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LEGAL AND CONSTITUTIONAL LEGISLATION COMMITTEE - 29/05/2000 - national crime authority - Outcome 1—An integrated and national response to organised crime - Output group1.1—Understanding the criminal environment

Senator BOLKUS —I refer you to output group 1.1, which is reduced from $5,555,000 to $4,269,000. Can you tell us where that reduction of $1.2 million is going to take place?

Mr Hartley —There are a number of changes you can see in those two columns. I think it is fair to say that those changes are more as a result of experience that we have had with this process. So whether there is in fact going to be a substantial change in output or not, I am not sure. But it is more of an accounting issue than an actual change in activity.

Senator BOLKUS —If I could tell that to my bank manager they would not really accept the answer, would they?

Mr Hartley —I suspect that you are right, but we have had a lot of learning to do in the last year with this particular issue.

Senator BOLKUS —So you are telling me that in terms of 1.1, there will be no existing function that will be reduced in its budget?

Mr Hartley —That is my understanding, yes.

Senator BOLKUS —Total resources are reduced from $52,571,000 to $52,462,000. How do you explain that?

Mr Hartley —Could you just draw my attention to where that is, please?

Senator BOLKUS —Maybe I could put that on notice for you. The other question relates to revenues on page 304. Revenues from government are estimated to drop by over $10 million by 2003-04, along with a big drop in staffing. Can you tell us how the revenues are going to drop and why they are going to drop?

Mr Hartley —Yes, that is the result of a couple of specific allocations for specific types of operations, and those allocations run out in those years.

Senator BOLKUS —What are those allocations?

Mr Hartley —There are two, I think. One is the national drug strategy and the other one was for a specific type of criminal activity which I might ask Mr Lamb to discuss.

Senator BOLKUS —Before you do that can you tell us how much the reduction in income from the drug strategy is going to amount to?

Mr Hartley —Yes, I can. The drug strategy in fact varies over three years from just over $8 million to about $8.8 million, so in effect the last year is about $8.8 million and that is the end of that particular three-year program.

Senator BOLKUS —When is the last year?

Mr Hartley —I do have that information, Senator. Perhaps if you could ask something else I could find it.

Senator BOLKUS —While you find that Mr Lamb might answer the other part of the question to which you referred him.

Mr Lamb —The other funding was an NPP for the purposes of investigating organised crime involved in money laundering and systematic criminal tax evasion.

Senator BOLKUS —So we have eliminated that, have we?

Mr Lamb —I would like to be able to say yes to that, but unfortunately not.

Senator BOLKUS —When does the funding run out for that?

Mr Lamb —In the current budget, we received funding for another four years.

Senator BOLKUS —At what level?

Mr Lamb —How much money?

Senator BOLKUS —Yes.

Mr Lamb —It is $23 million.

Senator BOLKUS —Mr Hartley referred to a cut-back in this area as being part of the cause of the $10 million reduction in revenues from government. Is that $23 million a decrease over pre-existing levels of funding?

Mr Lamb —I think the majority of the decrease will occur as a result of the national drug strategy.

Mr Hartley —And the last year for that is 2002-2003, equivalent to $8.8 million.

Senator BOLKUS —There is another $1.2, $1.3 million decrease in government revenues: where is that coming from?

Mr Hartley —Can we take that on notice please?

Senator BOLKUS —Yes, do that. The $8.8 million 2002-2003 funding in respect of the national drug strategy: what would you be doing with that over the next two or three years? A range of government programs have already been mentioned: I suppose we could ask for that to be taken on notice.

Mr Lamb —I could answer that in the broad if that is sufficient.

Senator BOLKUS —Yes.

Mr Lamb —With our partners we are utilising those funds to deliver a better quality of intelligence and to mount operations, with our partners again: against specific organised crime drug trafficking groups.

Senator BOLKUS —And that money runs out in 2002-2003?

Mr Lamb —Yes.

Senator BOLKUS —What do you do then?

Mr Lamb —We have the standing budget that the NCA has had, its core budget. That is focused on drug trafficking as well, primarily.

Senator BOLKUS —What you are basically saying is that you will go back to your pre-existing levels of funding?

Mr Lamb —Yes.

Senator BOLKUS —Which will essentially mean that, unless there is extra funding, there will be some cut-backs in those areas?

Mr Lamb —Yes.

Senator BOLKUS —That would include both staff and operational activities?

Mr Lamb —The majority of the staff in that area are seconded staff, so there was no cost in terms of returning them to their parent agencies.

Senator BOLKUS —What number of staff are we talking about?

Mr Lamb —Probably in the order of 40 people, 50 people nationally.

Senator BOLKUS —I will return to the question I asked earlier about $52.571 million and $52.462 million, on page 300 of PBS, `Total estimated resourcing for outcome 1'. At the bottom of the table it is $52.571 million for 1999-2000 and $52.462 million for 2000-2001, about a hundred thousand or so difference. Would you like to take on notice what that represents?

Mr Hartley —Yes, Senator.

Senator COONEY —I am looking at section 4, `Purchaser/Provider Arrangements'. It deals with a matter that I think you have already talked about, your cross fertilisation with other bodies. I just notice there is no reference to AUSTRAC. We had Ms Montano in here this morning. What do we say about that? Does AUSTRAC do great work?

Mr Lamb —AUSTRAC makes a very significant contribution to the investigation of organised crime, Senator. It underpins, I would suggest, just about every matter we look at, and we have excellent relationships with them.

Senator COONEY —When you are talking about investigating a particular crime, or crimes in general, that is a worthy member of the team that goes ahead—

Mr Lamb —A very important member of the team, Senator.

Senator COONEY —With regard to the four-year funding, I get the feeling that the investigation of some alleged offences would take longer than that. Would that be a fair proposition, without going into details of your operations?

Mr Lamb —In some cases, yes, but they would be in the minority, I would suggest.

Senator COONEY —When you talk about money laundering and drugs and fraud, are they often tied up together?

Mr Lamb —Yes, they are.

Senator COONEY —I just thought that with some of those it might take a fair time to get to everybody who might have been involved.

Mr Lamb —Yes, they are complex and protracted but, at the same time, in four years I would hope that most of them would be concluded.

Senator COONEY —And I know you second people from the various police forces and the Taxation Office, and what have you, but do you also operate in conjunction with the actual forces?

Mr Lamb —Yes, we do, in joint task force arrangements as part of our core business.

Senator COONEY —Would that be in most cases or in some cases?

Mr Lamb —In most cases, I would suggest, particularly that that is our major priority which is is heroin—Asian organised crime. Most of our operations in that area are with other agencies.

Senator BOLKUS —I have just one last question. You refer on page 295 to a budget measure of $8.114 million to target high level crime. Where does that actually appear in your appropriations? You say there is an extra budget measure there of $8.114 million, your total appropriation for the year 1999-2000 was $54.96 million and your appropriation for 2000-2001 is $51.89 million. Your appropriations have gone down $3 million but you tell us on page 295 that you have had an increase, a special budget measure, of $8.114 million.

Mr Hartley —Senator, could I take that on notice as well, please?

Senator BOLKUS —It is not looking good when the NCA cannot find its own money. Take it on notice, thanks.

CHAIR —If there are no further questions, Mr Hartley and Mr Lamb, thank you very much for your presence this afternoon.

[2.55 p.m.]