House of Representatives

Customs Legislation Amendment (Airport, Port and Cargo Security) Bill 2004

Second Reading Speech

Mr Ruddock (Attorney-General)

I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

This bill, the Customs Legislation Amendment (Airport, Port and Cargo Security) Bill 2004, contains amendments to the Customs Act 1901.

This bill contains a number of amendments to a range of Customs activities, all of which contribute to the security of Australia's borders.

The amendments deal with persons who have committed offences and are seeking to enter or depart Australia, the control of goods and people in Customs areas, reporting requirements for certain vessels, aircraft passengers and crew, and the appointment of ports under the Customs Act.

In implementing these measures the government is mindful of the need to find a suitable balance between measures which support Australia's border security and the needs of legitimate travellers and commerce.

The bill contains provisions to enable a Customs officer to detain a person arriving or departing Australia where the Customs officer suspects on reasonable grounds that a person has committed or is committing a serious Commonwealth offence, a Commonwealth warrant is in existence for the person's arrest, or the person is on bail subject to a condition that they not leave Australia and the bail relates to a Commonwealth offence.

In each of these circumstances there is a requirement for the Customs officer to notify and to transfer a person detained under this amendment as soon as practicable to a police officer.

The bill also will enable a Customs officer to question a person in a Customs controlled area about their purpose for being in the area, and to check that the movement of goods in a Customs place is authorised.

The bill will enable Customs to conduct all necessarily checks prior to a ship or aircraft leaving Australia by requiring certain aircraft and vessel operators to provide information about departing passengers and crew at specified times prior to departure.

The chief executive officer of Customs, under this bill, will be able to take into account port security plans prepared under the Maritime Transport Security Act in deciding whether or not to appoint a sea port for the purposes of the Customs Act.

This bill also introduces `all-ports' cargo reporting, whereby reporters will be required to provide advance details of cargo before a vessel or aircraft reaches our shores. This will enable Customs to properly assess the risk of cargo prior to arrival in Australia, rather than on a port-by-port basis as is current practice.

Finally, the bill provides for the timing requirements of impending arrival, cargo, crew and passenger reports for ships on their way to their first port in Australia to be prescribed by regulation.

The bill recognises the importance of border security to Australia's overall national security and the proposed amendments will assist Customs in enhancing this security. I commend the bill to the House and I table the explanatory memorandum.

Debate (on motion by Mr Swan) adjourned.