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LEGAL AND CONSTITUTIONAL AFFAIRS LEGISLATION COMMITTEE
Australian Federal Police
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LEGAL AND CONSTITUTIONAL AFFAIRS LEGISLATION COMMITTEE
Australian Federal Police
Senator BOB BROWN
Mr Andrew Wood
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LEGAL AND CONSTITUTIONAL AFFAIRS LEGISLATION COMMITTEE
(Senate-Tuesday, 25 May 2010)
Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity
Australian Crime Commission
Australian Customs and Border Protection Service
Rear Adm. Barrett
Australian Federal Police
Senator BOB BROWN
Mr Andrew Wood
National Capital Authority
- Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity
- ATTORNEY-GENERAL PORTFOLIO
Content WindowLEGAL AND CONSTITUTIONAL AFFAIRS LEGISLATION COMMITTEE - 25/05/2010 - ATTORNEY-GENERAL PORTFOLIO - Australian Federal Police
CHAIR —I welcome Mr Negus and officers from the Australia Federal Police. Mr Negus, do you wish to make an opening statement?
Mr Negus —No.
CHAIR —Mr Wilkins, do you wish to make an opening statement?
Mr Wilkins —Senator Barnett has been after information on the cost of those Victorian terrorism trials. Perhaps Dr Popple could inform the committee at this juncture.
CHAIR —I think we should wait because we know Senator Barnett will be coming back. We will proceed with questions.
Senator BRANDIS —Mr Negus, I begin by taking you to page 177 of the portfolio budget statement. It deals with program 1.3, Operations—policing. Why has the conviction rate been dropped as a key performance indicator? Were you aware of that?
Mr Negus —I would have to read that.
Senator BRANDIS —Let me direct you to the second box on page 177, ‘Program 1.3 key performance indicators’. The introductory sentence says that there has been a review of key performance indicators and the last sentence of the first paragraph of that box says:
The conviction rate measure (percentage of cases resulting in a conviction, of those reaching court) has also been dropped because the final conviction status can be affected by factors outside the realm of the investigation.
Mr Negus —It was not something I was overtly aware of.
Senator BRANDIS —You were not aware of it. Does it surprise you?
Mr Negus —It does not in the context of how it is written. I think what it is representing is the fact that, once the matters are actually taken to court, the prosecution elements of it are handled by a range of agencies, including the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions. Obviously conviction rates are something we would monitor. I suggest that internally we would still monitor them. It is a recognition of the broader responsibility in the conviction of offenders across agencies.
Senator BRANDIS —These words are all waffle. For as long as key performance indicators have been identified by that term, the conviction rate has been treated by the Australian Federal Police as one of the key performance indicators of the performance of its policing function. Now it is not. Why was it a key performance indicator for all those years up to now, but now it is not?
Mr Negus —As long as I have been in this organisation the AFP has considered that, once a matter has been taken to court and a person has been committed for trial, then the AFP’s commitment to this process has been fulfilled. What happens in court, as you would be well aware, is something that is really a matter for the courts and for the Director of Public Prosecutions.
Senator BRANDIS —I am perfectly aware of that, as are we all. However with respect, that the not the point. I think the Australian public would be rather shocked to know that the Australian Federal Police no longer regard the conviction rate—the number of crooks arrested by them who get convicted by the courts—is no longer a key indicator of the performance of its policing function.
Mr Negus —I can assure you within the organisation it would be monitored as a performance measure.
Senator BRANDIS —If it is monitored internally as a performance measure, you must consider that it is a performance measure. If you consider that it is a performance measure, why is it no longer a key performance indicator?
Mr Negus —In the recent review conducted by Mr Roger Beale, he recognised that this was not a good measure of policing efficiency or performance and that advice was taken accordingly.
Senator BRANDIS —You said in answer to my initial question that you were not overtly aware that the conviction rate had been dropped as a KPI. I assume that we can disregard the adjective there. Having regard to the fact that you just told me that internally you still regard this as a performance measure, or as a measure of performance, would you care to revisit and reconsider the decision to abandon the conviction rate as a key indicator of the performance of the Australian Federal Police?
Mr Negus —I certainly would.
Senator BRANDIS —Thank you.
Mr Negus —If you look at ‘Program 1.3 key performance indicators’ in the PBS, you will see that the first line states:
A performance framework is under development for the new program …
Senator BRANDIS —Indeed, it does say that. But the sentence to which I have directed you reports on a conclusion—a decision that has already been made—hence the use of the past tense:
The conviction rate measure … has also been dropped …
That might have got past you, with all due respect, but it is not a decision that should have been made. If I may say so, you seem a little troubled by it. I welcome your assurance that you will revisit that decision.
Mr Negus —I am happy to revisit it in the context of the recommendations made by the estimates hearing.
Senator BRANDIS —Thank you very much. I take you then to Budget Paper No. 2, the budget measures document, and to page 106, item 2, or the second item on the page, as they are not numbered: ‘National Security—Australian Federal Police—efficiencies to fund key law enforcement initiatives’. You will see that the author of this document has stated:
The Government has identified savings of $23.5 million over four years from the Australian Federal Police (AFP) through efficiencies from implementing the recommendations of the Federal Audit of Police Capabilities.
In laymen’s language that means that the $23.5 million identified there will be stripped from the AFP budget. That is right, is it not?
Mr Negus —That refers back to the review I just mentioned by Roger Beale. Most of those savings are as a result of the all-in model moving into aviation, where the AFP would take over responsibility for community policing at airports, from what is the current position where states and territories second officers to the AFP for a period of two years. There are substantial costs associated with that which we pay to the states and territories in training and turnover of staff. In Mr Beale’s review he has identified savings. Those savings are to be retained by the AFP and reinvested into other components—that is, increasing our staffing numbers.
Senator Wong —Senator, if it was as you were postulating, the numbers would appear differently in the measure—that is, as a negative number. I also refer you to the third paragraph of the measure which is as Mr Negus just outlined.
Senator BRANDIS —I will pursue this in my own way, thank you.
Senator Wong —I am assisting you.
Senator BRANDIS —I do not need your assistance, nor do I need you to try to run interference on opposition questions.
Senator Wong —I am the minister at the table and I am pointing out to you—if you wish me to be blunt—that, clearly, you do not know how to read a budget paper.
Senator BRANDIS —Had you been here late yesterday afternoon you would have appreciated—
Senator Wong —I was here until 11 o’clock last night.
Senator BRANDIS —Late yesterday afternoon Senator Stephens was at the table. It has become so obscure as a result of the deliberate policies of the Rudd government to conceal information from the Australian people that it requires estimates hearings and questions like this to get to the bottom of issues and to reveal the truth, a fact that Mr Wilkins effectively conceded yesterday afternoon in your absence, although not in those somewhat rhetorical words. But he did say that the information which we were seeking was not apparent from the budget papers but required responses to questions of the kind that opposition senators were asking.
Senator Wong —Senator, when you have finished—
CHAIR —Minister and Senator Brandis!
Senator BRANDIS —In any event, Minister, my questions are directed to the commissioner, and not to you.
Senator Wong —I am the minister at the table, Senator.
CHAIR —Order! I call you both to order.
Senator Wong —I am the minister at the table and I am simply referring the—
Senator BRANDIS —I know you are in charge of the cover-up, Senator Wong.
Senator Wong —Excuse me, Senator—
CHAIR —Senator Brandis—
Senator Wong —I have not finished. I am the minister at the table and I am referring you to the words of the budget paper which you conveniently glossed over. There is no need for you to be quite so rude.
Senator BRANDIS —I know you are in charge of a cover-up, Senator Wong, but I will ask my questions of the officers.
CHAIR —Senator Brandis, order! I am seeking order.
Senator Wong —What is the allegation?
CHAIR —Senator Brandis and Minister, I am seeking order.
Senator Wong —I would like to know what the Senator means by that. You just accused me of something, Senator. Would you like to explain it?
Senator BRANDIS —Senator Wong, you appear before this committee not as a member of it but as a witness before it.
Senator Wong —Senator, would you like to explain what you mean by that accusation?
Senator BRANDIS —We will ask the questions please.
Senator Wong —Or would you like to withdraw it?
Senator BRANDIS —Neither.
Senator Wong —I ask that you withdraw it.
Senator BRANDIS —You are the minister at the table in charge of obscuring these figures from the public.
CHAIR —Senator Brandis!
Senator Wong —You have accused me of a cover-up. Would you like to—
Senator BRANDIS —I am characterising your role in this committee.
Senator Wong —You are accusing me of a cover-up. I ask you to withdraw.
CHAIR —Senator Brandis and Minister!
Senator Wong —I ask you to withdraw.
CHAIR —Minister, thank you. Senator Brandis, you have been asked to withdraw that comment.
Senator BRANDIS —I am not aware that to say to a minister that he or she is in charge of a cover-up is unparliamentary, Madam Chair. If you rule that it is unparliamentary, I will withdraw.
CHAIR —It is a reflection.
Senator BRANDIS —I would submit—
CHAIR —It is a reflection on the Minister.
Senator BRANDIS —I would submit that it is not.
CHAIR —I am the chair and I am saying that it is.
Senator BRANDIS —Okay, if that is your ruling I withdraw.
CHAIR —Before I call you for further questioning can I just remind you that, if I recall correctly, it was Ms Leon who answered those questions yesterday relating to the figures in the budget. The Hansard record will stand as a fine example of Ms Leon trying to explain those budget figures to members at this table. If we want to go into lecturing, as chair I take this opportunity to remind people that for 11 long years we sat in exactly the same position that you are sitting in, Senator Brandis.
Senator BRANDIS —Is this a political speech by any chance?
CHAIR —No, this is the same rebuttal that you put us through. Now you can hear my reply. For 11 long years we trolled through the budget papers looking for the fine print, looking for cross references, looking for explanations of expenditure and cuts.
Senator PARRY —Point of order—
CHAIR —As you were told yesterday—and Senator Parry you will listen until I am finished—
Senator BRANDIS —It is a point of order. You have to take a point of order.
CHAIR —The department of finance puts together the budget portfolio statements. If you have an issue about how the information is collated that is the area to which you should take those concerns. Senator Parry?
Senator PARRY —Madam Chair, I have been very supportive of your impartial chairmanship until now. I think you have become very partial and political. I ask that you become partial once again.
CHAIR —I will not stand criticism of people. For the past 2½ days people on the other side of the table have to assist with answers and to clarify answers. I recall that many questions have been taken on notice. People have gone out of their way to try to assist and provide you with information. Let us get back to questioning the Australian Federal Police.
Senator BRANDIS —Yes, let us do that.
CHAIR —That is the reason why they are here. Senator Brandis, if you have questions of Mr Negus—
Senator BRANDIS —I have many questions.
CHAIR —Before you go, the minister has something to say.
Senator BRANDIS —Madam Chair—
CHAIR —No, Senator Brandis. I have recognised the minister’s call.
Senator BRANDIS —I want to take a point of order, Madam Chair.
CHAIR —Senator Brandis, I have just—
Senator Wong —Senator, just before you do, if you just give me the courtesy—
CHAIR —I have just recognised the minister’s call.
Senator Wong —I am just indicating that Ms Leon has something she wishes to respond to as a result of Senator Brandis’s intervention.
CHAIR —Ms Leon?
Ms Leon —Madam Chair, at present I am in the chair on behalf of the secretary, Mr Wilkins. I feel that I must simply set the record straight. I do not believe Mr Wilkins yesterday made a concession of the form that Senator Brandis suggested to the effect that it was not possible to ascertain what was in the budget papers without having estimates questions asked of them. I would just like to reserve the right for Mr Wilkins to correct the record when he returns.
CHAIR —Thank you Ms Leon. Senator Brandis? Do you have questions of the Australian Federal Police?
Senator BRANDIS —Madam Chair, let me make it very clear that I have no criticism of any answer or response that I have received from Commissioner Negus or any of the other officers at the table. I am sure that they are perfectly well able to respond to questions and to take appropriate objections. May I request that you, Madam Chair, ensure that the question and answer style of this committee, when senators put questions through a minister to officers, is respected by the minister at the table. Commissioner Negus, I want to take you back to page 106 please.
CHAIR —I think the question is actually through me, as chair, Senator Brandis, to the relevant officers at the table.
Senator BRANDIS —Commissioner Negus, I want to take you back to that item on page 106 of budget statement No. 2. Where do you say the $23.5 million identified there as ‘efficiencies’ has gone?
Mr Negus —It has not gone anywhere at the moment. It is over four years to start with.
Senator BRANDIS —I am sorry, where is it to go?
Mr Negus —Senator, as I said, the review by Roger Beale which is quoted in the Federal Audit of Police Capabilities looked extensively at the airport setup. At the moment the situation is that after the Wheeler review some years ago we seconded state and territory police officers to work for the AFP at the respective airports—the 11 designated airports around the country.
Mr Beale’s estimation is that there will be savings in the magnitude listed here through the AFP taking over that responsibility and filling those roles with sworn AFP officers. There will also be changes to the counterterrorism first response efforts at airports. Again there will be a homogenised workforce of all sworn police officers rather than differentiating between protective services officers and sworn police officers.
Senator BRANDIS —Just pausing there, I do not want to cut you off but I want to ask you more particular questions arising from this information that you are giving the committee. In the second paragraph under the table, three categories are listed—new model for delivering police presence at airports, which is what you are addressing now; rationalisation of drug investigation processes at airports, which I assume is also part of what you are addressing now; and improvements to the AFPs corporate service delivery. May we take it that all the $23.5 million of efficiencies are to be found within those three headings?
Mr Negus —That is correct, yes.
Senator BRANDIS —In relation to the first—that is, the airport efficiencies arising from the Beale report—can you explain to us please, Commissioner Negus, a little more fully, how it is that this money will be saved? For example, when you talked about officers from state and territory police forces, is money proposed to be saved because outlays made by the AFP towards the salaries of those co-opted state and territory officers will now no longer have to be paid, for example?
Mr Negus —That is part of it, yes. Obviously we still have to pay the salaries of the people who work there. They will be AFP officers, not seconded state and territory offices. But, as I said, there are substantial training costs in bringing people from the states and territories into an AFP role where the AFP normally will now provide those from within their own ranks. They will be trained once and not every year or two years, so there are savings there. Things as simple as uniforms and accoutrements again have to be provided to the state and territory police, whereas now they will be contained within the AFP. The other thing is that we pay a premium for access to state and territory police.
Senator BRANDIS —Sorry, just explain that.
Mr Negus —Because the states and territories then have to recruit and backfill against their own numbers, for instance, in New South Wales there are over 100 people, we pay costs associated with the recruitment and backfilling into the New South Wales police to allow them to provide staff to the AFP at those airports. So we no longer have to pay those costs on a two-yearly basis.
Senator BRANDIS —Commissioner Negus, just follow me in relation to this. I fully understand that there will be costs associated with the co-option of officers from other police forces. If those officers are no longer going to be co-opted because the job is being done by AFP badged personnel, the relevant costs of which you are speaking would have to be costs that are net of the salaries of the AFP personnel, would they not?
Mr Negus —That is right.
Senator BRANDIS —So these AFP personnel who are replacing the co-opted officers are either going to be new officers or they are going to be officers reassigned from other duties. Which is it, or is it both?
Mr Negus —Predominantly they will be new officers. They may well be reassigned from other duties but they would be filled from other locations.
Senator BRANDIS —If they are new officers would I be right in surmising that the most substantial cost component would be their salary. What you are doing is paying as salary to new AFP officers most of what you are paying as outlays to other police forces for co-opted officers?
Mr Negus —That is certainly a component of it.
Senator BRANDIS —It is the largest component, is it not?
Mr Negus —Mr Beale considered all those elements in his review, and these are the figures that were arrived at so far as the review goes.
Senator BRANDIS —That is exactly where I wanted to go with you, Commissioner Negus. How is this $23.5 million derived? At risk of incurring the wrath of Senator Wong, may I say that it is not apparent anywhere in the budget papers where it comes from? Are you able to locate for us, Commissioner Negus, or any of the officers who are at the table with you, where in the budget papers this $23.5 million comes from, or do we have to look elsewhere?
Mr Negus —Senator, one of the things that I think would assist you—and this was certainly made clear in Mr Beale’s report, so I am not telling you anything new—
Senator BRANDIS —But that is not part of the budget though, is it?
Mr Negus —No, it is but I think it is where you are heading. In Mr Beale’s opinion policing at airports could be done more efficiently.
Senator BRANDIS —I understand that.
Mr Negus —We are saying that there potentially will be 12 per cent less staffing numbers at those airports because of the multiple roles that will now be performed by sworn police officers rather than counterterrorism first response officers.
Senator BRANDIS —Pausing there, you say potentially up to 12 per cent. Is the 12 per cent the high end?
Mr Negus —The 12 per cent is the figure that Mr Beale came to. Obviously, as we move through this—and there is a three-year to five year implementation plan, which we are now preparing for the minister—those figures will have to be validated. But that is his assessment.
Senator BRANDIS —All right. Does the $23.5 million figure over four years come from Mr Beale?
Mr Negus —Predominantly it comes from savings within the aviation sector through the implementation of a new model.
Senator BRANDIS —You made it perfectly clear, Commissioner Negus in what areas you expect these efficiencies to be achieved. I just want to know how we get to the $23.5 million figure because it is not apparent from the budget.
Mr Negus —Well, Senator, the $23.5 million is money that is already allocated to the AFP and will be saved over that four-year period.
Senator BRANDIS —I understand that; that is perfectly clear. That is what it states.
Mr Negus —I am not sure whether I understand your question.
Senator BRANDIS —My question is that I want to know how that $23.5 million is derived. This is a headline figure. There must be more particular identified savings that add up to $23.5 million over four years. They are not in the budget so far as I can see, and if I am wrong, please correct me. I would like to know where they come from.
Mr Negus —They would come from Mr Beale’s report.
