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First Reading Speech For The Border Security Bill

Hon. Rick Barker

2 July 2003 Speech Notes

Speech for first reading of the Border Security Bill

Mr Speaker, I move that the Border Security Bill be now read for the first time.

At the appropriate time, I intend to move that the bill be referred to the Government Administration Select Committee for consideration.

Mr Speaker, to consider this bill, you have to go back to a long day 21 months ago.

For us here in New Zealand, we woke to the news on September 11 2001, seeing images of hijacked passenger planes crashing into the twin towers of the World Trade Centre in New York, the Pentagon and into a field in Pennsylvania.

More than three thousand people lost their lives.

On that tumultuous day, we all knew something fundamental had changed in our world. We knew there would be fallout from these acts of terrorism, we did not know the nature or shape of this changed new world, but we would come to understand it.

The recent bombings in Bali also brought terrorism home to our region. Terrorism is no longer remote, it is in our neighbourhood.

Within the last month we have seen renewed terrorist activity in Saudi Arabia and Morocco, both linked to international terrorist organisations.

Here in New Zealand, we cannot continue to believe that the world's largest moat will protect us, nor can we ignore our responsibilities as a good international citizen.

We too must respond to this changing world, to ensure our own safety, to ensure the safety of our fellow citizens around the world and to ensure the continued flow of trade - the future of our economy depends on it.

So that brings me to the detail of the Border Security Bill, which will enhance our border security against terrorism.

This bill sits 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.

Since September 11 2001, international bodies have been advocating tighter border control measures and agreed standards.

A key aspect of these standards is early and timely access to information for the purposes of managing the risk people, planes, ships, boats and goods may pose as a terrorist threat.

Early access to information is critical. We are now focused on preventing risk and to do that we need to do our homework.

That means we need information in advance about people, craft and goods that are heading our way. We need enough time to analyse this information and if needs be, determine the appropriate response.

Currently, this information is either not supplied or is supplied manually, which does not allow for adequate checking in a timely manner.

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.

I will now detail how this new security enhancement will affect travellers.

There are two elements to the travel information sharing provided for in the legislation.

First, airlines and cruise ship operators will be required to use electronic means to submit passport details for passengers, transit passengers and crews in advance of their arrival or departure from New Zealand.

Many are already providing much of this information voluntarily.

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

This form of data screening is the best way to reduce New Zealand's exposure to risk from people travelling here, while at the same time maintaining the high flows of arrivals into New Zealand at any one time.

The numbers still stagger me - almost 1.9 million people visited New Zealand in 2001/2002 and it's still increasing.

The vast majority of these people are genuine travellers who deserve a warm welcome and speedy processing. However we must be able to identify those who are not welcome.

Waiting until these travellers actually arrive here to check them out is just not good enough. It is better to deal with the problem before it gets here.

The second, equally important aspect of travel information gathering and analysis in this legislation is the provision for Customs to electronically access the computerised passenger booking systems of travel operators and their agents.

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.

These measures will affect some 20 international airlines, all cruise ship operators providing services into and out of New Zealand and other travel operators.

This is not a bolt out of the blue for those it will affect, as there has been considerable consultation.

Airlines around the world are responding to similar legislation from other countries. Here, Air New Zealand has led the voluntary compliance and all airlines are now providing information voluntarily.

Mr Speaker I want to put on record my thanks to the airlines for their excellent cooperation in protecting New Zealand.

Now, security as it affects cargo.

It is vital to New Zealand's economy to keep trade flowing smoothly and in the new international environment our trading partners expect New Zealand exports to be not only of high quality, and on time, but also safe from terrorist infiltration.

Again, information is the key to achieving this. The legislation enables Customs to electronically access the computerised cargo management systems of operators in the supply chain, such as freight forwarders and consolidators.

The Bill also establishes the legislative environment for an innovative new partnership approach to providing assurance over export security.

Customs is developing a Secure Export Partnership scheme where Government and business work together to protect New Zealand's interests.

This will enable Customs to assure trading partners that goods exported under the scheme are packed securely and with no other goods.

The goods will then be placed without interference under a Customs "security seal" and conveyed to a Customs controlled area for export.

The intention is that goods with the New Zealand Customs "security seal" will then be regarded by overseas Customs administrations as low-risk therefore minimising inspection, disruption or delay.

