I have been to my fair share of gatherings, weddings, birthdays and met plenty of people and most of those people have never heard of the word “customs broker” or know what a “customs broker” does – but – once they learn what our job entails –  they are usually quite intrigued and interested – to be quite honest it’s a great conversation starter.

In the past the course of study was known as Customs Agency Practice and then became known as Customs Brokering. The term customs agency, customs agent, customs broker, customs brokerage are unique terms to a person or a business who operate either as an individual, a sole trader, a corporate or a partnership; all of these people need to be licensed by the Customs Act 1901.

Last week, I believe that people learned more about the word “customs broker” and “customs agents” and that they did not learn about our profession “customs broker” in a positive light. The impression that was portrayed about “customs brokers” last week has damaged our reputation now and for the future.

This week, The Australian Border Force confirmed in writing to me that the two persons who are in the media for the “biggest drug haul in Australian history” are not “customs brokers”.

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The Australian Federal Police and the Australian Border Force released a joint statement on 05 December entitled “Trio charged over Australia’s largest onshore ice seizure”; this media release made no mention of the word “customs broker” or “customs agent”.

However, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation ran a news story on 05 December 2019 “Customs brokers arrested over record ice and heroin haul in Melbourne” and reported that the Australian Federal Police Deputy Commissioner Neil Gaughan said three people were arrested when 13 search warrants were executed across Victoria on Wednesday. “Two of the three were customs agents, they are trusted insiders within the industry,” he said.

This is not true. The two persons were not “customs agents” nor were they “customs brokers”.

Considering the amount of professional development that customs brokers are required to maintain in order to protect the borders and to retain our professional stance within the industry; this latest slur needs to be rectified.

For the past 21 years of being a customs broker, I know that a customs broker’s “gut-instinct” of dodgy importers cannot be learned overnight; if we gauge that something is wrong or if something does not make sense, we will contact Redline, Cargo Support or Border Watch. Customs brokers protect the borders as much as the AFP and the ABF. Customs brokers are not aiders and abettors as described in the Crimes Act 1900 who deal or allow the dealing of illegal activity.

Customs brokers are represented by two industry associations; the Customs Brokers and Forwarders Council of Australia and the Freight & Trade Alliance. These two industry bodies should investigate how the term “customs agent” and “customs brokers” became quoted to the media.

If a Chartered Accountant or a Certified Practising Accountant had been reported as doing unethical and/or illegal activity and it was found that the person/s were not in fact CA’s or CPA’s I believe that the CA and CPA industry bodies would wish for the false reporting to rectified.

A reputation can be damaged in an instant and the damage can last a lifetime.

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