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Thursday, 28 August 1980
Page: 874

Mr JULL (BOWMAN, QUEENSLAND) - The Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs would be aware of suggestions of a proposed strike by Customs officers to force a public inquiry into the allegations of corruption within the Bureau of Customs. Can the Minister say what action he is taking to research these allegations and to try to avoid such a strike?

Mr GARLAND - Since those allegations of corruption in the Bureau of Customs were made by some representatives of the Customs Officers Association early last week and a little earlier, I have had a telephone discussion with Mr Spanswick, who is the Secretary of the COA, and also with Mr Bennett, who is the New South Wales President of the Association. I told both those officials that they have a duty to report any suspicions they have of corruption to the Secretary to the Department, to Mr Wilson who is in charge of the Internal Affairs Unit of the Department or to the Australian Federal Police. I invited them to Canberra; they declined to come. They did not give me any details.

Mr Wilson,a former commissioner of the Australian Capital Territory Police, went to Sydney and sought to interview them. Mr Wilson spoke to a number of officials but was not provided with any details that could be described in any way as suggestive of corruption. He concluded that at present there is no substance in the allegations of corruption. The Secretary to my Department has spoken to Mr Bennett. He offered to go to Sydney at short notice to discuss the matters with the officials. He has written letters to them pointing out that it is their duty to make details available. On Tuesday of this week he received some advice that the officials would make available a document which they said they did not want to make public, although apparently they were going to send it to a number of members of Parliament.

I can only surmise that the action they have taken is intended to support some industrial grievance which they have. They know very well that procedures are laid down for dealing with those matters. I must say at the moment that I can only conclude- I think any responsible person would conclude- in the circumstances that there is no apparent substance in the allegations. In the absence of substance all they are doing is undermining the standing of Customs officials in the eyes of the community.

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