Chamber House of Representatives on 2017
Chamber House of Representatives on 2017 Item BILLS - Transport Security Amendment (Serious or Organised Crime) Bill 2016 - Consideration of Senate Message Speakers :Chester, Darren- MP- Albanese, Anthony- MP-Wilkie, Andrew- MP-Keenan, Michael, MP

Mr CHESTER (Gippsland—Minister for Infrastructure and Transport) (11:46): I move:

I have had the opportunity to discuss the amendments moved by Senator Leyonhjelm in the other place and I understand his point of view on the issue. However, the experts have told us that organised crime has infiltrated our airports and sea ports and we need to be able to tackle this problem. The amendments moved by Senator Leyonhjelm mean that offences consisting of being a member of a particular organisation or consorting with a convicted offender are not serious or organised crimes under the acts unless they are connected to terrorism. Limiting the application of criminal organisation legislation to a connection with terrorism will severely restrict the ability to exclude people convicted of serious offences related to criminal organisations from gaining an ASIC or a MSIC.

Only people who have been convicted in court of a serious offence under criminal organisation legislation will be captured under this bill. To receive a conviction, a court must be satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that an offence occurred, and this is a high bar. I note that targeting serious criminality has received support from the opposition in this House and in the other place. We would expect that those opposite would support capturing individuals with serious convictions, such as violence or extortion, involving two or more members of a criminal organisation.

The government did not support the amendment to introduce the appeals mechanism into the aviation and maritime acts based purely on the expert advice of parliamentary counsel. The Office of Parliamentary Counsel has advised that including the appeals process in the acts would not create any practical protection against future changes to the aviation and maritime regulations. The government has no plans—I repeat, the government has no plans—to diminish the appeal rights for ASIC and MSIC applicants. There is a comprehensive appeals process in the current aviation and maritime regulations and any future changes to the appeals process will be subject to parliamentary scrutiny as all changes to regulations are.

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler) (11:49): Labor will not be supporting the government’s position on the amendments to the Transport Security Amendment (Serious or Organised Crime) Bill 2016 and will be supporting the decisions made in the Australian Senate. We did not initiate these amendments; these particular amendments were moved by Senator Leyonhjelm of the LDP. But I will say this with regard to this issue, which goes to what I think is emerging, unfortunately, as a distinction between the government’s position and Labor’s position, not just as the opposition but, clearly, a majority of the Senate as well. The government is moving away from the view that when it comes to national security interests related to transport it is absolutely essential that we target effectively. If you do not target effectively, if you have a broadbrush approach, then you fail to concentrate on the task at hand. The task at hand, of course, is our national security.

It is not a disagreement between the government and the opposition with regard to the objectives on national security. Indeed, it is far from it. Wherever possible, we have tried to be cooperative and to engage with the government on all of these issues. The changes that Labor made in government to ASIC and MSIC cards and national security at our airports—where we have the most stringent regime of anywhere in the world with regard to full body scanners and a ‘no scan, no fly’ policy—mean that Australians can be certain that the government and indeed the parliament are doing whatever we can to keep them safe from harm.

But with regard to this particular position and with amendments coming up to change the reference to ‘serious and organised’, the government’s first position was ‘serious or organised’. Now what they are doing is attempting to make changes which would say just ‘serious’ crime. To get rid of the term ‘organised’ from the Senate amendments seems to me to be an unfortunate occurrence.

If I were the government of the day, what I would do is try and negotiate good outcomes through the Senate. There is no-one in the Senate, be it Senator Leyonhjelm or anyone in the opposition, or indeed in the House of Representatives that does not take these issues seriously. But the government are essentially ensuring, by their rejection of the Senate amendments, that this legislation does not pass this parliament today. They have another option before them, which is to accept the amendments that have been made by the Senate and implement the legislation as has been democratically determined after discussions both here in the House of Representatives and in the Senate. It was not as if I did not have discussions and raise with the minister Labor’s concerns about the proposed legislation and indeed attempt to get the government to move the amendments that we subsequently got carried in the Senate in order to ensure that there was a bipartisan position on legislation such as this, which, I believe, is ideal.

