Customs officials have seized more than $1.05 billion worth of drugs since late 2002, despite inspecting only a fraction of the three million containers arriving at Australian ports each year, according to an investigation in the Fairfax Sunday papers.

“Most containers lying idle on Australia’s docks are never inspected, and some are stolen,” the investigation found. This at a time when the federal government is obsessing over national security.

Some disturbing figures – and tip to keep a watching brief on organised crime – also surfaced in a weekend speech by the veteran investigative journalist Bob Bottom. “In the period since the new ACC came into force from 1 January, 2003, it has been preparing a strategic re-assessment,” Bottom told a conference in Brisbane:

As a participant in recent months in a Victorian Police Organised Crime Strategy Group responsible for devising a five-year strategy to combat organised crime, in response to the spate of 27 gangland murders, I have been privy to an intelligence assessment by the ACC on just how many organised crime groups there now are throughout Australia.

As against just 13 syndicates identified by the NCA 20 years ago, there are now 97 groups Australia wide.

Out of those, 32 of the groups are deemed by the ACC to be high-risk.

What is significant is that when authorities in the United States announced on 26 April last what was described as one of the biggest mob crackdowns in Chicago history they said that there were now just four remaining mob ‘crews’ operating in the Chicago area.

Extraordinarily, according to the ACC assessment, we have two and a half times as many in Sydney (10 groups), twice as many in Melbourne (8), the same number in Adelaide (4), one less in Brisbane and Perth (3) and half as many in Darwin and Canberra (2)…

I and others who have maintained a watching brief over the NCA and now the ACC have been invited to make a submission to the federal Joint Parliamentary Committee oversighting the Australian Crime Commission.

In it, we shall be outlining the case for a significant upgrading of operations and a greater commitment of funds from both federal and state governments so that the ACC may, in partnership with other agencies, refocus on its core business – drug trafficking.

And in so doing tackle these organised groups head-on – in the national interest. We have already had preliminary discussions and are confident of success.