Bills Digest No.1   1997-98 Aviation Legislation Amendment Bill (No. 2) 1997


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WARNING:
This Digest was prepared for debate. It reflects the legislation as introduced and does not canvass subsequent amendments. This Digest does not have any official legal status. Other sources should be consulted to determine the subsequent official status of the Bill.

CONTENTS

Passage History

Aviation Legislation Amendment Bill (No. 2) 1997

Date Introduced: 18 June 1997
House: House of Representatives
Portfolio: Transport and Regional Development
Commencement:

  • Provisions relating to airport security in Schedule 1 commence on a date to be fixed by proclamation, or, if no date is fixed, twelve months after the day on which the Bill receives Royal Assent; the definitions in items 9- 11 in Schedule 1 relating to 'another country', 'country' and 'bilateral arrangement', commence on the day the Bill receives Royal Assent;
  • Provisions relating to the Air Services Commission's power to allocate seating capacity commence on a day to be fixed by proclamation, or failing that, six months after the Bill receives Royal Assent;
  • All other provisions commence on the day on which the Bill receives Royal Assent.

    Purpose

    • To make the operators of international terminals, rather than airlines who use them, responsible for the security screening of air travellers;
    • To enable de facto spouses to claim compensation if their partners are injured or killed in an air accident; and
    • To give the Air Services Commission the power to allocate seating capacity on flights between points outside Australia, as well as those between Australia and other countries.

    Background

    This Bill amends five different Acts:

    • the Air Navigation Act 1920;
    • the Airports Act 1996;
    • the Air Services Act 1995;
    • the Civil Aviation (Carriers Liability) Act 1959; and
    • the International Air Services Commission Act 1992.

    The most important changes are to do with airport security arrangements contained in the Air Navigation Act 1920.

    At the moment, the airlines are responsible for the security screening of passengers at both domestic and international terminals. The usual method of doing this at the international and larger domestic terminals is to have security checkpoints controlling access into a 'sterile area'. Passengers then board the aircraft from the sterile area.

    However the airlines have been concerned about having the responsibility, and therefore the liability if something goes wrong, at airports where they do not have total control over the sterile areas. For example, at Sydney international airport, the same checkpoint screens passengers for more than 30 airlines. And those passengers are screened into a sterile area with shops and other commercial operations run and stocked by people who may come and go through other entrances which the airlines have no control over. The responsibility for those entrances lies with the terminal operators.

    The airlines took their concerns to the industry group, the Aviation Security Consultative Group, chaired by the Department of Transport and Regional Development. This Bill had its genesis there and allows for a much wider range of security arrangements.

    The Bill gives primary responsibility for security screening at international airports to the terminal operators, at least where sterile areas are used, thus centralising responsibility rather than splitting it between the operators and the airlines.

    But the Bill also allows the secretary of the Department of Transport and Regional Development to approve other arrangements, if s/he believes it would lead to improved security. For example, a terminal operator, in combination with two airlines, could have responsibility for different parts of the one terminal.

    It's worth noting that while international airports are the primary target of the Bill, this is not mentioned specifically. The Bill is written in general terms, and may be applied to domestic terminals as well, with joint-user terminals like Canberra, Alice Springs, Townsville, and Hobart among those most likely to be affected.

    Main Provisions

    Airline Security: amendments to the Air Navigation Act 1920

    Items 1 to 11 in Schedule 1 deal with definitions (contained in section 3, and section 11A). They either insert new ones including for 'screening authority' and 'screening officer', or change existing ones. The most important change is the new definition for 'screening point'. The old definition made it clear responsibility for screening at the screening point lay with the operator of the aircraft. The new definition, in item 3, is neutral. It simply defines what a screening point is, without mentioning who is responsible for screening. That is contained in the newly inserted definition for screening officer - simply a person authorised under the Bill to screen people or goods.

    All these definitional changes are necessary to implement the Bill's purpose of making screening points at international airports primarily the responsibility of terminal operators.

