There is a disconcerting lack of transparency in the Coalition's work on national security legislation. As the Independent National Security Legislation Monitor has said, '...it is no longer enough for any government or minister to say 'just trust us' or 'if you knew what I know you would be satisfied''. But the Human Rights Law Centre notes that 'since September 11, intelligence agencies have been given sweeping new coercive powers to access our private information without a warrant, lock up people not suspected of a crime, punish whistleblowers and more. Agencies have received a massive increase in resources. Yet accountability and transparency measures have lagged badly'.
It is therefore disconcerting to see a number of gaps in the information provided in relation to this bill. The Explanatory Memorandum (EM) specifies that security testing changes will enable the Government to 'meet recommendations accepted from the Inspector of Transport Security and the International Civil Aviation Organization to expand the scope of system tests to a wider range of security measures', but without providing any information on where those recommendations are from. The Inspector of Transport Security's recent review has not been published.
Similarly, while the Explanatory Memorandum says that the changes to training and qualification requirements for screening officers are a response to a report by the Inspector of Transport Security, there is no public information to verify that.
The Explanatory Memorandum explains that 'test pieces' are used by aviation security inspectors during their work, to test if 'security obligations set out in the Aviation Act are being met by aviation industry participants'. But while the EM specifies that 'test pieces are designed to be inert and not cause harm', there is no matching requirement in the bill itself. This issue was highlighted by the Senate Standing Committee for the Scrutiny of Bills.
The Senate Standing Committee for the Scrutiny of Bills also noted that exemptions to the training and qualification requirements made by the Secretary will not be legislative instruments. At the very least, the Coalition should consider the recommendation made by the Committee that there be a report on the number of exemptions provided, and how many people they applied to.
The Australian Greens recommend that the bill be amended to address these deficiencies.