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Customs officers given greater powers.



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THE HON BOB DEBUS MINISTER FOR HOME AFFAIRS

MEDIA RELEASE

Parliament House Canberra ACT 2600 • Telephone: (02) 6277 7290 • Facsimile: (02) 6273 7098 www.ministerhomeaffairs.gov.au

Thursday 20 March 2008

CUSTOMS OFFICERS GIVEN GREATER POWERS

The Minister for Home Affairs Bob Debus says new laws have been introduced into Federal Parliament today which will strengthen border enforcement powers for Customs officers.

“Under current laws, Customs officers can board a ship or aircraft to search for weapons, drugs and other prohibited items that may be concealed on board.

“If evidence such as drugs are found, officers can arrest the people on board, but they haven’t had the power to immediately search anyone on board a suspicious vessel or aircraft.

“Customs officers have increasingly faced situations where there’s resistance to them boarding foreign ships suspected of being involved in illegal activities.

“These situations also often mean evidence is disposed of before it can be secured by Customs.

“The new powers are appropriate as they’ll significantly reduce the threat of harm to officers while helping prevent escapes and the destruction or disposal of evidence,” Mr Debus said.

Another amendment to the Customs Amendment (Strengthening Border Controls) Bill 2008 will also allow Customs to set up public surrender bins at airports so non- dangerous items can be disposed of easily, such as:

• electric fly swatters

• toys and other products made from real dog or cat fur

• toys or cosmetics containing excessive amounts of lead

Items deemed a high risk to the community won’t be allowed in the bins including firearms, drugs and certain therapeutic items such as human growth hormones and steroids.

“This will give Customs officers greater flexibility in dealing with prohibited imports that are low value and low risk,” Mr Debus said.

“It will end unnecessary paperwork that has to be done for these types of low risk items and free them up to investigate more dangerous imports.”

Media Contact: Samantha Wills 0448 721 372.