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Wednesday, 14 August 1974
Page: 875

Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSON - I direct a question to the Minister for Customs and Excise which relates to an answer he gave earlier to a question asked by Senator Poyser. The question related to the introduction of a computer system at customs clearance points which is intended to be used, in the clearance of travellers' baggage, as an aid in the detection of any prohibited import or any attempt to avoid the payment of duty. I think it should be made abundantly clear that this does not necessarily mean that a person who has his or her baggage examined has his name on a computer list. I think that the Minister would agree that there is a random examination system and that obviously this computer system is applied only in certain circumstances. Will the Minister make it clear that if any person coming into Australia has his baggage examined at a customs clearance point, as may happen to any one of us, this must not be interpreted as necessarily meaning that his name is on a computer list?

Senator MURPHY -I thank Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson for his observations. As we all know, Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson was the Minister for Customs and Excise for some time whilst he was Leader of the Government in the Senate. What he says is perfectly correct. If in the answer that I gave I may have left that inference open -

Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson - It is only possible.

Senator MURPHY - Yes. I want to adopt what the honourable senator has said and make it very plain that the computer is there to assist in selecting, those people, if you like, of high risk. But over and above that, as the honourable senator says, there is a random system of examination. This is practised in most parts of the world, including Australia. The baggage of many people is subjected to a full examination when there is no suspicion at all. It is a simple, random selection which may be carried out because it has been decided to check the baggage of, say, every tenth person or eighth person passing through the customs clearance point, even though there is no reason at ali to suspect such persons. A goodly number of people are subjected to inconvenience in customs examinations. I hope that they will suffer this in the knowledge that these things have to be done. Sometimes they have to be done for the protection of livestock, or the health of the community through quarantine, or to prevent the smuggling of drugs. People should regard that inconvenience as something they are suffering in the public interest. But I do want to accept what Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson says and I assure the public that simply because a person is subjected to an examination, perhaps a full customs examination, it does not carry with it the suggestion that in some way he is a suspected person.

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