Second Reading - Transport Security Amendment (Serious Crime) Bill

Second Reading - Transport Security Amendment (Serious Crime) Bill

This bill is evidence of the government's commitment to ensuring our airports and seaports are not safe havens for criminal activity. Serious and organised crime causes enormous and real human suffering. The Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission has estimated it to cost the Australian economy more than $47 billion a year. This cost will continue to rise, and it is imperative for the safety and for the security of all Australians that the government puts measures in place to prevent serious crime.

A number of inquiries and reports have noted that individuals and organised crime groups are exploiting weaknesses in the aviation and maritime security identification card schemes, also known as ASICs and MSICs. That's enabling them to conduct serious criminal activity at our airports and at our seaports, such as the importation of illegal weapons and drugs. This bill will provide greater security outcomes for Australians by ensuring that people with serious criminal convictions or links to serious and organised crime are not able to access secure areas of our airports and seaports.

I'd like to thank the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee for its work on this bill through its inquiry and its recommendations. It's a committee that I very much enjoyed working with. The secretariat and all of the support staff who helped us along the way did an amazing job. The committee recommended that the bill, as introduced in the House, be amended to incorporate a criminal intelligence assessment in the background check process for ASIC and MSIC schemes, and, subject to this recommendation being implemented, that the bill be passed.

The committee recognised that prominent organised crime figures with a history of engaging in serious and organised crime and influencing others to do the same can have unmonitored access to aviation and maritime secure zones. Some of these individuals have no or minor criminal convictions and could only be identified through the introduction of a criminal intelligence assessment by the ACIC.

The government supports the committee's recommendation to include criminal intelligence assessments as part of the background check process for ASICs and MSICs. The bill establishes the regulatory framework to ensure that people with known links to serious and organised crime groups will be ineligible to hold an ASIC or an MSIC. The bill provides the ACIC with the ability to conduct their assessments as well as providing for merits review of adverse criminal intelligent assessments, making sure that we have due process for those who are affected.

The purpose of the bill is to ensure that ASICs and MSICs are not issued to individuals who pose a serious security or a serious criminal risk. We know that serious and organised criminals use our airports and seaports as transit points for the importation of firearms, weapons, illicit drugs and other harmful goods into Australia. ASIC and MSIC holders have trusted positions within our airports and our seaports. People convicted of serious offences or with known links to serious and organised crime groups shouldn't hold these trusted positions. The Transport Security Amendment (Serious Crime) Bill will strengthen the government's efforts to reduce the influence of serious organised crime groups in the aviation and maritime environments, and ultimately ensure that Australians are kept safe and secure.

This bill gives effect to the government's election commitment to strengthen background checking regimes to ensure that individuals with links to serious crime can't gain access to our airports or our seaports. I thank senators for their contributions in debate. I call on all senators in this chamber to support this vital bill.