Regulations and Determinations: Aviation Transport Security Amendment (Security Controlled Airports) Regulations 2019

13 May 2020

Disallowance

Senator Patrick (South Australia): I move:

That the Aviation Transport Security Amendment (Security Controlled Airports) Regulations 2019, made under the Aviation Transport Security Act 2004, be disallowed.

It's worthwhile understanding a little bit of history as to why this disallowance has been lodged. In response to an Inspector-General of Transport Security report, the government announced back in May 2018 an intention to upgrade security at regional airports. All senators and most Australians would be familiar with the sort of equipment that would be installed in these airports—body scanners, luggage screening equipment and so forth. They also announced a $50 million grant fund to cover the capital costs of the equipment across more than 50 airports. All good so far.

I'll just park that there and go back a couple of years to a Senate committee that was running in parallel to all of this, inquiring into the operation, regulation and funding of air route delivery to rural, regional and remote communities. I have to pay considerable applause to the senators involved in that inquiry. Senator Barry O'Sullivan was on that committee, as was Senator Glenn Sterle, who played a big part in that inquiry. I also sat on that committee. During that committee inquiry we were made overtly aware of this particular plan and a number of holes that were in the plan—holes in the execution of it.

The first hole was a shortfall in funding for some of these regional airports. I will talk about Whyalla on a couple of occasions tonight but Whyalla airport is a good example. If you want to install equipment into Whyalla airport, firstly, you've got to have a big enough terminal, and Whyalla airport is not that big. It's particularly important if you want to have both screened and non-screened flights. It requires a larger terminal so that you can have a cleared area and a screened area. Certainly, the funding that was made available didn't contemplate that. I will acknowledge that the government has moved, in terms of ground, to help out some airports with terminal modifications.

Perhaps the biggest problem was the fact that there was no funding to cover the operational expenses, the operational costs. The interesting thing, and the committee basically revealed that, was that there were no studies done. Someone inside Home Affairs looked into the security issue and made a decision—and I'm sure there are good reasons for those decisions and the committee were briefed, to a certain extent, in relation to those reasons—but no-one looked at the problem holistically. No-one looked and said, 'What effect does this have?' There was no RIS carried out either, which makes me wonder whether or not the Office of Best Practice Regulation is doing its job properly.

We now know that the cost is well over $1 million each year to run Whyalla, which is a doubling of the operational costs for the airport per annum. There were no studies done. As a result—and this was the good work of the committee; once again, former Senator Barry O'Sullivan played a big part in this—we impressed upon the department of transport that they had to do some case studies, and off they went to do some case studies. To conclude, and it's really important in the context of this disallowance, what the inquiry found—and it won't come as a surprise to anyone who's gone anywhere near the bush—is that airfares to regional and remote communities are high.

The other factor we need to take into consideration is that regional air routes are the lifeblood of regional communities. They're the way in which we get medical services to the bush. They're the way in which we get medical services to regional centres. They're the way in which people in regional centres hook up with education services. They're the way businesses and agriculture connect with suppliers in the cities. Indeed, they're the way in which families make connections with people in the cities.

The committee found that you can have a situation where a doctor ends up getting frustrated about not being able to get back to Adelaide or Brisbane or Perth on a regular basis, because of the expense—and it is hugely expensive for people in the bush to get their families to the cities—and they leave. When a doctor leaves, suddenly three teachers decide to pack up and go because they don't want to live in a town where there's no doctor. We know, right across this country, there are problems in relation to doctors being available in regional communities. So it is really important that we make sure air services are maintained to these regional centres.

We took evidence from Qantas, Rex and Virgin, but, with my focus on South Australia, Qantas made it very clear that there's not a lot of margin on each seat. You increase the fare by just a little bit and suddenly there's no profit for the airline. Rex was very prescriptive about it. They said that they operate at $10 per seat; evidence to the RRAT committee last week made that clear. That's what they make for every seat, for every flight, if averaged over a year.

