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Vanstone fails to stop customs reorganisation.

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The Hon Duncan Kerr MP

Shadow Minister for Justice and Customs

Shadow Minister for the Arts

Federal Member for Denison


7th May 1999




Customs Minister, Amanda Vanstone has failed to stop the b reaking up of the Customs Service, Shadow Justice and Customs Minister, Duncan Kerr, said today.


“The Federal Government is set to strip between 1,200 and 1,400 staff from the Customs Service,” Mr Kerr said.


“A new agency - ‘Border Australia’ - will be set up by the amalgamation of these staff from Customs, 500 from the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service (AQIS) and 80 from the Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs.


“Customs will be stripped of its commercial functions which will be transferred to the Department of Industry, Science and Resources which will be responsible for tariffs, anti-dumping and collections.


“Moves in this direction were first proposed in a secret report to the Minister for Finance, John Fahey, to find cost savings in border control.


“The so-called Sturgess Report (named after its author, Gary Sturgess, a former key adviser to the Greiner Government) was handed to the Howard Government last September. The secret report is understood to have recommended the setting up of a single border agency and was critical of the management of Customs.


“it is also understood to have suggested the new single border agency could be established outside the Public Service Act with a corporate structure similar to Employment National, raising fears of outsourcing and future privatisation.


“Opposition from Senator Vanstone to the proposal saw the report pigeonholed, but recent public anger over large boats sailing down the east coast of Australia, as far south as New South Wales, without detection, weakened her position.


“The Government has dusted off the Sturgess report, and staff in Customs now believe announcements will be made in the next few days.


“The Minister appears to have confirmed that an announcement is imminent in Senate Estimates this week by stating ‘I may be able to say more with respect to the Sturgess Report at the next meeting of this Committee, which is in a fortnight’.


“Labor rejects any quick fix,” Mr Kerr said.


“The Sturgess Report was commissioned to get cost savings and set up border control for privatisation.


“The weakness in Australia’s border security needs a more comprehensive solution than simply dusting off an old, presumably rejected report and re-presenting it as a solution to a major problem it wasn’t designed to address.


“The Government will try to present this as a good news story - as if they are taking action quickly after recent breaches of coastal security.


“Labor will not be satisfied with re-badging a cost saving report. We are wary of ‘pea and thimble tricks’ after the ‘cost savings’ the Government imposed on law enforcement during their last term,” Mr Kerr said.


Contact: Duncan Kerr 0418 125 161