AVIATION TRANSPORT SECURITY AMENDMENT BILL 2006 Second Reading - Debate resumed from 29 March - That this bill be now read a second time.

Schapelle Corby
FLASH BACK - 21st June 2006

The Fact That A Large Number Of Australians Were Quite Happy To Believe Schapelle Corby's Defence Indicates That The Australian Public Think It Is Quite Possible.

Hon Arch Bevis MP the Federal Member for Brisbane

Mr BEVIS (Brisbane) (10.00 am)—This bill amends the Aviation Transport Security Act 2004. It is driven in large part by the 2005 Wheeler review into aviation security and policing. The Wheeler review was an important and long overdue assessment of aviation security in Australia.

This government is far more concerned with getting the political spin right, with getting the headlines right, and far less concerned with getting the security on the ground in place. We see a situation where the operation of these critically important ASICs has been completely maladministered by the Howard government. It is a terrible state of affairs.

Baggage is still not being X-rayed as the government said it would be. The government made an announcement some years ago that by 31 December 2004 all checked baggage on international flights departing Australia would be X-rayed. Certainly a couple of months ago that was not the case and, as far as I am aware, that is still not the case.

A couple of months ago Australia's largest airport, Sydney airport, was not X-raying 100 per cent of checked baggage on international flights. That is more than a year after the deadline by which this government said it would have that system in place. Maybe something has happened in the last couple of months but this week I made some inquiries to try to find out whether Sydney airport is now X-raying 100 per cent of its checked international baggage. The advice I was given this week is that they are not. I have not been able to get a third confirmation on that; hence my qualification on the statement. But even if that has happened in the last couple of months it is an appalling performance by this government.

Some years ago it set itself a target of ensuring that, by the end of December 2004, 100 per cent of international checked baggage would be X-rayed. By the end of December 2005, it had not done it. By the middle of 2006, on my best advice it still has not done it. If you cannot implement those basic security arrangements in our largest international airport, what signal does that send to the rest of the world? Of course, it is one of the reasons why you see the speculation surrounding people such as Schapelle Corby.

The debate as to whether or not baggage was being properly handled or whether it could be interfered with was raised in the defence of Schapelle Corby by her lawyers and supporters. I do not want to get into the argument about Schapelle Corby's case—that is a matter for another debate—but the fact that a large number of Australians were quite happy to believe Schapelle Corby's defence indicates that the Australian public think it is quite possible, if not probable, that their baggage on these flights can be interfered with. The fact is that we know some of it has been. We know people have been arrested for interfering with baggage, and there was a drug ring operating at Sydney international airport.

We even had the bizarre situation of a fellow who worked at the airport taking a camel suit out of one of the pieces of luggage and parading around the airport. We can all have a bit of a chuckle about someone doing that, but there is a very serious side to that story. If somebody can interfere with the baggage in that way, they can just as easily put drugs in, put a bomb in or do anything with the luggage—put it in or take it out. That is not a secure system.