If you impose a charge upon a local council, because that's who mostly operates these airports, they pass that on by way of landing costs to the airline and the airline passes it on to the passenger. When the airfare goes up, particularly in some of these remote areas, the competition to the airline is not necessarily between Qantas and Rex but between Rex and the road. People take to the road. That causes a number of problems, in terms of safety and people being tired. Someone who needs to get to a medical appointment might need to drive seven or eight hours to get to that appointment. It creates a more dangerous situation. I'm not making this up. I believe the airlines. Just over the last four or five months in South Australia, and this is before COVID, we saw Rex pulling services out of Mount Gambier. We saw Rex announcing that it was leaving Kangaroo Island. We've seen the cessation of flights to Port Augusta.

We have to look beyond our capital cities. The people in the bush are fantastic and they're doing a whole range of stuff to supply us with food, fabrics, all that sort of stuff. They're really important, and we cannot continue to just lump costs upon them. We cannot continue to make things harder for them.

I'll go to the study that resulted from the pressure that came from the 2018 RRAT committee inquiry. There have been transport department case studies done. The first of the two I've focused on, and this won't surprise you, is Whyalla. The airfares in Whyalla will go up by $52 per passenger. These are not my numbers; these are the department of transport's numbers. This is already on top of the very expensive fares that the RRAT committee heard about last week—that it's cheaper to fly from Adelaide to Bali than it is to fly from Adelaide to Whyalla. That is the evidence the committee received. That's an unacceptable proposition. If this regulation is allowed to continue, we will see services from Whyalla dropped—no question. Just as people like Sanjeev Gupta are trying to put their foot on the accelerator there, we'll have the government putting on the handbrake.

We also took evidence from Armidale last week. I asked the CEO: 'What's the increase in ticket prices as a result of the security screening?' He said: 'I'm not really sure, Senator.' Then we took evidence from Fly Corporate, who fly into Armidale. They made it very clear that the air route most at risk in that little network was in fact Armidale to Brisbane. They said: 'It'll be on the rocks.'

But now we have COVID-19 and the aviation industry has been completely turned upside down. One of the two major carriers in this country has gone into administration. And we are having to prop up Qantas, Rex and other carriers to make sure we at least have some limited services going into our regional centres. I compliment the government on their response in relation to COVID-19. However, there is no question that what's going on here is unfair to people who live in the regions. And it will harm them; it will be devastating for them; they will lose services. This is just another example of chipping away at regional areas. At the end of it, we will look back and say that a bunch of bureaucrats made these decisions without proper consideration as to the effect—people who clearly don't get outside of the territorial limits of Canberra.

I want to make it very clear that my seeking disallowance of this regulation is not about airport security; I support airport security. It's about sharing costs; it's about being fair about how we distribute costs. People in the regions are paying for security but the threat is most likely in the city where they arrive. So we've got people in the regions putting their hands in their pocket to pay extremely high airfares, and they are doing so in the interests of the people in the cities. This is a national security requirement; it should not be a local council cost; it should be looked at nationally.

I acknowledge that there are a number of people in this place who have helped to examine this. Senator Sterle and Senator McDonald, the chair of the RRAT committee, have done a good job in teasing out all of these issues. We are well aware of what's going to happen here. We need to protect people in the regions, we need to stand up for people in the regions, so I ask senators to vote for my disallowance motion.

Senator McKenzie (VictoriaLeader of the Nationals in the Senate): A sustainable and vibrant regional aviation industry is essential to move our people and our products from the regions to capital cities and the world. Senator Patrick, you've laid on the table a lot of the issues with the Australian regional aviation industry currently and historically. The Nationals have been champions of regional aviation for decades. We have held the ministry. We have built and developed this industry. We have opened up regional Australia so that people can head off to essential services and to visit family, and also so that our products can get to the markets of the world and the professional service industries can make their way into the regions. And, increasingly, we've been able to develop a very healthy regional tourism industry on the back of our regional aviation industry, and that has meant a lot of local jobs. It's not just our ministers who have driven that; it is our National Party senators in this place; it was the former chair of the Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport Committee in this place, Senator O'Sullivan. He was a significant champion for the regional aviation industry, as was Senator Williams, from New South Wales, and as is the current chair and great champion for regional aviation Senator McDonald.

