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Monday, 13 May 1985
Page: 1862

Senator JACK EVANS(9.55) —A further appeal has been made to the Australian Democrats by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Chaney) to have this matter referred to the Senate Standing Committee on Finance and Government Operations. I thought that he and the Government may be interested in the Democrats' response. I have indicated previously that we are very anxious to see the Customs Administration Bill pass. We are very keen to see the reorganisation, the restructuring and the new operations of the whole of the Australian Customs Service introduced at the earliest opportunity. For that reason, and only for that reason, we will not be accepting the amendment proposed by Senator Chaney.

One needs to recognise that the inquiry which has been proposed in these terms of reference would take many months. I indicated that it would certainly be well into 1986 before the Finance and Government Operations Committee would be likely to report back to this chamber. In the meantime the drug runners and the organised criminals of this country would run rampant because they would know that there was a disorganised and demoralised Customs Service operating on the borders of this country. The quicker we get the restructuring under way, the quicker it is recognised that we have an effective, efficient Customs Service in this country, the better it will be for the great majority of Australians. The only minority who will be disadvantaged will be the potential drug runners, the potential illegal immigrants, the potential importers of goods that should not be coming into this country.

I hope that the Opposition recognises that the Australian Democrats do take on board the comments that have been made. The Department of Industry, Technology and Commerce and the Minister for Industry, Technology and Commerce (Senator Button) must have looked at all of these matters before this Bill was introduced. We expect governments to do that. I am just a little surprised that Senator Chaney, who was in government for many years, is not conscious of the fact that not only do governments have the responsibility for doing these things but also it is not the role of the Opposition to behave as though it were the Government and take over those responsibilities while it is in opposition. Therefore, I now indicate that the Australian Democrats will be opposing the amendment, which if passed, would defer and delay this legislation as a result of its referral to the Finance and Government Operations Committee.