By the government opposing these amendments ensure that the legislation essentially fails. The Senate has determined its view. The Senate will not be dealing with these matters tonight before it rises. Therefore, the government are walking away from legislation that could be put in place—legislation that the government have said is required and is a response to not only the Ice Taskforce but also other reports and inquiries. With respect to the minister, I think that shows very poor judgement on his behalf and on the government’s behalf. But, then again, this is a government that cannot implement their agenda. They cannot implement their agenda in part because they do not have a coherent strategy. The only thing the ministers can agree on is their dress sense. In terms of actually getting on with the business of government, they continue to fail.

I would suggest that it is not too late, Minister Chester, to actually stand up to whoever it is who has come up with this rather bizarre strategy of saying, ‘This legislation isn’t everything that we want, so we’ll have nothing.’ That is the strategy that, in effect, you are adopting here. I say to the minister that if this legislation is important, if this legislation does require an amendment to the transport security regime in this country, then they should accept the amendments that have been made in the Senate. That is Labor’s position and that is why we are opposing the proposition that is being put forward by the minister and why we will be opposing all of the government’s amendments.

We believe fundamentally that there are elements of this legislation that are important and that we want to see put in place, not kicked down the road. This legislation was introduced in 2016. If there were serious security issues in our airports and in our ports, I would suggest that legislation should not take months and months to debate; it should be done expeditiously. What we are seeing here is the exact opposite of that, consistent with a government that, frankly, has completely lost its way. It is so obsessed with its internal divisions that it is failing to govern for the nation.

Mr KEENAN (Stirling—Minister for Justice and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Counter-Terrorism) (11:57): I just want to put on the record some of the reasons that the government is concerned about these amendments and cannot accept them. The changes within our national security environment over the last few years are exceptionally significant, and anyone with the idea now that we can just carve out terrorism and think that is somehow completely separate from serious and organised crime just does not understand the way this threat has evolved. What we are finding is that terrorist suspects or people who have committed terrorist acts in particular almost inevitably have had some criminal connection prior to them being radicalised and prior to them wanting to commit terrorist attacks here in Australia.

We find this experience in Australia and we find it extensively overseas, with people who are on the fringes of organised criminal movements and people who have been involved with things from petty criminality through to very serious criminality. The idea that we can just carve out a distinction and say, ‘We’re going to only look at terrorism when it comes to assessing people’s suitability to work in the very sensitive areas of ports and airports’—and I think everyone can appreciate how sensitive these areas are from a security sense—and, ‘Terrorism is the national security issue,’ and think that that is somehow separate from organised crime, is not going to provide the Australian people with the protections that they expect from their national government.

I appreciate that some in the Senate have made these amendments probably in good faith and believe that they are restricting the ASIC and MSIC regime purely to terrorism related offences, but that would be an enormous mistake. The government cannot possibly accept this, because we have a very firm understanding about the national security challenge that this country faces, and it would be very misguided for anyone in this House to think that accepting the Senate amendments would do anything other than make our people less safe.

The SPEAKER: The question is that Senate amendments Nos (7), (8), (13) and (14) be disagreed to.

Question agreed to.

The House divided. [12:04]
(The Speaker—Hon. Tony Smith)

Mr CHESTER (Gippsland—Minister for Infrastructure and Transport) (12:10): I move:

I present the supplementary explanatory memorandum. The government is moving these amendments to address concerns raised in the debate that the use of ‘serious or organised’ may prevent people with convictions for minor or low-level crimes from gaining an ASIC or an MSIC. The amendments will remove the phrase ‘or organised’ from the bill, meaning that the bill will refer to serious crime only. This will remove any doubt that the bill is targeting those convicted of serious criminal offences. People who have committed minor infringements will not be caught up by this bill. ‘Serious crime’ will still encompass organised crime that is of a serious nature. For example, an offence of violence or extortion that involves two or more members of a criminal organisation which involves substantial planning and organisation will still be captured as a serious crime. The purpose of the bill is to not allow ASICs and MSICs to be issued to individuals who are a security risk or have a serious criminal record. I note that the member for Grayndler supported targeting serious criminality in his contribution to the debate. I also note that targeting serious criminality was also supported by opposition and crossbench members in the other place.

