News24

Australia cracks down on waterfront crime

2012-05-25 12:02

Sydney - Australia announced a major crackdown on Friday on the "insidious presence" of organised crime at its ports after a report revealed rampant corruption by dock workers and other officials.

Home Affairs Minister Jason Clare said organised crime was costing the economy $14.6bn a year and the involvement of dock workers was a key area that needed to be tackled.

"Organised crime is an insidious presence in Australia. Serious organised crime groups target law enforcement, the private cargo industry and the waterfront," he said.

"I have made it very clear I am serious about giving law enforcement the powers and tools they need to target organised crime.

"This is a major crackdown on organised crime and a major overhaul of security of the waterfront and the entire supply chain."

The crackdown was announced after a police taskforce focused on Sydney uncovered corruption which was allowing an epidemic of contraband, including drugs, tobacco and guns, to be smuggled through the city's ports.

Task Force Polaris said crime groups had infiltrated key positions in the cargo industry from terminal stevedores to freight forwarders and customs brokers.

Controversial but necessary

Under reforms announced by Clare, police will have the power to revoke a person's right to work on the waterfront if it is believed they are involved in criminal activity.

Previously, they had to be convicted of a crime to be barred.

High visibility and covert patrols of docks by customs and border protection officials will also be boosted and access to information about ships' cargo will be on a "need to know" basis.

"I think it'll be controversial, but it's necessary in order to make sure that we've got security on the waterfront," said Clare of the power to revoke people's right to work.

"We need to make sure organised criminals aren't trying to exploit the waterfront and the supply chain to get drugs into the country.

"If you're involved in organised crime - whether it's tobacco, or whether it's heroin or cocaine or anything else - it's a serious offence, it undermines the security of the waterfront, the book should be thrown at you."

Over the past two years, over 12 tons of illicit drugs have been seized at Sydney docks.