Ensuring the safety of the broader Australian community means that we do need to implement appropriate security measures at domestic airports right across the country, and that includes airports in regional communities. But make no mistake: as the Australian community is the beneficiary of that infrastructure, so too should the entire Australian domestic air travel industry pay for that infrastructure. The Nationals Senate team is not supporting the disallowance motion as we welcome moves by the government this week to ensure costs incurred by regional airports to implement improved security screening measures will not be passed on unfairly to regional travellers. The Nationals in the Senate negotiated a positive outcome with the government to ensure travellers do not face disproportionate cost increases, particularly at a time when regional aviation is reeling from the consequences of COVID-19.

I'd like to thank the Minister for Home Affairs and the Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development—our own leader, Michael McCormack—for ensuring this happens. As Nationals, we won't take a backward step in standing up for our communities, because that is exactly why they sent each and every one of these senators here: to stand up and negotiate a positive outcome for our communities, which is what we've been able to achieve.

When travel restrictions are lifted we want people to visit the regions. We don't want costs to replace COVID as an impediment to those visits. We support security screening, but right now regional tourism is stagnant and we need to kickstart it again. Adding costs to regional air travel is the wrong thing to do in a post-COVID-19 environment.

This builds on our existing commitments. The Nationals applaud our government's commitment to regional aviation—particularly, in light of the pandemic, agreeing to operation costs for the foreseeable COVID pandemic period for those regional airports. Despite the pandemic, a minimum domestic network servicing—the most critical metropolitan and regional routes in Australia—continues to operate, and that's thanks to the investment by our government. Underwriting the cost of the network comes in addition to more than $1 billion of federal government support for our Australian aviation industry. The network includes all state and territory capital cities and major regional centres such as Albury, Alice Springs, Coffs Harbour, Dubbo, Kalgoorlie, Mildura, Port Lincoln, Rockhampton, Tamworth, Townsville and Wagga Wagga. Our support is delivering affordable access for passengers who must travel, including our essential workers such as frontline medical personnel and Defence personnel. Our action is also supporting essential freight such as critical medicine and personal protective equipment. And all this complements the actions the federal Liberal and National government has already taken to underwrite international flights to get Australians home during this very, very difficult time.

The Nationals in the Senate won't take a backward step in standing up for rural Australia. We look forward to the measures from our government that will ensure that Australians both are safe as they travel and can afford to head out to the regions for work or for fun. And I am very much looking forward to the contribution from a champion of our regional aviation industry and chair of our RRAT committee in this place, Senator McDonald, because she has been intimately involved in the hearings and this investigation since she's arrived.

Senator Keneally (New South WalesDeputy Leader of the Opposition in the Senate): Labor supports regional security upgrades at our airports. We think our regional airports should have proper security in place. What we think should also happen is that a government should implement those regional airport security upgrades in a way that is not ham-fisted, does not punish regional communities and does not put the future of regional airlines or regional airports into doubt, but that is exactly what is happening under this government's plan to upgrade security at regional airports.

We have heard testimony in this Senate that Whyalla Airport probably can't survive if this government persists with its regional security upgrades in the way they've designed it. We have heard evidence in this place that Rex Airlines think that several of their routes will not be economically viable if the government persist with the program they have started to upgrade regional airport security. We have heard evidence in this place that Armidale Airport says that this Liberal-National government's program of upgrades at regional airports will definitely hurt regional airports.

It is all well and good for the Nationals to come in here and say that they want these costs shared across the entire country, not foisted onto regional airlines and airports, regional councils and regional airline passengers. It's all well and good for the Nationals to say that's what they want, but it is exactly what this Liberal-National government is doing. Make no mistake: if the government, this Liberal-National government, proceeds as it has started—if it does not change the design, the implementation and the cost structure of these security upgrades at regional airports—we will see regional airports in this country close, we will see regional airline routes shut down and we will see regional people paying more to take a flight. That is simply what's going to happen. It is simply the outcome of the government's ham-fisted, short-sighted, 'shove everything onto the regions and let them bear the cost' approach to upgrading airport security in regional communities.