The government does not support the amendment to ‘serious and organised’ crime because it would only capture individuals who have been convicted of a serious and organised crime. Both elements would be required. Committing just a serious crime would not be captured in this case. The government has received legal advice to confirm this. It would mean that someone who has a conviction for a serious crime but who acted alone in committing the crime would likely be able to successfully appeal a refusal of an ASIC or MSIC to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal. An example of this exact situation is an ASIC applicant who had convictions for cultivating and trafficking cannabis and importing cocaine, including attempting to deliver that cocaine to an innocent person. This applicant acted alone when committing these offences. This applicant was denied an ASIC by the department but was granted an ASIC by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal because, even though he had serious criminal convictions, he was not a risk to aviation security. This is exactly the type of applicant the government wants to stop from gaining access to secure areas at airports and sea ports.

Under the opposition’s amendments, it is likely that he would still receive an ASIC from the Administrative Appeals Tribunal because he did not commit a serious and organised crime. The experts have told us that the ASIC and MSIC schemes need to be strengthened to protect our airports and sea ports against organised crime. This government is committed to keeping Australia safe. Stopping people with a serious criminal conviction from gaining access to secure areas at airports and sea ports is a crucial part of this.

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler) (12:14): The opposition will be supporting the Senate position that has been determined and will do so for good reason. Let us have a look at how this debate has progressed. The government put forward legislation which proposed to define the target group, if you like, as serious or organised crime. We felt that that was a broadening of the definition which would weaken security by widening the net. If you do not target security issues effectively in the transport area, you undermine it. So we put this amendment forward in good faith, and the amendment was carried in the Senate to change the definition in a range of areas back to what was actually recommended. I will come to the reasons for that in a short while.

What the government is now proposing with this quite extraordinary amendment is to remove ‘organised crime’. It is beyond belief, frankly, that this government is seeking to move amendments that would delete ‘organised crime’ from the definition and just leave ‘serious’ there. I am somewhat flabbergasted. Yesterday, when the minister told me in good faith what was being considered by the brains trust who have come up with this, wherever they may be, I indicated to him—as I do; I have a good relationship with him—that my gut instinct was that I thought it would be a difficult thing to support. I am somewhat surprised, frankly, that this has been brought on today—to essentially knock over the legislation, which is what the failure to support the Senate amendments is doing.

Let us have a look at who talks about ‘serious and organised crime’ and why that is an appropriate definition. The government refers to the Ice Taskforce report and the Joint Committee on Law Enforcement report from 2011 as the basis for this bill. That is why this bill is coming about; they have recommendations from experts and, therefore, they are turning that into legislation, as is appropriate. It is appropriate in these areas to take proper advice from experts. Let us have a look at how the experts define the issue that needs legislative action. The Ice Taskforce report, uniformly, talks about targeting ‘serious and organised crime’—not once, not twice, not 20 times, not 50 times but hundreds of times. The Joint Committee on Law Enforcement inquiry into the adequacy of aviation and maritime security measures, which this minister for justice and Customs opposite sat on—

Mr Keenan interjecting

Mr ALBANESE: Or whatever the title of his position is; it is hard to keep up with things over there.

Mr Keenan: Not really, I have been in the same position for four years.

Mr ALBANESE: That is not a plus, Minister. Most junior ministers get to go up. It is true; you are where you have always been—Minister for Justice. You were a member of the committee that always—not some of the time, but always—refers to ‘serious and organised crime’.

Mr Keenan: You really are missing the point here.

Mr ALBANESE: That is the basis of the legislation.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Mr Broadbent ): Order! Let us have a conversation that the public can understand, rather than one they cannot understand.

Mr ALBANESE: Minister Keenan yaps away, but the fact is that that report says:

The committee recommends that the scope of the Aviation Transport Security Act 2004 and the Maritime Transport and Offshore Facilities Security Act 2003 be widened to include serious and organised crime in addition to terrorist activity and unlawful interference.

That is a direct quote from the committee report that was the basis of this legislation—the committee that this minister sat on. And now they come in here—when in the Senate we moved it back to the same definition that the committee recommended be used—and they want to get rid of ‘organised crime’. (Extension of time granted) Regarding the Attorney-General’s Department’s submission on this bill, the minister says, ‘Well, that’s not the legislative definition.’ The Attorney-General’s Department’s submission on this bill was in the previous parliament, because this is so urgent! It has gone from the previous parliament and legislation from 2016—it is so urgent! It has been hanging around, and the report from years ago says ‘serious and organised crime’. That is what the Attorney-General’s Department says.

