Parliamentary speeches

Transport Security Amendment (Testing and Training) Bill 2020

December 10, 2020

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;

(2) that when the Coalition Government introduced the original version of this bill, it was riddled with basic errors, and was then left to languish on the Notice Paper for more than a year; and

(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.