Reforms aim to stamp out corruption within border protection
FACE recognition software, high rotation of customs officers and extra patrols will be key planks of a Federal Government effort to stamp out corruption in Australia's airports and on the waterfront.
Home Affairs Minister Jason Clare on Wednesday unveiled his new Blueprint for Reform of Australia's Customs and Border Protection Service.
Sparked by the arrests of four customs officers last year and allegations of more widespread corruption within the service, the reforms aim to change both practice and culture in frontline border protection.
The reforms were led by James Wood QC, who conducted the Royal Commission into the New South Wales Police Force in the mid-1990s.
Two of his key recommendations to battle corruption include fully automated, electronic data reporting of all cargo entering and leaving the country as well as extra "smart gates" at major airports.
Other changes proposed were to create better career pathways for officers to prevent them being tempted into corrupt activity, and stronger integrity measures and checks on staff.
Mr Clare said government forecasts showed cargo consignments in and out of the country were expected to triple by 2017, while passenger numbers would increase by at least eight million over the next five years.
"This creates big data challenges and more pressure to move people and goods quickly across our border," he said.
"It means we have to modernise our business systems, our processes and our intelligence capacity so that they are fit for purpose."
Mr Clare said the hardest thing would be to change the culture of the border authority while strengthening the workforce and creating a new "ethos" for customs officers.
Reforms proposed were divided into three strategies, across integrity, people and operating model and modernisation.
It is report to Mr Clare; the Customs Reform Board recognised "the need for service-wide reform" if customs was to "keep pace with a rapidly evolving border environment".
"We can also be sure of this - serious, organised criminals will continue to try to penetrate the border and the nature and type of commodities they seek to profit from will only expand, aided by the speed and complexity of new supply chains and travel routes," Mr Clare said.
The new reform blueprint and its recommendations will be overseen by the minister and the chief executive of customs.
Customs Anti-Corruption Measures:
- Create a special integrity adviser
- Institute fixed tenure periods for staff
- Tighten policies on second jobs for officers.
- Develop a new career system to attract better candidates and give more rewarding job choices.
- Establish a national border command centre, supported by regional command centres around the country.
- Increase remote patrols, as well as patrols at airports and on the waterfront.
- Build a strategic partnership with the Australian Federal Police to create a new model for border crime investigations.
- Investigate full electronic data reporting and "face on the move" and "face in the crowd" recognition software.
- Work with industry to provide compliant traders to help move goods across the borders with integrity.