But maybe the Attorney-General’s Department, the Joint Committee on Law Enforcement and the Ice Taskforce are not enough. Let us have a look at what the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission says: ‘serious and organised crime’. That is what they almost always use in their definition. Then there is the Australian Crime Commission Amendment (National Policing Information) Bill 2015, which Labor supported just last year. Guess what it refers to? ‘Serious and organised crime.’ Indeed, the Senate report on this very bill uniformly talks about targeting ‘serious and organised crime’. Those opposite are critical of it, but they sat on the committee that was the basis of the bill. I have talked about the Attorney-General’s Department, the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission and the Ice Taskforce. Even the Attorney-General’s Department Annual report 2015-16, tabled in the House on 7 November 2016, refers to the work that they have been doing to prepare this legislation. They say on page 30: ‘serious and organised crime’.

So, for reasons of keeping a proper focus, Labor’s amendment will be consistent with the advice that is out there publicly—with the advice that this government has put in place itself in other legislation that has been supported in a bipartisan way in this parliament, and with the advice from the very committee whose report is the basis of this legislation—the committee that this minister sat on.

So we are very concerned that this is walking away from the advice of experts. The idea that this government is essentially prepared to stop this legislation going through—it could go through in a nanosecond without this petulant approach of opposing these Senate amendments—is, I think, a serious mistake by the government. Perhaps the minister has an explanation as to why he sat on the committee report and made that definition. We can see why he is still in the same position after all these years. I understand that. He is just busy undermining all the organisations, the infrastructure department, the Attorney-General’s Department—

Mr Keenan interjecting

Mr ALBANESE: There he is, babbling away there, not coming to terms with the fact that it is no wonder this government could not convince anyone in the Senate. These amendments did not just fall across the line by the way—they had everyone, because the Senate took a commonsense approach to this legislation.

Mr KEENAN (Stirling—Minister for Justice and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Counter-Terrorism) (12:23): I really need to respond to that, because, quite frankly, that was just 10 minutes of incoherent rambling from the shadow minister for transport, who really has absolutely no clue what he is talking about. The reason we opposed these amendments is that, obviously, we have advice from our agencies that this would restrict the scope of the application of what we are trying to achieve here—as the shadow minister for transport should know, but if he does not know it is quite remarkable. He is either wilfully ignorant of the argument that has been made here or he is just not concerned about the truth. I understand that the minister has tried to reason with him, has tried to explain the situation and has actually sat down with him and said that this is the reason the government wants to proceed in this way. The reason is very clear: it is because we have strong advice that ‘serious and organised’ crime has the potential to not capture the scope of individuals that we want to capture under this legislation. Within his contribution, the minister has actually provided examples of where that could happen.

By proceeding the way the government is proceeding—by using the definition of serious crime—we will make sure that we are not going to have the wrong people working at our ports and our airports. We cannot have a situation in Australia where we have criminals, who associate with other criminals, who may not have been convicted of crimes but on whom we have sufficient criminal intelligence to understand that they present a significant security risk for us—

Mr Albanese interjecting

Mr KEENAN: This is the whole point. You have absolutely no idea what you are talking about. You have absolutely no understanding of what the government is trying to achieve here. I understand that the minister has been very patient in explaining what the government is trying to achieve. What we are trying to achieve is to make sure that we have appropriate people working within sensitive areas at our ports and airports, and people with criminal backgrounds, people who are associating with criminals and people who are members of bikie gangs, for example, are not appropriate people to be working at our ports and airports.

This shadow minister has come up with some ridiculous argument to say that the government is not adhering to the advice we received. We have been given firm advice that we need to tighten up what is happening at our ports and airports and to tighten up on the people who are getting access to them through the MSIC and ASIC regimes and to make sure that people who have criminal associates and people that we understand are not the right people to be working there should be denied access to those secure areas. It is clear from the member for Grayndler’s contribution that he really does not understand what the government is trying to achieve here. We engaged constructively with the opposition. We sat down with him and explained why his proposal will weaken what we are trying to achieve—

Mr Albanese: I have never sat down with you in my life.

