Below, the strident words of Robert McLelland in May 2005, but nearly six years later, in February 2011, don't bother asking him about them, because he'll hang up on you . . . and this extended interview with McLelland is now formally referenced at point 16 in The Evidence File, and it will get widespread publicity in the coming books, films and feature articles, as will his hypocrisy.
ROBERT McCLELLAND MP
Shadow Minister for Defence and Homeland Security
TRANSCRIPT OF DOORSTOP, PARLIAMENT HOUSE CANBERRA 31 May 2005
Subjects: SYDNEY AIRPORT SECURITY BREECHES DETAILED IN CUSTOMS REPORTS
McCLELLAND: Today’s report of a Customs investigation into Sydney’s airport virtually shows that our security as at Australia’s airports is a farce. The report suggests widespread involvement in drug trafficking by baggage handlers and other staff. Crew employed overseas are potentially involved in drug smuggling, secret spots at airport utilised are used by these rings and indeed the existence of rings in some cases are ethnically based. These are very, very serious matters. The report says they are not simply indications of criminal conduct but they could in fact be indicators of a potential terrorist event. This is very, very serious.
JOURNALIST: Given that the government’s obviously had this report for some time....
McCLELLAND: Well it beggars belief that the contents of this report or at least some of the incidents were not provided to the defence in the Schapelle Corby case. Clearly there is an indication of criminality involving baggage handlers and drug smuggling in our airports. It beggars belief why this wasn’t provided to or at least some of this information was not provided to the Schapelle Corby defence. That is one thing. Certainly if this report has been available since September - why did the Government remove the inspector of Transport Security in February and two of his staff? In circumstances where there is systematic evidence of systematic criminality suggesting potential terrorist events could take place based on the systems used by these criminals. Why is the office of Inspector of Transport of Security being vacant since February and why quite frankly has the Government not insisted, not waited for but insisted, that the airports do something about it and in fact criticism suggested that one of our major airlines failing to act or failing to act properly since September gives a real cause for concern. The Government’s got too much of a light touch when it comes to airport security they actually need to get in there, they need to get in there and gets their hands dirty and tidy this up. Because it’s not simply serious criminality, it’s criminality that suggests the potential for use in a terrorist event.
JOURNALIST: Do you think this could be used to help in Corby’s defence.
McCLELLAND: Certainly evidence of baggage handlers being involved in criminal conduct involving the smuggling of drugs is information that I believe should have been provided to Schapelle Corby’s defence.
JOURNALIST: John Anderson said so that there is no link - he told Channel Nine this morning that you can’t draw that bow.
McCLELLAND: Well obviously there is no specific video footage of anyone putting drugs into her bags why because there is no video surveillance available - that’s a question in itself - as to why these video surveillance material is destroyed in this case we understand after 48 hours? But nonetheless it indicates systematic criminality involving baggage handlers smuggling drugs through our airport and that is a material fact that at the very least should have been disclosed to her defence.
JOURNALIST: Is there a need for a formal investigation or inquiry to what is going on in the airports?
McCLELLAND: There does need to be - most certainly - by an independent office holder. It was the Inspector of Transport Security. He needs a detailed investigation of this systematic criminality that exists in our airports. Quite frankly if someone can smuggle drugs into a passengers bag they can also smuggle an explosive device. Quite clearly the government’s got their head in the sand about the seriousness of these issues they talked up on security but when you come to actually dissecting what is happening and their lack of response it certainly shows the opposite.
JOURNALIST: A few weeks ago there was a drug smuggling racket broken by the AFP. This report might be separate to that, but still clearly there has been movement on that front?
McCLELLAND: In terms of individual prosecutions, and indeed we have seen all too few prosecutions, we have seen internal workplace disciplinary action being taken before actual prosecutions. These people seem to have been continuing in their work at least since these facts were known last September. The existence of gangs and so forth. I mean why hasn’t the Government addressed the lack of video surveillance in these out of sight areas since September if they have known about this? These things are all inexplicable that the system remains in place where this criminal conduct can go and take place unchecked and without appropriate surveillance, without baggage handlers being subject to arrival at work and departure from work scrutineered their baggage and the same thing in respect to particularly overseas airline crew.
JOURNALIST: Do you think Mick Palmer, as the Transport Security Chief, would have known about this report? And should he have taken on the Palmer inquiry since he was aware of this report?
McCLELLAND: I would be very, very surprised if Mick Palmer was not aware of the extent of these investigations and indeed the investigation by the AFP. Again in those circumstances you have got to ask yourself what is the Government’s priority in terms of addressing systematic criminality at our airports? It is suggesting security breaches that could be potentially be exploited by terrorists and they’re putting out a political bushfire for them in the form of the Rau Inquiry. Again it shows where the Government’s priorities are and their essentially self serving.
JOURNALIST: Hasn’t the Transport Minister said in Parliament a number of times now that that position is a part time position having focused to look at back at events once they occurred, once terrorist attacks have occurred, his is not a full time preventative position?
McCLELLAND: Well he should be. And that is a creation of John Anderson after about three questions in Question Time last week. If you look at his original statements the purpose of the Inspector of Transport security was to investigate systematic breaches of security that could potentially cause or result in a terrorist event. That makes sense - that is why you should have such an officer. The office has been dumbed down if you like because John Anderson was under some pressure last week in Question Time. The question remains, or the answer remains, that office should exist, it should be filled and it should be discharged independently from Government and it’s not if the office holder is seconded to put out a political bushfire for the Government.