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Tuesday, 17 March 1987
Page: 754

Senator CHANEY —My question is to the Minister for Industry, Technology and Commerce, unfortunately not in his capacity as the assistant to Inspector Clousseau but rather as the Minister for Industry, Technology and Commerce. I refer him to various reports on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation and in the Sun-Herald and the Times on Sunday news- papers concerning the efforts of a senior Customs investigator, Mr Frank Malkoun, to investigate various complaints. I ask: Is it a fact that Mr Malkoun was looking into allegations of unauthorised movement of shipping containers and failure to examine containers of cargo which had been targeted by the Customs Intelligence Unit? If that is so, what did those inquiries reveal? Is it also a fact that within the past two weeks Mr Malkoun has been taken off his assignment, and, if so, why? I further ask: Are inquiries continuing into the allegations and, if so, who is conducting them?

Senator BUTTON —I have been advised by the Comptroller-General of Customs that the Internal Affairs Unit, staffed on a needs basis by an independent person qualified to investigate corruption allegations of this kind, is treating these allegations very seriously. The matter referred to in the media reports refers to information given in confidence and anonymously by several Australian Customs Service officers to Customs investigation officer Malkoun in which these officers expressed dissatisfaction with practices in cargo control and suspicions regarding the conduct of some officers. Mr Malkoun reports that the officers were unwilling to take their allegations to the Internal Affairs Unit of Customs. A report subsequently prepared by Mr Malkoun was based on hearsay, rumour and unsubstantiated comments made in each case anonymously. The Collector of Customs in New South Wales has appointed two senior and highly experienced investigation officers to take up this investigation; but the point is made that, unless the anonymous officers who made these allegations earlier are prepared to provide more detailed information, there may not be much hope of satisfactorily resolving the question.

Senator CHANEY —Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. I ask the Minister whether the officers are anonymous in the sense that their identity is not known to Mr Malkoun. I further ask: Is there any suggestion that they were not prepared to go to the Internal Affairs Unit because of concern about the propriety or trustworthiness of that Unit?

Senator BUTTON —I cannot answer that question in the specifics which Senator Chaney seeks. I assume from the information which I currently have available that their identity is known to Mr Malkoun. I am unable to speak of their concern or otherwise in regard to going to the Internal Affairs Unit.

Senator Chaney —Could you find out and let us know?

Senator BUTTON —Yes. I will certainly try to obtain an answer as soon as possible.