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$124 million boost for the fight against illegal immigration.

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Prime Minister





The government has agreed on a $124 million four year programme to strengthen Australia’s capacity to detect and deter illegal arrivals.


Illegal immigration is a growing globa l problem with an estimated 4 million illegal entries worldwide each year, and worth some $10 billion dollars to increasingly well organised and sophisticated people smuggling syndicates.


The measures to be taken by the government represent the most comprehensive changes to coastal surveillance since the establishment of Coastwatch in 1988.


They include:


• Two additional Dash 8 aircraft to extend the footprint and intensity of Coastwatch’s aerial surveillance, particularly along the east coast (see map)


• An additional night capable helicopter to be deployed in the Torres Strait


• The establishment of a national surveillance centre at Coastwatch’s Canberra headquarters with electronic links to state government agencies and Defence establishments


•  A new position of Director-General of Coastwatch reporting directly to the CEO of the Australian Customs Service. The position will be filled on secondment by a senior officer of the Australian Defence Force. Liaison arrangements between Coastwatch, Defence and other agencies will also be strengthened.


• Expanding Australia’s capacity to detect and deter illegal immigration from source and transit countries through posting twelve immigration officers to major source and transit countries, including as air port liaison officers at key airports.


• Conclusion of bilateral agreements with source and transit countries for cooperation on people smuggling issues and to provide for the return of illegal arrivals


• Strong support for the conclusion as soon as po ssible of a protocol on people smuggling to the proposed UN Convention on Transnational Organised Crime


• Establishment of a high level Information Oversight Committee, chaired by the Office of National Assessments (ONA), to coordinate information and in telligence on people smuggling


• Introduction of comprehensive legislative amendments which the Government will put before parliament shortly to strengthen maritime investigatory and enforcement powers to complement legislation on stronger penalties agai nst people smuggling.


These and other measures to which the government has agreed are contained in the report of my task force on coastal surveillance chaired by the Secretary of my department, Mr Max Moore-Wilton. A list of the task force’s recommendati ons, all of which have been accepted, is attached. Additional resources will be provided to implement the recommendations, with agencies to absorb personnel costs where there is capacity to do so.


When fully implemented these measures will greatly enhance Australia’s capacity to deal with the increasing threat of illegal immigration. Each illegal arrival in Australia costs some $50,000 in processing costs, and illegal boat arrivals pose potentially devastating quarantine consequences for Australia’s $13.5 billion agricultural industry.


With 37,000 kilometres of coastline and 9 million square kilometres of ocean to cover, no Australian coastal surveillance system can be foolproof. But the measures I am announcing today will greatly strengthen the current system. They are a sound investment in the integrity of Australia’s borders, and represent a more cost effective solution than the creation of an Australian coastguard or transfer of the coastal surveillance function to the Defence force.


I have written to all the Premiers and Chief Ministers advising them of the decisions. I have also asked Mr Moore-Wilton to brief his state and territory counterparts on the implementation of the measures.


I would like to thank all the members of the task force for their report. I would also like to thank all those, including state and territory governments, who made submissions to the task force.


27 June 1999








Recommendation 1


That an Information Oversight Committee be established immediately of relevant agencies to coordinate the gathering and analysis of information and intelligence on people smuggling; and to oversee arrangements to facilitate intelligence exchanges with oth er countries confronted by people smuggling.


Recommendation 2


That an additional 7 DIMA compliance officers be placed overseas in key Asian (Shanghai, Guangzhou, New Delhi, Colombo), African (Nairobi and Pretoria) and Middle East (Ankara) cities to detect and deter illegal immigration by boat and to strengthen information gathering. The cost over four years, including some local support, will be in the order of $9 million.


Recommendation 3


That since illegal immigration by air far exceeds illegal boat arrivals, and some illegal boat arrivals begin their journey with a plane flight, additional resources be provided for 5 additional DIMA airport liaison officers (ALO) in Bangkok, Denpasar, Dubai, Kuala Lumpur, and Singapore. The cost over four years will be in the order of $5 million.


Recommendation 4


That people smuggling issues receive a high priority in the work of Australia’s overseas missions, with representations made at ministerial level where appropriate and that missions in source and transit countries develop and implement strategies to regularly and widely disseminate targeted information on Australia’s policies on people smuggling and related matters.


Recommendation 5


That priority be given to concluding arrangements with source and transit countries and strengthening international cooperation in combating people smuggling, and in particular:


(a) further develop Australia’s cooperation and arrangements with China (particularly Fujian officials) to stop the departure of boats and the speedy return of boat people;

(b) extend the arrangements with Indonesia and PNG on third country nationals attempting to enter Australia illegally and develop similar arrangements with New Zealand and the Solomon Islands with the objective of assisting with the removal of third country nationals from those transit nations before they enter Australia;

(c) similar arrangements to be developed with other source and transit countries, as appropriate, including Malaysia, Thailand, South Korea and some Middle East countries;

(d) establish arrangements with the Solomon Islands and other neighbouring island states on providing information on possible unauthorised boats travelling to Australia; and

(e) AusAID and DIMA to actively review the scope for providing assistance to enhance the capacity of law enforcement and border control agencies in major transit countries to deal with illegal immigration.


