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JOINT COMMITTEE ON THE AUSTRALIAN CRIME COMMISSION
Future impact of serious and organised crime on Australian society
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JOINT COMMITTEE ON THE AUSTRALIAN CRIME COMMISSION
Senator MARK BISHOP
Future impact of serious and organised crime on Australian society
Assistant Commissioner Harrison
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JOINT COMMITTEE ON THE AUSTRALIAN CRIME COMMISSION
(Joint-Friday, 6 July 2007)
CHAIR (Senator Ian Macdonald)
WRAITH, Mr Jonathan
CROMBIE, Mr Darren
RETTER, Mr Paul
HANNA, Mr Graham Wayne
PARKINSON, Mr Jeremy
Senator MARK BISHOP
HARRISON, Mr Tony
Assistant Commissioner Harrison
POPE, Mr Jeff
MILROY, Mr Alastair
BRADY, Mr Peter
BOULTON, Mr William McLean
PURRER, Mr Edward
Senator MARK BISHOP
OUTRAM, Mr Michael
- Senator PARRY
Content WindowJOINT COMMITTEE ON THE AUSTRALIAN CRIME COMMISSION - 06/07/2007 - Future impact of serious and organised crime on Australian society
CHAIR —Thank you for coming today. We appreciate your assistance to this committee. I suspect you have appeared before parliamentary committees before but, just briefly, they are part of the parliamentary process, so parliamentary privilege applies. If there is anything that you would like to say that is of a sensitive nature or you think should not be talked about publicly we can go in camera. Thank you for your submission. If you would like to make a short opening statement, we would be pleased to hear that and then we will ask some questions.
Assistant Commissioner Harrison —Thank you for the invitation to be here this morning as a follow-up to the submission. I have read some of the other submissions. I am sure you are detecting somewhat of a common theme through those submissions. I have a couple of comments to reiterate on some of the themes and the trends that we are identifying from a South Australian jurisdiction perspective with serious organised crime. Certainly, there is the diversification within industries and across industries. I have been in the area of serious organised crime investigations both as an investigator, a middle-line manager, if you like, and a senior executive over the last 10 or 15 years.
I have seen some considerable changes in the demographics, the structure and the operating practices. On diversification: some years ago you would have seen criminal networks and groups predominantly remaining within a particular industry, whether it was car rebirthing, drug distribution or firearms. We are seeing today that people are becoming far more opportunistic and looking at dabbling in any and all industries for the purpose of making money. There does not seem to be a great deal of loyalty within particular areas or jurisdictions. It really is a matter of taking whatever opportunity presents itself at any given time. There do not seem to be the loyalties within any particular industry area or in relation to a commodity, for example.
Certainly, there is diversification within legitimate as well as illegitimate businesses, and I would suggest that is certainly going to be a challenge for law enforcement in the future. Once organised crime figures and enterprises become entrenched within legitimate businesses, it certainly makes it far harder for law enforcement to investigate, detect, gather evidence and subsequently prosecute. It seems to be the case that, whether it is the transport industry, the security industry or, more recently, finance, money lending, telecommunications and so forth, there is certainly a move into those industries and there is no doubt it is for the purpose of, in the broadest of terms, enabling money laundering and disguising the black money, the proceeds of the criminal activities. That has become evident certainly across, I would suggest, all jurisdictions and territories and states within Australia and it is certainly what I have evidenced in overseas areas like the UK, Canada and New Zealand as well.
From a South Australian perspective, I would really like to highlight—and I know this is certainly evident in other parts of Australia—the very close direct linkages with outlaw motorcycle gangs. There has literally been a proliferation of membership and an increase in the existence of both gangs themselves and the membership of those gangs and associated chapters. Certainly, from a South Australian perspective, I can speak with some authority that all serious organised crime—with investigations launched either by us at a state based level or together in a joint agency approach with the Australian Crime Commission, AFP and others, bar none—all have a linkage with outlaw motorcycle gangs. I think the outlaw motorcycle gangs see it as improving their status within the serious organised crime world, if you like. From the perspective of the more traditional serious organised crime figures, I think they like the associations because they can call upon the outlaw motorcycle gangs for, I guess, debt collection, extortion, blackmail, intimidation and violence. There is no doubt that it is a two-way process and that the outlaw motorcycle gangs are infiltrating more widely into serious organised crime, but also the more traditional serious organised crime figures want to be seen and want to have linkages with outlaw motorcycle gangs.