    The definitional changes in items 9 - 11 include 'another country', 'bilateral agreement' and 'country'. These are made to ensure definitions in the Air Navigation Act remain consistent with the International Air Services Commission Act.

    Item 12 inserts a new section 20(2A) which makes it an offence for a passenger to intentionally or recklessly board a larger commercial or charter aircraft, without being screened by the aircraft operator. This section will apply both where the aircraft operator is responsible for screening, and where, courtesy of the deeming provisions in item 15, the screening is carried out by a terminal operator. The fine is 80 penalty points- $8000.

    Item 12 mirrors section 20(2) which makes it an offence for an aircraft operator to, without reasonable excuse, permit a passenger, who has not been screened to board a plane. The fine for that offence is 200 penalty points - $20,000

    Item 18 inserts a new section 20A dealing with an aircraft operator's responsibilities if there is no sterile area. This new section mirrors the existing provisions dealing with the responsibilities of screening authorities operating sterile areas.

    If there is no sterile area, the aircraft operator must screen passengers, goods, vehicles etc as stipulated by the secretary of the Department of Transport and Regional Development, using people and equipment specified in writing by him/her.

    New section 20A(3) makes it an offence for an aircraft operator to allow a passenger, vehicle etc to board a plane if the screening equipment detects a metal or unidentified object unless:

    • the operator is satisfied the object is not dangerous; or
    • the object is confiscated.

    The fine is 200 penalty points - $20,000.

    New sections 20A(5) - (10) stipulate that an aircraft operator must keep screened passengers segregated from people who have not been screened. The fine is 200 penalty points - $20,000.

    Item 19 repeals section 21 and inserts new sections 21, 21A, 21B, and 21C. These new sections are crucial to the new scheme of the Act.

    These new sections deal with both:

    • the secretary's powers to designate sterile areas, appoint screening authorities, and stipulate how they should maintain the sterile areas; and
    • the screening authorities' responsibilities to screen people, vehicles or goods entering a sterile area.

    These sections give the secretary quite a lot of power, including to mix-and-match screening authorities. For example, the secretary may appoint one or more screening authorities at a terminal, which may include, for example, two airlines, and the terminal operator. This would depend on what the secretary thought appropriate to the security and operational requirements. A major requirement of the new provisions is that all of the screening area must be under the control of at least one screening authority.

    If the screening authority is in breach of these sections, including written directives from the secretary, it face a fine of 200 penalty points - $20,000.

    Item 28 inserts a new subsection 22A(6A) dealing with the responsibilities of screening authorities for sterile areas. The new subsection prohibits a screening authority from allowing a person, goods or vehicle past a screening point if the screening equipment detects a metal or unidentified object unless:

    • the screening authority is satisfied the object is not dangerous; or
    • the object is confiscated.

    Item 29 inserts a new subsection 22A(7) which is very similar, but deals with the responsibility of airline operators operating as screening authorities using sterile areas. (Both items 28 and 29 are very similar to item 18. As already discussed that section deals with aircraft operators screening without a sterile area.)

    Item 30 inserts a new subsection 22A(8) which makes it an offence to contravene new subsections 22A(6A) or 22A(7), dealt with above. The fine is 200 penalty points - $20,000.

    Item 31 repeals subsection 22A(9) and inserts a new one. This obliges the screening authority to keep passengers who have been screened into a sterile area separate from people who have not been screened.

    Item 38 amends subsection 22B(2) to ensure that a screening officer may stop a person from entering a sterile area or an aircraft if that person has refused to remove headgear, handwear, footwear and outer clothing as part of the screening check. This amendment transfers the existing power from airline operators to screening officers, in line with the scheme of this Bill.

    New fees: amendments to the Airports Act 1996

    Item 1 in Schedule 2 to the Aviation Legislation Amendment Bill (No. 2) 1997 inserts a new subsection 132(3A) in the Airports Act 1996. This enables the government to charge fees for applications made in relation to regulations governing environmental standards at leased airports (Melbourne, Perth and Brisbane as at 2 July 1997, with another 15 due to be privatised by the end of this financial year).

