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Crime thrives on the waterfront, says former -

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Crime thrives on the waterfront, says former top cop

Simon Santow reported this story on Thursday, June 25, 2009 12:42:00

A former senior police officer has told The World Today not enough has been done to tackle
organised crime in ports and airports for more than 30 years. Clive Small was responding to details
leaked to Fairfax newspapers of an Australian Crime Commission investigation into the issue.

PETER CAVE: A former senior police officer says he's not surprised that there's new evidence of an
alarming level of criminal activity in the nation's ports and airports.

Clive Small won respect as the officer who locked up the backpacker killer Ivan Milat before rising
to become assistant police commissioner in New South Wales.

Mr Small says that gangs have long infiltrated the waterfront and it will take a concerted and
coordinated effort to drive them away.

Simon Santow reports.

SIMON SANTOW: The Australian Crime Commission spent 2.5 years investigating crime in the transport
sector. It used its special coercive powers to gather more than 300 intelligence reports in the
maritime area and almost 100 the aviation area.

CLIVE SMALL: Well there's been documented infiltration of the wharves and the airports since at
least the mid to late 1970s and this keeps cropping up, particularly with the importation of drugs.

SIMON SANTOW: Clive Small was once the assistant police commissioner in New South Wales. The now
retired officer is in no doubt that Australia has a very serious security problem on the waterfront
and in the nation's airports, but he doesn't believe the problem is getting any worse.

CLIVE SMALL: There's been numbers of reviews that have all claimed to have fixed or at least
tightened the security. None of that seems to work and you can only conclude, without being
critical of the review itself, that the implementation has failed.

SIMON SANTOW: And is it a matter of coordination? Is that one of the big problems given the number
of stakeholders involved?

CLIVE SMALL: Coordination is critical but it's not the only solution. If everything else is not put
in place - that is vetting and security of the individuals that go there, appropriate security such
as cameras and other security measures put in place - that all costs money. If they're not all done
then the whole thing will fail. It's not a matter of just fixing one part of the problem. You have
to fix the whole problem or you're wasting your time.

SIMON SANTOW: David Anderson is chief executive officer with Ports Australia and he believes that
the level of crime on the waterfront is being overstated.

DAVID ANDERSON: Criminals will always look for opportunities where they detect those opportunities
and no sector of our economy is free of criminality.

SIMON SANTOW: Mr Anderson says his organisation is being briefed by the Crime Commission.

DAVID ANDERSON: I believe that my Port Authority community can hold their heads very clear in terms
of the investment and effort they've made into this and secondly we have not had any security
incidents on ports that have attracted national attention.

So what I'm saying to you is that the ports are doing the job fairly well.

SIMON SANTOW: The maritime security identification card system is often attacked as being far from
perfect at weeding out workers with criminal links or pasts.

DAVID ANDERSON: I speak for the ports community and the ports community has put a lot of effort
into making it work and working with the agencies involved very closely to ensure that it does.
That's work in progress. So I'm not going to tell you it doesn't have its issues, it does.

SIMON SANTOW: What are those issues?

DAVID ANDERSON: If you endeavour to monitor everybody coming into and out of your port, there are
always going to be issues in terms of the backgrounds and qualifications of the people involved.
Our port authorities are not regulatory agencies. They're not policing agencies. They are not in
the front line in this matter. We use our best endeavours to cooperate and make it work.

SIMON SANTOW: The World Today approached the Federal Minister for Home Affairs Brendan O'Connor
about the issue. Mr O'Connor was unavailable but his opposite number Sussan Ley believes the system
needs serious reform and urgently.

SUSSAN LEY: And the problem is that you can get those cards and that clearance even if you have a
criminal record. It just has to be that you don't have a maritime related or terror or security
related criminal record.

SIMON SANTOW: So what sort of crimes can you be convicted of and still hold that card?

SUSSAN LEY: Petty theft, burglary, white collar crime - there's a long list. I mean unless it's
particularly related to maritime security, that crime cannot rule you out for working on
Australia's docks.

PETER CAVE: Sussan Ley, the Opposition's spokeswoman on customs and justice, ending Simon Santow's
report.