Liberal Senator Rennick went to these hearings. He called for what Senator McKenzie says she wanted. He called for the cost to be shared across all of Australia and not just foisted onto regional communities. Senator McKenzie says she wants it. You know what? I want it. I agree with Senator McKenzie—there has got to be a better way than what this Liberal-National government is delivering. The difference between me and Senator Rennick, and the difference between me and Senator McKenzie, is they are in government. You are in government. You could fix this. Don't just come into the Senate, don't just come into—

Senator McKenzie interjecting

Senator Keneally: Oh, she says she is. Well, then, why couldn't the Department of Home Affairs—she stands in here and praises the Minister for Home Affairs in the other place, Minister Dutton—answer the most basic questions in front of the RRAT committee? They could not. They would not commit to the type of cost structure that Senator Rennick proposed. They disregarded it. So it's all well and good for Liberal and National senators to come in here and say, 'Here in Canberra, rah, rah, we're for the regions,' but they fail to deliver any actual change in the government's implementation, definitions, requirements or, indeed, cost recovery for these regional airport security upgrades.

The government can fix this. What will not fix this is Senator Patrick's disallowance motion. I think Senator Patrick has good intentions in his heart. I think his motives are pure. But I think he's using the proverbial sledgehammer to crack a walnut here. I think that Senator Patrick's motion would send the wrong message to the community, because it would actually cancel the security upgrades at regional airports. It would actually do away with them. It would mean that four of our airports, three of them in Senator Patrick's own home state, would no longer have a security upgrade in train.

Senator Patrick interjecting

Senator Keneally: Senator Patrick is interjecting on me here. He's had his go. He's had his 15 minutes of fame on this. But I regretfully say to you, Senator Patrick: while I think your motives are pure, your method is not—I won't say that it's mad; it's just not one that we support.

So Labor will not be supporting this disallowance motion. This is the government's problem to fix. Regional Australia have a problem. The government is the threat to their ability to access affordable flights or indeed to have an airport in the community at all, and it is up to the government, this Liberal-National government, to fix it.

Senator McDonald (Queensland): I rise to speak on the disallowance motion relating to the Aviation Transport Security Amendment (Security Controlled Airports) Regulations 2019. Unlike Labor, the National Party know where the regions are and we fight for the regions every day. We don't just talk about it; we deliver, and that's what we've done tonight.

I'd like to start by affirming my support for the minister's actions in taking these additional steps to secure passenger security. Last week I chaired the Regional and Rural Affairs and Transport Legislation Committee hearing into the introduction of additional security measures to regional airports. These security changes were proposed on the basis of a recommendation arising from a report of the Inspector of Transport Security, ITS, titled Review into security at Australia's security regulated airports. This report contains information that is protected under the Inspector of Transport Security Act 2006. Protected information under this act includes information or documents obtained or generated in the course of exercising powers or performing functions under the ITS Act. The release of the ITS report would have a substantial adverse effect on the proper and efficient conduct of the operations of the Department of Home Affairs, and the inspector recommended that this report not be made public.

But, sadly, the world is now a place where airport security is an important element for our national security and, most importantly, for our safety, and we rely on the evidence and the advice of experts like the ITS to provide the most up-to-date advice to ensure our airways remain the important connection between regions and cities and that they remain safe. Labor spent a considerable amount of time going over and over a line of questioning over this confidential advice, which was a real distraction from the most important issue, which is: who pays for us to enjoy the national umbrella of safety?

The decisions taken by the Minister for Home Affairs in this regard are important, and I doubt that anyone of any intelligence would question the outcome of greater security utilising the best available technology. I, like every National Party member, undertook to come to this place to represent the people who live in the very places where aviation was born in Australia and to respond to the potential impacts of security charges on regional aviation. The current security measures generally in place at most airports in Australia are as a result of the tragedy of September 11, and the responsibility for ensuring these measures rests with each airport, which is designated as the screening authority charged with operating the security functions. This includes the cost of the procurement and maintenance of capital equipment and also the cost of the screening personnel. These costs are typically recovered via a per passenger charge that is collected by the airlines on each ticket sold and passed back to the airports.

