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Wednesday, 27 March 1968


Mr Webb asked the Minister representing the Minister for Customs and Excise, upon notice:

Will he submit a statement on the misuse of diplomatic. bags to send private parcels duty free into Australia?


Mr Nixon (GIPPSLAND, VICTORIA) (Minister for the Interior) - The answer to the honourable member's question is as follows:

Random checks were made of the incoming Australian diplomatic bags on three occasions during November 1967, and some goods were found which should not have been in the bags.

Goods detained were either unsolicited gifts or had been sent throughthe bag without the knowledge or instigation of the recipients.

Under these circumstances it would be difficult to prosecute the recipients under the Customs Act.

The Customs Act has jurisdiction only in Australia. Hence there is no power to instigate proceedings under the Customs Act against the senders, as the offences were committed at places outside the jurisdiction of the Act.

The Department of Customs and Excise initiated the following action following the detention of the goods:

(a)   issued Notices of Seizure for the goods;

(b)   advised the Permanent Head of each Government Department concerned of details of private parcels forwarded by or to officers of his Department;

(c)   requested the Permanent Heads to issue firm instructions to all overseas officers that this practice is to cease forthwith;

(d)   sought the co-operation of the Permanent Heads in having all private parcels found in incoming Australian diplomatic bags forwarded to the Department of Customs and Excise.

The Departments of Customs and Excise and of External Affairs have co-operated closely throughout in regard to this matter, and new measures and procedures have been put into effect in Canberra and overseas to guard against misuse of diplomatic bags.

The action I have mentioned appears to have eliminated the practice, as no further parcels have been received since 18th December 1967.

It is intended that future random checks will be made and should any private parcels be detected, consideration will be given to taking disciplinary action against the senders under the Public Service Act.







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