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Howard Government in dark on explosives control.

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Senator Mark Bishop Shadow Minister for Customs Senator for Western Australia


Media Details: Senator Mark Bishop 0419 959 892 or Peter Reece 0414 677 441

15 January 2004 ref:cstm.m&pr03/04

Howard Government in Dark on Explosives Control

Customs have admitted they do not know how much explosive material or devices has been imported into Australia.

However, what they do know that considerable quantities are stolen, with 30 reported incidents in the last three years.

Moreover, in the Howard Government “war on terror” it seems that it is powerless to do anything.

Answers to Question on Notice ( Senate 1936) reveals as follows;

• The Australian Bomb Data Centre (ABDC) has had a total of 30 incidents reported to it of stolen explosives or accessories • The commercial explosives industry has no legal obligation to report theft or loss of explosives direct to ABDC - though the ABDC may receive reports from state police • The ABDC has no control over the manufacture, sale, import or export of explosives • Customs does not have information on the quantities of imported explosives, though there have

been 1402 imports in the last 3 years • Nor does Customs know the quantity of exports of explosives.

In this age of heightened threat and alert, with much political capital being wrung from terrorism, it is clear that Customs has no role in explosives control. Nor is the Commonwealth in charge.

The Minister for Justice and Customs is happy to leave any Commonwealth effort in the hands of COAG. This is hardly reassuring.

Fortunately other agencies do seem to know more:

• ABS figures show Australia imported 70 619 tonnes of ammonium nitrate in 2002 -03 • FAO statistics show Australia produced 11 000 tonnes of ammonium nitrate in 2001 and 2002, but other figures show that domestic production could be as high as 860 000 tonnes per annum. • There is no Federal legislation or policy covering the use of explosives • There are no controls on access to ammonium nitrate through retail outlets.

So one might ask the Government - how safe are we?

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