Senator BRANDIS —From Mr Beale’s report. Okay. You might need to take this question on notice, or perhaps one of your officers is able to tell me quickly now whether you can locate for me in Mr Beale’s report the $23.5 million figure, and its derivation?
Mr Negus —We can take that question on notice, Senator but it is actually contained on the Attorney-General’s website, if you would like to look it up.
Senator BRANDIS —Actually, the parliament has these proceedings so that we can ask you more particular questions.
Mr Negus —I am happy to provide it.
Senator BRANDIS —With all due respect, I know you were not trying to be rude, Commissioner Negus, but ‘look at the departmental website’ is not a satisfactory answer.
Mr Negus —I accept that.
Senator BRANDIS —Going to the third paragraph—
Senator Wong —Just give me a minute, Senator Brandis.
Senator BRANDIS —I was, Senator Wong, going to do this methodically and in my own way when you interrupted before. Going to the third paragraph under this item on page 106 of Budget Paper No. 2, we learn:
The savings will be retained by the AFP to enable work on high-impact criminal investigations relating to transnational and domestic crime, counter-terrorism, high-tech crime, fraud, money laundering, people smuggling, drug trafficking, and child sex exploitation.
Does that mean, Commissioner Negus, that this is existing money currently within the AFP budget that is being spent on these areas rather than new money?
Mr Negus —Senator, perhaps I could give you some context. As part of Mr Beale’s review we also looked at the government’s pledge of 500 new officers for the AFP over five years.
Senator BRANDIS —I will get to that.
Mr Negus —It is actually quite material in the answer I will have to give you. What he did was identify that there was a shortfall in the money that had been provided to get to the 500 officers.
Senator BRANDIS —Just pausing there, when you say ‘he identified a shortfall’ you mean that less money was allocated than was expected to be received. Is that right?
Mr Negus —For the AFP to make the target of 500, they required additional money.
Senator BRANDIS —How much additional money?
Mr Negus —It was around $30 million.
Senator BRANDIS —And in what year, or across what years, did the shortfall emerge?
Mr Negus —It was since the pledge was made, which is three years ago. We are on track and in fact in front of those targets in our recruitment. But to get to the 500 number he identified that there were higher costs associated with that, and we would require supplementation to reach that.
Senator BRANDIS —So you were $30 million short, according to Mr Beale, in reaching the 500 promised by the Prime Minister, or then opposition leader Rudd in 2007. So that $30 million is being found elsewhere in the AFP budget.
Mr Negus —Mr Beale recommended that the $23 million in savings from the airports would be reinvested into the AFP to allow us to substantially reach that target.
Senator BRANDIS —So we are taking this money away from airports through what are described as efficiencies in order to fund a promise that was not being delivered on because there was, to use your words, a shortfall of $30 million. Is that right?
Mr Negus —Efficiencies that had been realised through better practice were being reinvested in the AFP.
Senator BRANDIS —Sure. I understand that, Commissioner Negus. You will never get an argument from the Liberal Party that it is not good that agencies and departments are run efficiently and not wastefully. But you have been around a long time, Commissioner Negus, and you know as well as I do that it is the oldest trick in the book to describe cutbacks as efficiencies.
I gather from your evidence that there was a $30 million shortfall because the 500 extra police target was not being reached and was not going to be reached. So this money was taken out of other AFP functions, in particular, airports and are what are described in Mr Beale’s language as ‘efficiencies’.
Senator Wong —That is what he said.
Mr Negus —Senator, I think the two processes were quite unrelated.
Senator BRANDIS —Unrelated were they?
Mr Negus —Through Mr Beale’s assessment it seemed quite sensible to reinvest those savings, which was an issue that we discussed with him, backing the AFP to allow us to reach those targets. As you have said, we would certainly appreciate additional staff to be able to meet the targets that we had set.
Senator BRANDIS —Yes. Through these efficiencies—I appreciate that this is a work in progress—when these so-called efficiencies are fully implemented in accordance with what is described in Budget Paper No. 2, how many fewer badged police officers will there be at airports in aggregate? Taking both the AFP and co-opted officers who are there at the moment and the AFP officers who will have replaced the co-opted officers at the end of this process, how many fewer badged officers will there be?
Mr Negus —I will have to seek a bit of clarification on your question because police officers and badged officers in the current environment are two different things. We do have sworn police officers who have full police powers, and we also have protective service officers who are sworn but do not maintain the same powers or authorities that sworn police do. So far as I am concerned, Mr Beale’s review has identified a better way of delivering protective security services at airports.
It is a more efficient way as well, which is a bonus, and the savings are being reinvested back into the AFP to give us more staff to do serious organised crime work, which again is a bonus to the organisation. So there has been no money taken out of airports to supplement something else. In fact, as I said, the two were quite unrelated. However, they both were undertaken under Mr Beale’s review.
Senator BRANDIS —Thank you. At the moment there are two categories—sworn police officers and protective service officers. All police officers at airports fall into one of those two categories, do they?
Mr Negus —Again, I do not want to be technical, but the protective service officers are not police officers.
Senator BRANDIS —All right.
Mr Negus —The police officers perform community policing services, as you would see at any shopping centre or any public street around the country. The protective service officers provide a security presence and do what we call counterterrorism first response, so it is cordon and contain at airports. What Mr Beale has proposed, and what has been agreed by the government, is that that be homogenised into all sworn police officers with full powers at airports performing both roles.
Senator BRANDIS —We are talking about bodies—we are talking about numbers of people, who you have helpfully identified as falling into one of those two categories. At the moment some of the officers in one or both of those categories are co-opted from the states and territories?
Mr Negus —Into the sworn police officer status.
Senator BRANDIS —At the moment we have sworn police officers who comprise AFP officers and co-opted officers, is that right?
Mr Negus —That is right.
Senator BRANDIS —And as well we have protective service officers who are not sworn police officers but are counterterrorism first response officials who are employees, but not sworn officers, of the AFP?
Mr Negus —Employees of the AFP; they are sworn in but they do not classify themselves as police officers.
Senator BRANDIS —And nobody is co-opted from the states into that second category?
Mr Negus —No.
Senator BRANDIS —All right. When we move to the model that you have adopted, or which the government proposes to adopt, two things will have happened. First of all, there will be no co-opted state and territory officers in category one?
Mr Negus —That is right.
Senator BRANDIS —And secondly, to use your word—or perhaps Mr Beale’s word—the protective service officers will be ‘homogenised’ with the sworn police officers?
Mr Negus —There will be no protective service officers at airports. Those rights will be taken up by sworn police.
Senator BRANDIS —So instead of three categories of persons, that is, AFP sworn officers, co-opted sworn officers and protective services officers, there will be one category of persons, namely, sworn AFP officers who will perform all of the functions previously performed by the three categories, correct?
Mr Negus —That is right.
Senator BRANDIS —At the moment how many people are there—taking it as equivalent full-time positions—in each of those three categories: AFP officers, co-opted officers, and protective services officers?
Mr Negus —We have the numbers here but, perhaps to pre-empt your next question, as I said before, there will be 12 per cent fewer of those under the new model.
Senator BRANDIS —Twelve per cent fewer of all categories or of the first category?
Mr Negus —Across the categories—in toto.
Senator BRANDIS —Twelve per cent fewer?
Mr Negus —That is the estimate of Mr Beale, based on his assessment.
Senator BRANDIS —I like going about this in my own way, so can you just follow me? I would like the numbers—
Senator Wong —He is actually allowed to answer the question the way he wants to.
Senator BRANDIS —And I am allowed to ask the question I want to.
Senator Wong —You are not in charge of everything. He is allowed to answer the question as he sees fit.
Senator BRANDIS —When I have a witness say to me, let me pre-empt your next question, I think I may be forgiven for considering that to be a non-answer.
Senator Wong —He is allowed to answer the question in the way he sees fit.
CHAIR —I am sure Mr Negus is only trying to be helpful here.
Mr Negus —It was just waffle, looking for the right answer.
Senator BRANDIS —I know Mr Negus. You are not trying to be unhelpful; I appreciate your forthrightness. Let us deal with each of the three categories now. How many sworn AFP police officers are there at the moment? Equivalent full-time positions are probably the best measure.
Mr Negus —We might have to take that component on notice. I think we can give you seconded state officers and protective service officers.
Senator BRANDIS —Okay.
Mr Negus —What happens is that predominantly everyone performing community policing at airports is a seconded state police officer.
Senator BRANDIS —Okay.
Mr Negus —We do have AFP officers in intelligence and investigative roles around airports, and that is a little more difficult to categorise.
Senator BRANDIS —While the number of sworn AFP officers is being looked for, can you tell me the number of seconded state officers in equivalent full-time positions?
Mr Drennan —The airport uniformed police deployed as at April this year were 298.
Senator BRANDIS —How about protective service officers?
Mr Drennan —The airport uniformed police are the state and territory police. The counterterrorism first response numbers, which are the protective services officers, is 439.
Senator BRANDIS —So, 298 seconded, 439 protective service counter-terrorism first response officers—
Mr Drennan —And part of the additional PSO, protective service officer numbers, are the canine handlers, which are 33. So they are part—
Senator BRANDIS —Do we add the 33 to the 439, or is that within the 439?
Mr Drennan —We add those together.
Senator BRANDIS —So it is 33, plus 439, which is 472.
Mr Negus —Perhaps I can add something to that answer?
Senator BRANDIS —Yes.
Mr Negus —The 12 per cent would be taken off the target figure for policing at airports, which I am relatively certain has never been reached. As the state and territories come on board, some of them have struggled to meet their commitments in those areas. As of the end of April, we have 30 vacancies across Australia at those airports. The 12 per cent figure would be off the total figure, which would be the number you have plus 30, so 12 per cent less of a number which has not been achieved.
Senator BRANDIS —The last number I need is the sworn police officers. Do you have that yet?
Mr Negus —No. I think we will have to take that on notice, because they are contained within investigative teams, not necessarily working at airports all the time. They are back and forth between—
Senator BRANDIS —Do you have an aggregate figure of all three categories?
Mr Drennan —This may be helpful: there are 17 people who are classified as airport liaison officers—they are AFP members deployed across the airports; there is an additional 34 members, who are a mixture of both AFP and state and territory police who work in joint airport investigation intelligence groups; and an additional 46 people who are state and territory and AFP officers who work in the joint airport intelligence teams.
Senator BRANDIS —Thank you, but what I was after was an aggregate figure. If I may say so, Commissioner Negus’s evidence is very easy to follow. It is perfectly clear that we have these different identified categories and there must be an aggregate number. We have been told what two of the three components are—
Mr Negus —Whilst they are doing that—manually adding it up—I would like to make it clear that under Mr Beale’s new model, the last three groups that Deputy Commissioner Drennan just—
Senator BRANDIS —I have a pocket calculator here. Would that be helpful?
Mr Negus —I think we will handle that. Those last three groups, which are a mixture of state and territory police in intelligence groups and investigation groups, will remain so. They will not all be taken over because it is important in those airport environments that we actually have representatives from the state or territory working with us in intelligence and investigations.
Senator BRANDIS —The 12 per cent reduction that you have identified of the aggregate number of officers, what figure does that get you? Do you have a figure of the end point of this process which reflects the 12 per cent reduction?
Mr Negus —I do not have that at my fingertips. I am sure they could work it out, if you are prepared to wait.
Senator BRANDIS —Can that be identified as well, please?
Mr Negus —Yes.
Senator BRANDIS —While that is being done, I will move on to another issue. Let me take you to this issue of the 500 extra police that Mr Kevin Rudd promised in 2007. I do not want to engage in some sort of exercise of classifying, reclassifying and rebranding people as one thing or another. I want to cut to the chase here: Mr Rudd promised 500 extra Australian Federal Police over five years by 2012—correct?
Mr Negus —That is right, and it is quite easy because they are sworn police officers.
Senator BRANDIS —That is 500 extra sworn police officers by 2012. How many of those extra positions have we now recruited?
Mr Negus —It was staged over the five years.
Senator BRANDIS —Yes.
Mr Negus —There were 30 in the first year, 30 in the second year, 40 in the third year, then 200 in the fourth year and 200 in the fifth year.
Senator BRANDIS —It is always in the out years with old Kevin Rudd.
CHAIR —I think if you are going to refer to the Prime Minister perhaps you should do that in an appropriate way, as you would in the chamber.
Senator BRANDIS —Of course I will. It is always in the out years with the old Prime Minister.
CHAIR —‘Old Prime Minister,’ that could refer to anybody, I suppose. But keep going with your question.
Senator BRANDIS —Of the 500 who were promised by 2012, at 60 per cent of the way into the program there were going to be 100. Then the final tranche of 200 each were going to be post the 2010 election. Is that right? I can see you smiling there.
Mr Negus —That is correct.
Senator BRANDIS —In the first year did you get those 30?
Mr Negus —Yes, we did.
Senator BRANDIS —In the second year, did you get those 30?
Mr Negus —Yes, we did.
Senator BRANDIS —What about this year, did you get the 40?
Mr Negus —The third year is actually next financial year, so we are on track to do that.
Senator BRANDIS —It is the 2010-11 financial year?
Mr Negus —That is right.
Senator BRANDIS —But the comment was about 2012. Has that been interpreted to mean by the 2012-13 financial year?
Mr Negus —I am told that it has never changed from the PBS. That was the extended period of time in which it was to be done.
Senator BRANDIS —So, how many of 40 do we have? None?
Mr Negus —That will be next financial year. But planning is well underway for that.
Senator BRANDIS —The plan is well underway—how often have we heard that?
Senator BRANDIS —So of the 500 promised we have 60; is that right—30 plus 30 adds up to 60?
Mr Negus —I hesitate because the 60 have been obtained, but we have also managed to recruit more people than we had expected and we are actually well ahead of our targets.
Senator BRANDIS —In fairness, I should ask you to tell me about those figures.
Mr Negus —We have managed to make savings across the organisation in our supply costs and reinvested those back into sworn officers. We are about 181 staff ahead of the targets and where we thought we would be.
Senator BRANDIS —But the promise made by Mr Rudd in 2007 was not to fund these 500 extra officers from efficiencies, was it? The promise was just to recruit 500 extra officers, all other things being equal?
Mr Negus —No, and I apologise if I perhaps misled you. Certainly, 500 will be funded from the component of funding provided to the AFP over five years and the top-up identified by Mr Beale.
Senator BRANDIS —Of those 500, we have now had 60.
Mr Negus —That is right, as was predicted.
Senator BRANDIS —Thank you. I turn to an entirely different matter. The Australian Federal Police is responsible, is it not, for personal protection of senior politicians?
Mr Negus —Yes, certain senior politicians.
Senator BRANDIS —You have a detachment for the personal protection service. ‘Detachment’ is probably the wrong word. You have an element of the Australian Federal Police that is responsible for personal protection.
Mr Negus —That is right.
Senator BRANDIS —At any given time, which members of parliament receive personal protection?
Mr Negus —I am not sure whether it would be appropriate to answer that in a public forum, given that part of this goes to the capability of the organisation to protect those certain politicians.
Senator BRANDIS —That is fair enough. I think we know that the Prime Minister does. There are others as well on a needs basis, are there not?
Mr Negus —That is right. Based on a risk assessment, including representation from ASIO, the Attorney-General’s Department and ourselves?
Senator BRANDIS —But the only senior politician who as a matter of course, ex officio as it were, who has personal protection officers is the Prime Minister or the acting Prime Minister?
Mr Negus —As a matter of course, and, of course, the Governor General is part of that responsibility as well, but she does not in the category—
Senator BRANDIS —I am going to confine myself to political officers rather than ceremonial officers.
Mr Negus —But on a needs basis reviews are done on various politicians and, of course, at present the Deputy Prime Minister does have some needs based coverage.
Senator BRANDIS —May I take it that the officers who are assigned to the protection of a senior politician maintain a log as a matter of routine?
Mr Negus —You would have to more specific.
Senator BRANDIS —I will try to be as specific as I can be. May I take it that the officers—can I use the word ‘detached’ or ‘assigned’?
Mr Negus —For the purposes of the conversation, yes.
Senator BRANDIS —Officers who are assigned to a particular protection task or function keep a record, as a matter of routine, of who they were assigned to and where they went on any given day?
Mr Negus —Each of them would have a notebook and a diary. Of course, the way we manage the AFP is that we have a computer system called PROMIS. Each of those tasks would have a PROMIS log identifier—a number specific to each of the tasks that they would perform—like any drug investigation or other responsibility would have. They would be required to acquit time and other things against that PROMIS log.
Senator BRANDIS —Is that word ‘promise’?
Mr Negus —It is an acronym for Police Real-time Online Management Information System.
Senator BRANDIS —That is a very good acronym. And the notebook presumably is maintained by the officers in handwriting and the PROMIS log is a computer system, as you have told me. Do the officers record in the computer system all relevant information and data in relation to the fulfilment of one of these protective service tasks?
Mr Negus —It is a long time since I have done any of that sort of work. We would have to double check. But, yes, they have a responsibility to log their time and performance of their functions—where they go, what they do and what happened.
Senator BRANDIS —So, where they go and what they do and presumably—and this should be uncontroversial—the date?
Mr Negus —Yes.
Senator BRANDIS —May I also take it that in the event of an incident, the fact of the incident would be recorded as well?
Mr Negus —That is right.
Senator BRANDIS —And depending on the seriousness of the incident, there may well be a fuller or a briefer record. If a person under protection were the subject of a serious attempted assault, that would be very thoroughly documented. If there were a disruption which turned out ultimately to be of a non-threatening nature, that would be noted but perhaps not as fully as an assault. Would that be a fair surmise?
Mr Negus —I think that is a fair summation, yes.
Senator BRANDIS —The Prime Minister was accompanied by protective service officers on 30 March this year. You may want to take some of these questions on notice, by the way. The Prime Minister was accompanied by protective services officers on 30 more this year when he was in Melbourne. Is that right?
Mr Negus —I do not know specifically about a particular date. But if he was in Melbourne he would have been accompanied by protective service officers, yes.
