Australian Customs Slack?

aBitOfAWorry

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Mar 16, 2005
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I was speaking with a friend who just returned from an overseas holiday and they told me about some medication that they brought back into the country.

While overseas some Midazolam 15mg tablets were purchased without a script. The friend used them for sleeping tablets while travelling but still had some remaining when it came time to return to Australia. Not wanting to break the law by smuggling the drugs into the country the friend ticked the box on the customs form saying ‘medication to declare’.

When presenting the form to immigration the conversation went something like this:

Officer: Why did you tick the box?
My Mate: Because I have some medication that I am unsure about.
Officer: Is it for personal use?
My Mate: Yes.
Officer: That’s fine then.

My friend then proceeded into the country with his medication.

To put this in context, my friend looked quite shifty on re-entering the country having not had a hair cut or shaved in some time. Surely someone looking this way in their mid twenties declaring drugs should arouse some interest, especially since my friend spent half of his trip in the golden triangle region of S.E Asia.

I thought that customs would have at least asked what the medication was at least or if he had a prescription. Is this just them being slack?

So if you want to bring a few keys of Heroin in to Australia, just tick the ‘I have drugs to declare’ box! As long as its for personal use then its ok! :)
 

miknu

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Dec 30, 2004
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You will find that some medications that aren't avaliable in australia can be imported for personal use. Just because customs didn't check him in this instance doesn't mean they're not doing their job.

He declared them, as he should have. If they weren't for his own personal use, do you think he would have declared them at all?

I say the customs officer did a quick risk assesment and had no problem with it.
 

aBitOfAWorry

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Tasmania, Australia
Thats fair enough, but they didn't even ask what the drug was, how much of it there was or even see it! It could have been anything. You are right though, if someone declares medication, it's not generally going to be 1kg of opium or yabba. :)
 

scuba3951

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i think that the baggage checkers probably wouldv went through his bag and checked the contents anyway... although it would be good to think that you could put a few pills in a empty prescription bottle and get it through.
 

aBitOfAWorry

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The suggestion by customs is to carry anything you may have to declare in an easy to get to bag. Because of this my friend carried the medication in hand luggage.

You are quite right about bringing pills in an empty prescription bottle. How would the average customs agent know what every prescription med is meant to look like anyway? Unless of course your pills were bright green and had a peace sysmbol or something on them! :) This brings up another interesting point. Does anyone know how exstensive customs agents are trained in regards to drug identification. I assume that they are just taught to recognise anything suspect and test it.

I think most people are smart enough not to risk it though. A jail term for drug smuggling would not be a nice way to end a holiday.
 

highflyer

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Customs people also vary greatly...
I think a lot of it is judging the people, character assessing, they generally talk to you a lot and I'm guessing they are watching for any hesitation and so on...
All that where are you off to, how was your trip, did you stay there long, visit any family stuff...
Can't be too relevent, but not small talk either :p
 

lost_boi

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i think if you find, that if you declare anything you have. you have much less a chance of being inspected.
much much less.
 

MaDMAn_Project

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You think it's easy to spot the users and the dealers out and about because you are one of the "in" crowd?

Imagine how it is for customs they are doing it every day as a job. These guys an girls are the pros don't try to fool them, they can smell a rat a mile off.
 

dabb

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Mar 31, 2004
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miknu said:
You will find that some medications that aren't avaliable in australia can be imported for personal use. Just because customs didn't check him in this instance doesn't mean they're not doing their job.

He declared them, as he should have. If they weren't for his own personal use, do you think he would have declared them at all?

I say the customs officer did a quick risk assesment and had no problem with it.
Well the law is if its an appendix B substance, which Midazolam is if u look at this link, then ur meant to get permission, u cant just bring in a enough for personal use. So yes aBitOfAWorry is right, customs were quite lax in this case.
 
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Bent

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lost_boi said:
i think if you find, that if you declare anything you have. you have much less a chance of being inspected.
much much less.
Everytime "a friend" has come back from Thailand, loaded to the hilt with cheap cigs, aftershave and booze, along with CDs, DVDs, diet pills and wooden stuff they've always ticked the declare box...and always had the wooden stuff ready to show in a separate bag...and every time the guy has said "thanks for having it ready, no worries, off you go...

Have a look next time you go through at the nothing to declare queue...you'd be amazed how many people are stopped and their bags gone through.
 

kryalkastleE

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well i have recently been through los angeles customs, new zealand customs and costa rican customs and i have to say that sydney/australian customs are the tightest out of everything. they throughly questionned me and the group i was with (of 50 other aussies) and checked our luggage pretty heavily.

so i wouldnt say that our country is patricularly lax at customs....
 

masquith

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May 4, 2003
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I managed to get a hundred 10mg Valiums I purchased for cheap in SE Asia through the nothing to declare line of Sydney airport, but not without slight dramas. They were stacked in packs of ten and tied with a rubber band. I never imagined customs would be so strict but when it came time for the x-ray scan, the girl in front of me had her bag rummaged through because they detected an "unusually large number of tablets". Thinking fast, I turned to a customs officer next to me and pretended to freak out, saying I had a problem: I had a wicker ball (plant material) and more than the allowed number of cigarettes, should I go back and throw them out before proceeding? After asking me a few questions (mainly about if I'd been trekking over there) she said "I don't want to hear about it, just come this way" then pointed me towards a corridor which bypassed Australian customs!

Quite lucky but would anyone know if it would have been something I may have been busted for at all (if detected), assuming I had no valid prescription nor reason for possession?
 

