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The minister who never says no.

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Shadow Minister for Justice and Customs Manager of Opposition Business in the Senate Labor Senator for Queensland

7 November 2005


Senator Ellison has sunk to a new low in his attempt to shirk his ministerial responsibility for the disastrous new Customs IT system introduction.

Today’s blaming of software developers is merely the latest in a series of pathetic attempts to shift the blame - as an excuse it’s right up there with “the dog ate my homework”.

The truth is this Minister is incapable of mastering his brief, instead becoming little more than a rubber stamp.

A month out from turn-on time for the new system Senator Ellison said the following:

“I can confirm that things are going well in relation to the CMR program. They are going very well indeed…. These will be the greatest reforms to occur to the Australian Customs Service since Federation.”

Blind faith that was completely unfounded. What happened instead was that this country’s imports almost ground to a halt at the nation’s two biggest ports - Sydney and Melbourne as system incompatibility and IT meltdowns forced clearances back to a manual clearance on paper.

The simple fact is the Minister failed to check that both the system and industry were ready to go before the turn-on time on October 12. He has no-one to blame but himself.

Lack of ministerial accountability is a recurring theme in the Customs portfolio under the Liberal Party.

The cost of the CMR IT project has ballooned from $25 million in 1996 to approximately $250 million today. Where were the spending checks? Why didn’t alarm bells sound?

It is becoming increasingly clear what the problem with Customs is - it’s a Minister who is incompetent and out of touch.

For further information contact: Simon Every 0417 308 144.