Senator BRANDIS —I invite you to take each of these questions on notice, please. I do not expect you have the facts at your fingertips. I am going to ask you about a particular event and I am also going to ask you to provide a document. You might wish to consider whether or not you object to providing that document. Alright?
Mr Negus —Yes.
Senator BRANDIS —On the evening of 30 March, the Prime Minister attended a private dinner in the private dining room of a Japanese restaurant at the Crown Casino called Nobu. Can you check that for me, please?
Mr Negus —Yes.
Senator BRANDIS —He was accompanied by protective service officers. Commissioner Negus, perhaps you can respond without needing to take this question on notice. We know that dinner was hosted by the editor of the Herald Sun and included the Prime Minister, senior editors and journalists. Would the people attending, or the identity of the people attending, a small private function ordinarily be recorded in the log or the diary?
Mr Negus —Again, I would have to take that on notice.
Senator BRANDIS —I am now asking you about a matter of practice rather than about a particular, specific occasion. If the Prime Minister, accompanied by protect service officers, goes to a small private dinner, would the names of the other people attending the dinner be something that the AFP or the protective officers would ordinarily be made aware of or make a note of?
Mr Negus —I do not really know. I would have to check that. It would depend on the security assessment done before the event whether that material was available. There is a range of things. I would have to take that on notice.
Senator BRANDIS —You prompt me to ask you a question I should already have asked. In advance of a visit from the Prime Minister or another person under protections, a risk assessment would be done as a matter of course.
Mr Negus —Yes, that is the usual course.
Senator BRANDIS —If the occasion is as commonplace as a small private dinner, would the identity of the other people attending dinner be something that would be ascertained by the officers?
Mr Negus —It would depend on the circumstances. Again, I could not answer one way or another.
Senator BRANDIS —Would you be good enough to tell me whether or not, in relation to the Prime Minister’s dinner at the Nobu Japanese restaurant on the evening of 30 March 2010, that was done?
Mr Negus —We will take that on notice.
Senator BRANDIS —Thank you. It has been reported by the journalist Katharine Murphy in the Melbourne Age on 22 April this year that those present at the dinner on that occasion included Mr Simon Pristel, the editor of the Herald Sun, Mr Phil Gardner, the editor-in-chief of the Herald Sun, and Peter Blunden, the managing director of the Herald and Weekly Times. I am reliably told that there were others there as well. Can you check whether the assessment includes the names and identities of those people specifically, please?
Senator Wong —I have not intervened for some time because I assumed at some point there would be a question relevant to estimates or to the AFP’s functions. But I flag that this appears to be becoming an exercise in outlining aspects of the Prime Minister’s diary through an estimates process. If Senator Brandis has questions for the Prime Minister, he is in the wrong estimates hearing. I fail to see, unless he gets to the point very soon, what relevance these questions have for the Australian Federal Police.
Senator BRANDIS —They are relevant and it will be very apparent to you that they are directly relevant to the Australian Federal Police as I proceed. Commissioner Negus, during the course of the evening—I will ask you to take this question on notice—there was an incident, was there not, at the Nobu restaurant, which precipitated an intervention by officers who were assigned to the Prime Minister’s personal protection squad?
Mr Negus —I am unaware of any incident.
Senator BRANDIS —I will put these propositions to you and ask you to take them on notice and get back to me. The nature of the incident involved an altercation in which officers standing outside the private dining room heard the Prime Minister yelling at such volume that they were concerned that an incident affecting him or potentially his safety was taking place within, and they entered the room to make sure that he was all right. Can you verify that for me and come back to me on that?
Mr Negus —Again, I agree to take it on notice and will consider whether it is appropriate to respond.
Senator BRANDIS —Of course. In fact, when the officers—
CHAIR —Are you asking a question, Senator Brandis?
Senator BRANDIS —Yes, I am.
Senator Wong —You are not. Senator and Chair, Commissioner Negus has said he has no knowledge of the event. So I fail to see how it is appropriate to continue asking him questions about it in these circumstances.
Senator BRANDIS —He is taking them on notice. They are proper questions and he is taking them on notice.
Senator Wong —What do they relate to?
Senator BRANDIS —They relate to what the Australian Federal police officers did on this occasion.
Senator Wong —They appear to relate to security associated with the Prime Minister, not the budget estimates.
CHAIR —Senator Brandis and Minister Wong, as chair I ask Mr Negus whether or not the nature of these questions actually compromises the overall security that is provided to the Prime Minister in this country, no matter who that person is and whether or not they are in fact appropriate to be asked publicly and responded to publicly?
Senator BRANDIS —I will ask the questions—
CHAIR —I am not asking you, Senator Brandis; I am putting that question to Commissioner Negus.
Mr Negus —I would have grave concerns about divulging the methodology or the activities of how we may or may not respond to particular incidents. As I said earlier, I have agreed to take the questions on notice, but that would involve considerable consideration about whether it would be appropriate to respond to each of these questions.
Senator BRANDIS —I perfectly understand that.
CHAIR —Senator Brandis, I will call you in a moment. Would this line of questioning and your responses reveal how the Australian Federal Police ensure that any prime minister in this country is secure in the undertaking of his diary matters or where he goes?
Mr Negus —It may well, yes.
CHAIR —Senator Brandis, I ask you then to proceed with caution.
Senator BRANDIS —I will proceed with great caution, Madam Chair, as I always do. Commissioner Negus, is it not the case—and I understand you will need to take this question on notice—that when the Australian Federal Police officers entered the private dining room they found that there was no threat to the Prime Minister’s security, but that the incident that had alarmed them consisted merely of the Prime Minister yelling uncontrollably?
Senator Wong —This is really an abuse of process.
CHAIR —It is all right, Minister. I am going to rule that question out of order. Senator Brandis, I ask you to move on to other questions you may have of the Australian Federal Police.
Senator BRANDIS —Commissioner Negus, in the event that an incident of the kind I have described—that is, when members of the personal protection service were sufficiently alarmed by voluble screaming that they entered a private room only to discover that there was no actual threat to the security of the person whom they were protecting—would it be recorded as an incident on the PROMIS log identifier or in the notebooks or diaries of the officers?
CHAIR —I have ruled that question out of order.
Senator BRANDIS —I am asking a question about practice.
CHAIR —There is no response required. I have ruled that question out of order.
Senator BRANDIS —Then let me express the question in a slightly more general way. This is a hypothetical case. This is a hypothetical question and it does not relate to the incident at the Nobu restaurant on 30 March.
Senator Wong —I think you might make sure this is not hypothetical, at least in impression.
Senator BRANDIS —When personal protection officers are sufficiently alarmed at an incident that they move to more closely ascertain what is going on and they satisfy themselves at once that the personal security of the person to whom they are assigned is not at risk, would the practice nevertheless be to record the incident as an incident in the register, diary or log?
Mr Negus —Again, that would be down to the judgment of the officers on the ground. It would be impossible to answer a hypothetical question like that.
Senator BRANDIS —Is there a protocol or a practice in relation to the level of seriousness of an incident before it has to be recorded in the log, or is it merely, as you say, just a question for the officer on the spot?
Mr Negus —There is certainly training on this issue. But, again, it would be up to the judgment of the officer on the spot.
Senator BRANDIS —It would have to be, would it not, extremely voluble yelling for officers to intervene in a private dining room?
CHAIR —This is out of order. If you want to go out—
Senator Wong —Senator Brandis, why do you not go outside and make these allegations rather than abusing the estimates process?
CHAIR —Senator and Minister, I have ruled those questions out of order. I am now going to go to the Greens. I understand they have questions of the Australian Federal Police. Senator Brown and Senator Ludlam, we will go to you for your questions.
Senator BRANDIS —Am I not being permitted to ask any more questions?
CHAIR —We will come back to you, but it is time that we—
Senator BRANDIS —Are the sensitivities too great?
CHAIR —No. We have shared time all day between you and the other party, which is the Greens. You have been part of that. It is now the Greens’ turn.
Senator BRANDIS —I am happy to yield to Senator Brown at the moment.
CHAIR —We will come back to you at a later stage.
Senator BOB BROWN —I have two matters. The first relates to investigations into the Sea Shepherd ships that were engaged in protecting whales in the last whaling season. The second is in regard to matters raised on the Four Corners program last night about the firm Securency. In relation to the first issue, we know that police officers were involved in going aboard the Sea Shepherd ships when they returned to Hobart earlier this year after the whaling season and confiscated certain materials. I understand that was as a result of a request from Japan that an investigation take place. Can you tell the committee who made that request from Japan and in what way it was conveyed and by whom to the Australian Federal Police? How was the decision made then to go aboard the Sea Shepherd ships and search for that information?
Mr Negus —My notes are very broad, unfortunately. They say that ‘Japanese authorities’ referred the matters to the Australian Federal Police. I am not sure whether any of my colleagues have more information on that.
Senator BOB BROWN —Can you tell me which authorities?
Ms Newton —The Japanese embassy contacted the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and spoke to them in regard to a referral. That was also confirmed information from the police liaison officers to the Australian Federal Police.
Senator BOB BROWN —What was the nature of that request? It led to police becoming involved and going aboard the ship.
Ms Newton —On 29 January 2010, Japanese authorities referred a number of incidents, which allegedly occurred between 17 December 2009 and 9 January 2010, between the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society’s marine vessels and Japanese whaling vessels to the AFP. Japanese authorities subsequently advised of additional incidents, which allegedly occurred between 16 January and 21 February 2010. They asked the AFP to consider these additional allegations of incidents as part of the initial referral. So they were treated as a singular referral. They involved a number of matters. Preliminary inquiries into the allegations against the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society were in accordance with Australia’s obligations under the Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts Against the Safety of Maritime Navigation, the SUA convention. On 6 March, in conjunction with and with the assistance of the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service, AFP officers boarded and executed search warrants on the MV Steve Irwin and the MV Bob Barker as a result of information that we had received and the identification of relevant items and information that we were able to swear out warrants on.
Senator BOB BROWN —The Prime Minister has publicly made it clear that Australia believes legal action is in the offing against the Japanese whaling operations in the Southern Ocean. Was the AFP able to ascertain whether Japan had been involved in illegal activities at the time those incidents took place?
Ms Newton —This matter is still under investigation at this time. The Japanese whaling vessels have not entered Australia’s jurisdiction and, therefore, the investigation that has been undertaken is as a result of the referrals made to the Australian Federal Police by the Japanese.
Senator BOB BROWN —Have the police been able to ascertain that the Japanese were acting legally in killing whales and undertaking whaling activity south of Australia?
Mr Negus —We have only really made preliminary inquiries about this under our obligations under the act that Deputy Commissioner Newton mentioned. We have not got very far; the investigation is still underway. But there are international conventions under which we are obliged to undertake preliminary action to seize material and do things in a way that may assist future investigations or future decisions on this matter. We are still in those stages.
Senator BOB BROWN —One of those acts was the deliberate running down of the ship Ady Gil, which had six men aboard, by the Japanese ship Shonan Maru 2 on the high seas, the Ady Gil having left an Australian port to go to the whaling area. Has the Australian Federal Police sought a reciprocal investigation of records by the Shonan Maru 2 and the Japanese whaling fleet that would help it to come to a fair assessment of the behaviour of the Shonan Maru 2 in the running down the Ady Gil on the high seas?
Mr Negus —Under international law, the flag states of the vessels involved have primary jurisdiction over those vessels when they are on the high seas. As with the first issue, the AFP has conducted some preliminary inquiries in relation to the collision in accordance with the SUA convention. But we have been informed that both New Zealand and the Japanese authorities are conducting investigations into the collision themselves. The AFP will not conduct further inquiries into the incident, but we have offered to assist New Zealand and Japan with their investigations should they require that.
Senator BOB BROWN —Could you tell me where under international law the primary responsibility is to the nations they are flagging?
Mr Negus —This is where I may have to go to the Attorney-General’s Department for advice
Mr Wilkins —Senator, it might be helpful if I can get, Mr Campbell, who is the head of the Office of International Law in the Attorney-General’s Department to take you through that issue.
Mr Campbell —Senator, the flag state of a vessel has primary responsibility for the management of that vessel. It also has responsibility for investigating incidents involving that vessel.
Senator BOB BROWN —Is there anything under that convention to stop Australia investigating the ramming of the Ady Gil by the Shonan Maru 2?
Mr Campbell —I am not accepting how you characterise it necessarily, but there is nothing in the law of the sea convention that prevents Australia from conducting its own investigation into such an incident. But, of course, you have to bear in mind that it does not have primary jurisdiction over the vessels concerned and there may be difficulties in conducting such an investigation. My understanding is also—
Senator BOB BROWN —Could I just ask you what those difficulties would be?
Mr Campbell —Having access to the evidence and to the persons on board both vessels.
Senator BOB BROWN —But if there is no request to get access to those records of the Shonan Maru 2 in Japan or the persons involved, how do you know that that is an impediment to getting information?
Mr Campbell —I was about to move on to the fact that the Australian Maritime Safety Authority did conduct—I am not quite sure how you characterise it—an investigation into the incident, even though we are not the flag state of any of the vessels. I believe that it issued a report relating to its inquiry. But it also pointed out that the countries with primary responsibility for investigating the incidents were the flag states of the vessels involved.
Senator BOB BROWN —There are two things. Firstly, have you seen that report from AMSA?
Mr Campbell —I have not read it in detail.
Senator BOB BROWN —You have seen it?
Mr Campbell —I have seen the report, yes.
Senator BOB BROWN —Do you know whether it has been published?
Mr Campbell —My understanding is that it has been published.
Senator BOB BROWN —When you say ‘primary responsibility’, what is the impediment to Australia investigating the ramming of the Ady Gil?
Mr Campbell —I just said that AMSA conducted an inquiry into it. So in one sense it did investigate it, and it issued a report. But, I say again: the primary responsibility for such an investigation rests with the flag states of the vessel.
Senator BOB BROWN —But let us make this clear. There is no impediment to Australia holding an inquiry if it wishes to do so?
Mr Campbell —Australia has already conducted an inquiry through AMSA and it has issued a report.
Senator BOB BROWN —Could you explain to the committee why Australia conducted an inquiry through AMSA but facilitated a Japanese request for an inquiry utilising the Australian Federal Police?
Mr Campbell —I can explain that, Senator. As I think was mentioned by the commissioner, both Australia and Japan are parties to the conventions dealing with the suppression of unlawful acts on vessels and we have certain obligations under that convention. One of the conditions for exercising certain obligations under that convention is if a vessel which may be involved in an incident that might be covered by that convention comes into an Australian port. I think we tabled a paper on the convention and our obligations under that convention in estimates on 23 February 2009, which set out in detail what our obligations are under that convention.
Senator BOB BROWN —The point that I am getting to Mr Campbell, or to which I am trying to get an answer, is whether there is an impediment to Australia undertaking an inquiry into the ramming of the Ady Gil by the Shonan Maru 2?
Mr Campbell —Senator, I have already answered that question and said that AMSA has conducted an inquiry and issued a report.
Senator BOB BROWN —Then, can you tell me this: in issuing that report and having conducted that inquiry, did AMSA request any information whatever from the Japanese authorities?
Mr Campbell —My understanding is that the report states that they did seek material from the Japanese authorities.
Senator BOB BROWN —And?
Mr Campbell —And the Japanese authorities did not hand over the information because they said it could prejudice—I cannot quite recall the terminology—either their own cases or their own inquiry.
Senator BOB BROWN —So we established here that a request was made to Japan for material relating to that collision which Japan refused to respond to by giving material information. But a request was made to Australia by the Japanese for information relating to that material, and that led to the Australian Federal Police acting by going aboard the Sea Shepherd ships, taking information and conveying that to Japan. How can this imbalance occur?
Mr Campbell —I can say how this occurred because, as I mentioned earlier, Australia and Japan are a party to the so-called SUA convention, the suppression of unlawful acts convention, which requires Australia to take certain actions, which it did take. But there is no requirement on Japan to provide material to the AMSA inquiry.
Senator Wong —Could I have a minute? I was just seeking clarification, Senator, because as I understand the evidence, and I am not an international lawyer, there are two different legal scenarios, one of which involved what AMSA did. But in relation to what Mr Campbell describes as the SUA convention, Australia, as I understand it, was responding to a request from Japanese authorities. No such request under that convention, as I am advised, was made by New Zealand and the actions that were taken by the AFP were pursuant to that convention as opposed to the actions taken by AMSA. I flag that if I have said something wrong perhaps an officer could correct me.
Ms Newton —In regard to the Japanese embassy referring this matter to the Australian Federal Police, the allegations that were made included attempts to foul the propeller of the Japanese whaling vessels contrary to section 12 of the Crimes (Ships and Fixed Platforms) Act. The crew of the MV Steve Irwin threw butyric acid at the Japanese whaling vessels, contrary to section 28B of the Crimes Act and by virtue of section 6 of the Crimes at Sea Act. The offences extended beyond the SUA convention.
Senator BOB BROWN —In Australia, under the Crimes (Ships and Fixed Platforms) Act 1992 it is illegal to ram and sink another ship on the high seas. But we have not requested information from Japan to investigate that matter.
Ms Newton —Senator, the Australian Federal Police did go back to the Japanese embassy and requested additional information in regard to the allegations that they made, so that we had adequate information to determine whether or not we could commence an investigation or the evaluation that took place.
Senator BOB BROWN —And did the Japanese furnish that information?
Ms Newton —They provided additional information at the time to clarify what their requests were. Of course, this is an ongoing investigation and has not been completed at this time.
Senator BOB BROWN —Did they furnish from the Shonan Maru 2 one ship involved in the collision—the video evidence and log evidence et cetera, equivalent to that which the AFP requisitioned from the Sea Shepherd ships in Hobart in relation to the Ady Gil, the other ship that was sunk?
Mr Negus —Senator, the difficulty there is that those ships have not had Australian jurisdiction. Whilst we have obligations under the SUA convention to go and collect material, the Japanese and the New Zealand authorities can then make representations through appropriate channels to seek that material to work out the details.