You may be aware that in recent weeks the government of South Australia—and, as recently as yesterday, the Premier made a significant announcement of significant law reform in the area of outlaw motorcycle gangs—will certainly assist law enforcement with the policing of organised crime more generally and will certainly have an outlaw motorcycle gang focus. I am part of a working party at both the state and the national level to try to advance collaboration across all agencies and jurisdictions around the country. I know that, even as recently as last week, police ministers and commissioners met in Wellington. Certainly New Zealand wants to be a part of any development in having more of a national collaborative approach o serious organised crime and outlaw motorcycle gangs.
I will very quickly say that there is certainly evidence of increasing involvement by technical experts, if you like—people who have financial accounting skills, lawyers, solicitors and others who we are finding in real estate and other industries who have direct linkages with serious organised crime and particularly outlaw motorcycle gangs. Certainly, in more recent years there seems to have been an increase in ethic based groups involved in serious organised crime. A number of those have been highlighted through both media and law enforcement activities in recent years. It will be another significant challenge for law enforcement to be able to infiltrate ethnic based organised crime groups. I think we have been traditionally relatively successful in infiltrating the more traditional Australian based groups, but it is more challenging when you come up with language barriers, cultural barriers and other barriers to start to infiltrate ethnic based organised crime groups. Those are certainly just a few comments in addition to the submission. I am certainly more than happy to take questions in addition to that.
CHAIR —Thank you very much. The timing of your attendance here is very appropriate. This is obviously a busy time for you.
Senator MARK BISHOP —There are a few issues I want to pursue with you. For many years now, particularly in the last four or five years as I understand it, South Australia has had very tolerant—indeed, some say encouraging—marijuana production laws where, as I understand it, up to certain levels of growth are permitted legally in home based enterprises. Presumably, the product that is grown is either home used or on-sold. Is there any connection between the apparent growth in South Australian marijuana production, which I have seen some figures of, and the seed capital that these outlaw motorcycle gangs use at the beginning to set themselves up and then to maintain cash flow—that is, is there a significant penetration from the outlaw motorcycle gangs into the home production of marijuana in South Australia and then hence into presumably sale markets?
Assistant Commissioner Harrison —That is a big question. Firstly, in South Australia it always has been and still is illegal to grow any quantity of cannabis. We certainly have an expiation notice regime for being in possession of small quantities of cannabis and/or growing plants and in recent years that has also changed. Until recently it was by way of expiation a way of managing identification of cannabis by issuing an on-the-spot fine if you like for up to 10 cannabis plants. With the to some extent proliferation of the hydroponic industry in South Australia, to which you may be alluding—
Senator MARK BISHOP —I am.
Assistant Commissioner Harrison —The Controlled Substances Act has been amended in recent years whereby it is now—it always has been—illegal, but we are not able to any more expedite those matters for hydroponic growing of cannabis. This means that owing to detection a person must front the courts in South Australia for any form of hydroponic cannabis cultivation today. The only exception now is that we still expedite the growing of up to one cannabis plant.
Senator MARK BISHOP —When you say ‘expedite’ what, do you mean?
Assistant Commissioner Harrison —Expedite is similar to a traffic infringement notice which a police officer would issue and then there is a monetary fine of approximately $150 for having possession of small quantities of cannabis and/or growing plants. In relation to hydroponics that is no longer available. The police must refer the matter to the courts for the imposition of a penalty. We still issue expiation notices for the growing of one cannabis plant if the plant is growing in the ground. That has been a significant change in the last couple of years. We have actually seen in the last 12 months a reasonable decline in the number of detections for cannabis growing in South Australia and it may be partly attributable to the fact that the law has changed in relation to the way in which we impose a penalty for the growing of hydroponic cannabis.
Senator MARK BISHOP —Is it public policy in South Australia to rigorously enforce the breaches of the hydroponic industry, or is it public policy to be reactive or perhaps turn a blind eye? I do not mean that disrespectfully. I mean in the context, say, of sometimes in the domestic prostitution industry it is just a live and let live policy on the part of the state. Is it that sort of analogy in South Australia with the hydroponic industry?
