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Tuesday, 4 June 2013
Page: 5247


Mr CLARE (BlaxlandMinister for Home Affairs, Minister for Justice and Cabinet Secretary) (18:58): There is a lot there, so I will take it step by step. First, it is a little bit rich of the opposition to ask and criticise the government about savings or about cuts when they have to make $70 billion worth of cuts and when they have said themselves that they would reduce the Public Service by 12,000. When they have made the direct criticism of the government, that there has been an increase in the Public Service of 20,000 and when the Leader of the Opposition has said that there are 20,000 people who are not necessary and when those 20,000 people—

Mr Keenan interjecting

Mr CLARE: They include federal police officers and they include people in the previous agencies that I administered, members of the Australian Defence Force. So by saying that those 20,000 public servants are not necessary, the opposition is indirectly saying: 'We don't need those federal police officers and we don't need those members of the Australian Defence Force.' Over and above that we know that, when the Howard government came to office, they sacked 30,000 public servants. So the prospect of public servants being sacked could be bigger than 12,000, could be bigger than 20,000—and it could be as many as 30,000. The shadow minister himself has refused to rule out cuts to Customs and Border Protection. He was quizzed about this at the doors last year. He was asked the question four times and he ducked and weaved four times but, eventually, when pressed into a corner, said, 'It's impossible for me to give that guarantee.'

Mr Keenan interjecting

Mr CLARE: You did say that at the time. The shadow minister said, 'It is impossible for me to give that guarantee.' The opposition have refused to rule out cuts to Customs. Criticism is made here that the government has reduced staff yet the opposition have refused to rule out about making the same savings themselves.

The budget for Customs and Border Protection is bigger now than it was under the Howard government. The departmental appropriations for Customs in this budget are an additional $12 million. Total net resourcing, as was explained in estimates, is down because Customs is no longer required to pay refunds to cigarette importers for the non-plain packaged tobacco products destroyed as a result of the introduction of tobacco plain packaging policy. Forecasts for these types of refunds are included in Customs total net resourcing.

The budget for passenger facilitation is up, the budget for trade facilitation is up and the budget for civil maritime surveillance and response is also up. All of these areas of the Customs budget are up. And the agency is more successful.

I released the illicit drug data report two weeks ago, which outlines the success of Customs as well the Federal Police have had in seizing more drugs than ever before, specifically in the area of air cargo. It is worth making this point because the shadow minister has been very critical of the work Customs does in the scanning and seizure of illicit goods from air cargo.

Opposition members interjecting

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: Order!

Mr CLARE: These are the statistics: in 2007 when the member for Stirling was a member of the Howard government using untargeted mass screening, Customs detected 870 parcels containing drugs and other prohibited items in the air cargo system. Last financial year, using criminal intelligence and targeting, Customs detected 2,100. So the criticism that is being made by the shadow minister that changes to screening have led to more drugs and more weapons coming into the country are laid clearly here to be false claims by the opposition by the simple fact that the amount of drugs and other contraband being seized by Customs has now more than doubled in air cargo because of the changes we have made and because of the focus on using intelligence.

Mr Keenan interjecting

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: Order! The member for Stirling has asked his question.

Mr CLARE: The statistics speak for themselves. If you ask any law enforcement officer what is the key to seizing things at the border or seizing them on the street, they will tell you it is criminal intelligence, invest in criminal intelligence. That is why in addition to the other measures in the budget we are funding a $30-million national intelligence targeting centre that has been suggested by Customs and Border Protection and other agencies to fuse together all of the intelligence necessary to make sure that we identify and seize illicit goods attempted to be imported into the country.