Jan 29, 2010

Strengthening maritime security

Strengthening maritime security

The Hon Anthony Albanese MP

The Minister for Infrastructure, Transport,

Regional Development and Local Government

Leader of the House

Member for Grayndler

January 29 2010

The Rudd Labor Government has moved to strengthen security at Australian ports as well as oil and gas facilities to better protect maritime infrastructure from the threat of terrorism.

The Government will introduce changes to the Maritime Security Identification Card (MSIC) scheme in order to:

  • More than double the number of criminal offences that preclude an individual from obtaining the necessary security clearance – from 137 offences to 298 offences. These include murder, use of prohibited explosives, making of a bomb hoax, kidnapping and bribing a government official;
  • Require all MSIC holders to undergo a compulsory criminal history check and ASIO security assessment every two years, instead of every five years;
  • Create a new offence to prosecute MSIC holders who fail to advise their card issuing body of changes to their criminal record; and
  • Create a new offence to prosecute MSIC issuing bodies that fail to suspend an MSIC card once they receive information that an MSIC holder has been convicted of a relevant offence, or fail to cancel the card if the person is sentenced to a term of imprisonment.

Australia is one of only three comparable nations to conduct background checks on people accessing secure areas at ports, ships and off-shore facilities.

The Government’s changes will improve security at Australia’s ports and offshore facilities by strengthening the MSIC scheme introduced by the previous government.

We are determined to get this important area of national security right.

These reforms are the result of a comprehensive review and consultation process that the Government initiated to make sure the MSIC was achieving its original objectives.

All individuals with unmonitored access to security sensitive areas at ports, offshore oil and gas facilities and onboard security regulated ships, must currently hold an MSIC or be accompanied by an MSIC holder.

There are currently about 120,000 MSIC holders which includes truck drivers, oil and gas rig employees and stevedores.

The MSIC scheme is first and foremost about making sure that individuals convicted of offences which may threaten or be relevant to maritime security are precluded from accessing secure areas.

The changes announced today to strengthen the MSIC scheme will apply to all new applicants as well as those seeking to renew their cards.