Assistant Commissioner Harrison —I do not believe so. I think from a law enforcement perspective there is no discretion in relation to imposing an expiation notice and/or submitting a police apprehension report and putting a person before the court no matter what quantity of illicit drugs they may be in possession of or how many plants they may be growing. We certainly have a diversion program in relation to illicit powder drugs for adults now and that is common across a number of Australian jurisdictions to divert people into rehabilitation and so forth. I can say—going back to some of your initial comments—that there is no doubt about it: within South Australia we have a significant number of people taking advantage of growing cannabis hydroponically. There is no doubt about it and we can evidence that—there is significant—
Senator MARK BISHOP —It is now on the public record; people understand that.
Assistant Commissioner Harrison —For a number of years there has been a significant trade between South Australia and particularly the eastern states—I would suggest more New South Wales and Queensland, where cannabis in significant quantities has been transported through to New South Wales and Queensland. I know we have apprehended 50 and 60 pound quantities in the last couple of months in small vehicles trailers and so forth regularly transported. We intercepted last Friday week 27 pounds of cannabis on its way to New South Wales. So there is a large industry in relation to cannabis moving from South Australia to the eastern states. The suggestion has been and we have seen heroin in particular but probably methamphetamine as well coming back from the eastern states into South Australia. That has been occurring for a number of years; you are right in suggesting that is the case.
Senator MARK BISHOP —Do you have any evidence that that growth in the hydroponic industry and in the trade backwards and forwards between South Australia and the east coast is linked to either outlaw motorcycle gangs or organised crime groups?
Assistant Commissioner Harrison —There is the small-time criminal entity that is running its own cultivation process—and you may be aware that if you grow cannabis hydroponically you can literally turn over a crop within about 10 or 12 weeks, so over 52 weeks you can probably fit in four or five rotations of 10 or 12 plants. If you do your sums, with approximately a pound of wholesale cannabis being yielded and fetching $2,000 to $3,000 a pound in the eastern states, there is a lot of money to be made. But we certainly have evidence and we have seen that there is a significant organised approach to the growing of cannabis. That has been evidenced by the situation of what we refer to as ‘grow houses’. We have seen some six, eight, 10 or 12 houses which are deliberately sought through the acquisition of rental properties, and if you enter these premises you will see each of the rooms within the house identical in the way that it has been set up, from the agricultural pipe to the electricity, the lighting systems, the fertilisers, the carbon filters used and the extraction systems. They are literally identical, and people have obviously used the same electricians and others to establish them. We have come across eight, 10, 12 or 14 of these houses. Some of these houses would be producing 20, 30, 40 pounds of cannabis per house. As I said, that can turn over at the rate of eight to 10 to 12 weeks maximum once they have efficiencies in relation to the growing procedures for cannabis. So, yes, it is directly linked to outlaw motorcycle gangs in some cases and certainly to other, ethnically based, organised crime groups who have taken advantage of the cannabis production market within Australia.
Senator MARK BISHOP —We had some evidence in Western Australia that the ready availability of SIM cards for mobile phones was presenting a problem for law enforcement agencies. When you have a landline, it has to be registered and the appropriate agencies can check and trace calls and that sort of thing. Firstly, is the ready availability of SIM cards through supermarkets and petrol stations and so on an issue, from your observation, in terms of being able to investigate purported illegal activities and trace and check and prosecute? Secondly, in that context, when you seek to get wire taps or background information on users of either mobile or land based phone systems from carriers and telcos, is the cooperation provided by the telcos or carriers adequate for your policing purposes?
Assistant Commissioner Harrison —In answer to your first question: the proliferation of resellers in the telecommunication market and the availability of prepaid SIM cards has certainly become an inhibitor for us to successfully identify the users of mobile telephones. It certainly impacts on our ability to conduct investigations, because of the inability to know who has what phone, what telephone number and so forth.
Senator MARK BISHOP —Is it a serious inhibitor or just a minor irritant?
Assistant Commissioner Harrison —I would say it is very serious. When I was an investigator in the early nineties, we virtually had three telecommunications carriers: Optus, Vodafone and Telstra. They predominantly had the market. They were very obliging in assisting law enforcement in relation to subscriber check details and call charge records. We now have a proliferation of resellers in the market. In South Australia we have identified a move by serious organised crime figures to obtain, either directly or through an immediate family associate, a telecommunications licence. You can be prohibited from being a company director under Commonwealth law if you have a dishonesty offence recorded against you, but we cannot necessarily prevent someone from being a company director if they have a serious drug conviction against them. In many instances where serious organised crime identities may have serious drug and/or violence convictions, that does not necessarily preclude them—and it certainly does not preclude an immediate family member—from being a company director. It is certainly one of the areas in which—and you would have seen it in the paper—we strongly believe there needs to be some tightening up in relation to a fit and proper person being a director of companies, particularly in the area you are referring to, telecommunications.
