Statement regarding comments on ABF officer workloads

Recent claims made by individuals that there are large numbers of Australian Border Force officers operating at our ports and airports who are not busy at the moment are patently false.

Officers from the Australian Border Force work extremely hard every year to protect the community from various threats and to facilitate legitimate trade and travel, however this year has been particularly busy with the many impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

While there has obviously been a reduction in international passenger movements, the number of ABF officers required to process international passengers remains high due to the requirements associated with COVID-19 protocols.

Officers have also been surged to other priority areas. They are working tirelessly to provide various functions including customs, vessel clearance and organisational support for dedicated air freight services so that Australians have access to basic essentials.

The processing of thousands of travel exemption requests has also required a sustained surge of officers from across the organisation.

In 2019-20 we have processed 57.8 million air cargo consignments – up from 53 million in 2018-19.

From 1 February to 30 June this year, ABF officers have processed over 2.4 million incoming sea cargo consignments – an 89 per cent increase on the same period last year.

A number of ABF officers have been redeployed from the international airport to Cargo and Postal Operations to service the massive increase in air cargo which has surged as a result of restrictions on the eastern coast. They have been working around the clock in in these centres to:

prevent the export of essential goods needed in Australia, such as face masks, gloves and hand sanitizer, to prevent the spread the COVID-19

facilitate the import of these essential goods to prevent the spread of COVID-19

search for illegal items being sent through air and sea cargo and the post that continue to harm the Australian community such as narcotics.

In the first six months of 2020, ABF officers made over 9,800 detections of major drugs and precursors at the Australian border, a 19 per cent increase over the same period last year.

Our ABF officers also continue to facilitate the removal of non-citizens from Australia who have been convicted of very serious crimes such as child abuse, kidnapping and drug offences.

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