We need answers now to renew confidence in Customs 

THE exposure of a drug ring operating with the alleged assistance of customs officers is a startling insight into the challenges government faces in denying drug trafficking.

This week charges were laid over two alleged shipments which entered Australia via Sydney Airport in 2009 and 2010. Those charged are a 28-year-old serving customs officer with six years experience who has been charged with receiving bribes, drug possession and importation and possessing prohibited weapons and a 35-year-old serving officer of the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service who has been charged with receiving a corrupt benefit and other corruption offences.

Anyone who has been on an international flight in recent years will understand the strict policies and attitude authorities take in vetting those travelling in and out of Australia. Compared with other countries, the process is stringent.

This means that manipulating the system is complicated. Sophistication or outright deception is required.

In this instance, it is alleged that bribes were involved. As Australian Federal Police Commissioner Tony Negus said yesterday, individuals have let the process down.

“What these people have done is let everyone down in that process by allegedly bringing people past those barriers and past that process without any individual scrutiny. They’re trusted to make judgments about passengers and they really act in those areas as the gatekeeper.”

It is an unacceptable circumstance for drugs, which are used to manufacture street varieties that cause so much damage to the lives of people, to make their way into the country.

Now that the drug ring has been exposed, questions will be asked about government funding for Customs and employment and review processes.

The federal opposition yesterday suggested government cuts had reduced the efficiency of Customs.

Given the importance of the agency’s role, the public will demand a swift, independent and in-depth investigation into these matters and, indeed, the entire customs process.

Anything less will undermine the public’s sense of security.

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