Senator BOB BROWN —But the Ady Gil left Hobart, an Australian port when last I looked. Therefore it brings into play the Crimes (Ships and Fixed Platforms) Act 1992, which enables Australia to investigate that matter and to require Japan, if the request is made, to provide information about an investigation as to whether a crime has been committed by a Japanese ship against the Ady Gil on the high seas after the Ady Gil left an Australian port.
Mr Negus —Senator, I appreciate that but from our position the New Zealand authorities have indicated that they are investigating the matter. We have offered to support the New Zealand authorities in the appropriate way. Again, rather than having dual investigations going on both sides of the Tasman, we are prepared to provide information under the normal processes to the New Zealanders and the Japanese for them to investigate the matter.
Senator BOB BROWN —When the request was made to Australia for the AFP to be brought into play to go aboard the ships in Hobart did you respond by saying that you should make that request to the New Zealand authorities as they are the people who should handle it?
Mr Negus —No, because of the jurisdiction issues. Under the SUA convention we are obliged to make what we call preliminary inquiries—not to conduct a full investigation but to go and identify material that may well be used later in any particular criminal case in a particular jurisdiction. We do that and then make it available to the respective jurisdiction, whether it is the Japanese and/or the New Zealanders at a time when they would finalise their investigation.
Senator BOB BROWN —Is there anything under the SUA convention that would prevent you, the Australian Federal Police, having made a request to the Japanese police, to get the information from the Shonan Maru 2 that was involved in that incident?
Mr Negus —No, not under the convention, Senator, but in the fact that the New Zealand authorities had already launched an investigation and the Japanese authorities had launched an investigation. We were caught in the middle of this by having the material in our jurisdiction. So we are providing that support and again each of those jurisdictions can quite lawfully apply through a mutual assistance request to get access to that material to sort out the matter.
Senator BOB BROWN —Did the AFP hold any conversation or have any communication with the Australian government in relation to this matter during this course of events?
Ms Newton —Yes, Senator, we had a number of discussions in conjunction with partner agencies, including the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the chair, and a committee meeting group in regard to whaling matters.
Senator BOB BROWN —Are there minutes of those meetings available for the committee?
Ms Newton —I would have to refer that to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
Senator BOB BROWN —Would you please?
Ms Newton —Yes.
Senator BOB BROWN —I want to move on to Securency. Have the members who are represented here seen the Four Corners program relating to Securency?
Mr Negus —Some have, Senator. Unfortunately, I did not see it. I was preparing for this estimates committee.
Senator BOB BROWN —That would have been good preparation too. Let me then come to that matter, because it involves very serious allegations of bribery by the firm Securency, which is half owned and managed by the Reserve Bank of Australia. Securency is a note printing firm which does business around the world. Very serious allegations have been made about bribery relating to that firm in the public arena, including through the Age and Sydney Morning Herald newspapers in recent times. Amongst the claims made on the Four Corners program was a claim that a complainant went to the Australian Federal Police in 2008 with details of potential corruption, including bribery, but it was not until a year later that the police started acting on the matter. Can you explain to me whether, in fact, that complainant did go to the AFP and what action was taken in that 12-month period, after that complaint was made?
Mr Negus —Yes, Senator, I can confirm that that complainant did go to the AFP in April 2008 where certain allegations were made involving the broad range of matters to which you have just referred. There was an initial assessment done of that material at that time and over the coming months it was decided that there was insufficient material to launch an investigation. Obviously, with the benefit of hindsight, looking back, more could have been done at that time to look further and deeper into the issue. At a later stage, more material was provided to the Australian Crime Commission, which was again provided to the AFP. Another assessment was done at about that time and the matter was formally referred to us by the RBA, after the matter was featured in the Age newspaper.
Senator BOB BROWN —Just going back to the hindsight situation, what evidence was sought by the AFP in the wake of the very serious accusations being made to corroborate or to enable the AFP to make an independent assessment that those claims were not correct?
Mr Negus —I do not have the details of all the inquiries, but certainly over a number of months an assessment was done of the material that was provided. Certain checks were done but, again, in the context of what we now know, I think that could have gone further at the time. I have had that reviewed to have a look at how that process was undertaken. As you have said, it is a very serious matter. Currently, we have up to 20 investigators working on this full time now in a number of countries around the world. What I would not want to do is discuss in any detail the context of what material was assessed and what evidence has been gleaned at this stage because it may well impact upon the ongoing investigation.
Senator BOB BROWN —I appreciate that, thank you. However, quite a lot of material is available in the public arena and nationally—and that means internationally. Of course, one of the concerns I as a Senator have—and I am sure some of my colleagues at least will share those concerns—is that the allegations about bribery go back over a decade at least. Over that period it has been illegal in this country for businesses operating overseas to offer or provide a bribe. Is there any case with which you can acquaint the committee in which anybody has been convicted under that section of Australian law for offering or giving a bribe overseas?
Mr Negus —My officers are telling me that they have not at this time. We have run a number of investigations over the past few years but at this stage no-one has been convicted.
Senator BOB BROWN —Can you tell me how many investigations have been run over those years into allegations of bribery occurring overseas?
Mr Negus —I would have to take that question on notice, Senator. We do have that material available but it is not here with us today.
Senator BOB BROWN —Would you please? So far as is reasonably practicable would you indicate what those matters were? For example, if they have been in the public arena at some time it would be appropriate for us to be informed about that. The claims relating to Securency—
Ms Newton —Senator, I can give you some of that material. As at 21 May 2010 the AFP has received 20 referrals relating to allegations of bribery of foreign public officials since the inception of the legislation. The status of referrals is as follows. There are three active investigations, one matter under evaluation, six not accepted after evaluation, and 10 of those have been finalised. Of course, at this point in time, there have been no prosecutions that have commenced in relation to those matters.
Senator BOB BROWN —Thank you very much, Commander Newton. In relation to that matter, how is an evaluation done? I have asked this question because obviously the person brought the information about Securency, an evaluation of that information was done and no further action was taken. I am interested to know how the police conduct an evaluation and where you go to obtain corroboration and what other evidence is sought at the point of an accusation being made?
Mr Negus —Senator, we have a formula, if you like, called a case categorisation and prioritisation model, which we apply across the organisation. Again it helps us to sort which matters are high priority and of more significance to the Australian community than others. This would have been put through that process. It looks at things such as the importance to the Australian community, the sufficiency of corroborating evidence, and whether or not a prosecution is likely. Those sorts of things would be assessed. It is difficult to be specific because each of the cases would fall into different categories. But I can assure you that bribery of foreign officials is very high on the threshold of importance to cases to the Australian community. Therefore, they are important on our list.
If the matter was not accepted, which it clearly was not in the first instance—I am just being told it is essentially high, which is the second tier on the index because very high is the highest—then it was assessed as having some deficiency, if you like, in the likelihood of being able to prosecute the matter or obtain the evidence in foreign jurisdictions and those sorts of things.
Senator BOB BROWN —You mentioned bribery of foreign officials. Do you include in that officials of corporations overseas?
Mr Negus —Yes, that would be covered under the legislation.
Senator Wong —Senator, can I also just indicate to you that I understand—and you might recall this going through—that in fact the government has increased penalties for both domestic and foreign bribery offences. In fact, it is the case that Australia has one of the strictest bribery offence regimes in the world. An Australian individual who pays a bribe or a domestic official who accepts one can be jailed for up to 10 years and/or fined $1.1 million.
A company that pays a bribe may be fined $11 million, 10 per cent of the company’s annual turnover, or three times the value of the benefit obtained. The increase in these penalties ensures that Australia has taken action to implement all 22 recommendations made by the OECD working group on Bribery and International Business Transactions.
Mr Negus —Senator, before you respond, I wish to correct the record. I have just been told that certainly the foreign official must be a government official and not a private citizen for the legislation to apply. So I apologise for that; I got it wrong.
Senator BOB BROWN —In the matter of Securency, government officials have been flagged as being involved in Vietnam, in Indonesia, in Nigeria, potentially in Nepal, South Africa and Cambodia and a number of other countries. Could you tell the committee whether or not somebody like the son of a Head of State is an official? How do you work that one out?
Ms Newton —Senator, one of the most difficult components of a foreign bribery investigation is the identification of a person as being a public official and getting adequate evidence to confirm that that person is a public official. In co junction with that one of the other obstacles is about showing that a payment had taken place between the parties of that public official as well as the person making the payment.
In the current investigation of Securency, we are working with the Serious Fraud Office in the United Kingdom that is also actively investigating this matter in conjunction with the AFP. They have a component of the investigation associated with Innovia being dual ownership of Securency. We are assisting one another in the investigation, whereby there are principals in the United Kingdom who are witnesses or to whom we would like to speak between agencies.
One of the components of this is about ensuring that we have adequate evidence that we can draw into Australia for a prosecution identifying those people as officials.
Mr Negus —Senator, just to add to that, whilst there has been quite a bit of this in the public arena, principally through the newspapers and obviously last night’s program, we have to be very mindful that we are collecting evidence and that needs to be presented to a court. Comments by the investigating officials or the agency investigating this matter may well prejudice us down the track. We just want to be very careful about the sorts of comments we make about this matter, as important as it is.
Senator BOB BROWN —I appreciate that. You said that 20 or so officers were engaged in this matter at the moment. Can you tell the committee how many countries those investigations are encompassing?
Ms Newton —At this point in time I do not have that at hand. We could certainly provide it. We do have mutual assistance requests with a range of countries in regard to the investigation.
Mr Negus —And, again, I think that would sort of delve into the area—if it was in the public arena—of maybe telegraphing our punches so far as the investigation goes because there may well be areas that people in the public are not aware of.
Senator BOB BROWN —I have already flagged a large number of countries—
Mr Negus —I think those ones are already in the public arena. Again, to confirm or deny that may well just give information that we would not normally give in this regard.
Senator BOB BROWN —Can you tell the committee how long you think this investigation may take?
Mr Negus —That is a very good question. It is a very complex matter and, as we have said, there are already some issues around making sure that we get sufficient evidence to prosecute the case. I do not expect it will be over any time in the near future. There are a range of inquiries to be undertaken. It is very difficult to look at this and to give a definite time frame.
Senator BOB BROWN —I may be back here asking about this in 12 months time, with due respect.
Mr Negus —I was just going to say: rest assured that, with between 16 and 20 people working on this full time, the AFP is giving it considerable priority. Some of these do involve mutual assistance requests and other long-term legal processes to obtain evidence and have that brought back to Australia. Again, some of this is outside our control as well as the time frames around which we may be able to bring this to finality.
Ms Newton —Whilst there are a large number of countries, those are not all countries where there are allegations made of foreign bribery. We also have to make inquiries in countries where money may have transited and other inquiries that are relevant to the investigation.
Senator BOB BROWN —Can you tell me, as a layperson, if there is sufficient evidence to make a prosecution in the police assessment related to one of these series of allegations, would that then lead to a prosecution or would you hold off on that matter until the allegations in other countries had been investigated?
Mr Negus —It would just depend whether being public in arresting a particular official would perhaps give other people an opportunity to destroy evidence and those sorts of things. It is a case-by-case decision to be made by the investigators as to whether that might compromise the ongoing investigation or not. It we would not necessarily. In many matters we would arrest people, given that it is quite public, and then continue the investigation past that into other areas of the process.
Senator BOB BROWN —I am obliged to ask this question: do you think the delay in getting an investigation underway may have indeed allowed some evidence to have been destroyed or removed from reach?
Mr Negus —It is a question I have asked. Given that some of these issues go back 10 years, as you have already identified, my best advice to you is that I do not think it has. I think that we certainly got onto the trail quickly enough. There have been a range of things that have now been captured, and we have seen no indication that anything had been destroyed or tampered with during that period in which the material gained momentum to then be accepted for an investigation by the AFP.
Senator BOB BROWN —The upper house of the Nigerian parliament has investigated claims about corruption and the payment of bribes to Nigerian officials—very senior banking officials in that country—by Securency. I just ask this question: With the well-charted history of separating police investigations from parliamentary investigations, can you see any impediment to a parliamentary inquiry into this matter here in Australia?
Mr Negus —It is very difficult for me to comment on. Again, what I would say is that we do not even discuss these matters publicly whilst an investigation is underway. We have actually gone a bit further because much of it is in the public domain as you have suggested. But it is very difficult for me to comment.
Senator BOB BROWN —Finally, I come back to the difficult question of how long will this take. As a parliamentarian I have a worry that sometimes investigations seem to go for an interminably long time without there being any end point. In the meantime the parliament and the people who are anxious about this have to wait. Do you think that any component of these investigations and allegations of bribery and other matters of corruption will be completed within the next 12 months?
Mr Negus —Again, it is very difficult for me to answer that question. I can assure you that it has been given priority within the AFP. The fact I have asked for personal briefings on this matter periodically, which does not happen in all investigations—where you come and brief the commissioner on how the investigation is going—demonstrates that I treat it with such seriousness. That has happened and it will continue to happen in the future.
Senator BOB BROWN —There was a claim in today’s papers about a visiting official being provided with the services of a prostitute. Is that a matter of interest to the AFP?
Mr Negus —Again, it would be part of the broad investigation and we would look at all things of relevance that come up. But I would not like to comment particularly on that matter.
Senator PARRY —I will ask some questions in relation to Afghanistan. Firstly, how many officers from the AFP are currently deployed there?
Mr Negus —We have 28 officers deployed there at the moment.
Senator PARRY —This time last year there were 22; is that correct?
Mr Negus —That is right.
Senator PARRY —That is an increase of six. What is the primary role of the officers in Afghanistan?
Mr Negus —Their primary role is training Afghani national police officers in Tarin Kowt, which is in the Oruzgan province. We also have officers in Kandahar and Kabul who are providing assistance at a strategic level about the direction, training and capacity development of Afghani national police.
Senator PARRY —So it is primarily all relating to capacity building in the Afghani police?
Mr Negus —That is right. I think the final number will be 21; I could not tell you exactly how many are there today. But they are on the ground in Tarin Kowt, dealing with predominantly training of Afghani national police. In fact, I was there last week to witness the excellent work of the officers on the ground.
Senator PARRY —What type of training is given to the Afghani police?
Mr Negus —These are basic policing skills. We are starting from a very low base in Afghanistan where there is around 10 per cent literacy among police. That gives you an indication of some of the challenges facing our officers on the ground. But, the training is in basic police skills and looking to have them integrate into the community as a police force and to restore the rule of law in that country, particularly in the Oruzgan province.
Senator PARRY —Is a mentoring role post training part of the role of the AFP?
Mr Negus —The immediate security situation such that it is very difficult for our people to go outside the wire at Tarin Kowt. In fact, there was a rocket attack only a few weeks ago which hit the compound in which our people are living. That gives you an indication of the security situation. But they do have ongoing mentoring roles, where the Afghani police from that region will come back into the centre and talk to our officers about cases that they are investigating and seek guidance and advice. We are certainly talking with the military and others about potentially mentoring these officers at forward operating bases where the military has secured a particular area. We may well be able to go out and assist them in that regard.
Senator PARRY —Is there an intention to increase the numbers from 28 to a higher number this financial year or the next?
Mr Negus —The government has just provided additional funding over two years to go up to 28. That will be the threshold unless the circumstances change.
Senator PARRY —I am not sure, but I understand that in the budget papers there was a note about an additional 50 staff. Is that incorrect, or am I correct in assuming that?
Mr Negus —We are trying to clarify that. The FTE levels across the organisation are 50 more than were in the PBS. That is a reference to ‘50’. But as far as Afghanistan goes there is a redefinition of the role there towards capacity building. It had been primarily counternarcotics. But for capacity building there is, again, only an additional six.
Senator PARRY —Has that increase and the new measure been instigated by the National Security Committee of Cabinet? Maybe the minister can answer that.
Senator Wong —I will take that on notice. I also indicate that I will be unlikely to answer it.
Senator PARRY —You have indicated that you will take it on notice, so thank you. I appreciate the sensitivities. What is the cost of the additional six officers?
Mr Negus —We will have those figures.
Senator PARRY —I am happy for you to take that on notice if you do not have them at hand.
Mr Negus —It is worth mentioning that we originally had 22 officers. There were two operations with, I think—again, I will correct the record if I am wrong—12 officers involved in training and 10 officers involved in counternarcotics work under two separate allocations of funding. One of those was due to finish at the end of this financial year. The whole lot has been rolled up into a new program of one allocation which covers the 28.
Senator PARRY —Rebundled into one?
Mr Negus —It is an addition of six, but in fact the funding shows it is an addition of 18, because the funding was due to finish in June this year.
Senator PARRY —Do the AFP personnel going undertake additional training in relation to any other IDG deployment?
Mr Negus —Yes, they do.
Senator PARRY —Is that additional training done here in Australia or elsewhere?
Mr Negus —Primarily here in Australia, but it also includes work with the ADF to make sure that they are acutely aware of the circumstances they are going into and they are provided with the skills that they require to do the job.
Senator PARRY —Does the budget allocation allow for that additional training as well as salaries and other on-costs?
Mr Negus —Yes, it does.
Senator PARRY —Has the AFP undertaken a risk assessment of the area where AFP are deployed?
Mr Negus —Yes, we have done regular and updated risk assessments as the situation has moved one way or the other to ensure that our people are in secure accommodation. As I said, whilst some rockets did hit the compound in which they were staying, the protection in place in the premises meant that there was minimal or no damage to the inside of the building.
Senator PARRY —In light of an earlier answer and a question I have in front of me, do the AFP not accompany trainees outside of the community where they are housed because of the security risk?
Mr Negus —That is right.
Senator PARRY —I understand the Prime Minister made an announcement of the additional funding some time ago. Were the AFP aware of the additional funding and additional deployment prior to the announcement?
Mr Negus —There had been some discussion about increasing numbers and we were consulted in that process.