Regional aviation is critical to the success of regional Australia. It allows people to stay connected to their broader communities, to their families, sporting events and holidays, to businesses and to tourism. The ability to fly from Brisbane to Charleville meant I didn't have to drive eight hours in the middle of summer, at six months pregnant, for a much-loved cousin's wedding at Tambo which otherwise I could not have attended. Flights also give people easy access to the Stockman's Hall of Fame at Longreach and the Australian Age of Dinosaurs museum near Winton. Longreach holds the nation's soul in its dusty streets, and the Qantas museum, the Stockman's Hall of Fame and Cooper Creek sunset tours are all must-do tourist activities. And just two hours up the road Winton has a world-registered dark sky sanctuary, where stargazers congregate for crystal-clear views of the heavens. The town also has the Waltzing Matilda Centre and the Australian Age of Dinosaurs museum, where it is impossible not to be infected with museum founder David Elliott's enthusiasm for Australia's prehistoric past, when monsters roamed the outback.

But to give you some perspective: Winton is 500 kilometres from Townsville, 760 kilometres from Rockhampton and nearly 1,200 kilometres from Brisbane. Driving there through the outback is a special event, but many people are denied the opportunity to visit these towns. I hear city based friends talking of mini-breaks. They have the luxury of jumping on a cheap flight to another capital city for a weekend away. The low cost and high frequency of city-to-city flights is completely unimaginable for regionally based Queenslanders. Mount Isa, Roma, Emerald and Rockhampton are all regional centres that value commercial flights so highly. Miners and boarding school kids fill and empty these airports with well-practised ease. High-vis clothes, hard hats and Western hats mix together as miners arrive and depart, and country kids come home from boarding schools excited and leave glassy eyed with emotion. Last time I left Mackay airport, a lady needed a hand. She was travelling to Brisbane for cancer treatment. She was alone. She had no family to get her there or to meet her, but air travel allowed her to get to the specialist 11 hours drive away. In Mount Isa a family considers whether to travel to Townsville to watch their beloved North Queensland Cowboys play. They could drive 10 hours each way but often opt to fork out $500 each to fly, and that's if they're lucky, because surge pricing around Cowboys games can push the costs up significantly. Christmas holidays can feel not very Christmassy at all. Usually, I can fly with the kids for about $300 one way, but last year, on 13 December, I was caught out when airfares skyrocketed to $900 per person one way. Fortunately, it was not an unplanned trip for a funeral or a family emergency or even for a business emergency requiring expert help to be flown to a regional area, which adds significant costs to any regional business. Hopefully, this is painting a picture for you of an essential industry for the many people who live and work in regional Australia, where the tyranny of distance has such a huge effect and where price fluctuations due to airline policies, privatised airports and government regulation make the necessity of air travel horribly expensive for tourists, for families and for business.

When each of us come to this place we come with a sense of purpose, of who we fight for and who we represent. We know the places we come from and the things that are so important to our communities and our people, because people matter. In my maiden speech only last year I spoke about the chasm between city and country, between the people who generate the great wealth of this nation in agriculture, mining and tourism and the cities, where we all seem to need to get to.

One of the silver linings of this corona crisis is the realisation of what we can now do with technology. Remote working, online education, telemedicine, wi-fi notifications and verifications from mobile phones have all come forward at a pace that would not have been imaginable without the urgency of a pandemic. But one of the things we have not been able to solve is how to move ourselves one place to another in a way that is both affordable and safe. It costs 86c for each person to be processed through security in Sydney but more than $30 per person in a regional centre. At Townsville airport this charge is presently $2.71 per departing and arriving passenger and in Mount Isa it's $6.22. Industry is very mindful that these costs are an impost on travel, especially for smaller regional airports, where the costs are typically higher due to low economies of scale. Remember that these are all numbers generated on pre-COVID modelling and numbers.

From January 2021, body scanners and advanced CT X-ray scanning equipment will be introduced at many airports, including Townsville. This will require major redevelopment works. While the federal government has provided funding for the works, airports will have to factor in the increased cost, which will eventually be borne by air travellers. Practically speaking, I understand that the cost of screening would have been invoiced as a lump sum to each airline, who in turn would have claimed it back from the federal government. It is an arrangement that had industry support, but it seems to me, as it seems to my National Party colleagues, that these are all variations on the cost to deliver a single nationwide security network. A nationwide security network allows for a single price to be charged across the nation to cover the great throughput in Sydney and the much less frequent travellers regionally. If we require a nationwide solution then it goes without saying that a nationwide price is the answer.

