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Transcript of interview with Chris Kenny: 5AA: 20 December 2012: Customs corruption allegations



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Michael Keenan MP - Federal Member for Stirling 5AA Interview with Chris Kenny December 20, 2012

Topics: Customs corruption allegations

Chris Kenny

We cross now to Michael Keenan who is the Shadow Minister for Justice, Customs and Border Protection and Michael Keenan thank you for joining us. You must be very concerned about these revelations?

Michael Keenan

It is my pleasure Chris and I am very concerned about it and I certainly can’t recall such extensive revelations of corruption within the federal government for many many years. I appreciate that the Minister has made some announcements about what he is going to do moving forward today but the question that needs to be asked of him and of the Government as a whole is how has this been allowed to occur under their watch.

Chris Kenny

Will you be seeking a full and confidential briefing from the Government on what’s gone on here?

Michael Keenan

Yes we certainly will be doing that. Obviously with these things timing can often be difficult but we will try and sort that out. It is up to them to explain how this has actually occurred on their watch at Sydney airport. I think they have not wanted to ask those sorts of questions because since they have come to office in 2007 they have treated Customs very shabbily. They have cut personnel from Customs and they have cut resources from Customs and I think stretching the agency in such a way has made it more vulnerable to this infiltration by organised crime.

Chris Kenny

Firstly at the moment the arrests and the allegations centre around Sydney airport but of course we have points of entry and Customs officers all around the country. Are there any fears that this sort of activity could be in existence elsewhere in the country? Obviously we are broadcasting from Adelaide and we are concerned about Adelaide airport and the ports around here. What about the rest of the country? What is your view on that?

Michael Keenan

I think we do need to be very vigilant at all of our points of entry and certainly anecdotally of course ports and airports are particularly vulnerable to this sort of infiltration by criminals. The scale of what has happened at Sydney airport is astonishing because I think it reflects on the culture of the organisation and that the oversight just hasn’t been occurring so corruption has been able to take root in such a way. Clearly I think all of our points of entry are vulnerable and particularly so because the budget that we have to police these things is just not there because it has been cut so savagely by the Labor Party.

Chris Kenny

But isn’t the issue of blaming budget cuts or staff cuts really missing the point? Obviously it is people who are employed by Customs who are doing this so it is hard to blame the lack of resourcing isn’t it?

Michael Keenan

Lack of resourcing is one of the reasons that makes the agency more vulnerable because it just hasn’t got the people on the ground or the resources to do the job. I will give you an example; they cut $58 million from the cargo screening program when they came to government. As a result cargo coming through Sydney airport has a 75% less chance of being physically inspected than under the previous government. That clearly gives corrupt officials and criminals a better chance at getting contraband into Australia so that is why I am making the linkage between the cuts and what occurred. It is clearly not the only problem but it has contributed and contributed in a significant way.

Chris Kenny

Isn’t the good news here that this activity has been uncovered? Jason Clare has referred to a two year investigation and he is saying that investigations will continue and he will be looking for reform to make sure that this doesn’t happen in the future. It is a lot better to have uncovered this stuff then to be ignorant of it like we were a couple of months ago.

Michael Keenan

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Yes it is very important and I am glad that it has been uncovered. But we need to reflect on the scale of it and why it is that systemic corruption has been allowed to flourish within a federal government agency. I think that is the shocking thing about what has been announced today and we always here rumours about security at our ports and airports but I don’t think many Australians would expect there federal government agencies could be infiltrated to such an extent and that’s why those announcements that people have been caught are very important but how is it possible that this occurred to begin with.

Chris Kenny

The existing law enforcement authorities are continuing to investigate. Obviously some charges have been laid and the Minister is promising more action. Are you happy with what’s happening in terms of investigation and oversight at the moment or does this require some sort of independent investigation?

Michael Keenan

I think that remains to be seen. I think the Government needs to outline what has happened here first and clearly if there are still questions that remain unanswered then an independent investigation is certainly something that could be looked at. ACLEI actually do have quite significant powers to tackle this sort of stuff and they have obviously been instrumental in making these findings today. I think it is up to the Government to explain what has gone on here as they are the once who are ultimately responsible before we have any form of third party inquiry.

Chris Kenny

Just before I let you go Michael Keenan, Shadow Minister for Justice, Customs and Border Protection, as you head off to your Christmas break you must be concerned about the low popularity ratings of your leader Tony Abbott? Why is Tony Abbott so unpopular as Opposition Leader?

Michael Keenan

I am not sure that that is the case. The reality is the Liberal Party has been polling pretty well throughout this year.

Chris Kenny

But Tony Abbott’s personal approval ratings are historically low?

Michael Keenan

Being Opposition Leader is a difficult job and the feedback I get in my electorate is more about how they think the country is being governed and we get a lot of negative feedback about the incompetence of the Labor Party to do the job that they have been intrusted with by the Australian people. Being in Opposition is a tough job. I think we have done a very good job of holding the Government to account and the people will get a chance to make a judgement about that next year.

Chris Kenny

Thanks very much for joining us Michael Keenan.

Michael Keenan

Good to talk to you Chris.

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

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

www.keenan.net.au

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