Senator BRANDIS —You will want to take this on notice no doubt, Commissioner Negus, and consider your response, but I would like you to produce the relevant notebooks, diaries, logs and reports of the security detail attached to the Prime Minister on the evening of 30 March 2010. I think that is all I have on the Nobu restaurant affair. Will you take that question on notice?
Mr Negus —Yes. We will take that on notice and consider our response.
Senator BRANDIS —Of course. I understand that there are sensitivities here and you would wish to consider your response. I want to give you every opportunity to do that. How much does a new sworn officer cost to train?
Mr Negus —It is not something we would have at our fingertips.
Senator BRANDIS —Roughly?
Mr Negus —No, I would not hazard a guess. Our training program goes for about six months—20 weeks. But there are a range of recruitment and other costs attached to that before they even hit the door. Obviously there is development and other things after they leave the recruit college. So, to give you a proper answer we would have to do an assessment.
Senator BRANDIS —Thank you very much. What AFP remuneration band do new sworn officers commence at?
Mr Andrew Wood —I will correct the record if I do not get this right, but it is AFP band 2.3.
Senator BRANDIS —What is the remuneration for an AFP band 2.3 officer?
Mr Andrew Wood —My recollection is that it is around $45,000 per annum.
Senator BRANDIS —How long does it take to train a new recruit?
Mr Andrew Wood —The commissioner has just mentioned that. The training process is a six-month course.
Senator BRANDIS —Have there been further redundancies taken by AFP personnel since February 2010, or since the last estimates?
Mr Andrew Wood —I do not have the figures since February; I have the figures for the financial year to date.
Senator BRANDIS —Can you give us those figures and take the other question on notice?
Mr Andrew Wood —Certainly. As at 29 April 2010, there have been 20 redundancies during the financial year 2009-10, all of which have been one-off type decisions. None of them have been part of a particular campaign or major restructure.
Senator BRANDIS —What is the total cost of redundancies that have come out of the AFP’s operating budget since December 2007?
Mr Andrew Wood —I will take that on notice.
Senator BRANDIS —Can you tell us roughly?
Senator Wong —He has taken it on notice.
Senator BRANDIS —I heard him. But that does not mean that I cannot ask him to respond, if he is able and only if he is able, by offering an approximate figure. If he is not able to offer an approximate figure, he is not. Are you?
Mr Andrew Wood —It would be more than $1 million but it would be less than $10 million, I would think. I cannot be any more accurate than that.
Senator BRANDIS —Thank you very much, I appreciate that. I turn to the question of unexplained wealth legislation. Have the unexplained wealth provisions been used since the Crimes Legislation Amendment (Serious and Organised Crime) Act 2010 came into operation?
Mr Negus —No, they have not.
Senator PARRY —I would like to follow up from Senator Brandis in relation to unexplained wealth provisions. Whilst nothing has eventuated in relation to that, are there ongoing investigations, or have investigations commenced, that may yield results from the new provisions of unexplained wealth legislation?
Mr Negus —Yes, they have. We are in discussions with both the Australian Crime Commission and the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions in looking at matters which may well fall into the category.
Senator PARRY —Is the legislation adequate for your operational needs?
Mr Negus —At this stage, yes, it is. Again, these matters will have to be tested in court, being new legislation. But we are very excited at the prospect of this legislation being available to us to provide another mechanism with which to attack organised crime.
Senator PARRY —Thank you.
Senator BRANDIS —Is there a balance standing to the credit of the confiscation of assets account?
Mr Negus —That might be a matter for AGDs—
Mr Wilkins —This is what we answered Senator Barnett this morning.
Senator BRANDIS —I am sorry.
Mr Wilkins —Now that you raise it, Senator Barnett was after the further and better particulars.
Senator BRANDIS —Why do we not have them now? That would be good.
Ms Kelly —I believe, Senator Barnett, your questions were about the balance as at 30 June 2009. That figure is $21,488,878.36. You then asked for the receipts between July 2009 and 30 April this year. The total of receipts is $28,345,092.79. You also asked for payments out of the fund during that period—July 2009 to 30 April 2010. That figure is $21,478,827.70. There is a further $4,225,000 of funds committed but not yet paid out of the fund; that is, not available for distribution but not yet paid out. That leaves the distributable balance of the fund as at 30 April of $24,130,143.45.
I believe you also asked for confirmation that there had been no applications for restraining orders under the new unexplained wealth provisions. We have confirmed that amount with the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions and they confirmed that there are no restraining orders in place in relation to the act. I think the final question you asked was the total estimated value of a property restrained. The total estimated value, up to 31 March 2010, was $271.577 million. That is for the period 1 January 2003 to 31 March 2010.
Senator BARNETT —Have you done a breakdown in the last 12-month period for the total value of property restrained?
Ms Kelly —No, I do not have that, but I can try to find that figure.
Senator BARNETT —Could you, on notice, give us a breakdown from the 2003 period on a financial year basis up until now?
Ms Kelly —Yes. It is important to note that the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions has asked us to emphasise that figure is a somewhat rubbery figure because it is an estimate, not the value at the time it was restrained. The amount realised from the property in the event that it is ultimately confiscated might be significantly less.
Senator BARNETT —Do you have anything further at this stage?
Ms Kelly —No.
Senator BARNETT —Can you give us a breakdown of the payments made and to whom, on notice?
Ms Kelly —Over what the period?
Senator BRANDIS —You said it was $21 million over the last 12 months. There was $4 million committed. Have you done a breakdown of where those payments went and to whom they were made?
Ms Kelly —I do not have it broken down for that period. I have it for the entire amount of the fund, but I do not have it for that period.
Senator BARNETT —Can you provide that on notice?
Ms Kelly —Yes.
Senator BARNETT —Thank you very much. That is much appreciated.
Mr Wilkins —We are taking it on notice, I do not have any details here.
Senator BARNETT —That is fine. Do you have the details regarding the—unless I missed it while I was out—Melbourne terrorist case and the legal aid funding for that case? Do you have that figure while we have break?
Mr Wilkins —We do. I will ask Dr Popple to take you through that.
Dr Popple —Total expenditure on the Victorian terrorism trials was $9.764 million.
Senator BARNETT —How many were accused and over what period of time was this payment made? I would like a breakdown of the payments.
Dr Popple —There were 13 defendants funded by legal aid. Ten were arrested and charged in November 2005 and three were arrested and charged in March 2006. I do not have with me a breakdown per defendant, I am afraid.
Senator BARNETT —How have you got it broken down to $9.764 million?
Dr Popple —I only have the details about the changes made and the period of time, which I have just given you.
Senator BARNETT —Can you take on notice and give us a breakdown per defendant, as you did with the Sydney terrorist case? Can you advise the status of the case?
Dr Popple —The status of the case?
Senator BARNETT —They were arrested and charged. Where is it up to?
Mr McDonald —We need to take that question on notice about the individuals. There are certain constraints and we need to take it on notice if you do not mind.
Senator BARNETT —Okay. You can advise which court they are currently appearing? Is that a constraint?
Mr Wilkins —Can I ask you to repeat the question?
Senator BARNETT —Which court?
Mr Wilkins —Which court what?
Senator BARNETT —Do they appear in?
Mr McDonald —The trial is in the Supreme Court of Victoria.
Senator BARNETT —When was the trial?
Mr Wilkins —You might want to take this up when the Director of Public Prosecutions appears a bit later. We are not necessarily experts on all the details of this. There are reasons why we should not go too far in canvassing this.
Senator BARNETT —Okay. Mr McDonald, are you responding or have you concluded your response?
Mr McDonald —I have concluded, thank you.
Senator BRANDIS —The 2010-11 budget revealed that the AFP will be axing the AFP liaison officer who has been in Jakarta to save $1.5 million. The budget statement states:
The function assists countries in deterring illegal foreign fishing …
Can you confirm that the AFP liaison officer in Jakarta is being axed and explain to us the reason for the axing of the position and what the effect of it will be on the AFP’s functions, particularly in relation to illegal foreign fishing?
Senator Wong —‘Axing’ is not the most neutral term.
Mr Negus —The position itself will go, but as far as the person in the role is concerned—who now deals with foreign fishing—he will remain, to be subsumed into the people smuggling unit in Indonesia. The person is not returning home; their role is changing.
Senator BRANDIS —And their finance is disappearing?
Mr Negus —The function is disappearing.
Senator BRANDIS —Where will the $1.5 million saved be spent? Will it be absorbed or is it money that the AFP will not receive?
Mr Negus —I will get Mr Wood to explain it to you. There are savings measures issues which have been identified. It is probably easier if he explains that to you in the content of the whole budget.
Mr Wood —The money is returned to the central budget.
Senator BRANDIS —Of the AFP or consolidated revenue?
Mr Wood —Consolidate revenue. As the PBS clearly indicates, by putting them in brackets, it is coming out of the AFP’s budget. In terms of where within the AFP’s budget it is coming from, we are in the process of allocating the budget for 2010-11 on the basis of the decisions on budget night. Amounts such as this particular savings measures we have simply taken off the top budget for the AFP rather than specifically taking it out of, say, our offshore operations. We will then allocate the residual budget to the functions of the organisation.
Senator BRANDIS —I turn to the air marshal program. In the 2009-10 budget it was stated that funding arrangements for the Air Security Officer Program, otherwise known as the air marshal program, would be reviewed in the 2010-11 budget. I can find no mention of the Air Security Officer Program in the 2010-11 budget. Can you confirm whether the government has scrapped this program and, if so, when did it or will it end?
Mr Negus —I can confirm that the air marshal program is alive and well and is continuing on the same funding it had last year. We are just looking for where it is contained in the budget. It was part of that omnibus submission that may well have aggregated a number of aviation components, up to about $758 million, if my memory serves me correctly, but it is certainly there. It has not been reduced and is continuing its efforts of the last several years.
Senator BRANDIS —How many personnel are deployed in the Air Security Officer Program at the moment?
Mr Negus —As we have said in previous committee hearings, we do not disclose the number of personnel involved in that process due to the operational sensitivities and the discreet nature of the program.
Senator BRANDIS —What is the percentage of the current staff establishment of the program by comparison with what it was in whatever financial year it was largest? In other words, by what percentage has it been cut?
Mr Negus —Without going back through the numbers, I can tell you that it is roughly the same as it has been for the a number of years. In fact, something I read the other day told me it is about two or three off where it was supposed to be. That is as far as its establishment goes because of the attrition rates and training and other things that come in. There are actually more people in there than its establishment.
Senator BRANDIS —I turn to illegal boat arrivals. How many AFP officers are currently being deployed on are being rotated through Christmas Island?
Mr Negus —As of 24 May, that is, yesterday, we have an 11-member team assigned to people smuggling duties deployed to Christmas Island. We have 10 members performing community policing functions on Christmas Island as well. That is 21. The AFP has temporarily deployed 13 members of our international deployment group to Christmas Island to respond to any adverse reaction as a result of the recent announcements about the changes in Australia’s immigration processing regime.
Senator BRANDIS —So there are 24 there at the moment?
Mr Negus —That is right.
Senator BRANDIS —I am assuming that these officers are deployed there for a period of time and then are rotated back to Australia and replaced. How many other officers are part of that cycle?
Mr Negus —If they were replaced they would go back into different roles. So that is the standing commitment.
Senator BRANDIS —34?
Mr Negus —The 13-member team is only a temporary deployment and we will continue to monitor the security situation. I expect those people to be returned unless there is some adverse reaction in the near future.
Senator BRANDIS —That was the position on 24 May 2010. What were the equivalent figures 12 months before that?
Mr Negus —I am not sure we have those with us. We can take it on notice. But I can give you a rough estimate. There are around six members doing community policing and people-smuggling duties, which is the people-smuggling strike team. Over the last 12 months they have moved up and down, but there is roughly 10 to 12 people there at any one time doing interviews and assisting in investigations.
Senator BRANDIS —There would not have been 10 to 12 people there in May 2008, before the Rudd government weakened the country’s border protection policies because the level of unauthorised boat arrivals was very low. What was the number in May 2008?
Mr Negus —I would have to go back and look at the disruptions month by month. As I said, I will have to take it on notice. But over the last 12 months I think you will find that there have been roughly 10 or 12 people continually going back and forward to Christmas Island to do people-smuggling-type investigations.
Senator BRANDIS —How many individual unauthorised arrivals has the AFP interviewed on Christmas Island this year?
Ms Newton —Whilst I cannot give you the figure of full interviews—
Senator BRANDIS —Sorry, I will check myself; I want to know the number of individuals interviewed. I understand that there will be some individuals who may have been reinterviewed.
Ms Newton —Federal Police have arrested 132 alleged crew members, five alleged Australian based organisers—so they are not all on Christmas Island—one alleged organiser who has been extradited to Indonesia and there are five extraditions being projected in two overseas countries. Then there are 155 crew currently in detention on Christmas Island and on the Australian mainland that the Australian Federal Police are going through the process of interviewing as well as interviewing witnesses.
Senator BRANDIS —Are those the figures since the beginning of this calendar year?
Ms Newton —From September 2008.
Senator BRANDIS —Oh, I see; from September 2008 to the present. Are you able to give us a more recent breakdown of the figures? Can you take that question on notice?
Ms Newton —Perhaps you would like to give us the time period in which you would like that information.
Senator BRANDIS —Do we not do it on a quarterly basis? You started this sequence I think you said in September 2008. Presumably, you did that because that was the month when the Rudd government weakened the border protection policies of the previous government.
CHAIR —Senator Brandis, that is your view.
Senator BRANDIS —The numbers have escalated since, as we know.
CHAIR —Senator Brandis, that is your view.
Senator BRANDIS —Yes, it is my view. It is also the view of the public.
CHAIR —The Australian Federal Police officers just need your questions.
Senator Wong —You are lecturing people with your questions.
Senator BRANDIS —Madam Chair, with respect, you have permitted the minister, who is not even a member of this committee, to editorialise extensively.
CHAIR —Senator Brandis, your questions to the Australian Federal Police officers, please.
Senator BRANDIS —Can we start on a quarterly basis—let us say from the last quarter of 2008 up to the present? What about the unauthorised arrivals themselves, leaving to one side the crew and the organisers. Has the Australian Federal Police arrested any of them?
Mr Negus —No. The crews are processed through the immigration processing.
Senator BRANDIS —So the AFP has no role with the so-called asylum seekers?
Mr Negus —We would interview them and look to gain intelligence and evidence from them because again they are a part of this process. But none of the passengers have been arrested by the Australian Federal Police.
Senator BRANDIS —On how many occasions since September 2008 have AFP officers been called in to assist in disturbances at the Christmas Island detention centre?
Ms Newton —I would have to take that question on notice. At least on one occasion we have been called in to assist and on a number of occasions we have assisted Serco and Immigration.
Senator BRANDIS —Serco is the contractor?
Ms Newton —Serco is the contractor. We have assisted in minor issues associated with people in detention on Christmas Island.
Mr Negus —As we said, we perform the community policing role on Christmas Island completely outside the immigration detention facility. Those police are there to keep the peace and to do the normal policing responsibilities that you would find anywhere else.
Senator BRANDIS —Sure. In the one incident, Assistant Commissioner Newton, which you have described, can you give us a slightly fuller description of that incident—when it happened and what took place?
Ms Newton —I do not have all those details with me at this point in time.
Senator BRANDIS —Just in general, roughly when it was, which month and basically what took place. Was it a riot, or was it an assault? What sort of event was it?
Ms Newton —My understanding is that it was a public order matter, I believe in November last year, when the Australian Federal Police assisted both Serco and Immigration in resolving the matter of public order within the detention centre.
Senator BRANDIS —Were people hurt during the course of this event?
Ms Newton —I think it would be best to ask Immigration that question. The AFP does not have all the details of the ongoing activity because we do not have the responsibility for the detention centre.
Senator BRANDIS —Was anyone prosecuted as a result of this public order event?
Ms Newton —The AFP has investigated matters associated with that event.
Senator BRANDIS —Has any prosecution been brought to date?
Ms Newton —My recollection at this time, and I will clarify it on the record, is that we have not finalised any prosecutions.
Senator BRANDIS —So there are still possible prosecutions under consideration—is that right?
Mr Negus —I think we have some details.
Senator BRANDIS —Ms Kelly?
Ms Kelly —If I can assist. Eleven persons have been charged in relation to that incident.
Senator BRANDIS —Eleven persons have been charged? And with what offences have they been charged?
Ms Kelly —I am sorry, I do not have that detail but the Commonwealth DPP will be here later in the evening and he can provide that.
Senator BRANDIS —Perhaps I will ask them. Are you able to tell me, Ms Kelly, whether anyone was physically harmed during this public order event—what most people would call a riot?
Ms Kelly —No, I am afraid I am not able to tell you.
Mr Negus —We might add that these matters are before the court too, and whether or not people were injured obviously will be the subject of evidence put before that court.
Senator BRANDIS —Of course. Understandably, I am not speculating on guilt or innocence; I just want to know what happened.
Mr Negus —The actions of the individuals concerned may well contribute to their guilt or innocence.
Senator BRANDIS —Indeed, but not every question bearing upon what individuals may have done is inclusive of or necessarily bears upon guilt or innocence. It might, but it might not. The federal government announced in the budget that it would be cutting $2.8 million from the Child Sexual Exploitation Team. That is right, is it not?
Mr Negus —Sorry, it is very difficult to hear you down here.
Senator BRANDIS —I am sorry. I am not often accused of being hard to hear! The Rudd government announced in the budget that it would be cutting $2.8 million from the Child Sexual Exploitation Team within the Australian Federal Police. Is that right?
Senator Wong —Could you refer us to what you are reading from?
Senator BRANDIS —No. I am reading a question. Is it the case that $2.8 million is being cut from the Child Sexual Exploitation Team in this year’s budget?
Mr Wood —The adjustment to the budget for that activity relates to changes in the calculation of the corporate support to functions across the AFP and, in particular, as a result of the sunlight program from the Department of Finance and Deregulation—the removal of moneys for depreciation out of individual budgets. So rather than the AFP receiving the moneys for depreciation we bid for future capital programs that might otherwise have been funded by the depreciation. So to cut to the chase, the operational money to run the function has not been reduced and the number of FTE for the function has not been reduced.
