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Wednesday, 23 November 2011
Page: 13710

Mr HAYES (Fowler) (10:47): Most members of this place are aware that before coming here I spent many years representing police officers within various Australian police jurisdictions. One of the things that I know is that police and law enforcement officers take the issues of integrity and honesty very seriously. I acknowledge that the member for Cowan was a police officer with both the Australian Federal Police and the military police. As he said, there have been issues in various police jurisdictions. Some of those issues were particularly brought to light by a New South Wales inquiry of 1987 that I remember very well, the Wood royal commission. That went out and used various measures in pursuing its investigations into corruption within the New South Wales Police Force.

History is often rewritten a little. In terms of that measure of corruption, it was largely contained in that particular instance to essentially one command that was operating at that stage in and about Kings Cross. That gave rise to various things, including the current popularity of the term 'underbelly'. Having worked for a long time with police officers and having grown up in a police family, I know the mindset of the police. I have interviewed police on many occasions, including police giving evidence in witness boxes. I have many times put the question directly to them as to why they chose to join the police force, knowing the rigours of the occupation and knowing all the restrictions that it puts on not only your professional but your private life. Invariably what comes back to me is that they chose to join the police to make a difference. It was the case then and in the very modern world now, when there is clearly a far more professional base to policing, it is the case too.

The other thing I would like to talk about is that the issue of organised crime was put on the agenda by the then Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, in 2008 in his National Security Statement. He elevated organised crime to be up there with terrorism. Organised crime, it was said at that stage, was costing this country between $10 billion and $15 billion a year and certainly was impacting very much on communities. Maybe some did not appreciate it because the effects do not necessarily directly impact on various members of the community, but nevertheless the community is footing the bill for those things.

Sitting suspended from 10:51 to 10:56

Mr HAYES: As I was saying, the issue of serious and organised crime was put on the national agenda by the Prime Minister's National Security Statement in 2008. What followed from that? We took various measures—some people might refer to them as draconian measures—to fight terrorism, to ensure that the Australian people would be safe, as far as possible, from a terrorist act in this country impacting on our community. Organised crime was seen for the first time as an issue of national security, and various pieces of legislation were also developed to give enhanced powers to law enforcement.

Some of these matters have been on hand for some time, but we gave bodies such as the National Crime Authority, which subsequently became the Australian Crime Commission, extraordinary powers—the powers of a standing royal commission. I referred a little earlier to the Wood royal commission, which was a very powerful commission into policing in New South Wales. There have been many inquiries into other police agencies or law enforcement agencies, but what we established in this instance was the ability to use coercive powers to attack serious and organised crime. For the first time, you could be called before this organisation—the NCA, now the ACC—and questioned. Now there is no right to silence; trying to exercise that would simply see you incarcerated until you decided to cooperate. Some would refer to these powers as draconian; many lawyers do. But they were made to give law enforcement the ability to actually fight serious and organised crime. And it is not just the Australian Crime Commission; it is the Australian Federal Police as well, and Customs.

What goes with these increases in power is the need for us to ensure that power is not being abused, and that, as far as possible, we can assure the Australian public that these agencies are free from corruption. To that end, we established the Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity, which oversees the Australian Crime Commission and its activities, as well as, more recently, the Australian Federal Police and the activities of Australian Customs and border control. These are areas where we do need to ensure that the powers are not being abused. Where we have increased officers' powers we must ensure they are being used as intended—to protect our community.

I know the notion of integrity testing is challenging for some. But, having been around police circles for a long while, I know that whether it is specifically referred to or not it is certain that most police internal standards agencies—whether by design or by the way they construe their operations—would certainly be out there to weed out what they might refer to as 'bad apples' in their organisation. That has probably gone on for a long time. Many of these activities may have been considered illegal in themselves. For instance, setting an officer up by constructing a situation which could invoke an illegal activity such as taking of property might be construed by the courts as entrapment. Maybe in policing circles that might have been considered at one point in time as a fair effort to ensure the integrity of those officers who are operating within a particular command.

Various changes have been made, and certainly many of the state and territory jurisdictions have had integrity testing in operation now for some time, and that has been based on intelligence gathering. It has not been like the 'New York experience', as some have referred to it as, where these things occurred randomly—perhaps a wallet is dropped to see how an officer may react, et cetera. That is using a very crude example, I suppose. Most agencies have developed an ability to ensure, on the basis of intelligence, a mechanism to test officers' integrity by a specifically designed police operation. This is something that is relatively new for the Committee on the Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity to consider. As a consequence, we took evidence from each of the various policing agencies around the county to establish what was occurring—maybe not necessarily specifically provided for in various legislation but what was actually occurring in contemporary policing to ensure the integrity of police, and through that the community. The inquiry was initiated in July of last year. To that extent is was a relatively short inquiry, one which gave us the opportunity to take on board the evidence of the respective jurisdictions and those professional standards agencies within those jurisdictions with the responsibility of looking after professional standards within their commands.

The recommendations which have already been cited by the member for Fremantle when she delivered her report to parliament are not designed to be an impediment to policing; they are certainly designed to be a measure to ensure as far as possible that law enforcement, particularly under the Australian jurisdiction, that being the Australian Federal Police, the Australian Crime Commission and Customs agencies, are free from corrupt activity. We recommend in our report that this not be simply developed as a routine or ad hoc position to be adopted. It should be provided as a measure which is based on intelligence. Where police internal standards may suspect an officer then they will have the ability to construct a situation to test the integrity of an officer or group of officers. We have set guidelines for how that would occur. One of the things that we have required in respect of those integrity operations is that the Commissioner for Law Enforcement Integrity must be advised formally of the operation being considered and also the results of its deployment.

In this respect, we see the Commissioner for Law Enforcement Integrity being another check and balance, not only protecting the integrity of those organisations but ensuring that we operate integrity testing throughout those jurisdictions in a way that respects the intention of the provisions recommended to government. We also recommend that various pieces of legislation be amended to ensure that controlled operations can take place without jeopardising the legal status of officers, particularly those officers in the Professional Standards Command, who are undertaking these operations such that their activities do not constitute them committing an offence.

I would like to reiterate that this has all been developed with a view to ensuring the utmost integrity of our law enforcement agencies so we can assure the community that, as far as possible, the agencies will remain, as they are now, virtually corruption free. We will do everything that we can to support the work of police internal professional standards, which, by the way, also has a direct relationship, albeit at the moment not a formal relationship, with the Commissioner for Law Enforcement Integrity. Enhancing that can only be good for professional policing and can only be good for the community.

As I say, I have spent many years representing police in most Australian police jurisdictions. I know from my ongoing contact with them that they do not see this as an impediment to them and they certainly do not see this as a slight to the integrity of their members. They do see this as a further reinforcement that we are working to ensure the ongoing corruption-free nature of policing. After all, I do not see that we are going to be winding back police powers; if anything, it will be the opposite. In order to protect and enhance community safety, I am sure greater powers will be given to policing over time. Every time we do that, we must ensure the appropriate checks and balances are in place. (Time expired)