Press release from the Hon Jason Clare MP, Minister for Home Affairs, Minister for Justice, Minister for Defence Materiel
Minister for Home Affairs Jason Clare today introduced legislation to make it harder for organised crime to infiltrate and exploit the cargo system.
In 2010, the Government established Taskforce Polaris - a joint law enforcement taskforce targeting organised crime in the cargo system in Sydney.
Taskforce Polaris is made up of officers from the Australian Federal Police, the Australian Crime Commission, the Australian Customs & Border Protection Service, the New South Wales Police Force and the New South Wales Crime Commission.
Taskforce Polaris has to date made 36 arrests, laid 171 charges and seized over 12 tonnes of illicit substances and pre-cursor chemicals.
“The key to tackling organised crime is law enforcement agencies working together. Taskforce Polaris shows this works,” Mr Clare said.
Given the success of Taskforce Polaris, the Government is replicating this model across the eastern seaboard.
In Melbourne, it is called Taskforce Trident and has been established. In Brisbane, it is called Taskforce Jericho and will roll out in the middle of the year.
The Customs and AusCheck Legislation Amendment (Organised Crime and Other Measures) Bill introduced today introduces a number of important reforms to support the work of these taskforces. The legislation:
- Places new obligations on cargo terminal operators and people who load and unload cargo. These obligations include mandatory reporting of unlawful activity and fit and proper person checks at the request of Customs & Border Protection;
- Creates new offences for obtaining and using restricted information to commit an offence or for unlawfully disclosing that restricted information. These offences will be punishable by a maximum of two years imprisonment, a fine of up to 120 penalty units, or both;
- Gives the Chief Executive Officer of Customs & Border Protection the power to impose new licence conditions on cargo terminal operators at any time and makes it offence to breach certain licensing conditions; and
- Amends the AusCheck Act 2007 to enable an Aviation Security Identification Card (ASIC) or Maritime Security Identification Card (MSIC) to be suspended where the cardholder has been charged with a serious offence. The list of serious offences will be prescribed by regulation.
The Government has also implemented a number of non-legislative reforms to harden the supply chain against infiltration by criminal groups including:
- Changes to the Integrated Cargo system to limit access to specific cargo information to those in the private sector who have a direct and legitimate interest in the movement and clearance of specific consignments;
- On-screen warnings for people who log into the Integrated Cargo System. People who use the Integrated Cargo System now need to agree that they will only use the system for legitimate purposes and will not provide information to unauthorised persons;
- Increased targeted patrolling of the waterfront by Customs & Border Protection officers; and
- Strengthened licence conditions on key participants in the trading system including holders of customs depot, warehouse and broker licenses.
“These are important reforms. They will make it harder for organised crime to infiltrate and exploit the cargo system, but more reform is required to give law enforcement agencies the powers they need to tackle organised crime,” Mr Clare said.
“The next logical step is national anti-gang laws and national unexplained wealth laws. This will be discussed at COAG next month.”