Bent

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kryalkastleE said:
[Bi wouldnt say that our country is patricularly lax at customs.... [/B]
My parents came back from a trip to Greece, they'd been through airports in Greece, Rome, Dubai and then Melbourne.

It was only in Melbourne that they got pulled aside to explain what this round lump was in their luggage (apparently customs thought it might have been plastic explosive)...but if was just some stupid stress ball thing.

Kinda scary to think that had it been plastic explosive, by the time it got to Melbourne it could have been too late!
 

highflyer

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Have any of you been through the US lately...
If you want to see tight security...
I went travelling with my girlfriend and left her looking after our 2 bags, I was gone 2 minutes, and she got asked twice what she was doing with so much luggage.
US they fingerprint and photograph everyone (even on just passing through the airport/stop over)
They make you take off your shoes and put them through the x ray machine too.
It's crazy
 

KostoN

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Perth
Not crazy, smart.

I don't want some terrorist droppin planes on my city!!
 

eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee

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Oct 5, 2004
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Melb.Aust.
I had a brush with customs when I came back from my last trip overseas. I was coming from europe going to Melb. Just before we landed they gave us a declaration slip to fill out, for quarantine purposes I think it said declare any vegatable matter, wooden artifacts etc. I couldnt think of anything apart from my 2 piece pool cue (in a leather case) that i had with me on the plane, obviously made of wood. wasnt sure whether i should of declared it but i did to be safe. When we landed i was last to get out of the plane and last in the queue. I saw the customs officer going through all the people asking them something, being last i couldnt hear him till he came to me and said surely you've got to be (my name). I was the only one who declared anything which was funny for me, out of the whole JUMBO? I know this because he told me. so he took me from last to my own table at the front and asked to see the wooden artifact, so i showed him (pool cue) and he laughed, let me go without checking my luggage. You dont want to know what I had in there...in my luggage..lol
 

phase_dancer

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Yep, I always found that if I declared something it always helped to get through quickly. My declarations usually involved my mums preservatives; pickles and chutneys. But my last OS trip was 10 years ago so things may have changed since.

A mate who travels regularly always takes an extra bottle of booze which gets him into the fast lane. He says he always declares it but is always let through without having to pay the duty. I guess it all depends upon the officer in question. They say an older man is always the best bet - perhaps because he's not so driven by the promotion incentive ;)
 

eccitude

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phase_dancer said:
A mate who travels regularly always takes an extra bottle of booze which gets him into the fast lane. He says he always declares it but is always let through without having to pay the duty. I guess it all depends upon the officer in question.
This is because Customs has a $50 minimum duty collection threshold. They won't charge you on the extra booze and smokes so long as the duty collectable is less than $50 AND you declare that you have this stuff over and above your allowance. I've heard that if they catch you with stuff over your allowance and it's not declared that they've been known to conviscate the lot - tho I guess that would happen more often in the period leading up to the staff Christmas party ... j/k =D
 

eccitude

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BT, seems those sneaky fukkas in the government were giving with one hand and taking back with two hands. When they introduced these new duty free limits they also got rid of the $50 minimum duty waiver :(

Changes to Australia's duty free concessions

It is proposed to make changes to the duty free concessions available to passengers and Australian-domiciled crew members. The changes will have effect from the date of commencement of the Customs by-laws.

These changes will simplify Customs processes and streamline passenger and crew processing. The changes include:
  • an increase in the general concession from $400 to $900 for adult travellers and from $200 to $450 for minors;
  • an increase in the alcoholic beverages concession from 1.125 litres to 2.25 litres;
  • the carriage of one carton (being the current concession) and one opened packet (maximum 25 sticks) of cigarettes without the requirement for duty collection within the tobacco concession; and
  • the adoption of the same concession regime for crew members as for passengers, but with a general concession amount of $450.
The current $50 waiver provision for all passengers will be replaced with a requirement that GST and/or duty be payable on the full value of goods within any category where the concession limit for that category is exceeded.

The measure is subject to the unanimous agreement of State and Territory governments.

Further information can be found in the joint press release of 18 September 2003 issued by the Minister for Justice and Customs and the Minister for Small Business and Touris
Source: Australian Government Budget 2004-05: Budget Paper No. 3 - Appendix A: GST Revenue Measures


Customs laws anger travellers
Jason Frenkel
Herald Sun
14mar05

JET-setting shoppers are being hit with huge Customs bills for digital cameras, expensive perfumes and top-shelf liquor after recent changes to duty free regulations.

Dozens of travellers returning to Australia have been slugged with stiff penalties for exceeding the new limits, which were introduced last month.
Angry passengers have lodged at least 30 complaints after being forced to pay hundreds of dollars in taxes and duties on electrical goods, alcohol and tobacco.

The amount travellers can spend on most of those products was doubled on February 1.

But changes to the penalty system for exceeding the new allowances have caught returning passengers unawares.

A $50 waiver on goods declared in excess of the limits has been axed and Customs officers no longer have discretionary powers to ignore small breaches.

Under the old system travellers who exceeded the alcohol allowance only paid duty on the bottle that tipped the limit.

Under the new system they must pay duty on all the bottles.

Customs Minister Chris Ellison said the transition to the new system had gone smoothly for most passengers.

Senator Ellison said Customs should not be demonised.

"The obligation is on the traveller to know the limits," he said.

Passengers can spend up to $900 on electrical and other goods (previously $400) and buy 2.25 litres of alcohol (was 1.125 litres), but the 250 cigarette limit on tobacco remains.
Source: Customs laws anger travellers
 
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