Bunkle Addresses International Customs Forum
Hon Phillida Bunkle Speech Notes
7pm Sunday 15 October 2000
International Customs Forum
international Customs delegates of:
World Customs Organisation Regional Integrity Working Group meeting
Heads of Intelligence Meeting
Customs Modernisation Symposium
I have great pleasure in welcoming you all here this evening. Tonight we have conference delegates from Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, India, Japan, Malaysia, the People's Republic of China, the United Kingdom, the United States and the World Customs Organisation in Brussels.
To those who travelled a long distance to be here, I extend to you a very warm and special welcome to Auckland and to New Zealand.
This is indeed a special gathering of delegates for three different but important meetings. This evening I want to acknowledge each of these meetings and I would like to outline this government's vision and how it might fit in with your respective areas of work.
When I was appointed Minister of Customs I gave much thought to what the role of a Customs Service was, what its contribution to a strategic view of border management was, and how it contributed to the overall role of Government.
As some of you may know, along with my Customs portfolio I am also Minister of Consumer Affairs, and Associate Minister of Economic Development, Conservation and the Environment.
These may appear to be quite wide ranging portfolios, but in actual fact, as a collection, they provide a wonderful opportunity to help set policy that aims to give New Zealand a sustainable future. By this I mean a sustainable environment, sustainable economic development and sustainable protection for the consumer.
I have found that the Customs Service is an integral part of achieving this government's vision for sustainable outcomes.
Customs has a traditional, and exceedingly important, enforcement role. But alongside that, Customs has the responsibility of balancing the need to facilitate trade while collecting large amounts of revenue. It has a genuine role in protecting our societies and societal values, conservation, and the environment through effective border control. I believe that an essential part of maintaining safe and secure borders is through fostering a sense of national pride.
One other vital service that Customs does not ask for, but is unable to avoid, is being the initial face of our country to overseas visitors. I trust that those of you who travelled through our border, enjoyed the experience. No doubt, given your line of work, you all escaped uncomfortably close scrutiny by our border staff!
One of my most enjoyable experiences as Minister has been meeting front-line Customs staff. I think you would have to agree that Customs' staff around the world carry out their duty with the immense sense of pride and commitment that goes with working for a law enforcement agency.
That sense of commitment is best illustrated in the manner some of our countries are contributing to the rebuilding of East Timor's newly independent nation. I am immensely proud of the way NZ Customs staff volunteered in great numbers for deployment to help East Timor establish and enforce its own border control. The second deployment group that I farewelled recently, included the team leader whose wife was returning home from her own deployment as team leader of the first group. Their paths literally crossed as one returned home and the other left.
It's this sense of commitment and pride that lends itself to another vital ingredient in this line of work. Integrity. I am told that your discussions over the next few days will focus on Integrity, Intelligence and Modernisation. All of these, I know, are key themes in the Customs world.
I'm not sure what your own views on integrity are, but for me, raising levels of integrity in Customs administrations is a means of enhancing trade facilitation and confidence in the international trading process.
There are economic benefits to national economies — a better perception of integrity can improve an economy’s stability and growth by encouraging investment and lending, increasing levels of trade and international resource allocation.
I know integrity has been a focus for organisations such as the International Chamber of Commerce, the OECD, the UN, the World Bank, the IMF, the World Customs Organisation, APEC and the Oceania Customs Organisation.
Here in New Zealand this Government places a high premium on integrity and all too often the word integrity is equated with the lack of corruption. However, in my view we need to take a wider view of the issue. Integrity to me means that our systems and processes can be relied upon to be professional, competent and efficient. Don't you agree that in this context integrity is vital?
To reflect this the New Zealand Customs Service has recently embarked on an Integrity Project. This will ensure it has a pro-active and positive approach to matters of integrity.
I know the New Zealand Customs Service looks forward to sharing its experiences, learning from other administrations, and taking account of regional and international developments in Integrity. Hosting this meeting is part of our commitment to that process.
For those of you representing your administrations in the Integrity Working Group — Australia, Hong Kong, India, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand and the WCO — you have a challenging task in a vitally important area.
HINT — Heads of Intelligence from Australia, Canada, the UK, the US and New Zealand.
Intelligence work is also an important and obvious part of Customs business. Those of you here for the Heads of Intelligence (HINT) meeting would agree that the lifeline of your work is the ability to share information. After all, how effective would you be without the ability to share intelligence, to learn from each others' experiences and to be proactive.
For any Customs administration, having a strong intelligence capability to fully utilise that information is a key strategic advantage.
I'm sure I am preaching to the converted by telling you that this information-flow is in my view, absolutely essential to managing risk and effectively managing borders.
Customs needs not only to be responsive, but strategically and operationally alert. Developing international strategic intelligence is just one benefit of intelligence sharing.
Here's one example of how this type of relationship can be effective:
Operation Eternal was conducted in June 1998 and was New Zealand's largest seizure of heroin and occurred. It started with the discovery of 10.2 kilos of heroin elaborately concealed inside wall hangings. The consignment was being organised via a commercial courier system from Bangkok to Auckland.
Suspicious staff at the courier company's Bangkok base alerted the British Customs Drug Liaison officer who in turn contacted his counterpart based at the New Zealand embassy.
