Jun 25, 2012

Ministerial Statement on the Retirement of the Inspector of Transport Security and Tabling of the Offshore Oil and Gas Resources Sector Security Inquiry Report

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler—Leader of the House and Minister for Infrastructure and Transport) (12:53): I speak today to recognise the recent retirement of Mr Michael John Palmer AO APM from his role as the Inspector of Transport Security – a role he has discharged admirably since his appointment in 2004.

I also rise to table the most recent report from Mr Palmer, the Offshore Oil and Gas Resources Sector Security Inquiry, which I received on 7 June 2012.

Firstly, I’d like to take some time to discuss this important report which I announced in February last year.

I have previously updated the House on the importance of this inquiry – the first-ever comprehensive review of the security of the oil and gas sector that employs more than 10,000 Australians, contributes 2.5 per cent of Australia’s GDP and generates an impressive $28 billion in revenue.  

The reserves in north-west of Australia, the Bass Strait and the Timor Sea provide employment for our nation, income for our economy and energy to the world.

In fact, Australia is the world’s ninth largest energy producer.

We need to ensure that we have effective security arrangements in place and the right response capabilities in the event of an incident or attack on offshore oil and gas exploration and production infrastructure.

This is all the more important as current and future exploration continues to push out into deeper and more distant waters to satisfy the increasing worldwide demand for oil and gas resources.

The report is thorough – drawing on detailed input and consultation with state and territory governments, industry and peak bodies such as the board of the Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association (APPEA).

Indeed, industry’s input was critical to the development of this report and I would like to thank them for their generous and honest interactions and contributions – simply put, the report would not be of the quality it is today without the access, aid and assistance they provided.

With the sector’s assistance, Mr Palmer and his team undertook extensive Australian and international consultation to better understand, review and assess security planning and preparedness, recruitment, training, government and industry interaction, command and control arrangements, response capacity and clarity, and communication and information sharing arrangements in the oil and gas resources sector environment.

In preparing the Report, the team conducted 31 offshore and onshore visits and over 50 consultations in Australia as well as eight offshore and onshore site visits and 45 consultations internationally.

These spanned Western Australia, the Northern Territory, Queensland and the Bass Strait, and the Joint Petroleum Development Area in the Timor Sea through to site visits organised by the United States Coast Guard to facilities in the Gulf of Mexico.

The Inquiry also benefited from a legal framework, research and discussion paper, prepared by the University of Queensland, which was considered as part of the preparation of this inquiry report, informing the Inquiry on the current and relevant international and Australian maritime law.

The final result is an Inquiry of impressive depth with ten detailed recommendations, spanning issues ranging from onsite security audits and inspections; security access, exercise and exclusion zones; through to Government and industry interaction and relationships; incident response; and importantly in the current computer age, cyber security.

In addition to the recommendations, the report details ‘possible options’ in response to the recommendations raised.

Furthermore, drawing upon the learnings from the offshore and international consultations, it details a further ten possible “approaches” for consideration, based on the United States, North Sea and our own experiences as to what has worked successfully and what could be further improved.

In summary, the report highlights an important point.

We can be confident that our security measures are international best practice.

However, it also highlights areas where current security-related practices and arrangements could be improved, and suggested options in order to do so which will warrant further consideration by government.

I thank Mr Palmer for his work on this important issue and for his detailed report, which I table for members and commend members to read in detail.

And while thanking Mr Palmer I’d also like to acknowledge his contribution.

For those who may not be aware, Mr Palmer is a 35 year career police professional. 

He brought to this report and his role as the Inspector of Transport Security  extensive experience in policy leadership and reform in the community, national and international policing sector.

It is a difficult role, requiring the investigation of transport security matters – including major transport incidents – or where necessary, patterns of incidents which may indicate possible weaknesses in our transport security systems.

Of course, it is also a position that requires significant vision to proactively identify where transport security arrangements could be further improved.

And Mr Palmer has done so with distinction. 

It has certainly been a busy time during his tenure, undertaking a number of very important inquiries in addition to the Offshore Inquiry.

His work included the Surface Transport Security Assessment, the Sydney Airport Security Screening Review, and the Ferry Security Inquiry.

Of particular importance was Mr Palmer’s International Piracy and Armed Robbery at Sea Security Inquiry, which looked into the worldwide issue of maritime piracy and armed robbery at sea, and considering the effectiveness of security arrangements of Australian Ships in light of this threat.

This work has directly resulted in Australia making a significant contribution to the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime Counter Piracy Program.

Indeed, the Report has been used by a number of Nations when developing their response to piracy and has ensured that Australia has in place an appropriate security framework to deal with maritime threats.

Of course, these inquires – past and current – were in addition to his inquires conducted for other portfolios, such as the Inquiry into the Circumstances of the Immigration Detention of Cornelia Rau and more recently the Risdon Prison Complex Inquiry, undertaken for the Tasmanian Government.

But of course, Mr Palmer’s contribution to Australia goes beyond his most recent work inquiring to matters of national importance.

I mentioned he has had 35 years as a police professional; a career which started as a Member of the Northern Territory Police in 1963 where he served Territorians for 16 years.

In 1983, after having acted as Barrister at Law in Queensland, he returned to the Territory as a Commissioned Officer, before being promoted to Commissioner of the Northern Territory Police, Fire and Emergency Services in 1988.

It was also this time that he received the Australian Police Medal.

In 1997, he was selected as the Member for Asia to the Interpol Executive Committee where he served for three years.

Here he worked as part of the Executive Committee to supervise the delivery of the decisions of the Interpol General Assembly and prepare the agenda and programme of work for the General Assembly’s consideration.

It was also during this period that he was rightly recognised for his work in introducing far reaching anti-corruption processes in the Australian Federal Police, receiving the Officer of the Order of Australia in 1998.

It was of no surprise that upon his return he was promoted – this time to Commissioner in the Australian Federal Police, where he served for a further 7 years.

Finally, before taking up the role as Inspector of Transport Security, he worked for a number of years as a private consultant and as an Associate Professor at Charles Sturt University’s Australian Graduate School of Policing – providing a valuable opportunity to pass on his wealth of knowledge and insight into both the law and law enforcement to the next generation of leaders.

Indeed, his academic pursuits have been notable – from being conferred a Doctor of Letters for his advancement of policing, to his extensive writing on modern police practices, including as the co-editor of the authoritative law enforcement text – “Police Leadership in Australasia”.

In closing, it is always very sad to lose such a wealth of experience and judgment.

However, I am pleased to note that he will continue to contribute to public life through his ongoing work in the human rights and not-for-profit sector, and future engagements in the public and private sectors.

I sincerely thank Mick Palmer for his many decades of service to the safety of the nation and wish him all the very best in his future endeavours.