Press Conference – Melbourne

Subjects: Customs new detector dog facility, Australian arrested in Indonesia, Cabinet reshuffle, The Australian.

MINISTER CLARE: Welcome to Customs new $5 million detector dog facility. This is where the next generation of customs sniffer dogs will be bred and trained. They’re born here, and when they’re about eight weeks old they go off to a foster family here in Melbourne.

We’ve got about three or four hundred foster families in Melbourne that look after the dogs until they’re about twelve or fifteen months old. Then they come back here, they do a three month training course and become four legged heroes. They have a sense of smell which is much much better than yours and mine. They have something like two hundred and twenty million sensors in their nose, and that means that they can find things that you and I would never find, and they can find it a lot quicker.

What may be a days work for a human being can be done by a detector dog in a couple of minutes. Last year they found about seven hundred illegal imports and exports at our airports, and the ports – including one hundred kilograms of heroin, and a hundred and twenty kilograms of Pseudoephedrine.

In Sydney last year when a passenger ship came in they also managed to detect a man who was concealing cocaine under a wetsuit that was concealed under other clothes. Trying to hide the cocaine as he got off the ship one of the dogs managed to detect him. They went into his room and found another 30 kilos of cocaine.

They were also recently able to detect cocaine that had been turned into plastic wrapping paper. You and I would have thought it was quite harmless; these dogs were able to tell it was cocaine.

And today, just this morning at the mail centre here in Melbourne, they found four more attempts to illegally import drugs into Australia. So they are very effective.

This facility is a world leader in breeding detector dogs. We breed about one hundred and fifty a year here. We do that for Customs and also for the Australian Federal Police, and also for other countries around the world including New Zealand. I know the High Commissioner is here today, we breed customs dogs for New Zealand. We also provide them for countries like China, Taiwan, for Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia.

So it’s a pleasure to be here today at this new centre, a $5 million facility, one that’s been delivered on time and under budget. Thanks very much.

I’m happy to answer any of your questions, and if you’ve got some details that I don’t know then I might ask our handlers here, but also I know Michael Carmody is hiding back there, the Chief Executive of Customs, and he might have some detailed knowledge if I can’t answer your questions. Over to you.

QUESTION: What are the improvements of this facility over what was existing?

CLARE: Well the big improvement is that you’ve got the breeding of the dogs and the training of the dogs at the one facility. Previously they had been done separately, and we’ve taken the opportunity with the end of the lease at the breeding facility and the training facility to co-locate all of the work here at the one location.

QUESTION: (inaudible)

CLARE: Thanks for the question. I’m advised that Indonesian authorities have detained a 54 year old Australian man who was detained at Denpasar airport on the 28th February and is expected to face drug offence charges. Our consular officials are seeking access in order to assist the man. The man has not been formally charged as of yet, but as I said Australian consular officials in Indonesia are seeking access to assist the gentleman.

QUESTION: (inaudible) . . concerned about another Australian potentially facing the death penalty over drugs charges?

CLARE: Well, the Australian Government is always concerned if Australians overseas face the prospect of the death penalty. We are opposed to the death penalty, and that’s why we’ll be doing everything we can to assist this gentleman by providing consular assistance to him.

QUESTION: Just on another matter, I’m going to jump in here (Inaudible) . . .there’s talk of a cabinet reshuffle (inaudible) . . new positions in the Government, are you happy with your position, and will you still be here next week?

CLARE: Well I really am happy with my position, this is a terrific job. I was the Minister for Defence Materiel for 15 months which was a very important job, ensuring the safety and security of all Australians. Then I got this job, which is about the same sort of thing – looking after the safety and security of all Australians, whether it’s the Federal Police or whether it’s Customs. So I love my job, it’s really important.

There’s something I should have said earlier is that these dogs save people’s lives. It’s not just the families that I talked about that help to raise these dogs that we should thank, but we should think about the families of kids might have been saved because of these dogs finding heroin at the airport, or finding cocaine on a container ship or a cruise liner. When they find drugs they stop them coming into the country and they help to save people’s lives. So there’s a lot of families out there today who will be very thankful for the work that these dogs do, that the little ones, the next generation, will do in the years to come.

QUESTION: Wayne Swan has attacked the vested interests of the super rich and the role they play in politics. Who are these superrich people, Wayne Swan has named three, do you think that there are more?

CLARE: Well, I haven’t read Wayne’s article yet but I look forward to reading it over the weekend. What I can say is that the Labor Party is the party that looks after workers, the Liberal Party’s the party that looks after billionaires.

You see that in all the debates we have in Parliament. We’re trying to spread the benefits of the mining boom, and help to cut taxes for small businesses, the Liberal Party wants to stop us. They want to return that money to billionaires. We want to increase the superannuation of ordinary Australian workers. We want Australian workers who are 30 years old today on 50 grand a year to have and extra hundred thousand dollars when they retire, the Liberal Party wants to stop us. We want to make sure that the people on fifty thousand dollars a year don’t have to subsidise millionaires private health insurance, and the Liberal Party want to stop us.

That’s why I say the Labor Party is the party of the worker and the Liberal Party is the party of billionaires. And I scratch my head when I see Tony Abbott wandering around the country in a yellow vest talking to workers and pretending to be the workers friend, when in fact he is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Everything he does in the Parliament shows that he doesn’t care about Australian workers – otherwise he would support the mining tax, spread the benefits of the mining tax to all Australians, and he would have supported legislation in the Parliament yesterday to help to ensure that workers get their entitlements if the company they work for goes bust. But unfortunately whenever there is an opportunity in the Parliament he says no.

QUESTION: Do you believe The Australian newspaper is running a campaign against the Government, and if so what’s the nature of that campaign?

CLARE: No. Alright, thanks very much everyone.