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Thursday, 19 March 1987
Page: 987

Senator BUTTON —On 17 March Senators Chaney and Archer asked me some questions about newspaper reports relating to the Australian Customs Service. At that time I undertook to provide further information as I obtained it regarding the substance of the questions. I have a further answer which I seek leave to have incorporated in Hansard.

Leave granted.

The answer read as follows-

Investigation officers have spoken to Mr Malkoun. He knows the identity of the officers whom he claims have made allegations to him about other personnel in Customs, but he has not identified them.

From the viewpoint of the Australian Customs Service, it is intolerable for Customs officers to provide information anonymously and expect that the matter raised can be brought to a satisfactory conclusion while their anonymity is maintained. Similarly, the ACS cannot accept the position taken by Mr Malkoun. Nonetheless I am informed that the Investigation Officers are making every effort to establish the identity of the anonymous complainants.

A question was asked about officers' concern about the Internal Affairs Unit. I understand Mr Malkoun has indicated that he has confidence in the Director of the Unit. However, at this stage Mr Malkoun claims that two officers have said to him they lack confidence in the Director. The Director of the ACS Internal Affairs Unit is well qualified in the investigation field-he was a former Commissioner of the Australian Capital Territory Police Force. He commands that utmost respect from other law enforcement agencies and there has not been one question about the probity of his Unit.

I provided a response to Senator Archer about particular cases under investigation in the Australian Customs Service. I would like to add to those details. I can confirm that, following investigations by the Service, certain particulars were provided to the New South Wales Police which led to a former Customs officer being charged under State legislation with attempting to dishonestly obtain money. That case is currently before the Court and it would not be appropriate to comment further.

I also mentioned that a Customs officer had been charged before the Queanbeyan Court. The officer was charged by the New South Wales Police with receiving and the case is due to come up on 6 April 1987. He has been suspended from duty. Another officer has been charged under the Public Service Act in relation to the alleged improper destruction of spoiled beer and the Collector of Customs New South Wales, in terms of the prescribed disciplinary proceedings, is considering what action needs to be taken against the officer.

I believe that the management of the Australian Customs Service has made it quite clear that any complaint or suspicion against any officer regardless of his or her level will be vigorously investigated and the full impact of the law will be applied against any offender. The Comptroller-General of Customs maintains that the great majority of Customs Officers deplore any instance of corruption, whilst it is acknowledged that such cases can occur. I too have confidence in the integrity and dedication of the vast majority of Customs Officers.