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Tuesday, 17 February 1987
Page: 29

(Question No. 1532)


Senator Jones asked the Minister for Industry, Technology and Commerce, upon notice, on 19 November 1986:

(1) What was the level of Customs seizures of (a) heroin; (b) cocaine; (c) cannabis and (d) other prohibited drugs at Australian airports or seaports by Customs agents in the years 1984-85 and 1985-86.

(2) How many Customs officers were employed at airports and seaports in those 2 years.

(3) How many Customs agents are employed at airports and seaports at the present time, and what are the employment projections for the future.

(4) How many currently employed Customs officers are specifically in the drug detection area.

(5) What measures are in place to step up drug surveillance in view of many reports of potential increases in smuggling and the emergence of the cocaine based killer drug ``smack''.


Senator Button —The answer to the honour-able senator's question is as follows:

(1) The following table provides details of drug seizures at Australian air and sea ports during the years 1984-85 and 1985-86:

Air

Sea

kg

no.

kg

no.

Heroin-

1984-85 ...

29.2

23

1.0

1

1985-86 ...

36.9

24

0.0

1*

Cocaine-

1984-85 ...

6.8

8

0.0

0

1985-86 ...

15.1

11

0.0

0

Cannabis-

1984-85 ...

460.9

95

2,882.8

11

1985-86 ...

94.9

68

2,302.9

11

Other**-

1984-85 ...

20.7

3

0.0

0

1985-86 ...

98.0

3

0.0

0

* Quantity too small to weigh (e.g. `6 cannabis seeds')

** Consists mainly of small quantities of amphetamine

(2) It is difficult to provide meaningful figures of the number of officers engaged in Customs barrier activities solely at air and sea ports. Some 2000 ACS staff, including clerical officers, work in Barrier Enforcement related areas. These areas have responsibility for pro-cessing cargo, international mail, shipping, aircraft and passenger and crew control. Remote area activities, marine resources and Customs intelligence also fall within the Barrier.

(3) The Australian Customs Service (ACS) does not have a separate category of officers known as ``customs agents''.

(4) While the interception of illicit drugs is a primary concern to all officers engaged in these various processing areas, the Customs Barrier is responsible also for the interception of quarantinable goods, weapons and illegally imported or exported wildlife.

(5) Closed circuit television systems are being upgraded at major international airports to enhance the drug detection capability of the ACS in passenger pro-cessing areas.

Following the National Drug Summit in 1985, the ACS was allotted 60 additional staff for deployment on an expanded patrol program at sea and air ports.

In 1986, the ACS has expanded the staffing of the Barrier Primary line by 64 staff units. This move is enabling the Service to adopt a more thorough and deliberate approach to passenger processing with the view to ``raising the risks'' for drug importers.

Equipment acquisition programs, including X-ray machines, radios and vehicles, are better equipping officers to mount the anti-drugs campaign.

These moves are in addition to a revised Customs strategy in remote areas, some additional funding for which was also provided as part of the Government's National Campaign Against Drug Abuse.