Senator BRANDIS —But $2.8 million nevertheless has come out of the budget, through whatever accounting device—
Senator Wong —It is not an accounting device.
Senator BRANDIS —Excuse me, Minister; may I finish my question please?
Senator Wong —Well you could—
Senator BRANDIS —Excuse me, Minister; may I finish my question please?
Senator Wong —You consistently misstate the evidence.
Senator BRANDIS —If you have an objection to the question, state it, but presumably you will wait until I have finished asking my question before you start interrupting.
Senator Wong —Senator Brandis, you consistently misstate the evidence.
Senator Wong —You misstate the evidence, Senator. You say things that are not true.
CHAIR —Minister Wong, order please.
Senator Wong —I am not withdrawing that because you just did. It is not an accounting device. The explanation was given.
Senator BRANDIS —I understand, Minister, that you are very sensitive.
Senator Wong —I am just tired of listening to you misstate the evidence.
Senator BRANDIS —A few months before an election, you are sensitive about having these matters exposed, including the cutting of $2.8 million from the budget of the Child Sex Exploitation Team.
Senator Wong —No, Senator. I am tired of—
CHAIR —Order! Senator Brandis and Minister Wong! I am calling you both to order.
Senator Wong —You consistently misstate the evidence of witnesses. I think it is rude.
Senator BRANDIS —I understand your sensitivity. I understand that you have been sent here to cover up some of these matters, Senator Wong.
CHAIR —Minister Wong and Senator Brandis! I am repeatedly calling you to order. Senator Brandis, proceed with your questions please.
Senator BRANDIS —Mr Wood, I understand that there are various ways and various accounting devices whereby the movement of funds can be characterised or placed in various silos or whatever. But it is the case though, is it not—as, for example, the Sydney Morning Herald reported on 15 May—that $2.8 million has been taken away from this program? It might talk about operational and depreciation but it is the case that $2.8 million has been taken away from this program, is it not?
Mr Wilkins —Can I intervene? This is a sector-wide policy.
Senator BRANDIS —Sure.
Mr Wilkins —It is not decreasing the amount of money going to the program; it is moving it into the Department of Finance. The money will be provided by finance.
Senator BRANDIS —So finance will do the paedophile case?
CHAIR —Senator Brandis, can you let Mr Wilkins finish and then you will get the full picture.
Mr Wilkins —It is not simply an accounting device; it is saying that, from now on, depreciation will be handled by the Department of Finance. Capital bids will now be made as a matter of course through the budget process and provided by the Department of Finance. It is not a device for cutting operational budgets. You could look at any agency across all these Commonwealth programs and say they have all been cut in that case—every one of them.
Senator BRANDIS —Thank you. Has the staff allocation to the Child Sexual Exploitation Team been reduced or have any staff been reassigned, Mr Wood?
Mr Wood —In my previous answer I said that this did not affect the number of staff working on this program. I repeat that this change did not affect the number of staff working on the program.
Senator BRANDIS —Thank you. Do you understand why I am suspicious?
Mr Wood —No, I do not.
Senator BRANDIS —Is it the case that the same number of staff are assigned full-time to this program now as were there 12 months ago?
Mr Wood —To the best of my knowledge, yes.
Senator BRANDIS —Can you take that question on notice and check for me please?
Mr Wood —I will correct the record if I am incorrect.
Senator BRANDIS —No, I would like you to take that question on notice and provide me with a written answer please.
Mr Wood —Yes.
Senator BRANDIS —How many staff are deployed full-time on this team at the moment, by the way?
Mr Wood —I do not have that figure. Since nobody is rushing towards me I think I will have to take that question on notice as well.
Senator BRANDIS —Approximately?
Mr Wood —We do have some statistics on person hours but not the actual numbers of individual officers.
Senator BRANDIS —Well, do as well as you can on the basis of the statistics that have just been drawn to your attention—
Mr Wood —I will see whether we can provide a figure during the hearing.
Senator BRANDIS —I do not think we will be finished by 6.30 pm, so can you come back with that figure after the dinner adjournment. Has there been a reallocation of staff or resources other than staff from the Child Sexual Exploitation Team to work on the internet filter?
Mr Wood —I can take that question on notice.
Ms Newton —I might be able to answer that question. Investigators across Australia in our investigator pools in our regional offices undertake duties in the area of child exploitation and a number of staff that are cross-skilled are utilised over and above those that work in that specific area in the organisation. So currently they are utilising more resources and undertaking more investigative hours than you would normally have funded against the measures for which we have been funded.
Senator BRANDIS —Does that mean that there are officers or staff involved in child sexual exploitation protection work who were previously engaged in actual investigative work and who are now engaged in the development of the internet filter and related activities? In other words, have the numbers of officers, as it were, on the beat in this area, been reduced by the allocation of some of those officers to work on the internet filter program?
Ms Newton —It is a different skill set, so in relation to the internet filter we do not necessarily use sworn staff for all those responsibilities.
Senator BRANDIS —But that being as it may though, is it nevertheless the case that there are some people who were previously involved in investigative activities concerning child sexual exploitation who have now been allocated to working on the internet filter program?
Mr Negus —We are just trying to find out some details for you. Our involvement in any work that may have been and taken on the internet filter would be minute by comparison to what would be done by that internet child exploitation team. If we have provided advice in relation to policy development I am not aware of it and it is certainly not material in affecting whether we would take resources away from serious child exploitation work to provide work around this internet filter. We will get you some advice on what our involvement has been, but it is not something that even the executive here is aware of in relation to our commitment.
Senator BRANDIS —Thank you. I turn, Commissioner Negus, to the AFP officers who investigate child abuse and domestic violence in the Northern Territory. That has been funded over the past two years to the extent of $6.6 million. Has that funding been renewed in the budget?
Mr Negus —I will just find some details here, Senator.
Mr Wood —Senator, I draw your attention to page 162 of the portfolio budget statement. The second measure in the table on page 162 provides for two further years of funding. The two further years of 2010-11 and 2011-12 are scaled down over the period—
Senator BRANDIS —Is that the item described as—
Senator Wong —Senator, I do not think he had finished his answer.
Senator BRANDIS —Sorry, I am just trying to establish—
Senator Wong —No, Senator, I do not think he had finished his answer.
Senator BRANDIS —Since the officer has kindly and helpfully referred me to a document I am merely trying to identify where on the page he is referring me to, Minister. You are very, very sensitive tonight.
Senator Wong —No, Senator, I just think you are rude.
CHAIR —Senator Brandis and Minister Wong!
Senator Wong —I am trying to inject some courtesy back into these proceedings, despite your efforts to the contrary.
Senator BRANDIS —Commissioner Negus, is what you are referring me to the item described as ‘Northern Territory policing presence—staged transition’?
Mr Wood —Correct, Senator, together with footnote 7.
Senator BRANDIS —I am just having a look at footnote 7.
Mr Wood —Which is on page 163.
Senator BRANDIS —Thank you for drawing that to my attention. I had not seen it. That tells me that in the current budget there will be $7.76 million but that in the following year that program will be scaled back about fivefold to $1.41 million and it will expire, and there is no allocation in the outyears 2012-13 and 2013-14. Why is that? Is it expected that child abuse in the Northern Territory will have been eliminated by the year after next?
Mr Negus —Senator, as I am sure you would recall, when the previous government implemented the Northern Territory Emergency Response, the AFP responded within about 10 days and had people on the ground to assist.
Senator BRANDIS —Yes.
Mr Negus —It was always planned that there would be a transition back to the Northern Territory Police and that AFP officers would be there for the time that they were required to be there and allow the Northern Territory Police to assume responsibilities, as is quite rightly the case. When our people are allocated to go to the Northern Territory they wear Northern Territory uniforms and come under the command structure of the Northern Territory Police. This is simply a draw-down back to the responsibility of the Northern Territory Police, and the AFP’s role will diminish over time accordingly with that.
Senator BRANDIS —I understand that. That makes perfect sense to me, I must say, but it then begs the question whether or not the assumptions that underlie it are sound assumptions.
Mr Negus —Senator, there was no surprise in the funding and the draw-down because this has been planned for a number of years, going back to the previous government.
Senator BRANDIS —So effectively it will fall off the cliff next year by going from more than $7 million to slightly more than $1 million?
CHAIR —Senator Brandis, are you assuming that the Northern Territory Police do not have the capacity to perform the functions that have been performed by the Australian Federal Police? Or is there some comment about the incompetency of the Northern Territory police force here?
Senator BRANDIS —Madam Chair, I am merely asking questions.
CHAIR —You were making an assertion about the Northern Territory Police, and I am wondering whether Mr Negus wants to make a comment about that.
Senator BRANDIS —Madam Chair, if I can be helpful, as I always try to be, we could simply deal with it by me asking this: are you satisfied with the retransition arrangements that are underway at the moment, Commissioner?
Mr Negus —Yes, I am, Senator. If I can just read to you from page 112 of budget paper No. 2, the final sentence of the top paragraph states:
This deployment is an interim arrangement while Northern Territory Police officers are recruited and trained to assume the role.
Senator BRANDIS —Thank you.
Senator Wong —As I understand Mr Negus’s evidence, this is what was laid out under the previous government. I assume you are not implying anything from your questions, Senator. But, in case you are, I would have thought that every senator in this place would have the same view regarding issues of child sexual abuse.
Senator BRANDIS —Oh please, Senator Wong! We are just asking questions to try to understand these budget figures. We do not need any pieties from you.
Senator Wong —It is not a piety; it is a deeply held view, Senator. I find some of the inferences in the nature of the questioning on this issue and on the previous issue, frankly, quite offensive. I do not think anybody in this Senate or in this parliament would have a different view about the abhorrence of child sexual abuse.
Senator BRANDIS —We are merely asking about the budget estimates, Senator Wong.
Senator Wong —You know the game you were playing previously and the comments you were making.
Senator BRANDIS —Madam Chair, do we really have to put up with this? This is an estimates committee at which senators are asking questions of agencies about the budget estimates.
CHAIR —All right, but can I say as chair that you did make a comment earlier—and the Hansard will show this—when you inferred that the reduction of the Australian Federal Police meant there would be a reduction in the attempt to combat child sexual abuse. That is not correct. Commissioner Negus has confirmed that it is simply part of the handover back to the Northern Territory Police of the same level of commitment and requirement that is needed. Senator Brandis, further questions of the AFP please.
Senator BRANDIS —I will yield to Senator Barnett.
CHAIR —Before you do we will go to Senator Ludlam.
Senator BARNETT —It was on the same issue and it was one question.
CHAIR —If you just have one question I will entertain one question and then we will go to Senator Ludlam.
Senator BARNETT —Commissioner Negus, are you aware of the views of the Australian Institute of Criminology with respect to its concerns that opportunities to sexually exploit children through the internet have increased? Are you aware of that and do you accept it?
Mr Negus —I accept that with the wider usage of the internet. I think that is a reasonable assumption.
Senator LUDLAM —I have a couple of quick questions that relate to the portfolio budget statement and then I will ask one or two more substantive questions, time permitting. An amount of $12.3 million for the AFP presence at airports is listed for the AFP to maintain its community policing presence at the major airports. I would not have characterised that as community policing, but would you describe for us what your role is at the nation’s airports?
Mr Negus —Senator, our role at the nation’s airports is a multifaceted role. A part of it is security, but we certainly do community policing, so thefts from airport shops, assaults, public order issues—all of those sorts of things—are catered for within the airport environment by sworn police officers. We were talking about it earlier, but I am not sure whether you were in the room. The Roger Beale review has recategorised that now. The AFP will take over all those roles, because currently we have state police seconded to the AFP wearing our uniforms, but they are state police all the same, working at each of those airports. But the AFP will assume that role over the next three to five years in a transition.
Senator LUDLAM —And is that part of your recruitment drive that we were discussing before for new AFP officers who will be drawn from that?
Mr Negus —No, it is in addition to that because it replaces people for whom we are already paying in the state police. We will recruit against those positions and replace them with the AFP. I might just add that the $12.8 million is a one-year top-up. There is an omnibus submission which is $758 million, which encompasses all the aviation security needs, and the $12.8 million is really just to top up for one year a shortfall that had been identified in the cost of providing that service.
Senator LUDLAM —And that is right across 11 major Australian airports?
Mr Negus —That is right.
Senator LUDLAM —There are also indications that you will save $23 million over four years in the budget. There are eight different programs listed with an apportionment of the $23½ million in funding that you are saving. Can you provide a breakdown for us of where those savings were made?
Mr Negus —Again, Senator, we went through this briefly before. The Roger Beale review of airports has identified around $23 million worth of savings over the next four years. That is because we are transitioning to an all-AFP workforce. We pay a premium for the state and territory police to come on board and work with us. We also pay for some backfilling arrangements and retraining issues, uniforms and other things that we will save over the next period. A breakdown of where those savings are is predominantly, as I said, at airports.
We are homogenising the workforce—a word I used before. We will go from having protective service officers and sworn police at airports to just having sworn police. So they will perform both roles and there will be a 12 per cent reduction, we think, in the numbers required to do that, given that they will be multiskilled in those environments. The unit costs for state and territory police are higher than for the AFP, as a rule. Also, there are a range of administration costs around training, recruitment, backfilling, relocation and uniforms, as I have mentioned, that make up that $23 million. The $23 million has been agreed by government to be reinvested back into the AFP so we can recruit more officers in the serious investigations areas of organised crime.
Senator LUDLAM —There is a little bit of detail in the budget on where it will go, but can you break down for us, in a more fine grained way, where that $23 million will be apportioned in future?
Mr Negus —I think that is probably as good as we can do at the moment, but we certainly have a commitment to reinvigorate the investigations component of the AFP into serious and organised crime. Those are the broad areas, some of which are listed, in which we will look to recruit over the next three to five years as we transition away from the model we currently have at airports.
Senator LUDLAM —You must have some idea of priorities, though. There are six or seven different responsibilities listed there, from counterterrorism to high-tech crime and so on. You must have some idea of where you are proposing to apportion the budget.
Mr Negus —It is difficult because we have a very flexible model and because of the fact that we move people to where the need is. We do not put them in roles for two years, for instance, and say, ‘That’s where you’re staying.’ It will be around organised crime and we are trying to attack that in a more holistic way—organised crime, money laundering, child sexual offences and counterterrorism as required—but again there is a standing force in the counterterrorism area. I think it will be the emerging areas that we see over the next few years that we allocate those resources to. Again, there is plenty of scope within that organised crime capability, money laundering and those sorts of areas where there is a need for us to apply resources.
Senator LUDLAM —Thank you. I have spent some of the day out of the room, so I do not know whether you have addressed this in detail, but I am interested in the unit that you have that polices trafficking of pornography, and particularly child sexual material online. Has that been addressed much tonight?
Mr Negus —No, it has not.
Senator LUDLAM —I am wondering whether you can break down for us what happened to that unit in the last budget. Put them in your corporate tree for us and let me know where they are, and I will ask a couple of follow-on questions after that.
Mr Negus —We are just in the final processes of allocating our final internal budget within the organisation. I can tell you that the internet policing team—the ones who do the online tracking of child predators and those sorts of things—has eight officers but it does have a surge capacity. We can bring people into it. We are planning as part of our internal budget reallocation to increase that number. I am not sure whether we have any final numbers on that yet, but that will grow over the coming year. I should say that I know eight does not sound very many, but we have 350 people working in our high-tech crime operations area, and all of them in some way contribute towards those people doing their jobs.
Senator LUDLAM —But they are the specialists.
Mr Negus —They are the specialists who are doing the undercover work online and those sorts of things.
Senator LUDLAM —I know from second-hand experience, I suppose, that some of that work is pretty horrific. What is the churn rate and the turnover rate for the officers working in the field?
Mr Negus —It is pretty good. It is less than you might think. We have fairly significant psych testing before people go in there and we have a psych that works within the unit and has regular interaction with the people and closely monitors their actions, their behaviour and their performance. We make welfare services available to all of these people, and their supervisors are very closely attuned to the OH&S liabilities and other issues around dealing with this sort of material. I have to say—and you are quite welcome to come and have a look at the unit whenever you like—
Senator LUDLAM —I will take you up on that offer.
Mr Negus —the people working in this unit are some of the most dedicated people you would find anywhere and they really see their role as being absolutely instrumental in tracking down these child predators. Again, they look at it from the perspective that the images they view are quite horrific on occasion but they do it in the sense that they are saving children’s lives eventually down the track.
It is worth mentioning that we are currently working with a number of other agencies on a project called ANVIL, which is the Australian National Victim Image Library. When it is complete it will stop our officers having to look at a whole range of images over and over again. It searches using technology and it identifies new images or new pictures that have been put up on the internet which might be child pornography or something like that. Rather than trawling through 1,000 images to find three new ones, it will spit out the three new ones and that is all they will have to do. So we are looking at technology to shield our own people from having to view this sort of material as regularly as they have in the past.
Senator LUDLAM —I think you mentioned that briefly last time we discussed this. I am interested to know what happens when you get referrals from the ACMA. Under our complaints based system, if a member of the Australian public refers something to them and they assesses it instantly as being unlawful, they refer it to you and it goes to that unit. Can you talk us through what happens then if that site is hosted overseas and not on an Australian server?
Mr Negus —Again, it is very difficult to step through all of the details because it changes every other week. But certainly ACMA can do work here in Australia. When it is overseas we have relationships with a range of international law enforcement agencies, predominantly the FBI and others in the US, where some of these sites might be hosted. When you are in eastern Europe and parts of that area it becomes far more difficult, of course. But, where possible, we use those international links to try to take down those sites where we can. But I have to be honest with you and say that it is more difficult when it is overseas for us to be effective in that environment.