    Item 2 inserts a new subsection 133(3B). This enables the government to charge fees for applications made in relation to regulations governing monitoring and remedying breaches of environmental standards at leased airports.

    It's not clear on the face of the Bill what sorts of applications could attract fees. However, the Department of Transport and Regional Development gave examples including:

    • requests for permission to vary environmental standards, for instance to take account of local conditions; and
    • authorisations to undertake specific activities, for example aircraft maintenance involving large volumes of waste.

    New functions: amendments to the Air Services Act 1995

    Item 1 of Schedule 3 of the Aviation Legislation Amendment Bill (No. 2) 1997 inserts a new subsections 8(1)(a) into the Air Services Act 1995 giving Airservices Australia the additional function of 'promoting and fostering civil aviation in Australia'.

    De facto compensation: amendments to the Civil Aviation (Carriers' Liability) Act 1959

    Item 1 of Schedule 4 of the Aviation Legislation Amendment Bill (No. 2) 1997) amends subsections 12(5) and 35(5) of the Civil Aviation (Carriers' Liability) Act 1959 to include the term 'de facto spouse' in the list of people eligible for compensation if a passenger dies or is injured by an air accident.

    The term 'de facto spouse' is not defined in either the Bill or the Act. However, it probably refers only to heterosexual couples.

    New powers: amendments to the International Air Services

    Commission Act 1992

    The Air Services Commission was created by the Air Services Commission Act 1992, with one of its major tasks being allocating routes and seating capacity for Australian airlines travelling to or from Australia.

    This Bill gives the commission the power to also allocate to Australian airlines seating capacity, available under international agreements, on routes wholly outside Australia.

    Until now, this has been done by the Department of Transport and Regional Development - the body which also negotiates the international agreements.

    The Bill has a 'grandfather clause' ensuring current seating allocations are protected for the next five years.

    The Bill also gives the commission clearer guidelines on how to treat 'joint international air services' for the purposes of the Act.

    Item 1 of Schedule 5 alters the definition of 'bilateral arrangement' in subsection 4(1) of the Act. The new definition is much wider, and refers simply to arrangements allowing the carriage of passengers or freight. The old definition was restricted to arrangements allowing the carriage of passengers or freight between Australian and the other country party to the agreement.

    Item 3 broadens the definition of 'capacity' to include capacity allocated under more than one international agreement. The Explanatory Memorandum puts it this way:

    'This definition is deliberately broad, to encompass restrictions or qualifications on capacity, contained in a bilateral arrangement or combination of bilateral arrangements, that the International Air Services Commission may need to make a decisions about in the course of allocating capacity. These may include, but are not limited to, capacity or frequency restrictions on the points to be served, or a combination of these restrictions or qualifications.'

    Item 5 inserts a new, broad definition for 'joint international air services'. This is to assist the commission in one of its duties - deciding to what extent an Australian carrier may use its capacity jointly with any other carrier - section 15(2)(e).

    Contact Officer and Copyright Details

    Bronwyn Young
    18 July 1997
    Bills Digest Service
    Information and Research Services

    This Digest does not have any official legal status. Other sources should be consulted to determine whether the Bill has been enacted and, if so, whether the subsequent Act reflects further amendments.

    IRS staff are available to discuss the paper's contents with Senators and Members and their staff but not with members of the public.

    ISSN 1328-8091
    © Commonwealth of Australia 1997

    Except to the extent of the uses permitted under the Copyright Act 1968, no part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without the prior written consent of the Parliamentary Library, other than by Members of the Australian Parliament in the course of their official duties.

    Published by the Department of the Parliamentary Library, 1997.

    This page was prepared by the Parliamentary Library, Commonwealth of Australia
    Last updated: 22 July 1997



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