Customs Reform Board meets for the first time

Press release from the Hon Jason Clare MP, Minister for Home Affairs, Minister for Justice, Minister for Defence Materiel

Minister for Home Affairs and Minister for Justice Jason Clare today convened the first meeting of the Customs Reform Board.

Customs requires major structural and cultural reform to improve its law enforcement capability, integrity culture and business systems.

The Board has been tasked with providing advice and recommendations to the Minister about further action needed and oversighting the implementation of these reforms.

The Board is made up of three distinguished Australians with expertise in law enforcement, corruption resistance and best practice business systems.

They are:

  • The Honourable James Wood AO QC: Former Royal Commissioner of the NSW Royal Commission into the NSW Police Service
  • Mr Ken Moroney AO APM: Former Commissioner of the NSW Police Force
  • Mr David Mortimer AO: Former CEO TNT Limited, former Deputy Chairman of Ansett, former Chairman of Australia Post and Leightons Holdings.

The top priority for the Board is to provide advice and recommendations to aggressively target corruption and oversight the implementation of reforms to embed an improved cultural of professionalism and integrity within the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service.

The first stage of major reforms to Customs were announced and implemented by the Government last year. These reforms include:

1. Integrity Testing – Legislation passed the Parliament in November to conduct targeted integrity tests on law enforcement officers suspected of corruption. These are covert operations designed to test if someone is corrupt. It can involve offering a bribe, leaving money at the scene of a crime or putting false information on a database to see if it is passed on. It is a psychological weapon – designed to put fear into the mind of the corrupt.

2. Drug and Alcohol Testing – The CEO of Customs and Border Protection now has the power to authorise random drug and alcohol testing on all staff.

3. The power to terminate officers for Serious Misconduct -The CEO of Customs now has the same powers as the Australian Federal Police Commissioner to make a declaration terminating the employment of an officer for serious misconduct.

4. Mandatory requirements to report serious misconduct – The legislation introduced mandatory reporting requirements, whereby Customs officers are required to report any misconduct or corruption activity.

5. Expansion of the corruption watchdog -The Government has expanded the number of agencies that are oversighted by the Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity (ACLEI). ACLEI currently oversees the Australian Federal Police, the Australian Crime Commission and the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service and deals with corruption issues from the former National Crime Authority. That oversight has been expanded to include Biosecurity staff from the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, AUSTRAC and CrimTrac.

6. Doubling of funding to oversight Customs and Border Protection – In April I announced that the funding for ACLEI to oversee the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service would be doubled.

Further reforms will be released in the next few months.

The Secretary of the Attorney-General’s Department will act as Secretary to the Board, and the Board will be supported by a Secretariat situated in the Attorney-General’s Department.

The Board was briefed by Australian Federal Police Commissioner Tony Negus regarding ongoing investigations. They also discussed the next stage of reform of the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service.

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