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Budget reinforces Government's tough on drugs strategy



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MEDIA RELEASE The Hon. W arren Truss, MR Minister for Customs and Consumer Affairs Deputy Leader of the House

Tuesday 12 May 1998 129/98

Budget Reinforces Government’s Tough on Drugs Strategy

The Federal Government has underlined its Tough on Drugs commitment with a Budget allocation of $33.1 million over four years for specific Customs strategies, the Minister for Customs and Consumer Affairs, Warren Truss, said today.

Mr Truss said the 1998 Budget provides funding for key Customs operations in the Torres Strait region, enhancement o f national intelligence operations and analysis, and the introduction o f more sophisticated cargo examination.

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‘ *In 1998-99, $14.4 million is committed to Customs initiatives under the Tough on Drugs strategy,” Mr Truss said.

“In the Torres Strait region, Customs will spend $6.9 million over three years on a secure radio network, small, ready-response vessels to complement helicopter surveillance, and increased helicopter hours, including night operations.

“The Budget also provides funding for upgrading the Customs Marine Fleet, with eight new 35-metre vessels to improve coastal surveillance and response capabilities.

“With this funding, the new fleet will increase Customs’ patrol potential to 1,200 sea-going days a year.

“These vessels will have greater capacity to protect Australia’s 37,000-kilometre border and carry out national and international obligations in the 200-nautical mile Exclusive Economic Zone.”

Mr Truss said Customs expected to take delivery of the first vessels in 1998-99. All eight vessels are expected to be in service by 2001-02.

“They will be built in Australia,” Mr Truss said.

“The additional ready-response vessels for the Torres Strait region will be located at islands where helipads are planned. Customs has called tenders for supply of the vessels and expects to have them in operation from July this year.

“Additional visits to more remote islands through increased flying hours have commenced and have already resulted in increased intelligence.”

Mr Truss said a valuable feature o f the Tough on Drugs strategy was the opportunity it provided to train and employ more Torres Strait Islanders in Customs-related work.

Contact: Ref: CMR10S1

Andrew Hall — Media Adviser — 02 6277 7790 0419 990 776 Email: ahall@dist.gov.au Web sites: http://www.dist.gov.au www.customs.gov.au

Media release from the Hon. Warren Truss MR — Minister for Customs & Consumer Affairs Page 2

“For example, Customs will spend $542,000 over three years for local people to be trained to work as crew aboard the Customs vessel Wciitri, which is based at Thursday Island,” he said.

“Another $525,000 will be spent on establishing Torres Strait Islanders as Customs aides on each of the four islands where the new ready-response vessels will be located. The nature of their roles is being developed in consultation with the Department of Immigration and

Multicultural Affairs, the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service and the Queensland Police.”

Mr Truss said the campaign against drug smugglers and other law breakers would be further enhanced with the continued introduction of state-of-the-art detection technology at air and sea ports. The 1998-99 Budget provides the second stage of a $26.8 million allocation to acquire and upgrade community protection technology.

The equipment includes closed circuit television with remote monitoring for surveillance o f waterfront areas and airports, X-ray units able to detect organic material such as drugs and , it-ems subject to quarantine laws, and particle analysers able to detect minute particles o f drugs.

“Customs will spend $7.3 million for the period 1998-99 to 2001-02 to train and employ up to 18 additional intelligence analysts.

“A further $8.2 million over three years will be used to enhance information links among Commonwealth law enforcement agencies.

“Other funds in this Budget will, over three years, be used to improve cargo profiling and examination ($3.9 million), and set up a cargo examination facility ($5.2 million).

“This Budget further demonstrates the Federal Government’s commitment to its attack on the supply of illicit drugs.”

Contact: Andrew Hall — Media Adviser — 02 6277 7790 0419 996 776

Email: ahall@dist.gov.au Web sites: http://www.dist.gov.au www.customs.gov.au