Senator LUDLAM —I will certainly take you up on your offer to visit to unit. I would appreciate that opportunity. I want to shift to a different part of the world. We spoke last time, I think, about the AFP’s role in assisting policing in Burma. Can you give us an update in the content of the current budget, if you like, on what our commitment to policing in Burma is at this stage?
Mr Negus —It continues just to be one officer based in Rangoon who, as I mentioned last time, continues to assist in police matters and particularly narcotic trafficking. Nothing has really changed since that time.
Senator LUDLAM —DFAT would be aware, as acknowledged, that the police apparatus in Burma is effectively part of the military. There is not really any formal separation as there is in Australia between civil policing and the military. I am wondering if you have revaluated that since the last time we spoke, in the last couple of months.
Mr Negus —Our officer who is stationed there is under very strict instructions about involvement and the sorts of matters that they can become involved in. They take that responsibility very seriously. I am comfortable that they are drawing distinctions between the sorts of people they would deal with in a policing sense versus those who may be involved in the military. I know that line, as you have just mentioned, can become blurred at some stage.
Senator LUDLAM —There is not really a line. DFAT do not believe there is a line at all.
Mr Negus —In talking to the officers who have worked there, they believe that they are able to work within the policing environment without stepping into the military environment. Again, there are substantial narcotics coming out of that part of the world which affect Australia’s interests. If we can assist the Burmese police in countering those narcotics, or identifying links to Australia, that is the person’s role. It is not to get involved in the domestic politics or otherwise.
Senator LUDLAM —But the regime has been implicated in exactly that trade. This is one of the most corrupt regimes on earth, as you will obviously be aware, and the regime is directly implicated in facilitating that traffic. It is not something that they are unaware of, that they are trying to stamp out corruption. They are implicated at the very highest levels. How do we maintain a presence there doing counter-narcotics work with their police force, which is directly linked with the regime that is assisting, enabling and facilitating that trade? I do not understand how we maintain that presence.
Mr Negus —There have been some significant operational outcomes coming out of there where there have been direct results which will affect Australia. If we had not been there, there would have been narcotics shipped to this country which would have made it onto the streets. We rely heavily on the integrity and judgment of our people on the ground to make good choices about who they deal with and what they do. I cannot really put it any more simply than that. But the assessment from the AFP’s perspective is that we are better off being there, being involved in the process and monitoring what is happening as closely as we can, rather than not being there.
Senator LUDLAM —I want to ask you about something that happened on 13 May. Police and emergency services workers were called to the CFMEU headquarters in Lidcombe in Sydney to investigate a fire and when they got there they discovered a car in the building burning. It had rammed through the front windows. Emergency service workers and police on the scene put the fire out and later discovered that the car was packed with drums of petrol and probably would have killed everybody on the scene if it had gone off. I am wondering whether the AFP has a role in that investigation or whether that is being treated as a matter for the New South Wales police.
Mr Negus —I am just checking. New South Wales would have primacy in that investigation. In those sorts of matters, where it could have wider implications, they would usually consult with us or we would be aware of that. But they would have primacy in that investigation. It is not one that we have picked up and are actively involved in. They would usually consult just as a matter of courtesy to see whether we had anything to contribute.
Senator LUDLAM —Some of your most dedicated work is dealing with counterterrorism activities. Would an actual car bombing in New South Wales not qualify as a terrorist act in Australia?
Mr Negus —We were just discussing whether that would qualify, but certainly the counterterrorism teams would be notified of that event and they would make an assessment of whether this was something which would put itself in the realm of a counterterrorism incident or some other state based offence.
Senator LUDLAM —Counterterrorism teams of the New South Wales police or of the AFP?
Mr Negus —It is a combination; it is a joint counterterrorism team that works out of AFP headquarters in Sydney. With something like that, they would have been notified and I suspect the wider national counterterrorism committee would have been brought in, or at least notified of the incident, to see whether it had any implications anywhere else.
Senator LUDLAM —You are speaking hypothetically, as according to the process that would normally roll out. Would you be able to assist us in finding out exactly if they were notified and when? I find it quite extraordinary. This is an act, as far as I can tell, of politically motivated violence. It is not every day that somebody ignites a car bomb in metropolitan Sydney. It seems somewhat remarkable that you are only now weighing up whether that would be an act of terrorism. If the counter-terrorism laws in Australia are not for being enlivened by events such as this, what are they for exactly?
Mr Negus —I will have to check. I do not have the details specifically of that. Given my recent travels, I do not have any briefings on that either. Can you give me the date again that it occurred?
Senator LUDLAM —In the evening of 13 May. I have a number of questions. If you like, I can come back after dinner and see if there is any more information to be tendered. This is one of the more serious acts of political violence that has occurred in Australia to my reckoning; I do not know if you would agree. I share the concerns of some commentators that it seems to have just gone completely under the radar. Perhaps we will come back with some questions after dinner if you like.
Mr Negus —I would like to add something to that before we do break. My deputy commissioner in charge of national security advises that the AFP were advised of it. There was a decision made that it was not politically motivated. The New South Wales Police would have primacy in the investigation and would draw on our resources as required. If the investigation was to uncover that sort of evidence, there may well be more involvement by the AFP down the track. But we certainly were not asked to be involved in the process given the original information that was provided.
Senator LUDLAM —The assessment that was done was that a car bombing at a union headquarters was not politically motivated; it is just a regular criminal car bombing?
Mr Drennan —I am not sure it is actually a car bombing as opposed to an attempted—
Senator LUDLAM —An attempted car bombing?
Mr Drennan —Yes, which is very different.
Senator LUDLAM —It was good fortune, I think, rather than anything else that saved a number of lives.
Mr Drennan —Perhaps a little bit more than that. However, you are correct, it was an attempted bombing, or an attempt to ignite and explode the car and the material in it. All the information we have is that it was not politically motivated. We can attempt to ascertain from the New South Wales Police what the motivation may have been. But if you have something that is contrary to that, please let us know as well.
Senator LUDLAM —I do not have anything more than is on the public record. Among the facts is that the CFMEU had passed quite a strong resolution on peace in the Middle East and on the rights of Palestinian people to live free of violence within a couple of days of the car bombing. That is one thing that I am aware of that is on the public record. I do not have access, and you are also telling me those assessments might have been done by the New South Wales Police, as to whether particular motives have been assessed, but I do not understand how you could rule out it being politically motivated when it is at a union headquarters. I would have thought that simply ruling it out at this stage, there must obviously be some intelligence that that says it is just an ordinary criminal act.
Mr Drennan —Yes, again, I am recalling when the incident occurred. We were briefed, as we would be in any matter which potentially or is suspected could go down the counter-terrorism road. The definitive advice we got from the New South Wales Police was that it was not a matter which was politically motivated or terrorist related.
Senator LUDLAM —I will follow that up with my New South Wales colleagues. Can I ask you to return after the dinner break with any other information that you might have?
Mr Drennan —Certainly.
Mr Negus —It sounds like an assessment was made and we were provided with that advice from the New South Wales Police. I am not sure how much more we will be able to get in the short time.
Senator LUDLAM —If they are the lead agency, you will stand back unless you are called on?
Mr Negus —We are certainly ready to assist them whenever they require it. But when these decisions are made they are made with the facts at hand. Again, whilst there may be a deal of public information out there, I am sure there is a range—
Senator LUDLAM —Not a great deal.
Mr Negus —What I am saying is that I am sure there is a range of forensic and other material that the New South Wales Police would rely to make that decision in consultation with our people in Sydney. We will try to find out, but we will see where we go.
Senator LUDLAM —I would appreciate that.
CHAIR —Commissioner Negus, thank you. The Australian Government Solicitor—we want to know if the department can answer the question about—
Senator BARNETT —About the total government spending on legal services for external legal advice. In an answer to a question on notice it was 63 per cent. I would like that figure updated. Otherwise we will need the Australian Government Solicitor. If you have that figure—
Mr Wilkins —That is all you need on legal services?
Senator BARNETT —If you can get that answer to me tonight then we do not need the Australian Government Solicitor.
CHAIR —There is a possibility. It is your hands.
Mr Wilkins —So I have power over whether or not they have to turn up.
Mr Wilkins —As I told you earlier today, I am sorry we do not have figures for this financial year. The answer is that I cannot provide an update. But their staying here is not going to help provide figures that simply do not exist at this point in time.
Senator BARNETT —On that basis we will let them go.
Proceedings suspended from 6.34 pm to 8.00 pm
CHAIR —I now reconvene the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee to continue our consideration of the estimates. We have the Australian Federal Police with us. We will continue questioning with Senator Ludlam.
Mr Andrew Wood —Chair, I want to report on a situation we clarified during the dinner break. I wonder whether you want to do that now.
CHAIR —Yes, this is a good time to do that.
Mr Andrew Wood —Or would you rather wait until the end?
CHAIR —I think we will do that now. People tend to look for those answers at the resumption after the break.
Mr Negus —In response to Senator Brandis’s question about the child protection operations, I can assure the committee that staffing remains the same at approximately 91 staff. AFP funds or people have not been diverted to work on the Internet filter program. The reason I did not know anything about it is the fact that the AFP has had minimal or no involvement, contrary to the media report of 15 May. So that report was incorrect. We have had minimal or no involvement in that particular program. I will hand to Deputy Commissioner Drennan, who had some other information about Senator Ludlam’s matter.
Mr Drennan —Senator Ludlam, in relation to the issue that you were asking questions on prior to the break, on 13 May there were actually two incidents in Sydney. One was in relation to the CFMEU office. That has been investigated by the New South Wales police state crime command. It has been described as a ram raid in which a vehicle was run into the front of the premises and then set alight. There has been a range of media speculation with regard to the motivation. I have been assured that there are no terrorist related aspects to that whatsoever. To go any further would be inappropriate because the matter is still under investigation. The other matter, as I said, was also on 13 May. That was a matter in which I was providing details. It similarly involved a vehicle. It had gas bottles in it and an initiation device. It was also in Sydney’s west. Again, that is not terrorist related at all. Likewise, it is an ongoing investigation so it would not be appropriate to go into any further details with regard to it.
Senator LUDLAM —Thank you very much. I appreciate that somebody must have given up their dinner break to go and establish those things for us.
Senator BRANDIS —While we are dealing with matters that were looked at over the dinner break, Commissioner Negus, you were going to try and find out for me over the dinner break those figures about the officers who, as a result of the Beale report, had been assigned to airport duties. You could not tell me the number of AFP sworn officers who are currently allocated to airport duties. Do you have that figure?
Mr Negus —Yes, we do, Senator. Deputy Commissioner Drennan does have those figures.
Senator BRANDIS —If Senator Ludlam does not mind, can we just get all this on the record?
Senator LUDLAM —That is fine.
Mr Negus —My apologies. I overlooked that one.
Mr Drennan —Senator, of the Protective Service officers, commonly known as the CTFR, and the K9s—handlers—there are 439 of them. Of AFP sworn, there are 62, although that includes a range of groups where there are some joint teams. I would need more time to get quite specific details as to what members are state and territory police, what members are AFP and what members belong to Australian Customs. There are in the uniform policing roles 316 state and territory police.
Senator BRANDIS —What is the aggregate? What was that last figure, please?
Mr Drennan —It is 316.
Senator BRANDIS —So the aggregate at the moment is the aggregate of those figures, is it—316 plus 62 plus 439? At the moment there are 501. Is that right?
Mr Drennan —No, 439 plus 62 is 501—that is total AFP. But there are another 316 state and territory. So your total is 817 at airports.
Senator BRANDIS —That is 817. You told us, Commissioner Negus, that there was going to be a 12 per cent reduction. So that would produce a figure of about 719 officers. Is that right?
Mr Negus —That is right—approximately a reduction of 98.
Senator BRANDIS —Approximately 98 fewer officers. Thank you very much.
Ms Newton —I have an answer to the questions on Christmas Island and the disturbances that took place in November. On 21 November, a series of disturbances took place involving up to 200 male detainees occurring at the immigration detention centre North West Point. Forty-three detainees received injuries, with seven detainees requiring some level of hospitalisation, four of which were medically evacuated from Christmas Island to Perth, with the worst injury being a broken leg. As a result of AFP involvement, we were not required to assist in resolving the matter in the detention centre but subsequently we undertook the investigation. On 20 January this year, 11 people held at the Christmas Island IDC were charged with offences, 10 people with riot under section 65 of the Criminal Code Act, 10 suspects with manufacture and possess weapons by detainees under the Migration Act and three suspects with common assault under the Criminal Code Act.
Senator BRANDIS —It must have been quite a riot if it involved 200 people, 43 of whom were injured and seven of whom were seriously injured. That is a fairly large-scale incident, is it not, Deputy Commissioner?
Ms Newton —It was a series of incidents that occurred. Because the AFP—
Senator BRANDIS —Over how many hours or days did these incidents occur?
Ms Newton —It was an individual day. I do not actually have the time in terms of the hours that it took place. The additional question that you asked with regard to how many incidents is that we have had eight incidents in the last 12 months.
Senator BRANDIS —Thanks, Deputy Commissioner.
CHAIR —Senator Ludlam, just before I call you for questioning, can you tell me if you or anyone else in your party needs the DPP?
Senator LUDLAM —I cannot speak for the others but I do not. I do not believe anybody will—they have questions for the department but not for the DPP.
CHAIR —All right. I am going to make a brave call here, Mr Wilkins, and advise that people from the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions can go home. I am humbly sorry that we have given you that information after dinner.
Senator Wong —Three hours out of their day.
CHAIR —Yes, it is tough to say it is three hours early. I sincerely apologise that they could not go earlier.
Senator LUDLAM —I would just like to pick up the thread from where we left off. Thank you, Mr Drennan, for the information that you provided us with. I recognise that you do not want to go into operational matters partly because I think both of these matters are being handled by the New South Wales police. But the second incident I was not aware of. Can you just tell us where that occurred? Did it occur at roughly the same time as the one that I referred to before dinner?
Mr Drennan —One incident was in the early hours of the morning and one was in the late hours of the same day.
Senator LUDLAM —The same day?
Mr Drennan —Yes. Believe me, I questioned that a number of times because it is so coincidental, but that is the reality. That is why I thought you were referring to the second incident.
Senator LUDLAM —No. I was referring to the first one, which I understand was late evening at the CFMEU office. Can you give us some details of the premises of the second event or just point me to where I can find out that information?
Mr Drennan —It was not premises. It was a vehicle which had been stopped. It related to the occupant of the vehicle and the material that the occupant had within the vehicle.
Senator LUDLAM —They were carrying gas bottles?
Mr Drennan —Yes, a gas bottle and what was described as an initiation device. Beyond that I would not like to go into too much more detail.
Senator LUDLAM —Did the AFP have any ongoing role in investigating that allegation, or is that something the New South Wales police are handling?
Mr Drennan —The AFP were briefed on it because of the circumstances initially. It was assessed that there was no terrorism relationship to it whatsoever. From that point, the New South Wales police proceeded with their investigation..
Senator LUDLAM —Here is the part I do not understand. I am presuming you do not have the act in front of you. What is your working definition of terrorism in these sorts of instances?
Mr Drennan —It is certainly an act which I think you described before as being politically motivated.
Senator LUDLAM —That was kind of off the top of my head—‘the calculated use of violence, the threat of violence against civilians in order to gain goals that are political or religious’ et cetera; not an ordinary crime. That is why we are devoting an extraordinary amount of law enforcement and investigation time to these kinds of crimes. Has anybody been apprehended that you are aware of in the case of the first instance of the office of the CFMEU in Lidcombe?
Mr Drennan —I am not aware if anyone has been apprehended. I certainly do have more detail in relation to what is the potential motivation for it, but because it is an ongoing investigation and that would potentially prejudice the investigation or any subsequent court case, it is not something I can go into.
Mr Negus —Senator, in fact, the New South Wales police have asked us specifically not to go into the details of that. They have shared the information with us about the potential motivations but have asked us specifically not to go into that sort of detail.
Senator LUDLAM —All right. Perhaps this seems a little pedantic, but this is an attempted car bombing that was foiled, probably by the extreme bravery of the officers who arrived at the scene first—we could have been faced with a disaster that would have potentially killed people—at an office of the largest and arguably most militant trade union in the country. That is not being seen as having any relationship to politics or social motivation at all? Do you see where I am going and why this seems odd?
Mr Negus —I understand the confusion, Senator. On the publicly available information that you are referring to, I think it is a reasonable assumption that that would be a question that would be asked. Again, the investigating officers are privy to far more than we are and, from what they have shared with us, we are satisfied with the way the course of the investigation is going. I am sure that all will be revealed as the investigation unfolds and evidence or other material is provided.
Senator LUDLAM —As I say, thanks for following up that material. I am going to change topic to the visit. On 18 March of this year, the foreign minister of Columbia visited Australia. He met with the foreign minister, Stephen Smith. There were some subsequent reports that the foreign minister had asked for a judicial action against a member of FARC here in Australia. Again, this is just reportage, so I will ask you if you can confirm any of this for us because it is material that is on the public record but has not been verified. Accusing people of being from that organisation, the FARC, is often used in Columbia in the persecution of dissidents. My question to you is: has the AFP been called in either by the Columbian government directly or by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in anti-terror operations here in Australia or Columbia?
Mr Negus —Senator, we might have to take that on notice. There are a number of investigations which could potentially cross over the sort of area we are talking about. Some of those are ongoing. Whether it is appropriate just to discuss them now without the full facts—and we do not have those in front of us with regard to that particular incident—I think would be somewhat dangerous for us. So I am happy to take it on notice and give you a response.
Senator LUDLAM —I would greatly appreciate that. Perhaps you will take this question on notice as well. It is of a more general nature and goes to events that may or may not have occurred in the past. Do you know whether or not the AFP has given technical assistance to Columbian security agencies to tap phones and install listening or other kinds of surveillance devices to hear the conversations of union activists or leaders or opposition politicians either in Australia or in Columbia?
Mr Negus —We will take that on notice. I think that crosses again some areas that would be very difficult for us to talk about. Again, I will double-check on all of that and come back to you.
