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Torres Strait: policing the open border

Media Release

06 August 1998

Media release from Senator, the Hon Amanda Vanstone, Minister for Justice, and the Hon Warren Truss, Minister for Customs.

Minister for Justice, Senator Amanda Vanstone, today released an Australian Institute of Criminology paper on policing the Torres Strait border.

The paper, Torres Strait: Policing the Open Border, is part of the AIC's Trends and Issues in Crime and Criminal Justice series.

"This paper highlights some of the key initiatives implemented by the Federal Government to improve surveillance capabilities in the Torres Strait," Senator Vanstone said.

"These include a permanent Australian Federal Police presence on Thursday Island and an additional $6.7 million to upgrade surveillance, intelligence, response and communications capabilities in the area as part of the Tough on Drugs strategy."

"The Torres Strait is one of the most exposed parts of Australia. Not only is the region of growing importance from the law enforcement perspective, but also in the regulation of our immigration, quarantine and fisheries."

"The AIC paper highlights the peculiar difficulties of policing the Torres Strait because it has no clearly marked frontier, few signs of border policing or customs control and free movement of traditional visitors."

Federal Customs Minister Warren Truss said Customs is working together with the Federal Police and other Commonwealth agencies to improve the security of the Torres Strait.

Mr Truss said funding from the Federal Government's Tough On Drugs strategy has provided effective new Customs surveillance operations in the region.

"The Federal Government is providing funding for additional helicopter flying hours including night operations and the upgrading of landing facilities on the outer islands," Mr Truss said.

"Customs are also undertaking joint border patrols with the PNG Customs service and are recruiting and training additional Torres Strait Islanders as Customs crew members."

"In addition, a Cairns company is now building four ready-response vessels which will complement the aircraft operations. These vessels will be introduced into service in September and October."