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Tuesday, 21 August 1984
Page: 9


Senator TEAGUE —Does the Minister for Industry and Commerce still maintain, as he told television reporters in Sydney on 24 July, that the Young Customs affair was simply 'an unfortunate misunderstanding'? Does the Minister intend to apply the same generous criteria to other violations of Customs regulations? Is he concerned that the credibility of the Australian Customs Service has suffered because of the lenient way in which the accident-prone Mr Young was treated? Finally, given that the Minister remained almost mute during the public debate on the Young affair when, if ever, does he intend to reply to freedom of information applications by members of the Opposition, including Senator Rae, Mr Howard and Mr Spender, for relevant documents?


Senator BUTTON —On 24 July in a television interview-one of those door stops or whatever one calls them-I did describe the Young matter as an unfortunate misunderstanding. I have no reason, as a result of the publication of the Black Report on an Inquiry into the Circumstances Surrounding the Making of a Customs Declaration, to alter that description of the incident.

I do not believe that the credibility of the Customs Service has been damaged in the way suggested by Senator Teague. In fact Mr Black found totally to the contrary in respect of the Customs officers involved. One of the benefits of the Black inquiry, I believe, was that that finding was made by Mr Black in conducting that inquiry when allegations which were about might have been left in the air if the inquiry had not been appointed.

I am accused of remaining mute in the course of this matter. It is a posture which I would recommend from time to time to a number of Opposition spokesmen who did not remain mute on the matter and who no doubt will have an opportunity in the next day or two to debate what they had to say. Some quite extraordinary statements have been made by Opposition leaders in respect of this matter over the period of the blissful ignorance which they enjoyed.

In so far as the requests for material under the freedom of information legislation are concerned, they will be dealt with as soon as possible and the appropriate answers provided.