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Transcript of doorstop interview: Queensland Parliament House Annex, Brisbane: 3 August 2006: Customs' detention mother ship.



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TRANSCRIPT OF DOORSTOP INTERVIEW: QLD PARLIAMENT HOUSE ANNEXE, BRISBANE

JOE LUDWIG - Shadow Minister for Justice and Customs Manager of Opposition Business in the Senate

SUBJECT: CUSTOMS’ DETENTION MOTHER SHIP

DATE: 03/08/06

E & O E - PROOF ONLY

LUDWIG: Good morning.

This is about the tender that’s been put out by Customs. It seems to be another stop gap measure to protect our northern shores. What it seems to be is a patchwork solution to what really is a very serious problem of illegal fishers entering our northern waters.

Customs, through this tender, have put out a boat for hire whereas industry - and I was up in the Northern Territory last week - industry and commercial fishers tell me what is needed is a Coastguard as part of a single integrated border protection agency.

That’s what the solution will be; not a boat for hire.

JOURNALIST: (Inaudible)…

LUDWIG: What you’ve got is 37,000 kms of Australian coastline. One mother ship stationed up in our northern shores is not going to provide the solution that this government thinks it’s going to do.

What you could have is a range of other solutions that could be looked at. You could have small vessels that could ferry illegal fishers back to shore but what this is a detention facility and the detention facility itself will have up to 30 days to put someone on board.

It doesn’t seem to be a very practical solution to me.

JOURNALIST: Is this just an attempt to stop them coming into Australian land?

LUDWIG: Well, it’s certainly going to hold them out at sea for 30 days but in terms of brining them back, they have to bring them back by the most practical direct route if they are going to charge these people, these illegal fishers and take necessary appropriate action.

So what you are going to have is illegal fishers being held on detention in a boat out to sea for 30 days in the ships brig. It seems a little bit cruel to me quite frankly.

JOURNALIST: (Inaudible)…

LUDWIG: Well I’ve got some concerns about the contract itself.

What you’ve got is a tender that require the Customs commercial businesses to provide a boat. The boat will have detention facilities for up to 30 people. It will have to have a crew as well, facilities for them, showers and toilets. It will also have to have a gym the tender requires for up to 30 people, a meeting/briefing room and of course the detention facility itself for up to 30 people. It requires a surgery; it requires a 2 bed sick bay.

This is a significant vessel that is going to be deployed in our northern shores for up to 30 days.

As I said it doesn’t seem practical to have just one boat sitting out in our northern shores to do the task that smaller vessels could in fact do more effectively.

JOUNALIST: Do you think it would be more cost effective to have them on land rather than having a specialised vessel like this?

LUDWIG: What you’ve got is a $10 million contract for 1 year.

It seems ludicrous that you’d expect business to tender for a contract for one year to provide that type of vessel which includes 30 crew, well I should say up to 30 Customs officials, plus crew, plus the detention facility plus a gym and exercise yard, for all of those matters to be held on one ship.

It seems to be more sensible to have a system where you can ferry illegal fishers or those people who have been detained back to shore as quickly as possible so their rights can also be upheld.

JOURNALIST: (Inaudible)…

LUDWIG: Well I’ve got some doubts about it. I wouldn’t be surprised if they have some doubts about it too.

You only have to look at the request for tender. The commercial businesses have to come up with this sort of vessel within a very short space of time.

They want it operational by next year.

When you look at Customs experience with managing contracts, you’ve got to say you will recall the wharf fiasco where really speaking the ability of Customs to

manage an IT contract; it blew out from $30 million to $250 million in a space of a few years.

I’ve got some concerns about whether Customs can in fact manage this contract well and of course even that IT contract; they’re still working on it.

And you’ve also got the detainees to be held on the boat itself, turn around and have look at DIMIA’s record having private security guards looking after detainees.

That’s not a very good record either.

JOURNALIST: (Inaudible)…

LUDWIG: Well it’s not only a bandaid solution; it’s a tactical solution when only an integrated single border protection agency will do. A coast guard would be a much better solution.

Ends.