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House of Representatives

Customs Amendment (Serious Drugs Detection) Bill 2011

Explanatory Memorandum

(Circulated by authority of the Minister for Home Affairs, the Honourable Brendan O'Connor MP)



1.The purpose of this Bill is to amend the Customs Act 1901 (the Customs Act) to enable officers of Customs, using prescribed equipment, to undertake an internal non-medical scan of a person who is suspected to be internally concealing a suspicious substance.

2.Currently, under the Customs Act, an internal search, including an internal scan, can only be carried out by a medical practitioner at a place specified in the regulations. The Customs Regulations 1926 specify a hospital or the surgery or other practising rooms of a medical practitioner for this purpose.

3.The amendments will allow, with the consent of the detainee, an initial non-medical internal scan of a person to be carried out by an officer of Customs using body scan technology that is to be prescribed in the regulations. This technology produces a computer image of a person's internal cavities within a skeletal structure, as opposed to images of external body parts. Such images may serve to allay an officer's suspicion that a passenger is internally concealing a suspicious substance, in which case the detainee would be released immediately. Where, however, a body scan image supports a suspicion of an internal concealment, the existing regime governing internal searches by a medical practitioner will apply.

4.The existing safeguards applicable to equipment used in the conduct of an external search of a detainee will be extended to the body scan equipment to be used to carry out a non-medical internal scan. For example, before a body scanner could be deployed, the Chief Executive Officer of Customs would have to provide a statement to the Minister that the equipment can be safely used to detect prohibited goods and that it poses no risk, or minimal risk, to the health of the person being scanned. In addition, before officers of Customs can use a body scanner, they would have to complete approved training in its use.

5.Should the technology procured have a broader scan capability than that required for an internal non-medical scan, Customs and Border Protection will require a locked calibration to limit the scan capability to internal cavities within a skeletal structure. The calibration will not be able to be changed by an officer at the airport.

6.The extension of the internal search regime to include a non-medical internal scan by an officer of Customs will:

reduce the number of people who are referred to hospital for internal examination by a medical practitioner;
reduce the significant resource costs and medical costs incurred in the current process;
reduce the impact on hospital emergency units;
enhance early and accurate identification and referral for medical examination of people suspected of internally carrying drugs; and
through early identification of internal concealment, minimise potential threats to life and a reduction in the number of persons requiring transportation to hospital by ambulance on the basis of deteriorating health during detention.


7.The Bill has no financial impact.



Clause 1 - Short title

1.This clause provides for the Bill, when enacted, to be cited as the Customs Amendment (Serious Drugs Detection) Act 2011 .

Clause 2 - Commencement

2.Subclause (1) provides that each provision of this Act specified in column 1 of the table in that subclause commences, or is taken to have commenced, on the day or at the time specified in column 2 of the table. This subclause also provides that any other statement in column 2 of the table has effect according to its terms.

3.Item 1 of the table provides that sections 1 to 3 and anything in this Act not elsewhere covered by the table will commence on the day on which the Act receives the Royal Assent.

4.Item 2 of the table provides that Schedule 1 commences on a day to be fixed by Proclamation, and if any of the provisions do not commence within 6 months beginning on the day the Act receives the Royal Assent, they commence on the day after the end of that period.

Clause 3 - Schedule(s)

5.This clause is the formal enabling provision for the Schedule to the Bill, providing that each Act specified in a Schedule is amended in accordance with the applicable items of the Schedule. In this Bill, the Customs Act is being amended.

6.The clause also provides that the other items of the Schedules have effect according to their terms. This is a standard enabling clause for transitional, savings and application items in amending legislation.

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