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Transcript of interview with Nick McCallum: 3AW Drive: 20 December 2012: Allegations of corruption within Customs



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Michael Keenan MP - Federal Member for Stirling 3AW Drive with Nick McCallum December 20, 2012

Subjects: Allegations of corruption within Customs

Nick McCallum

Today we learn that there are some Customs officers that are corrupt. They stand accused of aiding and abetting drug traffickers allowing shipments to go through unchecked, allowing money to leave the country unhindered and turning security cameras away or off during corrupt activity. All this after the Department was warned in 2007 that their anti-corruption measures were not up to scratch and their training wasn’t either, they apparently did nothing about it. Now the Government would not talk to us about this today, but Michael Keenan, who is the Shadow Minister for Justice, Customs and Border Protection agreed to speak with us today. Good afternoon to you Mr Michael Keenan.

Michael Keenan

Good afternoon Nick, nice to be with you.

Nick McCallum

First of all, why do you think these problems have emerged in the Customs department?

Michael Keenan

Well I think for a number of reasons, but one of the serious contributing factors is that since the government changed in 2007, funding and personnel to Customs has been savaged by the Labor Party at every budget. At least 750 people have been cut out of the agency and significant funding cuts including one of $58 million from the budget for Customs cargo inspections. So I think a number of factors including budget and personnel cuts have contributed. I also think we need to have a long and hard look at how they were employed by the agency and how they were able to past tests that make them appropriate employees, where clearly some of their backgrounds leave a lot to be desired.

Nick McCallum

Mr Keenan the Government today announced a taskforce to examine the alleged corruption within the department, is that enough?

Michael Keenan

I don’t think it’s alleged, I think it’s proven. I think the announcements that were made today are a step in the right direction. The Government was very keen to talk about what they’re going to do in the future but I think we need to understand how we got to this situation in the first place and what has happened in the past that has allowed corruption to flourish to this extent within a

federal law enforcement agency. It’s really the scale of these revelations today which points to a cultural problem within the organisation beyond what you may think it could be if it was just one or two people who may have been involved in this type of behaviour.

Nick McCallum

And just finally, do you think because the asylum seeker debate has dominated our politics, we have had so many more asylum seekers come into the country, do you think Customs has been waylaid with that and has taken their eyes off the ball right in their own backyard?

Michael Keenan

Absolutely, I mean they’re stretched incredibly thin by the fact there has been personnel and budget cuts but also that their focus has had to be dealing with illegal boat arrivals, and that is why I think it is difficult for them to do the sorts of things that we expect of them. So as well as controlling people coming to Australia it’s also important to focus on what’s coming into Australia and stopping drugs, contraband and guns - these are the sorts of things we don’t want on our streets. But to be able to do that, they need the people and need to have the resources and clearly they don’t have either of them at the moment.

Nick McCallum

Ok Michael Keenan, Federal Shadow Minister for Justice, Customs and Border Protection, thanks for your time.

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

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

www.keenan.net.au

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