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Thursday, 5 December 1985
Page: 3054

Senator SANDERS(5.00) —The Australian Democrats support the Customs and Excise Legislation Amendment Bill (No. 2). In so saying, I state that I believe Senator Chaney has missed the point. Honourable senators may know that I do not normally speak on taxation or customs measures, but these are not considered by us to be tax or customs measures. I am the Australian Democrats spokesman on aviation. This is an aviation matter which was brought up by the Minister for Aviation (Mr Peter Morris). I am afraid that the Opposition, as it wanders its way through its political career, does not know much about aviation. Opposition members may fly in the back of aircraft, but they do not study what goes on in the industry while they are sitting back drinking their duty free liquor.

This is an aviation issue, for two reasons. Firstly, as Senator Chaney has stated, Qantas Airways Ltd, which carries a large number of passengers in and out of Australia, is concerned with the growing amount of duty free goods carried on board the aircraft. In many cases they are inflammable goods, such as liquor. Only three items are involved in these Bills-liquor, cigarettes and perfume. I have a letter from Senator John N. Button to Senator Chipp, which commits the Government to that course of action.

Senator Chaney —He has never read the parables: `Put not your faith in princes'.

Senator SANDERS —I have my faith in some people, princes or otherwise. The letter states:

Dear Senator Chipp

I refer to the provisions contained in a number of bills presently before the Senate which provide for the introduction of Inwards Duty Free Shopping.

As previously discussed, I write to confirm that the Government will not under any circumstances move to extend these provisions to include further categories of goods other than those already announced to be covered, namely, tobacco products, alcohol and perfume.

With kind regards

Yours sincerely

John N. Button

Could anyone doubt a letter from a man of such obvious sincerity, who sits as practically the sole representative of his Government in this chamber? I believe Senator Button's letter. I think, with only these three items to be concerned with, the Qantas argument carries great weight, because it is worried about liquor. As Senator Puplick probably does not know-he will not now know because he has left the chamber-in the recent crash of the Boeing 737 in Manchester, England one of the greatest problems in evacuating the aircraft was the number of duty free articles under the seats and the glass from broken bottles. It is a safety hazard, and if the Opposition were interested in the welfare of people it would be concerned about the safety of passengers on aircraft.

The other issue Qantas has brought up is that the extra fuel cost involved in carting around all those bottles of booze is $430,000 a year. So, what is the solution as far as it is concerned? The solution is to allow people to buy their duty free liquor when they get to Australia, thus furnishing Australian business an added boost and also making it possible for passengers to come in without having to carry their duty free liquor on board the aircraft.

How else is this matter involved with aviation? It is part of the cost recovery program which is so dear to the hearts of the Department of Aviation and the Government. The Department of Aviation is funded, at least partially, out of cost recovery funds, which are generated through taxes or levies on the flying public. Any- one who flies on an airline pays, through his airfares, part of the cost recovery program. As a pilot and the former owner of an aircraft I have to pay money to the cost recovery fund. At one time I was paying $900 a year in cost recovery moneys for owning a Cessna 180. The Department of Aviation, of course, is quite an inefficient operation and this inefficiency should and must be eliminated. The bureaucracy is very heavily overpadded in the upper regions. Unfortunately, it is now seeking to eliminate the real services of the Department of Aviation, such as meteorological services, which is a mistake. I think perhaps we can sort out the bureaucratic inadequacies of the DOA, but we still need increased revenues. This program will bring in some $5m a year, which will be offset against other imposts on the flying public. When these Bills come in, flying will be cheaper for all aircraft users-passengers on commercial airlines, and general aviation pilots and passengers. It will make flying cheaper for everyone. So this is very much aviation legislation.

Senator Chaney said that people who leave Australia, just because they have enough money to leave Australia, should not be rewarded by being able to buy duty free goods on their return. At issue here is not duty free goods, but where one buys them. Does one buy them in Singapore, Hong Kong, the previous port of embarkation, or in Australia? It makes infinitely good sense, if the Opposition would only study the program, to buy in Australia, thus keeping the dollars in Australia.

Senator Chaney mentioned the concern of the Australian Customs Service on drugs. We are all interested in controlling drugs. Frankly, I see absolutely no disadvantage in this procedure as far as drug control is concerned. I wonder whether Senator Chaney and Senator Puplick have examined all the controls which will be applied in these instances? All access to the duty free sales outlets will be via a security inspection point in the first place. All staff will be security screened and checked, both in and out of the secure areas. There will be no additional access to bond stores, as the existing bond store operation will service sales both in and out. Staff rosters-this is a very important point-will be rotated randomly, so an individual staff member will not know when he will be rostered on a particular area.

I expect that Senator Chaney's concern, although he did not express it, is that it would be possible for someone to buy a bottle of Johnny Walker Red Label in Singapore, take the bottle out, put a kilo of heroin in the container labelled `Johnny Walker', and put it back on a shelf on the air side of the Customs barrier at Sydney Airport or Tullamarine Airport. An employee-a drug runner-could come along, pick up the box and replace it with a box containing real Johnny Walker and thus get the drugs into the country. If the employee did not know where he would be working on that day, as those staff will not know, there is simply no way that that could work. What is to stop another customer from coming in and buying that box? It is a risky procedure, and it is the only one postulated by the Customs Service. It simply would not work.

The other thing that must be noted, as I am sure all honourable senators have noted, is that there are an awful lot of people running around airports with security passes-baggage handlers and ground crews-and all sorts of ways of moving in and out. Trying to move drugs through this system would be very risky compared with the relative safety of moving them through the baggage system. There will be passenger surveillance by means of two 360-degree zoom video cameras which will be put in at the concessionaire's expense. Another way of stopping the importation of any drugs would be the simple mechanism of having a liquor display and simply allowing a passenger to choose whatever he wishes, then give him an invoice for that so that he carries the invoice through the Customs line and presents it at the bond store on the other side. There is no physical carrying of the material across the Customs barrier at all. This would eliminate any possibility--

Senator Puplick —This is not what the Bill proposes, though?

Senator SANDERS —The Bill does not propose that. It certainly is not precluded in the Bill, either. As such, it could be implemented. Dragging in this drug item is simply another way for the Opposition, which has agreed to support this proposal-it was agreed in its 1980 document, although I may be wrong on the date-to bring in a red herring to oppose it. The Opposition seems to be in the business of opposing anything the Government puts up, no matter what its merits, and it goes to extreme lengths to justify itself.

I do not wish to detain the Senate any longer. I am not disposed to indulge in grandstanding, as members of the Opposition have done for so many hours this week in this place. I rest my remarks at that point and reiterate that the Australian Democrats enthusiastically support this Bill and will oppose any amendments put up by the Opposition.