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Tuesday, 4 June 2013
Page: 5246


Mr KEENAN (Stirling) (18:55): Again, my questions are directed to the Minister for Home Affairs. I want to talk about the Customs budget and, in particular, the effect of the cuts on the Customs budget both in funding and personnel and what services will be reduced by the agency in relation to these cuts.

The minister has previously confirmed at a press conference our figures that the Customs service has been cut by 750 officers since the Labor Party came to office in 2007. I believe that figure to be about 850 in relation to this year's budget. I wonder whether he would care to confirm that figure. That is, if you take the final year of the Howard government, the staffing of Customs and what the staffing in Customs is currently, the loss of officers would be about 850. I think the minister would agree that that is a very significant manpower from an agency that now only has 5,000 officers. Well over 15 per cent of the personnel within that agency has been cut. I would ask the minister to confirm that in his comments.

Secondly, the latest budget figures have revealed an overall reduction in funding for Customs by $61.4 million. Where is this money coming from? There is also a $14 million reduction in funding for the Border Protection and Enforcement program. What aspect of this program has this been taken from?

As I said, there has been a further reduction of 120 staff in this budget. Could the minister illuminate the House on, firstly, where personnel cuts have been taken from in relation to all of the Labor budgets handed down since they came to office and, in particular, the 120 staff members from this budget?

The budget also shows that aerial surveillance has been reduced by a further 11 million square nautical miles each financial year, from 2014-15. Given that we have had an enormous increase in the volume of illegal boat arrivals, particularly in the last two months, does the minister feel that it is sensible to reduce aerial surveillance in the out years? Or is it the fact that within his portfolio areas that they are taking a lead in the same way as Immigration—that is, that they are budgeting within their figures for the forward estimates for a dramatic reduction in illegal boat arrivals? If that is the case, then could the minister highlight to the House the policy prescription that he believes will allow that to happen?