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In 1969 Prime Minister John Gorton initiated a meeting of state and federal ministers with responsibility for drug control which subsequently established a National Standing Control Committee on Drugs of Dependence. The Committee was placed under the chairmanship of Alan Carmody, the Comptroller-General of Customs. Carmody established the Narcotics Bureau, a branch within Customs to lead the fight against drugs at a national level.

The Federal Bureau of Narcotics as it came to be known was initially staffed by Customs Preventive Officers. Over time, recruitment would include officers from a wide variety of domestic and international law enforcement agencies as well as personnel with specific intelligence and technical expertise.

In September 1979, after two years of taking evidence and preparing a report, Justice Williams recommended to the Government that the Narcotics Bureau be disbanded. Initially, many of the officers who served in the Narcotics Bureau were transferred to the newly established Australian Federal Police. Some officers returned to Customs, while others chose careers outside law enforcement.