Costs such as these do not seem significant, but as a retailer in my previous life I know how pricing changes can make the sale of a certain item vary considerably. It does not take a huge increase in costs to push a product out of the reach of average consumers, and in regional areas this can be a factor in stopping a young family moving out there to take one of the many well-paying and stable jobs that so desperately need to be filled.

As I considered these changes, I was forced to study the two incredibly important issues of national security and the costs of living in regional Australia in the one instrument. I support the Minister for Home Affairs in his decisions around where and how security screening is carried out. I believe with every fibre of my being that, as a nation, we cannot accept differential pricing to be loaded onto regional communities to achieve the nation's outcomes. I sincerely thank the minister for his work in reconsidering these costs in this regard.

As we move through this coronavirus crisis and international travel remains somewhere in the distant future, the success and availability of domestic travel will be critical to rebuilding tourism in this nation. I expect that state tourism bodies across the land are currently pitching marketing ideas to lure Australians to Cable Beach in Broome, to the Australian Age of Dinosaurs Museum at Winton, to Whyalla, to Roma's Easter in the Country Festival and to Mindil Beach Sunset Markets in Darwin. Now is a critical time to be ensuring that regional Australians get a fair go—a fair go to attract Australians to see the very best that we have at a price they can afford and in the safe environment that they expect. Again, I want to acknowledge my National Party colleagues for their incredible determination to stand with me to negotiate a better deal for regional airports.

Senator Rice (VictoriaDeputy Australian Greens Whip): I'm rising today to convey the Greens' support for this disallowance of these regulations, the Aviation Transport Security Amendment (Security Controlled Airports) Regulations 2019. In considering whether the Greens were going to support the disallowance of these regulations, I basically was taking three issues into consideration. One: will these regulations actually make aviation and air travel safer? Two: if they do, then what are the costs of doing so and, as the debate tonight has already touched upon, who pays for those costs? Three: are these regulations—these new security arrangements, this solution that has now been quite a long time in the making—and the costs that they are going to impose upon regional airports fit for purpose in this new era that we are now in? It is absolutely certain that, in this COVID-19 era—and I actually won't say post-COVID, because I think it's going to be around for a long time—aviation is going to be very different. We are not going to be going back to as it was before.

Underlying all of this is—as it sounds like there is unanimous agreement across this chamber—that aviation is of fundamental importance, connecting regional communities with each other and connecting regional communities with the capital cities. It is critical for people who live, work and visit regional communities to have safe, efficient and affordable air travel. It's something that those of us who live in the cities take for granted—that we can travel affordably to other parts of our country. But I know that it's not something that can happen. The quote that Senator Patrick told us, of it being cheaper to get to Bali from Adelaide than it is to get to Whyalla, underlines the craziness and how the cost of aviation across this country is not fairly apportioned.

Going back to my three points on deciding whether we were going to support this disallowance: firstly, will these new security regulations actually make air travel safer? I certainly think having better screening at airports is great. You would think it is likely to make air travel from any airport that has these new screening procedures safer than it was before. But there are still regional airports around Australia that aren't going to have any screening. There are still airports where, because of the small throughput of passengers, the decision has been made that it's just not worth the cost impost to be putting this screening in. The passenger load is not high enough and the risk is considered to be low enough. But that raises the question: if you're actually trying to do damage and do harm, and you know which airports have screening, why wouldn't you actually go and board a plane from one of the airports that hasn't got screening?

The whole notion that putting in increased security at particular airports is going to make aviation safer overall is questionable. If we had a model that said, 'Yes, we are having screening at absolutely every airport,' then you could say, 'Yes, that is definitively going to make aviation safer.' In all of the considerations through committees—the RRAT committee and the various inquiries in which we've been talking about this—I am yet to be convinced and yet to see a watertight case that these new security measures are definitively going to make aviation that much safer.