Central to the scheme is the authority to allow an exporter to apply a Customs approved seal to that company's shipping container.

There is also a separate provision for an approved person, such as a Customs officer, to apply a seal in circumstances where the goods have been packed under supervision or inspected by the officer.

It will show that when cargo is sealed, it's secure. That is, the cargo contains only what is declared and secured in an approved way. It will also assist in identifying any interference or tampering with the secured cargo.

Goods shipped with these seals will be legally regarded as being under Customs control - therefore making it an offence to tamper with them.

It will be up to individual exporters whether they participate in the Secure Exports Partnership scheme and I know that many would find it in their best interests to do so.

Customs is working with pilot partners to develop a workable and practical scheme, built on the foundation laid down in this legislation.

It is also working closely with the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry and the Food Safety Authority in the primary production sector, to ensure the contribution to security of existing food safety requirements is recognised within the scheme.

This Border Security Bill also strengthens controls around people, their cash and their tainted property when crossing our borders illegally and undeclared.

Right now a person encountered by a Customs officer who is unlawfully arriving or leaving New Zealand from a remote location - and is not on a craft - is able to depart without being subject to the normal level of scrutiny.

It is obvious - this translates to a considerable security risk for New Zealand and its immediate neighbours.

So we are toughening controls on this - and we are particularly targeting those suspected of being involved in trans national organised crime - terrorists, people smugglers, drug smugglers and others with evil intent.

And then there is the dirty money. Right now our laws have limited provisions to detain cash or tainted property that crosses our border undeclared.

This means terrorist-related funds, funds from the proceeds of crime or tainted property can move through or into New Zealand unimpeded.

While funds in the banking system can be monitored and tracked down, this is not the case if those funds are moved in hard cash. So we are plugging that loophole.

While the likelihood of a terrorist arriving in New Zealand on a yacht filled with cash is relatively low, couriers are, from time to time, intercepted at the border in possession of undeclared cash that is suspected to have come from criminal activities. For the sake of our reputation, we have to ensure we have the laws to deal with it.

Lastly, this legislation makes changes to the powers of Customs officers when they are on patrol in remote parts of the country.

Until now, Customs officers have been unable to detain a person they find in these sorts of locations where they suspect that they are attempting to evade border controls.

Under this legislation, officers will be able 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.

This is in order to establish that they are bona fide and do not present a border security risk.

This will provide our officers with sufficient time to do their jobs properly and complete the appropriate checks on suspicious people.

In conclusion, we all know that world security has moved from a benign to a hostile environment and that we have to respond accordingly.

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 these new international border security standards.

For example, the United States, which is a major trading partner, taking $4 billion of our exports, has introduced new measures to protect its security. It is rolling out the Container Security Initiative - CSI - around the world, starting with the top 20 ports. This initiative involves stationing US Customs personnel in those ports to pre-screen cargo destined for the US.

The New Zealand Customs Service quickly saw the problems for New Zealand in that approach - for a start, our biggest port is number 78 on the US list so we would be waiting a long time for their attention - but even more importantly, arrangements with individual ports would create huge regional distortions.

Having only one port in NZ able to ship containers direct to the US would see regional development stagnate.

Our Customs Service looked at what the United States was wanting - which is comfort about the security of containerised goods being shipped to them - and came up with a uniquely New Zealand approach.

The measures in this legislation support that approach and the United States Bureau of Customs and Border Protection has indicated it is impressed with the New Zealand approach, and wants to build on the existing strong customs-to-customs relationship.

What we are doing here today will add to a perception of New Zealand contributing to global security in co-operation with our trading partners.

By enhancing information sharing and allowing changes to the powers of Customs officers, the legislation will help prevent our country from becoming a safe haven or target for terrorists.

It will further reduce traditional border crime and it will detain for the purposes of investigation, suspicious cash and tainted property.

But most importantly of all we will be ensuring the safety and security of our families, our friends, our neighbours, the wider community and the public infrastructure here.

Many New Zealanders living overseas voted with their feet after September 11 and came home. They knew they were safer here and they are. We have to keep it that way.

Mr Speaker, I now commend the Border Security Bill to the Government Administration Select Committee for further consideration.

ENDS


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