Recommendation 6


That DIMA, in consultation with relevant agencies, provide material and technical assistance to law enforcement and other appropriate authorities in Indonesia and PNG to assist those countries with activities focussed on the detection, detention and removal of immigrants attempting to enter Australia illegally. The cost over four years will be in the order of $2 million.


Recommendation 7


That a high priority be accorded to conclusion of the People Smuggling Protocol to the draft UN Convention on Transnational Organised Crime and its ratification be encouraged within our region and beyond.




Recommendation 8


That the footprint and intensity of Coastwatch’s aerial surveillance be extended through the lease of a further two Dash 8 aircraft (with provision for double crewing and 4000hrs of operation per a nnum for the two aircraft) and one twin-engine (Instrument Flight Rules rated) helicopter (with provision for 500hrs per annum) for use in the Torres Strait.


[note: the aircraft and helicopter leases would be to 2004 to coincide with the expiry of the existing Coastwatch contracts for the provision of aerial surveillance aircraft and a helicopter. The first year includes $2m for 1000hrs additional flying time for the existing fleet, to cover the lead-time for the introduction of the two leased aircraft. Provision is also included for the lease of a radar maintenance unit and spares to provide enhanced support for the aircraft and four additional Coastwatch Competency Assessment and Training Officers (CATOs).

The cost over four years will be in the order of $85 million.]


Recommendation 9


That a National Surveillance Centre be established within Coastwatch in Canberra with enhanced electronic communications links, including with state agencies, and an internal capacity to analyse information received from agencies to better manage the national effort.

The cost over four years will be in the order of $20 million.


Recommendation 10


That secure satellite-based voice/data communications be established to cover the full extent of Australia’s Exclusive Economic Zone (AEEZ) and beyond, including the capacity for real time communication with coastal surveillance aircraft and ocean-going vessels.

The cost over four years will be in the order of $3 million.


Recommendation 11


That Coastwatch extend its surveillance to include more systematic coverage of the AEEZ in the Coral Sea area, through transit operations as required from neighbouring states such as PNG, the Solomon Islands, New Caledonia and Indonesia.


Recommendation 12


That Coastwatch’s profile be raised by separating it from Border Division within Customs and established as a group in its own right under a redesignated position of Director-General of Coastwatch, reporting directly to the CEO of the Australian Customs Service.


Recommendation 13


That the position of Director-General Coastwatch be filled through secondment of a serving uniformed Australian Defence Force (ADF) officer; and that the Defence officer selected for the role identify other secondment opportunities in Coastwatch and other relevant areas for filling by members of the Australian Defence Force.


Recommendation 14


That the links between Coastwatch and its clients be strengthened by the secondment to Coastwatch of the ADF Liaison Officer (ADFLO) position (currently in Sydney) and a DIMA liaison officer; that Coastwatch post a liaison officer to REEFCENTRE headquarters to liaise with Queensland authorities and to Defence’s Northern Command in Darwin to enhance links with Defence.


Recommendation 15


That Customs and DIMA, in consultation with relevant agencies, develop a National Protocol among Commonwealth agencies and with state and territory agencies to cover illegal landings on Australian territory, as an adjunct to offshore surveillance arrangements.


Recommendation 16


That in the lead-up to the expiry of the two major Coastwatch surveillance contracts in 2004, Coastwatch further investigate the capacity of emerging technologies to partly replace manned aerial surveillance.




Recommendation 17


That comprehensive legislative amendments be introduced to further strengthen maritime investigatory and enforcement powers against both Australian and foreign flag vessels. The legislation to be amended includes the Migration Act 1958, Customs Act 1901, Quarantine Act 1908, Fisheries Management Act 1991 and associated legislation.


Recommendation 18


That the Commonwealth introduce legislation to create a forfeiture regime in relation to all boats or vehicles used in connection with the smuggling of migrants to Australia. Within constitutional constraints, this would operate regardless of whether prosecution action were taken or a conviction obtained and penalties imposed. Such a scheme would result in the forfeiture of the vessel, vehicle or aircraft immediately upon its arrival in Australia with prohibited non-citizens on board. It would complement legislation to be considered by parliament on stronger penalties against people smuggling. Apart from the deterrence factor, such powers are necessary to enable derelict vessels to be disposed of quickly before they become a hazard to navigation. In the meantime full use should be made of s260 and s261 of the Migration Act 1958 to have illegal vessel/aircraft detained and the Proceeds of Crime Act 1987, which enables an offender’s property to be forfeited if it can be shown that an offender has been enriched by migrant smuggling activities.









jk  1999-06-29  11:07