In Parliament

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

That Senate amendments (7), (8), (13) and (14) be disagreed to.

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 CHESTER (Gippsland—Minister for Infrastructure and Transport) (12:10): I present the reasons for the House disagreeing to Senate amendments Nos (7), (8), (13) and (14), and I move:

That the reasons be adopted.

Question agreed to.

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

That Senate amendments Nos (1) to (6) and (9) to (12) be disagreed to and government amendments Nos (1) to (10) made in place thereof.

I present the supplementary explanatory memorandum. The government is moving this amendment 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. This amendment 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 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.

 

 

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