Senator MARK BISHOP —Is that Commonwealth law or state law?
Assistant Commissioner Harrison —I understand that it is Commonwealth law. There is a proliferation of resellers in the telecommunications market—prepaid. I am sure you have heard that serious organised crime identities, sometimes drop two, three or four SIM cards a day because they believe the police may be intercepting their communications. You can regularly identify serious organised crime figures who carry four or five SIM cards—and phone numbers, obviously—at any one time. Their phones will belong to particular networks or be for particular purposes, and it is obviously a tactic being utilised to try to minimise the chances of police successfully intercepting those communications.
Senator MARK BISHOP —Thank you. You did not respond to my final point. With regard to police access for information to reseller carriers, do you have any comments to make as to assistance provided by the resellers?
Assistant Commissioner Harrison —I will preface my answer by saying that it is not my area of expertise, even though I have responsibility for the telephone interception section within the South Australia Police. But generally speaking I think cooperation has been good over the years. We have what is called the LEAC, the law enforcement communications system, meeting around Australia. They meet three or four time a year, both at the technical and at the practitioner level. They look at these sorts of issues on a regular basis. I am aware that within South Australia—and I think it is common in other jurisdictions—we have implemented what is referred to as a SEDNode system. I do not know what it stands for but SEDNode provides the ability for us to electronically access details from the carriers. This is done through an electronic means of making an application request and having the information come back to us, rather than the more traditional system of emailing or faxing and waiting for hard copies to come through the system.
Senator MARK BISHOP —Is that a South Australian development or a national development that has been implemented in South Australia?
Assistant Commissioner Harrison —I would suggest that it is national, but I am not sure of the details and the origin of the establishment of that sort of system.
Senator MARK BISHOP —Are your officers using it now?
Assistant Commissioner Harrison —They are using it, but currently not all carriers or holders of information are utilising the system. I do not know whether that is because they have the ability to refuse to participate in it, or because we are still going through striking up arrangements and agreements with different carriers and communication companies.
Senator MARK BISHOP —Could I ask you to go back and check with the people who report to you on this issue so that you can provide the committee with exact advice in writing as to whether your officers are experiencing any difficulties with accessing the information—either in hard form or electronic form—from telcos, carriers or service providers that you need to pursue your purpose. Secondly, could you identify whether it is industry issues, systemic issues or particular companies that are a problem. Thirdly, what is your preferred method for solving the problem—whether it is for us to make recommendations or whether you are capable of resolving it at a local level? Are you able to do that?
Assistant Commissioner Harrison —Yes.
Mr HAYES —One of the things that is coming through at this inquiry is the issue, from the operational police perspective, of databases and whether they should be extended—particularly CrimTrac. What is your view about that?
Assistant Commissioner Harrison —We can always enhance communications, databanks and intelligence systems between law enforcement agencies. To a degree silos exist within individual law enforcement agencies, never mind across law enforcement agencies. We need to have national systems when we are a large country but with only 21 million people and about 55,000 law enforcement officers. It would be great to further advance CrimTrac, the MNPP—the Minimum Nationwide Person Profile system—the ACID system and others that have been referred to in the documentations and submissions. There is always a bit of territorialism between agencies where they want to hang on to certain information, but I have also detected in the last two or three years far more cooperation, which is probably induced by the approach to terrorism. Agencies are working better together and more closely to exchange information.
Mr HAYES —I know A-G’s have indicated that they think there may be some cultural impediments in freely giving this information up, but that is not coming through from the senior police officers who have fronted this inquiry.
Assistant Commissioner Harrison —Maybe historically that has been the case but in more recent years there has been very good cooperation between law enforcement both at a national, state and territory jurisdictional level. I feel the process of improving these systems is a little sluggish and it could be hastened. I know that we are still going through the systems. I am on a board in South Australia to look at what sort of information will be uploaded onto CrimTrac through the MNPP process. It has taken a number of years and it probably is still going to take some more years before it is bedded down and the system is working effectively. But I think we are heading in the right direction. I am sure that we would all like to speed up the process at the same time.
