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Transcript of doorstop interview: 20 December 2012: Customs corruption allegations

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Michael Keenan MP - Federal Member for Stirling Doorstop Interview December 20, 2012

Topic/s: Customs corruption allegations

Michael Keenan

Good morning and thank you very much for coming out here today. We have heard revelations this morning in the media and also from the Government about systemic corruption within the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service. These allegations are the most serious allegations of corruption in a federal government department that I can remember for many decades and the implications of this are very

disturbing. The Minister has announced that he is going to respond with several measures. I welcome those announcements but I think the threshold question we need to be asking ourselves today is how has this been able to occur. The Federal Government has been generally corruption free for a long time. To have it revealed that organised criminals have infiltrated a federal government law enforcement agency is

incredibly serious and whilst what the Government is doing in response to that is welcome, we need the Labor Party to explain how under their watch has this been allowed to occur. One of the reasons why they are not asking themselves that question is because some of the answer lies in the fact that since the government changed in 2007 the budget for Customs and the personnel for Customs have been significantly slashed. 750 people have been cut from the agency under the Labor Party’s watch. Every Budget they have had funding cuts, including, very significantly in this case, a $58 million cut to the budget that Customs has for cargo screening, which means cargo coming through our international airports is 75% less likely to have been inspected by a Customs officer then under the previous Government. Whilst this is not the whole answer to what’s occurred, clearly Customs are stretched so thin and these resourcing cuts have come at a time when they are stretched very thin with the border protection crisis of illegal boat arrivals. The fact that the agency has been stretched so thin is one of the reasons why organised criminals have been able to get a foothold and infiltrate the agency in this way.


So you are saying that this has been overlooked simply because there isn’t enough staff?

Michael Keenan

What I am saying is the fact that there are not enough people and not enough money available to the agency then that has been a contributing factor to this lack of oversight, which has allowed a culture to breed where organised criminals have been able to infiltrate. When you are dealing with an agency that is so stretched, then the opportunities that criminals can exploit is going to be enhanced, which has occurred in this case. This is why I think the Labor Party is not asking itself the hard questions about why this has actually happened.


Do you think this is the tip of the iceberg?

Michael Keenan

The Minister indicated today that he expected more arrests so I do think there is more to be said about what’s happened and clearly with what we know already this corruption is already on a systemic basis. That is the shocking thing. To have an individual, even two individuals, involved in this sort of activity is shocking but to have it on such a systemic basis is really extraordinary and I certainly don’t recall it occurring in federal government for many decades. That is why it is not enough to just come out and say we are doing these things in response to that. We need to understand what has actually happened to allow this to occur when the Labor Party are on watch.


They have created a board to deal with it, do you think that is too little too late?

Michael Keenan

No I welcome that announcement. The people who will sit on that board are very significant Australians who bring extraordinary experience to the job. But it doesn’t answer the fundamental question about why it is that we are dealing with these allegations of corruption today. Yes the board is welcome. Yes the other measures that the Minister announced today are welcome but the threshold question is what has actually happened within Customs at Sydney airport today that has required these measures to be taken. We still don’t know the full extent of what has gone on but from what we do know it is very clear that there is an enormous failure of oversight from the Government.


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

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