When the illicit goods were discovered Thai, New Zealand British officials began negotiations to gain approval for a controlled delivery of the consignment to New Zealand. A New Zealand Customs liaison officer based in Bangkok, accompanied the shipment to Auckland via Singapore.
The end result was a successful joint operation with police and Customs in Auckland arrested two offenders who were in the process of re-directing the shipment to Sydney.
The subsequent discovery of a network of shelf companies, safe-houses and the use of fraudulent travel documents pointed to the operation of a very sophisticated syndicate.
While describing that operation is undoubtedly a good opportunity to boast the efficiencies of our own Customs Service, we must remember the dark side of this story.
What we need to remember from Operation Eternal is the increasingly complex nature of the international drug trade with various trafficking routes, including the lengths these illicit groups take to disguise the original source of the drugs.
Developing effective operational responses to cases such as that in Operation Eternal necessitates a high degree of co-operation and co-ordination. Unfortunately in cases involving transnational criminal syndicates it is not enough to conclude a prosecution and assume that the job is over.
The challenge for Customs Intelligence is to help understand the context of such operations, to ascertain their capability and intentions and to help determine where we might direct our resources in the future.
I hope that out of this year's HINT meeting and other similar meetings we will develop global strategies for protecting our borders from transnational crime.
Moving on to the topic of modernisation; I was fascinated with the scope of the Customs Modernisation Symposium discussions in Maryland last year.
These ranged across the Blair reforms in the UK, trade reforms and the World Customs Organisation relationship with the World Trade Organisation, the USA’s technology investment, electronic systems developments in the People’s Republic of China, the reforms in Canada, and New Zealand’s own Border Control Review.
This year I know some of those themes will be incorporated into new issues — such as Internet trading and e-commerce, fast freight, qualitative performance measurement, co-operation with other agencies and looking beyond G7. These all point to useful strategic level dialogue.
I am particularly interested in the impact of new technologies and the changing face of trading as a result. One of the government's strategic goals is helping to develop an inclusive, innovative economy for the benefit of all.
Do you recall the example of Operation Eternal I outlined earlier? The elaborate nature of that operation clearly illustrates that criminals of the world are getting smarter in a bid to elude detection. Our global customs services must keep up if we are to maintain pressure on drug traffickers.
The e-government vision is about
inclusion and providing for people to take part in our
economy. E-government, e-business and e-commerce will all
play an important role in the development of an economy.
E-government is an innovative use of technologies, providing
a means of helping business and individual citizens.
This government has recently announced its E-Government objectives, which aim to improve the quality of government, and people’s participation in it, by:
making it easier for people to have their say in government
providing people with better services from government bodies
providing more integrated services
and keeping people better informed because with up-to-date and comprehensive information about government laws, regulations, policies and services.
The new strategy addresses an increasing market demand among exporters and their customers for e-commerce, particularly business-to-business e-commerce. Growth in global terms is expected to rocket, from US$109 billion in 1999, to US$1331 billion by 2003.
I am sure that you will all be aware of the Government’s E-Commerce Summit on 1 November which will see our e-commerce strategy launched and herald the start of an ongoing dialogue and process on e-commerce.
The international business of Customs presents multiple challenges in an increasingly complex environment where the expectations of Customs have become greater, and where the scope and, indeed, the need for cross-agency co-operation and collaboration is critical.
Government expects collegiality across agencies in New Zealand. As Minister, I expect the New Zealand Customs Service to be conversant with changes in international and domestic trading systems, process and trends. I also expect them to be familiar with, and attempt to anticipate changes in international criminal trends.
I am heartened to see the very same approach being demonstrated across trans-national borders. I am sure the results of this meeting will help our Customs Service achieve its goals, and I hope that each of your administrations will be able to use the knowledge shared here to further your own goals.
Although small in size, we in New Zealand tend to think big. I think New Zealand can be particularly helpful in three areas:
1. forward-looking, enabling Customs and Excise legislation, CusMod and e-commerce, risk management and intelligence. We are also experienced in the areas of Integrity, and the Kyoto Convention.
2. In technical assistance terms — and with a particular focus on the Asia-Pacific region — we have concentrated on areas where we can demonstrably add value through our own developments and experiences. These include the areas of valuation, audit, risk management, intelligence, the Harmonised System and advance tariff classification rulings systems.
3. In a broader context, as I outlined earlier, New Zealand is helping East Timor to rebuild significant social stability by assisting with the set up of Customs systems and procedures for the processing of goods and people across its border.
I hope at the same time, each of your administrations will share your strengths at this meeting, and in a united fashion Customs administrations can develop global strategies to solve common problems.
In closing I must take this opportunity to add that New Zealand is a wonderful tourist destination and I sincerely hope you will be able to enjoy the Kiwi experience if not during this sojourn, then during another visit to our beautiful country.
We are enormously proud of the natural beauty that we have to offer and Rotorua presents a wealth of natural scenic attractions. Hopefully you will be able to mix business with pleasure and have some time to enjoy the outdoors.
In the meantime, you have challenging tasks ahead of you as you tackle the important issues I have outlined. I wish you well for your meetings and discussions this week.