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Border Security Bill passes first reading stage

2 July 2003 Media Statement

Border Security Bill passes first reading stage

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, which underwent its first reading in Parliament today.

Customs Minister Rick Barker said the Border Security Bill was part of a whole-of-government approach toward strengthening New Zealand's national security in the post-September 11 environment.

"The bill will sit alongside the Counter Terrorism Bill in strengthening the legislation protecting New Zealanders and New Zealand's interests. The Counter Terrorism Bill is already at Select Committee level.

The Border Security Bill amends the Customs and Excise Act 1996 and the Immigration Act 1987, as they affect border security.

In summary, the changes will:

- Improve the security of global travel and trading environments

- Enhance closer security relationships within the trade supply chain and travel

network

- Strengthen the gathering and sharing of intelligence, and

- Ensure better use of information to assess risk.

Mr Barker said the bill's enhanced security provisions would affect international travellers in two ways.

First, all airlines and cruise ship operators would be required to submit electronic passport details for passengers, transit passengers and crews in advance of their arrival or departure from New Zealand. Airlines are already providing this information voluntarily.

The full implementation of the legislation would see passport and visa details checked automatically against electronic records held by the New Zealand Immigration Service. Any matches would trigger an advisory back to the airline about whether a person should be allowed to embark for New Zealand or not.

Second, the bill provides provision for the New Zealand Customs Service to electronically access the computerised passenger booking systems of all travel operators and their agents.

"Together, these provisions have been carefully developed to enable New Zealand authorities to have access to information that gives vital clues to identifying those who pose a risk, without jeopardising the privacy of legitimate travellers."

Under the proposed legislation outlined in the bill, Customs officers would also have widened powers when they are on patrol in remote parts of the country.

Until now, Customs officers have been unable to detain a person in remote areas who they suspect is attempting to evade border controls.

"The bill allows for Customs to detain a person suspected of seeking to covertly enter or leave New Zealand for questioning for up to 12 hours - or even longer where the circumstances warrant it.

"Customs aims to target those suspected of being involved in trans national organised crime - terrorists, people smugglers, drug smugglers and others with unlawful intent."

Mr Barker said the bill's proposed changes would also improve the security of our global trade by enhancing closer security relationships within the import and export supply chains.

"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 our export markets."

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 government believes that for the future well being of our people, the wider economy, trade and the continued travel of New Zealanders overseas, we must adopt this new bill.

"We simply cannot allow our country to be identified as a safe haven for terrorists, trans-national criminals and their activities."

The Border Security Bill has now been referred to the Government Administration Select Committee for further consideration.

ENDS


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