introduction of body scanners and improved luggage screening technology at airports;
(iii) regional airlines servicing Queensland have expressed concern that the cost of these upgrades will make regional airline services economically unviable;
(iv) the Senate Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport Legislation Committee began public hearings into this matter on 7 May 2020;
(v) the Committee heard evidence that:
(A) Regional Express Airlines said that the airline's profit margin is approximately $10 per passenger, and if the airline was required to pay security costs, they would no longer make a profit,
(B) Corporate Air said that the costs of security screening vary from as little as 87 cents per passenger in Sydney airport, up to $19.80 at one of their regional locations, and
(vi) at the hearing, Department of Home Affairs officials told Senator Rennick that the Department had not modelled Corporate Air's suggestion of evenly distributing security costs across the country because, "airport operations are for airports to manage.",
(vii) Senator Rennick stated that "We're not talking about airports, we're talking about national security, right. And, you know, something that we've got to get sorted out here, because we just had it with the Ruby Princess. Okay, and I'm a member of the federal government, and it's our job to look after national security. So this sort of pushing it out on the private enterprise or rather sort of smaller, it just leads to confusion and ambiguous responsibilities as to who's responsible for what. So I think that we ought to take a good look at whether or not it's better for us to do a holistic national approach, rather than the piecemeal airport by airport, which is going to hurt a lot of airports in the region. And I think before, you know, any more changes in regulations or decisions are made, that we look at a national approach. Because if it's good enough for the US and New Zealand, I think it's something that we should also take a serious look at, I'll just leave it at that. Thanks",
(viii) Senator Rennick is correct in saying that:
(A) the Morrison Government is responsible for national security at our airports and seaports,
(B) the Morrison Government's current approach to national security has led to "confusion and ambiguous responsibilities as to who's responsible for what", and
(C) the Morrison Government's approach to regional aviation security will potentially "hurt a lot of airports in the region";
(b) commends the Senate Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport Legislation Committee for its' ongoing work in this area, and its long-standing history of representing rural and regional Australians on important policy issues; and
(c) condemns the Morrison Government for its implementation of airport security upgrades to date, which are causing confusion and leading to the potential loss of airports, airline services, and jobs in regional Queensland. (general business notice of motion no.583)
(d) calls on the Federal Government to reveal the deal that Nationals Senators struck with the Government, which, according to reports in The Guardian, secured "an eleventh hour change of heart about cost recovery… to ensure costs incurred by regional airports to implement improved security screening measures will not be passed on unfairly to regional travellers".
Keeping Australian communities safe from those who seek to do us harm is and will continue to be the Morrison government's No. 1 priority. The Aviation Transport Security Amendment (Security Controlled Airports) Regulations deliver on the recommendations of the Inspector of Transport Security to strengthen security at Australia's airports, and particularly those serving regional communities. Regional airports are being supported through the government's $50 million Regional Airport Security Screening Fund. The government has also announced more than $1.2 billion in funding to support the aviation industry, including keeping regional communities connected, since 18 March 2020. These enhancements to regional aviation security and our commitment to funding to regional airlines and airports underscore the government's commitment to supporting regional communities and the aviation networks on which they rely.
Question agreed to.