Senator LUDLAM —Do you have any idea how long that might take, because obviously this is the last estimates session potentially in this parliament?
Mr Negus —We can undertake to get that back to you relatively quickly, within a week or two.
Senator LUDLAM —I would greatly appreciate that. Thank you. I have no more questions, Chair.
CHAIR —So no other questions for the AFP?
Senator LUDLAM —No.
Mr Negus —I should say, Senator, just to close off on that, that the AFP are not routinely involved in working with other countries to conduct intercepts of those sorts of things. We do work collaboratively with our partners, of course, and we do provide technical assistance to various areas around the world. But all of that is done quite transparently.
Senator LUDLAM —To be honest, that is why I am a bit surprised that you have not just said, ‘No, we’re not doing that.’
Mr Negus —I just do not want to give you an answer, because I know we do cooperate. We have three officers on the ground in Columbia, but I would be very surprised if that was in fact taking place.
Senator LUDLAM —There are two categories of information that I am seeking there: the activities of the personnel that we have in Columbia and any assistance that you might be rendering to the Columbian government either directly or on behalf of the department here in Australia.
Mr Negus —Our work in Columbia is almost exclusively on transnational crime and particularly counternarcotics. It certainly does not delve into the areas that you are talking about there. So if it is happening, I do not know about it.
Senator LUDLAM —All right. Well, you have undertaken to provide us with some of that. Thank you. Thanks, Chair.
CHAIR —Questions of the Australian Federal Police?
Senator BARNETT —I have a couple of areas of questions. The first regards cyber safety. I indicated earlier concerns regarding the sexual exploitation of children and, in particular, a report from the Australian Institute of Criminology warning about the opportunities that are on the rise. I want to know more particularly if that is your view, how seriously you consider this as a problem in Australia today and what measures are being taken to address the concerns.
Mr Negus —Senator, as the usage of the internet increases, I think that certainly children are vulnerable to online predators. Again, there are not too many 10-year-olds these days who do not have a better understanding of the internet than most adults, so they are in those environments and we are working in very much a preventative sense as well as an operational sense to try to protect children. You may have seen recently in the media we have launched in various states of Australia the ThinkUKnow program, which has been a very successful education process of young children and their parents in talking about online safety and some simple steps that they can take to protect themselves against would-be predators. I have mentioned that we have a covert internet policing team that does online work. I should say that those people are not allowed by law to patrol the internet, if you like. We must look at things for a particular reason and investigate things for a particular purpose to be covered under the law. So we do that. There are a range of activities around education and proactive cooperation between international agencies that takes place as well. We have just been voted to be the chair of the virtual global task force, which is essentially an international organisation looking at the protection of children online in the US, the UK, Italy—I think the UAE has just come on board as well—and a number of other countries. So there are significant steps we are taking. It is an area of personal interest. When I was—
Senator BARNETT —When you say we have been voted to be chair, is that the AFP or Australia?
Mr Negus —The AFP, yes. The head of our high-tech crime unit here in Canberra has been elected as the chair. The child exploitation unit in the UK was the previous chair. We have just been voted to be the new chair. So it is a great endorsement of the work that is being done here.
Senator BARNETT —Congratulations.
Mr Negus —Thank you. The high-tech crime unit is something I set up when I was the deputy commissioner, so it is something I personally have a lot of interest and faith in. We are devoting as many resources as we can to this sort of work in a preventative sense and in an operational sense to make sure we are hunting down these predators. The other thing is that we are working very closely with the states and territories. This is not something the AFP can do by itself. The work there has been exceptionally good in cooperation and in making sure that we are actually maximising the impact of the resourcing. With the ThinkUKnow launches—there was one in Tasmania a few weeks ago; you may have seen the local news—the state police and local teachers and other people in responsible positions are very much coming on board and looking to educate young children.
Senator BARNETT —Very good. Well, it certainly confirms some of the concerns that I and I know others in the community have about the increase in predators online—grooming and sex predators online—be it on the internet or whatever. Is social networking pages an area of interest for the AFP? I will give you two examples in the last number of weeks. Sadly and tragically, there have been two murders, based on my understanding of the evidence that has been reported. They link back to photos on Facebook and, sadly, inappropriate practices and sexual predators online. I would like to know your views in terms of how serious you consider the efficacy or otherwise of the social networking pages and specifically Facebook. I would be interested in your views on that. Secondly, do you have any observations with respect to the tragic murders of those two young people in the last month?
Mr Negus —Senator, to answer your second question first, I think it would be inappropriate for me to comment on those as they are under investigation and the respective state law enforcement agencies are prosecuting those matters and investigating them. Again, other than saying that it is a great tragedy and something that we would very much look to work to avoid, that is about all I can say. Certainly the social networking sites are becoming more popular. Some of the education processes, as I mentioned earlier, are very much targeted at young people about what information they put on Facebook and other social networking sites. It never ceases to amaze me how if you met someone in the street you would not give them personal information yet on these online sites people are telling their deepest darkest secrets and providing photos of themselves and those sorts of things. So we continue to work proactively to educate young children particularly but all of the community about the vulnerabilities of providing their name, their address and even photographs of themselves to people who would sometimes do them harm. So it is a very difficult area.
We are working with the social networking sites themselves to help them protect the people that are their customers. With regard to Facebook, for instance, we have had some meetings with US authorities and we are looking to meet with Facebook tomorrow. We have a person in the United States at the moment going to meet with the US Department of Justice to work with Facebook. We are promoting things like a report abuse button, so there is a button in the corner you can click on if you actually are concerned.
Senator BARNETT —That is a good idea.
Mr Negus —It goes directly to someone who can give them some help through an email or something like that. We have found that in recent times the social networking sites are certainly aware of the vulnerability and I think the impact on their own brand of some of these terrible tragedies that have occurred. They are looking at working with law enforcement to work with us to make it as safe a place as possible. I should say as well the AFP over the last year has had someone placed in Microsoft in Seattle in Washington to work with them on a whole range of different issues around security and learning what the next generation of technology is going to be all about so we as a law enforcement agency can be prepared to deal with the sorts of things that are going to come up in the future. So we are trying to be proactive. We are chairing international working groups on the sorts of issues you are talking about. As I said, education underpins all of this and we are looking at that from the ground up through the schools program.
Senator BARNETT —That is fantastic in terms of your efforts and your objectives in addressing these issues. But it seems to be growing and the level of concern and anxiety in the community is also growing. Do you believe that Facebook and the social networking page organisations are seized of the same level of anxiety and concern as you and the community in general, because, frankly, some issues have been raised? Even in today’s Australian I see a headline that says, ‘Facebook pilloried for a pro rape page’. I will just read this paragraph:
An Australian Facebook page that advocates rape has prompted further calls for the social networking site to be more closely monitored.
So do you have a policy position with respect to Facebook and social networking pages being more carefully monitored and scrutinised and, frankly, issues regarding privacy being better implemented?
Mr Negus —I think, Senator, to try to monitor or regulate the internet is a very, very difficult thing. It makes your head spin to even think about the number of people. I think some of the figures I read there suggest that literally millions of Australians have a Facebook page. I think you are in the minority if you do not. But Facebook are coming on board. I have to say that in the last 12 months I have seen a shift in their willingness to cooperate with law enforcement and realise their social responsibilities. I am not saying we are there yet, but they have shown at least a willingness to engage. At the last Australian police commissioners conference, again, each of the state jurisdictions had had their own issues with particular social networking sites. I undertook that all of the issues with Facebook, particularly because we are going to see them, will come through the AFP, and we have a coordinated Australian position on this rather than seven or eight jurisdictions trying to actually all achieve the same ends. We have seen some issues with the tragic murder of a young boy in Queensland, where the memorial site—
Senator BARNETT —Yes. That was shocking.
Mr Negus —was terribly defamed.
Senator BARNETT —It was awful.
Mr Negus —Sorry, defaced, I should say. So we have worked with Facebook and other people to actually make sure their responses to these issues are appropriate.
Senator BARNETT —Thank you very much. We do not have time tonight. A cybersafety joint parliamentary committee has been established. I think that is a good initiative. I am a member of it. I know this is an area of great interest to the community in general. Thank you for your feedback. We will certainly monitor progress in terms of not just your role but the role for everyone, including the education authorities—the schools—and parents in particular.
Mr Negus —Thank you, Senator. I made the offer to Senator Ludlam before. But with this committee I would be more than happy to facilitate a tour of the high-tech crime centre. You can see firsthand the action that is actually taking place there.
Senator BARNETT —Thank you very much. Can I just move to one other—
CHAIR —Mr Negus, we might take that up as a committee. We will put it on our agenda and pursue that offer. Thank you.
Senator BARNETT —Thank you very much. This may not relate directly to the AFP, but the department may be able to assist. It relates to the Confiscated Assets Trust Fund. I just need clarification that that is different to the fund that we were talking about earlier. The correct name is the proceeds of crime CAA fund. Are they one and the same?
Ms Kelly —Yes.
Senator BARNETT —All right. In answer to question No. 65, that is the name I had—confiscated assets trust fund. Have they changed their name?
Ms Kelly —No. The Proceeds of Crime Act is the name of the act, but the fund established under the act is confiscated assets.
Senator BARNETT —All right. Good. That is very helpful. Thank you again and thanks to the AFP.
CHAIR —That is it. Thanks, Mr Negus, and your team for making yourselves available today and answering questions for us.
Mr Negus —Thank you, Chair. I thank the committee.
CHAIR —We certainly appreciate that. If we could have the officers from the Australian Institute of Criminology as well as, I think, the Criminology Research Council together, that would be useful.
CHAIR —Dr Tomison, good evening and welcome. Mr Marks, good evening to you as well. Do either of you have an opening statement this evening?
Dr Tomison —Good evening, Chair. I have no opening statement. I would welcome any questions from the committee.
CHAIR —Thank you. Mr Marks, do you have an opening statement from the council?
Mr Marks —No, Senator.
CHAIR —Fine. Let us go to questions.
Senator BARNETT —Thanks very much for being here. I want to ask you about this issue that you have commented on publicly. I think you have done a report on it. It concerns the sexual exploitation of children through the internet. You have indicated that it has risen and will continue to rise. I wonder if you can provide some advice and evidence to support that and alert us to evidence that will support that position.
Dr Tomison —Thank you, Senator. The Institute of Criminology has had an interest in the online sex- offending area for some time. Dr Raymond Choo is one of the specialists. I guess you would call him a high-tech crime specialist. He has written a report on online grooming, which is around, of course, sex offending against children. At this point in time I do not have his report in front of me. I cannot give you the definitive answer of how much it is rising by. It would only be an estimate at any rate. But certainly as Commissioner Negus indicated, we are of the view that the incidence of online sex offending and the grooming behaviours that go with that are on the rise predominantly as a result of the fact that online activity is increasing quite significantly each year. I am happy to take on notice, if you like, some specific figures which would be provided in that report and provide them back to you.
Senator BARNETT —That would be useful. Are you aware of the level of concern in terms of child exploitation on the internet? I presume it is in that report. Can you advise the committee today as to the significance of it and the level growth?
Dr Tomison —In many ways, online sex offending is essentially the new stranger danger. It is bringing strangers into the house in a whole new way. I think there has been quite a lot of media interest in the topic. Certainly a lot of young people and adults have experienced some form of online inappropriate behaviour ranging from initially things like exposure to pornographic material or very violent material all the way through to chatroom type behaviours, where people are essentially predators and they are trying to gain the trust of a young person for inappropriate purposes. I think there is a lot of public interest in those issues. I guess I would point out as a child protection expert of long standing that we cannot also forget the fact that much of the contact offending that occurs in sexual assault terms actually occurs from people who are known to young people. It is family, it is friends and it is people in the immediate environment rather than strangers. That said, I do not want to underplay the importance of addressing issues of online offending either.
Senator BARNETT —Have you got any evidence to support the fact that exposure to pornography and violent crime leads to sexual predators becoming more active and people becoming more violent in terms of criminal activity?
Dr Tomison —There is evidence around which looks at children in particular but also young people’s and adults’ experiences of violence and victimisation and how that may then play out as further victimisation, or revictimisation as it is called, and/or some will engage in offending behaviour as a result of their own experiences. When you are talking about exposure to pornographic material and violent material, often what is discussed are issues around desensitisation to violent material—if you like, starting to normalise what is being seen and to think of it as less grotesque or less problematic than what other people would suggest it really is. Whether that leads on to contact offending is actually something which we are interested in exploring. We have proposed a study which we are hoping to get up and running in the next year or so which will look at online sex offenders who have been caught and looking at some of the motivations and their histories to sort of see where they are coming from and what is the motivation to offend. Hopefully that will shed more light on this issue. At the moment it really is still early days. Even though the police are doing great work in actually tracking down these individuals and getting better and better at trapping them online, there is still a lot of work to be done.
Senator BARNETT —Are you aware of a group called Project Respect, which is, I think, supported by the Salvation Army and Collective Shout? They estimate that there are typically up to 1,000 women in Australia under contract at any one time with respect to prostitution. Are you aware of that?
Dr Tomison —I have heard of the group Project Respect. I am not aware of that figure of 1,000 women as prostitutes at any one time.
Senator BARNETT —They also say that 300 Thai women were held in the sex industry under debt bondage in Sydney in Australia in 1995. They also say women trafficked to Australia are indentured by a $15,000 to $18,000 debt which they must work off before they are freed. Do those figures sound accurate to you, or are you not aware of those details?
Dr Tomison —I am not particularly aware of those figures, but they sound in the right ballpark. The AIC actually has a study underway right now on human trafficking. One element of that is running a sex workers survey through the Scarlet Alliance, which is a peer support network for sex workers. The intention of that survey is to look at migrant women who have come into the country both legally and illegally and to try to get a feel for their circumstances, their experiences and to shed light on the issue of human trafficking in Australia for sexual purposes.
Senator BARNETT —Do you have a consultancy arrangement with Scarlet Alliance?
Dr Tomison —Yes, we do, to run the survey for us.
Senator BARNETT —What is the extent of the survey and what is the cost of the survey? I am happy for you to take it on notice.
Dr Tomison —I may need to take it on notice. The survey is about to get underway. At the moment, there has been pilot testing in Melbourne and I think in Sydney as well. I can get those figures for you.
Senator BARNETT —Thanks for sending us Trends & issues in crime and criminal justice. These are your monthly reports, which are very interesting. What are the main areas of research for the institute currently?
Dr Tomison —It is quite a varied program, Senator. At the moment, some of the key areas are human trafficking, as I have indicated.
Senator BARNETT —When will that report be delivered?
Dr Tomison —That will be early next year. I can actually, if you like, partly answer the question on notice. Scarlet Alliance has received $100,000 to run the sex worker survey for us.
Senator BARNETT —Any other key areas of activity?
Dr Tomison —Sure. Anti-money-laundering and counterterrorism financing. We have been running a research program over the last 3½ years. A range of reports have been produced with the support of AUSTRAC looking at a whole range of elements of AML-CTF, including alternative remittance schemes, obviously levels of fraud, finance on account of terrorism and those sorts of issues. So they are two areas that we are focusing on. We also run a series of annual monitoring programs, which you may be familiar with, which cover a range of crime types. We have one of the best national homicide monitoring programs in the world, which has been running for almost 20 years. We report on those regularly, usually every year. We have a range of other monitoring programs that we also report on, usually every year or so, that includes DUMA, which is Drug Use Monitoring Australia. Essentially, it is looking at interviewing detainees in eight police stations around the country across a year for the purpose of checking out their alcohol and drug use and then drawing a range of conclusions from that. That is quite a powerful program and it is, again, respected internationally. We collect information on armed robbery. We collect information on deaths in custody. A report on the issue of deaths in custody is due out in a matter of weeks. There are a number of other monitoring programs as well. In addition to that, of other key projects that we are working on now, I will go through my list, if I may.
Senator BARNETT —I will interrupt, Dr Tomison. Are they on your website?
Dr Tomison —Yes, they are.
Senator BARNETT —We will have a look at them there and we will come back to you if we have any further questions. Mr Marks, do you wish to contribute at this stage in terms of your activities? Are you a different entity to the institute or are you part of the institute?
Mr Marks —I am the general manager corporate and chief finance officer of the Australian Institute of Criminology.
Senator BARNETT —Thank you. All right. I think that covers it for tonight. Thanks very much for being here. Thanks for your work. I did not ask you about your staffing numbers.
Dr Tomison —Currently we have 52 FTE.
Senator BARNETT —And what was it at 30 June last year?
Dr Tomison —It was 62.
Senator BARNETT —And your budget allocation for this year? I just have not found it.
Dr Tomison —For this year it is $7.2 million.
Senator BARNETT —And compared to last year?
Dr Tomison —Same.
Senator PARRY —I have one question, Dr Tomison. In relation to violent video games and violence on television, do you have any research in relation to how detrimental that is?
Dr Tomison —Until recently, Senator, the message was quite mixed in terms of whether violent video games and other materials were actually having an effect. More recently, there has been evidence which has shown that there is a desensitisation impact which is obviously a negative impact. To date we have not personally done any research ourselves on that topic.
Senator PARRY —Do you intend to?
Dr Tomison —Possibly. It is on our list of priorities, which tend to change quite frequently according to contracted research that we can pick up and other priorities that we monitor regularly.
Senator PARRY —I have read that violent video games could be worse for society than pornography. Do you have a view on that?
Dr Tomison —Certainly in my old psychology days, what we were taught was that sexual behaviour is not of itself a negative experience, even though you do not want to expose young people to it on a regular basis. Violent crime or violent activity is in fact far worse. I would still say that. Then again, violent sexual activity is probably one of the worst things you can experience.
Senator PARRY —It is a combination of both, yes. Can I encourage you to undertake some research into that particular area?
Dr Tomison —Certainly, Senator.
Senator PARRY —Thank you.
CHAIR —Thank you both, gentlemen, for this evening. Thanks for your time. I call officers from the CrimTrac agency.