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Customs Minister introduces Border Security Bill

Minister of Customs introduces Border Security Bill

The safety of New Zealand from terrorism, trans-national crime and the security of our trade and trading partners are central to the Border Security Bill, introduced to Parliament today by Customs Minister Rick Barker.

“The Border Security Bill is part of a whole-of-government approach toward strengthening New Zealand’s national security in the post-September 11 environment. It will sit alongside the Counter-Terrorism Bill, already before Parliament, and the Maritime Security Bill which is also due for introduction this year.

“The Bali bombings and the recent carnage in Saudi Arabia are reminders that the threat of terrorism and international criminal activity still present clear and present dangers to the people of New Zealand and the vital reciprocal trade our island nation relies on,” Mr Barker said.

The Bill’s proposed changes will improve the security of the global travel and trading environments, while enhancing closer security relationships within the import and export supply chains. The Bill will also allow for increased sharing and gathering of intelligence information between relevant agencies to assess risk.

Internationally, Mr Barker said nations and multi-country organisations were increasingly seeking to provide extra assurance about the safety of travel and trade.

“International bodies such as APEC, the World Customs Organisation, international aviation and maritime bodies and recently the G8 Summit are seeking to develop a consistent and effective approach to minimising the risk of terrorist attacks and other security breaches.

“The Border Security Bill enhances Customs ability to collect and analyse electronic information direct from the source in relation to goods and people travelling into and out of New Zealand.

“It provides the legislative framework for Customs’ innovative Secure Export Partnership Scheme, which sees government and industry working together to secure goods from the point of loading to export.”

“A sense of comfort about the security of our country’s export goods will help ensure that they move expeditiously across the border. Without this assurance our exports could be left sitting on a foreign wharf awaiting Customs clearance. Should our exports experience such a delay and our competitors not, we could be at a considerable trading disadvantage.

“The measures in this Bill are designed to ensure that all of our export ports, from Auckland to Bluff are able to meet the requirements of the United States and the other countries that will follow with their own security requirements, thus ensuring that there is no disruption of shipping from our sea ports. Regional issues and regional economies have been very much at the centre of thinking about the structure for New Zealand’s response to container security.

“Future-proofing is another key component. There is little doubt that other countries will tighten their border controls and follow the lead of the United States, requiring confidence about the security of the exports into their country. We need to ensure that we best place ourselves to meet these future requirements as best we are able to determine what they will be”.

Mr Barker said that New Zealand enjoyed a global image as clean, green and secure. “We must do everything we can to maintain our safe reputation, particularly in the changed world environment.”

Mr Barker said the Bill would enhance the powers of New Zealand Customs Service staff in several key areas. In particular, the proposed legislation strengthens controls around people, their cash and their tainted property when crossing New Zealand’s border illegally and undeclared.

“It will help to reduce New Zealand’s exposure to risk from transnational crime and terrorism while at the same time maintaining the high flows of trade and travel vital to New Zealand’s economy.” Mr Barker said the Border Security Bill would enhance New Zealand’s overall security for the benefit of everyone. Overall, 14 government agencies were involved in that process. “This legislation must be passed to cement New Zealand’s position in the united world movement against terrorism and trans-national crime. We simply cannot allow our country to be identified as a safe haven for terrorists, transnational criminals and their activities,” Mr Barker said.

Please see attached backgrounder for more information on the Border Security Bill

Border Security Bill


BACKGROUNDER

Introduction

The Border Security Bill is designed to strengthen border control security measures against terrorism and other suspicious activities relating to cross border crime.

The Bill is divided into four major sets of provisions addressing travel security, supply chain security, law enforcement, and immigration matters.

Travel Security Provisions

The Bill contains amendments to both the Customs and Excise Act 1996 (the Act) and the Immigration Act 1987 to require mandatory provision of advance electronic information of arriving and departing passengers, craft and crew. At present much of this information is being supplied electronically on a voluntary basis by airlines. Statutory provision will clearly mandate this practice and extend it to remaining areas.

Customs advance passenger information (API) integrates with the NZ Immigration Service’s (NZIS) advance passenger processing (APP) system, which will allow analysis of passenger information, against immigration risks, before passengers board flights to New Zealand. Customs and NZIS have agreed a common work programme for implementation of these complementary systems.

The Bill also enables Customs to access databases held by travel operators to enable Customs to search information about travel additional to that provided under API. The provisions relating to these matters in the Bill have been drafted to ensure compliance with the NZ Bill of Rights Act 1990 and the Privacy Act.

Supply Chain Security Provisions

The key provisions here are those relating to the supply chain security regime. Under the legislation exporters will be encouraged to enter voluntary arrangements with Customs whereby their goods are made secure and subject to Customs control from the time of packing to the point of loading onto a ship. Two mechanisms provide for this:

Exporters may consent to the application of a Customs seal to export packages, including containers. This brings those packages under full Customs control from that point until exportation and the seal enables monitoring of the package against the risk of tampering:

Exporters may enter a “secure export partnership scheme” with Customs whereby they commit to maintaining a range of security standards relating to goods entering the supply chain for example security of premises, supervision of staff loading the container etc.

Both of these mechanisms are voluntary on the part of the exporter but indications are that exporters will be keen to participate as they see tangible benefits such as facilitation and improved protection from pillaging. The scheme is also designed to utilise existing processes both to maximise process efficiencies and to minimise costs to Government and the exporter.

Law Enforcement Provisions

The major law enforcement provisions in the Bill are:

Increased flexibility in Customs’ ability to disclose information to overseas law enforcement agencies. At present the Act allows disclosure of information to overseas agencies pursuant to a formal written agreement. There have been difficulties in negotiating such instruments in some cases and this has limited useful information disclosure. The Bill will rectify this situation by allowing for information to be exchanged with or without a formal written agreement;

Customs to detain for investigation suspicious cash and tainted property. At present Customs has no specific power enabling it to detain for investigation suspicious cash or tainted property (i.e. property derived from the commission of an offence). Under the Bill Customs will be able to seize and detain such suspicious cash and tainted property for investigative purposes for up to 7 days (extendable to 21 days on Court authorisation);

Customs to seize, as forfeit to the Crown, craft involved in bringing persons unlawfully into New Zealand. The Bill extends the Act’s forfeiture provisions to apply to craft that are engaged in bringing persons to New Zealand unlawfully e.g. people smuggling. At present there is limited ability to deal with such craft;

Increased powers for Customs officers in relation to questioning and detention of persons attempting to enter or leave NZ unlawfully. At present Customs powers to question and detain are limited to goods. These powers are inadequate to deal with persons intent on covert entry into or exit from New Zealand e.g. terrorists, people smugglers, and drug traffickers. The new powers are particularly important where such persons are found in remote locations or as a result of maritime patrol where Customs is first on the scene.


These amendments close some significant gaps in Customs law enforcement powers in relation both to protecting New Zealand from security threats and other transnational crime, and to enhancing New Zealand’s contribution to the international fight against terrorism.

Immigration Provisions

The amendments to the Immigration Act 1987 will provide for commercial carriers to be required to use an electronic system, approved by the chief executive of the Department of Labour, for carrying out automated pre-boarding checks of passengers and crew intending to travel to New Zealand. Such a system will enhance New Zealand’s border security and manage immigration risk by allowing passengers and crew and their documentation (mainly passports and visas) to be checked automatically against electronic records that the NZIS is able to access (including records of overseas agencies).

In addition, there will be a requirement for international carriers to provide the NZIS with access to certain information held by them or to which they have access.

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