Mr KEENAN: The government has sat down with you. This minister has sat down with you.

Mr Albanese: No he hasn’t—

Mr KEENAN: You just cannot reason with some people. This is the problem. We can explain to him why what he has proposed here would weaken what the government is trying to do. What he has proposed here would allow the wrong people to continue to work at our ports and airports. The Minister for Infrastructure and Transport provided examples in his contribution. Quite frankly, if the Labor Party wants to see more criminals at our ports and our airports then we are very happy to continue to have that argument.

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler) (12:27): We have just seen the Minister for Justice in the national government of Australia speak about criminals who have not been convicted of crimes. That is actually what he said at the dispatch box and it is in Hansard. It is true that I find that difficult to comprehend—that a Minister for Justice would put forward such a proposition. He spoke about advice. The fact is that he then tried to verbal the Minister for Infrastructure and Transport, indicating that people had sat down and got amendments. Let’s be very clear: the first I found out exactly what the government was amending was when I walked in here about three-quarters of an hour ago. There has been no attempt to offer briefings by the department or by any security agencies about these amendments being moved on the floor of this parliament to reject the Senate amendments. So let’s make that clear. If you were at all serious about outcomes and making a difference, then that would have occurred. I am very familiar with the people who are in charge of security around our ports and airports—very familiar with them—and I actually know what happens when you are serious about outcomes.

But getting serious about outcomes is not moving legislation that speaks about ‘serious or organised’ crime. When it is amended back, consistent with the Ice Taskforce and consistent with the very committee report that you say is the basis of this legislation in this parliament—the report that the Minister for Justice sat on and signed off on that spoke about ‘serious and organised crime—when the public reports from the Attorney-General speak about the same thing, when the public reports of the Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development speak about the same thing, when the Australian Crime Commission Amendment (National Policing Information) Bill 2015, I assume moved by the junior minister in 2015, speaks about that—then why is it that, if they are at all fair dinkum, this legislation does not cover changing the definition in that piece of legislation? Is that piece of legislation in the minister’s portfolio inadequate? I suggest not.

Having not succeeded in getting this changed definition through the Senate, and the Senate having determined it should be ‘serious and organised’ crime, consistent with all of the advice that is on the record, rather than ‘serious or organised’ crime, they come in here today and propose a change to get rid of ‘organised crime’ from the definition. They then say, ‘Oh, it’s about hardening things up.’

I will give the minister a tip. We had a few ministers for justice as well. They started off there and then they became Attorney-Generals or took cabinet positions. No wonder you are stuck there. Quite clearly, you do not follow advice. It is probably you, rather than Minister Chester, who is responsible for this debacle. Rather than have the legislation carried by the parliament, they are taking up time in the parliament in order to knock over their legislation.

Let us be very clear: the Senate has amended this legislation by rejecting the Senate amendments and proposing a whole new definition. If this is the best definition, why was it not proposed last week in the Senate? Why was it not a government amendment in the Senate last week to change the definition to ‘serious crime’? If that was the best outcome—and there should be no compromise when it comes to the right outcomes for our national security—why did you not do it then? Why has this amendment been plucked from nowhere with another completely different definition from all of the definitions that are on the record? That is why this should be rejected. That is why the Senate amendments should be supported. That is why the legislation, as amended, should be supported and implemented if it is, indeed, the case that the government has advice that this is urgent. If it is urgent, why are they intervening, yet again, to knock over and change their own legislation?

Mr CHESTER (Gippsland—Minister for Infrastructure and Transport) (12:33): At the risk of prolonging the debate, I would like to make a few closing remarks in relation to the member for Grayndler’s contribution. The only debacle is what is occurring on the other side of the House. The other side of the House is about to make an enormous mistake in relation to our attempts to strengthen the legislation relating to serious crime at our seaports and airports.

Under the government’s legislation amendments before the House today, ‘serious crime’ will still encompass organised crime that is of a serious nature. The fundamental problem with the amendments that were put by the Labor Party to add ‘and’ to make it ‘serious and organised’ is that they would actually weaken the legislation. The member for Grayndler’s contribution, indicating the change to get rid of ‘organised crime’ was some sort of weakening of legislation on our behalf, is a complete and utter myth. By using the phrase ‘serious crime’ we capture both.

