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Australia: Amendments to Aviation Crimes Legislation Passed

(Feb. 14, 2011) On February 9, 2011, the Aviation Crimes and Policing Legislation Amendment Bill 2010 was passed by the Australian Parliament. (Press Release, Hon. Brendan O'Connor, Safer Skies for All Australians with Passage of New Laws (Feb. 9, 2011),
; Aviation Crimes and Policing Legislation Amendment Bill 2010 [2011], Parliament of Australia,
(last visited Feb. 10, 2011).) This bill amends the Crimes (Aviation) Act 1991 to create three new offenses and increases the penalties for a number of existing offenses. The three new offenses are:

  • assault of an aircraft crew member (maximum penalty of ten years of imprisonment);
  • reckless endangerment of an aircraft where danger of serious harm or death can be shown (maximum penalty of 14 years of imprisonment); and
  • having or placing dangerous goods on board an aircraft, where there is risk of serious harm or death (maximum penalty of 14 years of imprisonment). (Id.)

Offenses such as hijacking or destroying an aircraft and being reckless as to whether these action cause death will continue to be subject to a penalty of life imprisonment. The changes reflect a tiered approach to penalties in the legislation, with the severity of the penalty corresponding with the type of offense in each tier. (Senate, The Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia, Aviation Crimes and Policing Legislation Amendment Bill 2010 – Explanatory Memorandum, at 1-2 (2010),

The bill also clarifies the capabilities of the Australian Federal Police (AFP) in policing Australia's 11 major airports. The changes remove doubt regarding the legal basis for state and territory police to swear in AFP members and ensure that arrest and search powers are available to the AFP when enforcing state offenses in the federally-owned airports. (Id. at 4.)

The Minister for Home Affairs and Justice, Hon. Brendan O'Connor, stated that airlines, airports, and unions had provided input into the development of the laws and said that he is “confident that this new suite of offences and penalties will help them to conduct their business in greater safety and security.” (Press Release, supra.)