Mr HAYES —You are not employed by the Commonwealth and yet you are a senior police officer. To give you the same opportunity that we gave Commissioner Moroney and others, from an operational policing perspective what do you think we as a Commonwealth can do better to assist the fight against crime while observing the state jurisdictions and all the rest of it? I think there is a role for the Commonwealth perhaps at the level of coordination and technical resourcing et cetera. As a senior police officer in South Australia, what do you think that we as a Commonwealth could do to make policing better?
Assistant Commissioner Harrison —There are a number of issues, and you have touched on those briefly. In terms of resourcing, the technical capacity of law enforcement operations—telephone interceptions, listening devices and surveillance operations—are very expensive to run both from a personnel perspective, the equipment and the operating costs. There is no doubt that having more of a national approach to investigation tools would be very beneficial, as would harmony between state, territory and Commonwealth legislation. To highlight what you are probably aware of, we still send detectives interstate to bring back a person for committing a fraud, hold-up or rape. Two detectives on a plane travel interstate, appear before a magistrate, make an application and then bring them back across the border. With 21 million people in the country, law enforcement would love to get harmony in legislation and extradition and we need to look at the border issues as well. I know from Premier Rann in South Australia that that is the call in relation to outlaw motorcycle gangs—to look at harmony in legislation. There are a number of aspects that I would like to briefly mention which have evolved from South Australia in the last couple of weeks and are now on the public record of legislative reform. Getting harmony and encouraging the states, territories and the Commonwealth to look at getting legislation that is complementary to each and every state and jurisdiction would really go a long way to ensure that we do not have serious organised crime figures exploiting not so much loopholes but a lack of harmony between jurisdictions and states.
Mr HAYES —That was the basis for establishing the DNA database and collection procedures and for having model legislation, but that did not precisely occur. While everyone agreed to do it, there were various idiosyncrasies built into it. Peter Falconio’s case is, I suppose, the prime example of where these differences were developed and obviously South Australia featured in those differences.
CHAIR —I think we are going to appoint you as chief of police and the Attorney-General’s ministerial council! And if you can do everything that you have just spoken about, I think the country would be far better off.
Mr HAYES —You would also be glad to know that about 15 years ago the police ministers’ conference agreed to progress a common criminal code, but that is like pulling teeth at the moment as well. Realistically, when you have an operation which comes under the classification of serious and organised crime initiated out of South Australia, obviously it is a resource by the South Australian police, whereas if we had a matter which was initiated by reference through the ACC in a targeted operation it still might involve South Australian police but it would be resourced federally. If the issue is attacking and combating serious and organised crime, is there scope for looking differently at how we provide the resources?
Assistant Commissioner Harrison —I need to be careful about what I say because the ACC is not my area of responsibility, but I can talk from a South Australian perspective. The ACC office in Adelaide has a reasonable number of personnel that largely have an analytical intelligence type function. The investigation aspect of the ACC office is largely and predominantly made up by South Australian police investigators, so we second our officers or give them leave without pay to go and work in the ACC Adelaide office. I would suggest that the ACC or the Commonwealth could look at the balance of investigational analytical focus versus investigation focus with the resourcing model. There is no doubt that we are putting good quality skilled investigators into the ACC office, which we strongly support, but it is taking resources away from our level 1, level 2, quite serious type crime investigations. I wonder whether the balance of the intelligence analytical function of the ACC from a Commonwealth funding perspective within the South Australian area is right in relation to the number of full-time resources they have allocated to investigations to support the intelligence function.
Mr HAYES —One final thing: for the development of the RICO laws—I suppose we refer to those as RICO laws—to be effective, should they be enacted across the Commonwealth? South Australia may take somewhat of a lead in this, but I know New South Wales is looking at similar provisions. State by state, I would have thought those sorts of association laws would be inherently difficult.
Assistant Commissioner Harrison —Very briefly—I know time is pressing for you—we have in the last month put together a significant options paper to the South Australian government which is now on the public record in relation to outlaw motorcycle gangs and serious organised crime generally. Inspector Damian Powell, one of my officers, did comprehensive research around the world, from the Netherlands, Germany, Canada, New Zealand, the US and other countries, looking at serious and organised crime type legislation. Our conclusion and the advice we have provided to government is that RICO legislation, the New Zealand legislation and other similar legislation can be very complex, very protracted and very resource intensive through the court process in getting a conviction. A lot of cases, as you would be aware, predominantly revolve around two, three or more persons acting in concert for a common purpose to commit serious organised crime for a money-making enterprise. The experience from overseas and our view would be that we could end up three or four years in court before we secured a conviction. So would we really be achieving what we want, which is to disrupt these organised crime groups?