The legal advice we have on the amendments the member for Grayndler originally put for this legislation is that it would require both to be present. What I am saying is that our legal advice is that using ‘and’ could be interpreted as requiring both elements to be present before a person could be deemed ineligible to receive and an ASIC or an MSIC card. The government believes requiring individuals to have committed both a serious and an organised crime is not in the interest of the safety of the Australian people. We reject the assertions made by the member for Grayndler. We are endeavouring to ensure that serious crime, in all its forms, will be encompassed through this legislation to provide for the safety of the Australian travelling public.

I urge the member for Grayndler and all those opposite to not make a huge mistake in this place when we divide in a few moments time because it will result in the weakening of the legislation. Almost inevitably in the past both sides have been able to agree in relation to safety in our transport sector. I urge the member for Grayndler to reconsider his position. In this place we are working in the interest of the Australian people, and I think he is making a huge mistake by insisting on using the phrase ‘serious and organised’ crime.

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler) (12:36): I am keeping two of their ministers busy.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Mr Broadbent ): I am sure the people of Australia greatly appreciate that.

Mr ALBANESE: This government has not got any legislation coming through. I am trying to assist. One of the things I would ask the minister to explain to the House and to the parliament is why, in the legislation considered by the Senate, was the definition ‘serious or organised’ crime? Now the proposed amendment is just ‘serious crime’. Is there a distinction between the two? If there is no distinction between the two, why is it that originally the legislation was drafted to include ‘serious or organised crime’? This is a fundamental issue. People can be critical and ask why we are seriously taking up these issues. This is a piece of legislation that arose from an ice task force report that was then considered by a joint committee that recommended unanimously ‘serious and organised crime’. The Minister for Justice sat as part of that committee. It then took some time to have the legislation brought before the House. It then took some time for the legislation to be debated. It then had a consideration through the proper Senate processes, including submissions being considered. We then had the Senate determine to use the definition that has been used in the ice task force report and by the joint parliamentary committee. And, now, we have a different definition again that completely removes ‘organised crime’.

I ask the minister to respond to the query that we have as members of parliament who have a duty to take these issues seriously: if ‘serious crime’ is the appropriate definition, why is it that the legislation that has been considered up until now included ‘serious or organised crime’?

Mr KEENAN (Stirling—Minister for Justice and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Counter-Terrorism) (12:39): I am genuinely unsure whether the shadow minister is unaware of the facts or whether he is just not concerned about them whatsoever.

Mr Albanese: This is a serious question.

Mr KEENAN: I will get to that. The fundamental argument that is occurring here is that the government want a broader definition to ensure the security of the Australian people and the Labor Party are arguing for a more restrictive definition of ‘serious and organised’ as opposed to the government’s version of ‘serious crime’. The most fundamental point is that organised crime is serious crime, so it is captured within the definition of ‘serious crime’. Obviously, the government have the benefit of going back to our lawyers and asking what the practical implications are of changes that are made to legislation. And we went back and we asked: what is the practical implication? How would a court interpret ‘serious and organised crime’—the definition that the Labor Party are currently pushing before this parliament? What is the practical implication of that when somebody goes before a court?

The practical implication is that a court will be required to identify whether a crime was considered to be serious and organised. If an individual—and this is the exact example that the minister for transport has put before the House—acting alone, just himself, were to commit a serious crime, but only one person was involved, then would a court interpret that as also being an organised crime? This is the point. If we are going to have a definition ‘serious and organised crime’, that is a more restrictive definition. That will allow the wrong people to be in our ports and our airports. ‘Serious crime’ is a stronger way to move this legislation forward. We do not want there to be a case where an individual has committed a serious crime—let’s say they are involved in serious drug trafficking but they were not doing it in conjunction with other people, with a wider crime organisation—and the possibility exists for a court to say, ‘Yes, that’s a serious crime but it is not an organised crime.’

