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Minister Ruddock should check advice on Customs.

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Senator Mark Bishop Shadow Minister for Customs Senator for Western Australia


7 January 2004 ref:cstm.m&pr/02-04

Minister Ruddock Should Check Advice on Customs

Minister Ruddock’s defence of the Howard Government’s performance on Customs is ill informed, Shadow Minister for Customs Senator Mark Bishop said today.

The Minister is too quick to pick up the public relations mantra, and he is advised to check the evidence given by Customs to the Senate Legal and Constitutional Legislation Committee on 3 November last. If it is wrong then Customs ought to correct the transcript.

The Minister’s responses are inadequate.

First, no one suggests that 100% checks of containers is possible, but 3% - or even 6% as the Minister tries to defend - is still absurd.

Second, the Minister should check the transcript at pages 127 -128 where Customs state that 2.1 million containers enter Australia each year. Customs should correct the record if they were wrong.

Third, with respect to export container inspections, at page 129 of the transcript Customs said that: “ the number would be very small … the percentage would be in handfuls”.

Fourth, by the Minister’s own admission, x-ray facilities only operate on weekdays - in four 24/7 ports. What happens at other ports Minister?

Fifth, the Minister would be well advised to ask industry about the operability of security cameras, and at best he should be sceptical about Custom’s advice on security - it is hardly their forte, as we have seen from the August break in and computer thefts.

Finally, the Minister should read page 124 of the 3 November transcript where it is clearly stated that checks of passports by muster of ships’ crew is done only in “ 72% of first port arrivals”.

The fact also remains without contradiction by the Minister, that Customs is short of cash . Cuts are being made to operations, including training and recruitment. $43 million extra is needed to keep Customs operational.

Put simply, the Government has tried to milk national security as a political issue, but in fact the country is wide open. Minister Ruddock should check his advice.

Media Details: Senator Mark Bishop 0419 959 892 or Peter Reece 0414 677 441 Parliament House (02) 6277 3101