The approach we are looking at taking immediately—and I think it is going to be expedited through the South Australian parliamentary process in the next three or four months—is to in the first instance look at breaking up the associations of these groups, to look at similar aspects of control orders or restraint orders and anti-criminal association laws which will preclude the communication, the mixing and the associations of these identified serious organised crime figures, particularly within the organised crime of outlaw motorcycle gangs. We believe that, by bringing in laws that are not so complex and complicated as RICO and others, once you break up the associations and you prohibit that from occurring, and you start to impose regimes whereby a breach of a non-association order could render you unable to get bail, for example, it is going to become a very powerful tool to allow law enforcement to start to break up the strength which is held by these organised crime groups.
CHAIR —Update it.
Assistant Commissioner Harrison —Yes. Consorting in South Australia is still on the books—if you consort with a reputed thief, prostitute or a person with no visible means of support. That is where it stands today, which is very archaic. We are suggesting bringing that into the 21st century and calling it ‘criminal association’—renaming it—and including things such as ‘violence’ and ‘serious drug’. We are looking at making it an offence to consort with a person subject to a control order. So if you take out a control order or a prohibition order, an anti-association, order against an individual, particularly looking at outlaw motorcycle gangs, it will become an offence to actually consort with the person who is the subject of the control order. We are taking the approach of looking at bringing in control non-association orders to target the hub of the organised crime networks—the inner sanctum, if you like, which is the difficult area for law enforcement to infiltrate—but then use the consorting updated regime to attack what I call the tentacles, the hangers-on, the street gangs, the prospects and the nominees of outlaw motorcycle gangs, to preclude them from being able to continually associate will full members of outlaw motorcycle gangs or higher ranking people within serious organised crime groups. I advocate that you need to have a multipronged approach, because, in going for RICOs, my view, in light of the New Zealand and Canadian experience, is strongly that we will end up in two or three years in the courtrooms and, at the end of the day, these people will be there laughing at us.
CHAIR —Do these laws include an updated kind of consorting—by the internet—as well as, say, meeting on a street corner? Have you considered that? The other thing—and you might answer both of these together—is that we heard evidence about the triad laws in Hong Kong and elsewhere, where even claiming to be a triad is an offence. Is that something you have looked at as well?
Assistant Commissioner Harrison —We certainly have looked at it. In answer to your first question about bringing into the 21st century consorting into a criminal association regime, we will certainly be looking at things such as voice over internet, telephones, the internet itself, person to person—we will try to capture all those associations to make sure that it is contemporary with the way people communicate today. Secondly, on the triad type legislation, what we are suggesting in South Australia, and the advice we have provided to government—and the Premier has gone public on it as of yesterday’s press conference—is that we do not disregard the anti-gang type legislation, which is the RICO, but maybe in the second or third phased approach we try to expedite the way in which we infiltrate serious organised crime. So we are suggesting to the government that we need some hard-hitting, quick approaches, which we think include the control order, the non-association consorting type regime plus a number of others, and behind that we should be diligently working away at developing legislation which maybe is not quite as complex and as difficult as RICO type styles of regimes and legislation.
CHAIR —On this proposed legislation, has someone been given the green light to go ahead and do this?
Assistant Commissioner Harrison —I can say that the South Australian cabinet endorsed the development of this yesterday morning. There is a working party and a senior reference group, together with police and Attorney-General’s and others. The expectation from our government is to have the first phase of this legislative reform ready for probably September-October this year into parliament.
CHAIR —We will watch that with interest.
Senator PARRY —On recruitment, we have had a variety of evidence before us concerning difficulty in recruiting police and retaining experienced police officers. In particular, a lot are moving into the Australian Federal Police, so the difficulty does not necessarily lie there; there seems to be depletion at the state level. Could you comment, please.
Assistant Commissioner Harrison —It is definitely the case in South Australia. We have, like all states, very low unemployment. I think we are in the 4s at the moment in South Australia—4.1 or 4.2. We are recruiting from the UK. We are about to bring over 110 police recruits in the next 12 months from the UK.
Senator PARRY —Where does that leave the UK? Are they then in the same situation? Is it a worldwide movement of policemen around the world?