Now, do the Labor Party want those people working at our ports and airports? That is the question. I do not believe that the Labor Party genuinely want that. Surely, it is the case that they have misunderstood what they are proposing here. That does not mean that they need to follow through with a vote against the government’s tougher and more sensible definition, which will allow our ports and our airports to be free from the sort of people we want them to be free from. Do we really want individuals who might not pass the threshold of committing an organised crime to work at our ports? Do we really want them at Sydney airport? Do we really want them at Fremantle port? I think that the answer clearly is no. If the answer clearly is no, then those opposite need to support the government’s definition, as has been put with this amendment. ‘Serious crime’ covers ‘organised crime’. If we are going to make it ‘serious and organised’, it will be harder for us to make sure that individuals who might not have been part of a wider crime organisation are restricted from working at our ports and airports. If that is the outcome the Labor Party want then I am flabbergasted.

Mr WILKIE (Denison) (12:43): I will, if I could, attempt to strip the politics out of this. I do not really care who wins the point, the coalition or the Labor Party. But sitting back here and listening to the debate, I must say that I have become increasingly disheartened by the to and fro of this. I do sense that we have largely wasted the last half hour or so on a matter that has not really warranted this debate, and it has delayed members from getting on with other matters that do need to be addressed. I am no ally of the government when it comes to a lot of law and order matters. I am on the public record as saying, in the strongest possible terms, that I think we have gone way too far in legislative reform since the terrorist attacks of 9/11, that we have been far too quick to change the law and to toughen law when really existing laws were adequate. However, in this case, I do think that restricting this to ‘serious’ just makes sense—if I can apply a fresh perspective on this.

Surely, if we are relying on the term ‘serious or organised’ then obviously some harmless groups could be caught up in that term. I have also been quite outspoken about the crackdown on bikie gangs in this country because, while there are clearly some mischief-makers in some bikie gangs, most people who ride bikes and most people who join a gang are just law-abiding people like us who enjoy the friendship and camaraderie of a gang. If you have ‘serious or organised’, there is the real risk that some harmless groups would be caught up in the use of that term. But if we were to change it from ‘or’ to ‘and’ then the problem would be that for someone to be covered by this bill they would obviously have to be associated with both. They would have to be associated with serious criminal activity and also be part of organised criminal activity. What happens if someone is associated with serious criminal activity but is not part of organised crime? They would not be covered by this bill. That does not make any sense at all.

Surely, everyone in this place, myself included, would have a genuine belief in keeping the community safe. Surely, we would all agree that the only thing that really matters is that any individual or organisation that is associated with serious criminal misconduct should not be able to go onto the dock or onto the tarmac. They should not have access to these passes. The only thing that really should matter is whether or not they are or have been associated with serious criminal activity. I do not care if they are in the local bike gang. Chances are the local bike gang is a bike gang for people like us. It might be the retired politicians bike gang. It might be the Vietnam veterans bike gang. Most of the members of these bike gangs are just normal people like us who enjoy riding a motorbike and like to do it in a group, and good on them. I may well end up doing the same thing myself, although I will have to be very careful doing that in some jurisdictions in this country because I may be deemed to be a criminal. Who knows, the next election may not go all that well for me and afterwards I may want to get a job at Hobart airport as a baggage handler, and I do not think that just being in the ex-politicians bike gang should alone mean that I cannot get an airside ID card.

The issue, surely, is to stop people who are associated with serious criminal activity—to keep them off the tarmac, out of the secure areas of the airport and out of the secure areas of the docks. The only thing that matters is whether they are associated with serious criminal activity. It does not matter if they are in a group. This whole organised crime thing is a bit of a distraction in some ways. While I have been very critical of this government and previous governments for going too far with legislative reform when it comes to security matters, in this case I actually think the government has got it right and the opposition has got it wrong. We have all wasted far too much time on something that is really quite straightforward. It is about keeping people safe and keeping people who are associated with serious criminal activity out of sensitive areas at our ports and airports.

The SPEAKER: The question is that Senate amendments (1) to (6) and (9) to (12) be disagreed to and that, in place thereof, government amendments as set out in the schedule circulated to honourable members be agreed to.

The House divided. [12:52]
(The Speaker—Hon. Tony Smith)

Source Transcripts from Chamber House of Representatives on 2017 Item BILLS – Transport Security Amendment (Serious or Organised Crime) Bill 2016 – Consideration of Senate Message 

Speakers :Chester, Darren- MP- Albanese, Anthony- MP-Wilkie, Andrew- MP-Keenan, Michael, MP