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Wednesday, 23 November 2011
Page: 13708

Mr SIMPKINS (Cowan) (10:39): I welcome the opportunity today to speak on the Parliamentary Joint Committee on the Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity report, Inquiry into integrity testing. I note that other members of the committee are also present, so I will not take too much time today. With my background—a couple of years in the Federal Police and, after that, in the military police—matters to do with law enforcement have always been of great interest to me. When I look back on my time in the Federal Police in particular I can say that I certainly never saw any form of corruption. There was a time when I was working briefly in the AFP drug squad in Sydney when there were comments made about making sure that desks were cleared when particular officers of the New South Police were coming into the building for a meeting, so I suspect that there were issues with corruption in New South Wales, particularly at that point in time—this was in 1986 and 1987. But in my time in the Australian Federal Police I never saw any problems. Even to this day, when you look at the law enforcement organisations within the Commonwealth—and I refer to the AFP, the Australian Crime Commission and Customs—there is reason for all of us to have great confidence in the professionalism and standards in all cases in those organisations.

That is not to say that we should not be prepared. That is where we are at with regards to the matter of integrity testing. I will take one definition of 'integrity testing' from the report, the one from the Attorney-General's Department:

... integrity testing refers to the act of covertly placing an officer in a simulated situation designed to test whether they will respond in a manner that is illegal, unethical or otherwise in contravention of the required standard of integrity. The test must provide the subject with an equal opportunity to pass or fail the test. Depending on its severity, the consequences of failing integrity tests can include disciplinary action, termination of employment or criminal charges.

Integrity testing has a fairly brief history, first occurring, according to information received, in the 1970s in the New York Police Department.

In the submissions and evidence, there was a bit of a tendency for the focus to be on some very low-level aspects of integrity testing. The classic scenario—and I will apply this to the ACT, although obviously, as I said before, I have complete confidence in the AFP and the ACT branch of the AFP—is that of a lost wallet being handed in to a particular officer and checking to see whether that officer follows correct procedures. That was a classic integrity test—the baseline integrity test. But it was my view, and the committee truly embraced this as we moved through, that in the Commonwealth environment there is access to information that can be of great value through these law enforcement agencies—the AFP, the Crime Commission and Customs. This might be information about criminal matters or a range of other things. Criminal organisations such as bikie gangs would see great value in trying to subvert an officer of the crown within one of these agencies to try and acquire information from them. It is particularly in the area of information security that integrity testing is going to be required in the future. Any person who has the opportunity to access information should have their integrity tested.

When I was in the Australian Federal Police working in Western Australia a number of officers of the WA police came to grief, you might say, professionally because they would use the police computer system to access the licence information of ordinary members of the public. This was very low-level stuff. As I heard it and as it was reported at the time, it sometimes involved looking up the address of an attractive driver who had been pulled over. Nevertheless, there were very poor standards there. That is the thin end of the wedge in terms of information control and integrity and the need for measures to be in place to assess the risks and to assess individuals. I am sure that others will speak this morning as well on the difference between targeted and random integrity testing. As a committee, we were very fond of the notion of targeted integrity testing, which is when there is reason to look at a person's behaviour and to place in front of them opportunities to make a positive or a negative decision. Targeted integrity testing is certainly what the committee is most keen on. Recommendation 3, in fact, is that integrity testing needs to be available to those agencies that come under ACLEI's responsibility—the AFP, the Crime Commission and Customs. Those organisations need to have access to integrity testing.

I have spoken a little bit about the report. I would like to finish by reiterating that I have great confidence in the professional standards of the AFP, the Crime Commission and Customs and in the ability of ACLEI to control and to be appropriately involved in integrity testing on behalf of and together with those agencies. I do not think that we have a significant problem in this country. But the reality is that, where there is information about crimes, drugs, the government and defence contracts there will always be the opportunity for someone to make money by acquiring it. People will always try to reach out to officers of the Commonwealth to try to subvert them and get them to acquire information for them. That is why we need to have these integrity testing measures in place to make sure that action can be taken when there is suspicion. I endorse the report. The members of the committee have gotten it right with this most excellent report.