Assistant Commissioner Harrison —I would not suggest so. I was in the UK in 2004 for three months with Kent Police. There are about 155,000 police across the 43 forces in the UK—England and Wales—and more in Scotland. They do not seem to have issues—certainly when I was there in 2004—about recruiting police. You would be aware that in all state police agencies there are increased establishment numbers occurring. We are increasing by 400 over four years. We are in year 2 of that recruitment process now, and I know that Western Australia, Queensland, Victoria and other states are similarly going through the same process of increasing their establishment numbers.
The Australian Federal Police and ASIO, security industries and the Australian Defence Force are all on recruitment—and all looking for a similar sort of person, I would suggest, in many cases. It is difficult. We have recruited I think over 280 UK recruits in the last two years and we are bringing in another 110 this 12 months. We are having significant difficulty recruiting locally. We just cannot get people through the front door with suitable qualifications and skill sets to meet the recruitment standards. It is an issue for us.
Senator PARRY —And you are losing officers to the AFP?
Assistant Commissioner Harrison —I hope none of my colleagues’ friends are in the background. I can say that both the ACC and the AFP, dare I say, are poaching our good people by the droves, because they are increasing their numbers. Some of our analysts, in particular, and some of our technical crime scene people are moving towards the ACC and AFP. We would like to hope that they would see better at the end of the day and come back to us—better working conditions and a nicer regime to work within—
CHAIR —Nicer people, too!
Assistant Commissioner Harrison —Nicer people and all those sorts of things.
CHAIR —You can leave by this door!
Assistant Commissioner Harrison —The positive is I guess that it is good to share skilled people across law enforcement because people learn and develop skills and bring them across and cross-pollinate. There are some positives but it is certainly making the job of state police services more difficult in the retention of skilled people.
Senator PARRY —Thank you, Assistant Commissioner. Can I just commend you on the quality of your evidence. It has been very succinct and very informative. Thank you.
CHAIR —I have two very quick things. The New South Wales Police told us that they had lost police to the federal agencies but they are coming back. So you may be comforted with that. Also, the AFP have denied they are poaching; they just say they have all these applications. That is just to keep the record straight.
I note your submission talks about a lack of understanding of how effective ALIEN is, and I do note as well that you indicate that including births, deaths and marriages, driver’s licences, utility accounts et cetera would be very useful. I only mention that to get that on the record and particularly acknowledged that.
What I did very quickly want to raise with you is an initiative or a suggestion that has come from the South Australian Police, as I understand, in relation to proving matters beyond reasonable doubt in very complex corporate and technical issues. It somewhat appeals to me, although I must say I have raised it with many others and have not had anyone yet prepared to be very enthusiastic about it. Can I just get your perspective on that? Where is that at?
Assistant Commissioner Harrison —A view in relation to proving something beyond reasonable doubt versus the balance of probabilities?
CHAIR —Yes, or some standard that is not quite beyond reasonable doubt. This is in complex corporate and technical issues where juries, I suggest, tend to be from the lower socioeconomic groups and find it very difficult—this applies to politicians, certainly including me—to follow through, and trying to get convictions beyond reasonable doubt makes it very difficult. I am just wondering what your approach to that is and where you are at with it?
Assistant Commissioner Harrison —I will preface this by saying that these are my personal views. I think there is a place for proving beyond reasonable doubt. If a person is potentially subject of serving a term of imprisonment—and sometimes a lengthy one, particular nowadays when you look at the drug regimes around Australia—I would be an advocate of proving beyond reasonable doubt. I think that is a sound, fundamental principle of law.
When it comes to things such as unexplained wealth and the confiscation of profits—unexplained wealth is one key area and, as a result of this legislative reform process, we are looking at unexplained wealth legislation following the experience in Western Australia and Northern Territory—there is certainly a place for ‘on the balance of probabilities’. When you look at things such as unexplained wealth and money trails, I think it is a reasonable fundamental principle to have to prove something on the balance of probabilities and not have to go to the extent of ‘beyond reasonable doubt’ because it will become too complex and the law will be made an ass because we just will not get to that threshold. So I think there is a place for both principles. I would once again appeal for a harmonisation of legislation in the area of unexplained wealth and confiscation right across the Commonwealth, states and territories. There is no doubt about it: serious organised crime exists because of wealth development. It would be a key investigative tool, from the perspective of disruption as well as long-term infiltration, to get this approach to unexplained wealth right across the country.
CHAIR —I think we would all endorse what Senator Parry has said about your evidence and we thank you for making yourself available today.