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Transcript of interview with Steve Chase: ABC News Radio: 17 January 2013: Tackling suburban violence/Customs corruption



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Michael Keenan MP - Federal Member for Stirling ABC News Radio Interview with Steve Chase January 17, 2013

Topics: Tackling suburban violence/Customs corruption

Steve Chase

Mr Clare’s office declined our offer for an interview this afternoon but the Shadow Minister for Justice Michael Keenan has slammed the announcement and he joins us on the line from Perth. Good afternoon.

Michael Keenan

Good afternoon Steve, nice to be with you.

Steve Chase

It is good to have a national approach to violence in our suburbs, surely that’s the right way to go isn’t it?

Michael Keenan

I think anything the federal government can do to make our streets safer would be a positive. Unfortunately since the Labor Party have come to office they have done everything to make the job of state police forces harder. They don’t do the job of the Commonwealth properly in policing our borders and they have significantly cut the funding and the personnel that are available for the federal law enforcement agencies. So for Julia Gillard to say she now wants to do something differently and maybe impinge on the rights of the states to police law and order in their communities, surely the first thing that the Commonwealth should actually do is to do its job properly, which it is not doing at the moment.

Steve Chase

Can you flesh that out a little bit. You said that specifically the Federal Government is getting in the way of state enforcement officers, is that what you’re saying?

Michael Keenan

No I am not saying they are getting in the way of them. What I am saying is they are making their life harder.

Steve Chase

How?

Michael Keenan

Because they are not policing our borders properly. Ever since the Labor Party came to office they have cut 750 personnel from Customs and Border Protection. They have significantly slashed the budget for Customs and Border Protection and that means when cargo comes through our ports and our airports it is very unlikely to be screened. The screening rates for cargo coming into our country are now significantly less than under the Howard Government. It has given criminals a better chance of getting guns and drugs onto our streets and all of this is happening at the same time that they are reducing the funding and personnel to the law enforcement agencies, such as the Australian Crime Commission and the Australian Federal Police. The Commonwealth is not pulling its weight in this area. In fact they have systematically attacked the Commonwealth’s ability to help the states enforce law and order.

Steve Chase

But they are doing something about it now. Before Christmas, as you are aware, they set up this taskforce to look at Customs specifically. That surely will lead to something by way of federal action?

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Michael Keenan

No, what they have done is respond to the fact that they have uncovered systemic corruption within Customs. They have responded to it in a way that hasn’t actually done anything positive to address the issue yet and of course this systemic corruption has occurred under their watch. It has occurred because Customs has been so significantly targeted for cuts by the Labor Party since they have come to office and clearly that has allowed a culture within Customs, particularly within Sydney Airport, to develop, where organised criminals were able to pinpoint those weaknesses and exploit them.

Steve Chase

In you statement today you say that slashing Customs and Border Protection has meant more opportunities for criminals to put drugs and guns on the street. Give us some concrete figures of how many guns? How much drugs?

Michael Keenan

I can’t give you those concrete figures but we can rely on the anecdotal evidence that we have. For instance the Sylvania Waters post office incident that we had last year where over 200 handguns were smuggled into the country. Now that wasn’t uncovered by federal law enforcement officers, that was uncovered by the NSW Police. What I am saying is when you weaken the agency that patrols our borders then criminals are going to have a better chance of exploiting those weaknesses and that’s what we are saying happens.

Steve Chase

So what would the Coalition do if they were in Government?

Michael Keenan

The first thing we have got to do is reverse those savage cuts that the Labor Party made. $58 million dollars that was taken out of the budget that Customs has to screen cargo when it comes into Australia. We will reverse that cut. We also need to move to undo the damage that has been done over the past five years in terms of the neglect of our other law enforcement agencies and we won’t be able to do that overnight but we will certainly prioritise those frontline law and order services that the Commonwealth provides and we will make sure that the Commonwealth actually does its job properly, which should help the states to enforce law and order on our streets.

Steve Chase

So that’s a firm promise in the first year you do all that?

Michael Keenan

That was part of our policy in 2010 election and it is still certainly part of our policy now. We will reverse that cut as soon as we get into office.

Steve Chase

Michael Keenan we will have to leave it there.

Michael Keenan

Nice to talk to you Steve.

Ends…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

© Authorised by Michael Keenan MP, 203 Wanneroo Road, Tuart Hill WA 6060

www.keenan.net.au

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