Anti-corruption laws will remove rights of Customs workers: media release
12 October 2012, 8:38am
CPSU Acting Deputy Secretary Rebecca Fawcett
The CPSU is calling on the government to introduce an appeals system for workers who might be dismissed under new anti-corruption measures.
In a hard-hitting submission the CPSU is concerned that under proposals before Parliament, the head of the Customs Service would be handed enhanced powers to fire a staff member and issue a public declaration that the person had been “engaged in serious misconduct”.
The only procedural requirement in the bill would be to provide the staff member with a copy of the declaration within 24 hours of the decision being made.
If the Law Enforcement Integrity Legislation Amendment Bill 2012 becomes law the right of consultation or reply for a sacked worker would be denied and Customs would not be required to give the worker any reasons for the dismissal.
Every other state and territory has an appeals mechanism in place. The union is warning that if this becomes law then Australia could be in breach of international labour conventions that state every worker is allowed the right to appeal.
CPSU deputy secretary Rebecca Fawcett said: “Customs officers are hard-working and dedicated, protecting Australia’s borders and national security. They perform their jobs in often dangerous and difficult conditions. They deserve the basic rights and protections that other Australian workers enjoy.
“We support tough action against corruption, but sometimes decision-makers get it wrong, and this new law will prevent employees from appealing the decision internally or in Fair Work Australia.
“Customs has got it wrong in the past and no doubt will again – only this time there will be no independent umpire to set things right. When there are no checks and balances on decision-makers, it leads to sloppy decisions and, in the worst cases, an abuse of power. “
The measures are among a raft of proposals advanced by Home Affairs Minister Jason Clare aimed at stamping out corruption and misconduct among Customs workers, Australian Federal Police Officers and Australian Crime Commission officials, and include the following:
The power to force Customs workers to undertake multiple drug and alcohol tests at any time regardless of whether they are suspected of corruption. This could include prescription drugs.
The power to dismiss workers under a catch-all category of “serious and reprehensible conduct” that appears to go beyond the remit of the bill, namely to root out corruption.
The introduction of integrity tests, whereby workers could be the target of a sting operation aimed at rooting out corruption in the ranks of Customs, ACC and AFP officers.
For further media comment and/or to arrange an interview please call Julian Lee on 0409 493 290