Airport security oped 'tougher border worker checks needed'

Opinion Piece

DCO-002/2017

01 March 2017

Daily Telegraph

One of the key responsibilities of the Australian government is to keep Australians safe and secure our borders.

Regular airport users know that we take security seriously to safeguard the lives of Australians and tourists.

This responsibility extends beyond the tarmac or ports, particularly when it comes to serious crime, such as importing illicit drugs or illegal firearms.

The government has highlighted a need to strengthen the maritime and aviation work environments against crime, and has legislation before the Senate to enhance background checks for workers.

As the law stands, background checks are conducted before issuing an aviation or maritime security identification card, known as an ASIC or MSIC, to workers who require access in non-public areas. 

The checks establish whether the worker poses a security risk to maritime or aviation infrastructure, but what has been missing is checks for criminal risk.

There have been recent examples of why this is so important.

In 2014, an airport worker was denied an ASIC card due to his criminal history including significant terms of imprisonment for multiple aviation security relevant offences.

One offence related to the importation of a significant quantity of cocaine into Australia by airfreight, and attempting to involve an innocent person.

The decision to refuse an ASIC card to this person was overturned on appeal by an independent tribunal because of the narrow purpose of the current law.

To rectifiy this, the Transport Security Amendment (Serious or Organised Crime) Bill seeks to add criminal behaviour as a consideration on whether or not someone should be given unescorted access to the security sensitive areas of an airport or seaport.

We want to reduce the level of ice and other illicit substances reaching Australia, at a time when the availability of drugs is a concern within our communities.

This legislative change will better prevent individuals and criminal gangs or syndicates that traffic those illicit drugs or illegal guns from having access to our major transport links.

These changes will not solve the problem but they will make it harder for criminals to operate our ports and airports.

As a responsible government looking to keep our citizens safe and secure, we think making life harder for criminals is a good thing, and we are hopeful of securing Senate support for these important changes.