$19.6 million 'removed' from air cargo security

The government has been grilled for removing an air cargo security program's funding from this year’s budget

$19.6 million 'removed' from air cargo security
$19.6 million 'removed' from air cargo security

By Sean Muir | May 28, 2012

The government has been grilled in the Senate for removing
an air cargo security program's funding from this year’s budget.

During a Senate estimates hearing last week, South Australian Senator David Fawcett questioned Transport Security Office Executive Director Paul Retter about $19.6 million not being ‘reprofiled’ in the budget for
an air cargo security initiative.

"‘Reprofiled’ is a very interesting word for removed, slashed or cut," Fawcett says.

"Could you talk about the aims of this program now given that funding appears to have been removed? How is it going to be funded? How are the outcomes going to be achieved?"

The government announced the Strengthening Aviation Security initiative in 2010.

The package aims to protect Australia’s international and domestic aviation security regime against emerging threats, by introducing more air cargo examination and a Regulated Shipper Scheme.

Retter says the government’s policy intent is the same despite the funds not being ‘reprofiled’, but says the approach to the program will obviously change slightly.

"Therefore, that is an issue that we will take up with industry in terms of how the equipment, where it is required, is introduced where it is appropriate in the supply chain," he says.

Retter says the government will now take a phased approach in implementing the program, focusing first on international export cargo and then on domestic cargo.

"We are doing that for a number of reasons, mainly because of what we perceive to be both our international obligations—indeed, those things that we have signed up to do—and because of the risk profile for export versus domestic."

Retter could not give details on how much had been spent on the program since it was announced in 2010, but says policy consultation continues.

"We have an ongoing dialogue with the cargo industry in Australia through the cargo working group, which deals directly with security-related policy settings, regulations and initiatives," Retter says.

"We have been in ongoing discussion with the industry relating to both the announcements from February 2010 related to the Regulated Shipper Scheme and the enhanced air cargo inspection regimes. We also have extensive consultation planned, and indeed it has already occurred in a number of workshops around Australia in 2011 and ongoing workshops this year."

Retter says industry stakeholders are encouraged to take part in
ongoing consultation.

"Timely and detailed provision of feedback (including air cargo statistics and logistics information) from industry stakeholders will be critical to achieving an outcome that is practical for industry while meeting the security objective of a strengthened air cargo supply chain," Retter says.

A spokesperson for Transport Minister Anthony Albanese says the security initiative will be implemented by 2014, when industry negotiations are finalised.

"The negotiations with the industry haven’t been finalised, and weren’t going to be finalised in time for the money to be spent in the coming financial year so we are looking at a 2014 date, in terms of the policy implementation, subject to the completion of negotiations," the spokesperson says.

An Australian Logistics Council (ALC) spokesperson says the council looks forward to ongoing consultation with the Office of Transport Security.

"From ALC’s perspective, we will continue to work with the Government on the design and roll out of this security measure to ensure the needs of the freight logistics industry are fully taken into account," the spokesperson says.

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