Customs cuts will compromise waterfront clean-up: CPSU media release
25 May 2012, 3:47pm
The union representing Customs and Quarantine staff has warned that efforts to improve waterfront security could fail due to ongoing staff cuts.
Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) National Secretary Nadine Flood said that the Federal Government should tone down the tough talk of ‘cancer’ and ‘crack downs’ on the waterfront and instead focus on repairing the self-inflicted damage of recent budget cuts.
“Our members working in Customs and Quarantine have zero-tolerance for criminals. They welcome any reasonable measures to detect corruption in Australia’s border protection framework, but they are concerned about protecting the rights of the 99.9% of honest staff,” Ms Flood said.
“We will be seeking safeguards from the Minister to protect honest staff by ensuring any changes respect principles like natural justice, due process and being able to appeal an adverse decision. That’s only sensible and fair.
“However, claims that the Federal Government can improve the security and integrity of the system are at odds with spending cuts that will result in hundreds of Border Protection positions disappearing,” she said.
Budget cuts to Customs and Border Protection
The recent Federal Budget forecast significant job cuts to frontline border protection numbers due to an extra four per cent cut to all Australian Public Service budgets, the so-called efficiency dividend.
The budget papers reveal the loss of 190 positions within the Customs and Border Protection Service for the coming year, from 5,225 to 5,035 positions.
“While not under-estimating the seriousness of this issue, the biggest threat to the integrity of Australia's border security remains ongoing budget cuts and understaffing.
“ Staff cuts creates potential gaps in the system as there simply aren’t enough officers to cover the work,” Ms Flood said.
Ms Flood also cautioned the embattled Federal Government against trashing the honest reputations of Border Protection officers and wider maritime workforce.
“Frontline border protection officers take their role very seriously and are proud of the demanding and often dangerous work they do.
“We should remember that there have been only a couple of cases of corruption among more than 5000 Customs staff. “The overwhelming majority of staff do the right thing. They are deeply offended by media suggestions that there is widespread corruption in their workplaces.
“Protecting Australia’s borders and biodiversity is difficult work and the dedication and integrity displayed by the overwhelming majority of Customs and Quarantine staff needs to be acknowledged amid reports of security failures,” Ms Flood said.
“The Federal Government should be careful to ensure that the reputations of the vast majority of honest, hard-working maritime staff are not trashed in the pursuit of tougher security” she said.