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Monday, 16 September 1985
Page: 553

Senator SHORT —Has the Minister for Industry, Technology and Commerce noted reports of an address by Mr Peter Bennett, the Vice-President of the Customs Officers Association, to a drug summit in Sydney, organised by Relatives Against the Intake of Narcotics, in which Mr Bennett is reported to have said that manpower in the Australian Customs Service is being directed away from narcotics detection in favour of purely revenue raising activities? Is this assertion correct? If it is correct, will he take immediate steps to rectify the situation to ensure that the Customs Service gives narcotics detection the high priority that is demanded by the Australian community? If it is not correct, will he take this opportunity to lay to rest this disturbing assertion?

Senator BUTTON —I will draw that question to the attention of the Comptroller-General of Customs. At this stage I say that I believe the suggestion made by Mr Bennett to be inaccurate. Arising from the so-called drug summit earlier this year, additional staff were made available to the Customs Service. Some of those would be arranged in drug detection capacities, and I think it most unlikely that such a situation as described by Mr Bennett has developed. Having said that, I must add that I am not entirely surprised about the suggestion in the context of a meeting about drugs, because if Mr Bennett and those present are saying that the drugs detection services throughout the country are inadequate, I think I would agree with them. I think everybody would. I will check with the Comptroller-General and, if anything comes up that is different from the purport of the answer that I have given, I will see that Senator Short is advised.