Customs officer Brian Brehmer arrives at the Gladstone coal terminal to inspect newly arrived coal ships.
Customs officer Brian Brehmer arrives at the Gladstone coal terminal to inspect newly arrived coal ships.

Drugs, immigrants, terrorists under security microscope

By ALLAN McNEILallanm@gladstoneobserver.com.au

ILLEGAL drugs, immigrants and goods have all passed through the Gladstone Port.

With terrorism emerging as the latest risk to national security, could our own backyard be under threat?

Under a $4 million revamp of the Federal Government offshore protection command, local security will be upgraded with a 1000 nautical mile net cast off our coastline.

It is the second security upgrade for the Gladstone Port since September, with changes also made to the Australian Maritime Transportation Act.

Australian Customs district manager Peter Hughes said the most common problem was illegal immigrants jumping ship in the Gladstone Port and coming ashore.

"It probably happens a few times a year, where peole are jumping ship illegally,'' Mr Hughes said.

Mr Hughes could not confirm any terrorism scares in the Gladstone Port.

Mr Hughes said Central Queensland Ports Authority staff were often used to provide information to Customs on suspicious activities.

He said local taxis were also used.

"The taxis are good. They'll give us a call and say they just had a foreigner who asked to be taken to the bus station so they'll give us a call so we can attend,'' Mr Hughes said.

He said that although they had not seen a large haul of drugs come through the Gladstone Port it had happened in the past and was an issue.

Federal Member for Hinkler Paul Neville said unfortunately today's society made ports such as Gladstone's vulnerable to terrorism.

The Gladstone port handles over $5.1 billion worth of goods each year.

Mr Neville said the cost of the port's infrastructure and importance to Australia made it a target for terrorism.

"I think any port's a target, terrorists seem to like to make grand gestures, and that's why we need to put prudent measures in place,'' he said.



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