Secondly, let's put that aside and say, 'Yes, it definitely will be safer.' Then what are the costs of doing so and who should pay for those costs? A risk assessment is made. When aircraft that carry over 40 passengers go through airports, those airports will have to have these security measures in place. We've heard that it's going to cost a million dollars a year in Whyalla. We've heard from Senator Davey that it will cost $30 per person in regional airports. There is a cost to doing so. What I had not heard until I heard it in this chamber in the last half an hour is how these costs are going to be apportioned fairly. Up until now, it has been said that the owners of the airports, which are usually local governments, are going to have to pay for these costs. And then those costs are going to be passed on to the travelling public, making already unaffordable regional air travel even less affordable.

I'm very interested to hear the contributions from our Nationals senators about what they have negotiated. I actually want to hear the announcement. Come on, tell us! What is the nationwide solution? What is the nationwide price that has been negotiated? What has been negotiated to show that regional Australians won't face disproportionate cost increases and that these costs won't be passed on unfairly? This is in an entirely new context in which we are considering this disallowance motion today. If they were really wanting to get all of this chamber to not support this disallowance, all of the information should have been put on the table. We should have heard an announcement from the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister standing side by side today to say how the new cost arrangements were going to occur. I'm sure Senator Patrick might have considered withdrawing his disallowance motion. But we haven't heard that, so we just have to take it on trust, on faith, that somehow the Nationals have negotiated a better deal. I want to see that better deal, otherwise these new regulations are going to put an unjustifiable, huge cost impost on regional Australia. It will undermine the wonderful regional tourism attractions, the regional economic incentives and the desire to decentralise.

That brings me to my third point. In the hearing that the RRAT committee had last week we asked (a) if they have modelled what the cost is and (b) if they have modelled what the cost is in the COVID-19 environment. But it hasn't been done. Exactly what the economic impact of these extra costs is going to be has not been modelled. It certainly hasn't been modelled looking at it in the environment we are now going to be in. We know that aviation is not going to be the same as it was before. There's not going to be a quick snap back for aviation, with everybody flying again. Travelling regionally, nationally, internationally—there is a lot of shaking down to be done. It's going to be a whole new world we're looking at. Have they done the work on what the impact of these costs in this new, post-COVID-19 environment is going to be? No, they haven't; they haven't done that work. Given that, it seems to me that the only responsible thing to do is to not impose these extra costs on regional Australia. I would be very happy to see these regulations disallowed and then for the government to realise, 'Okay, we're going to have to think through this a bit more thoroughly and work out how to get these changes—how to make air travel safer, how to make air travel more affordable for people right across our country—in a more equitable way,' and that's the work that has not been done so far. That's the work that the Greens want to see being done to actually work out what is the future for aviation in Australia in a post-COVID environment. How do we apportion the costs fairly across the whole community? In the meantime, with that work not having been done, we are very happy to support disallowing these regulations.

Senator Reynolds (Western AustraliaMinister for Defence): The government does not support this motion. The Aviation Transport Security Amendment (Security Controlled Airports) Regulations 2019 deliver on recommendations made by the Inspector of Transport Security to enhance the safety of regional aviation.

Senator Patrick (South Australia): I rise in my right of reply. I thank all senators for their contribution tonight. I am pleased to hear that there's a change in mood from the government in relation to this. What I heard the Nationals senators say is that there will be no cost throughout the COVID period for security—that's actually already been announced—but that they will move to a model where there is nondifferential pricing right across Australia. If you go back to my recommendations in the original Senate inquiry that we did in the last parliament, you'll find exactly that recommendation in there, where we looked at airport security from a national perspective. I'll just make the observation, because I would like this put to a vote, that politics is about positioning. It's not about policy; it's about positioning for the right policies. I think work across the last month or so, as this motion's vote came to a final point, has forced the government to do something. I think all in the chamber can take some credit for forcing a change. I will move the disallowance and ask that it be voted upon. I accept that there is an offer of future change that appears to be on the table, but the government will have to follow through with that.

Question negatived.

Senator Rice(VictoriaDeputy Australian Greens Whip): by leave—Acting Deputy President, under the standing orders, I ask that the Greens be recorded as supporting the disallowance.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT: It is so noted.

 

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