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Thursday, 3 December 2015
Page: 14626


Mr KEENAN (StirlingMinister for Justice and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister on Counter-Terrorism) (10:27): I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

CrimTrac and the Australian Crime Commission (ACC) are two of Australia's most important national law enforcement bodies, created to provide police with access to national policing information and intelligence. Both agencies are shared national assets that reflect the cooperative approach between jurisdictions that is central to Australia's response to crime.

The Australian Crime Commission Amendment (National Policing Information) Bill—or the merger bill—implements the historic decision of all of Australia's Attorneys-General, police ministers and justice ministers to bring CrimTrac and the Australian Crime Commission together under one banner.

This bill forms a package with the Australian Crime Commission (National Policing Information Charges) Bill, which will allow the merged agency to continue the self-funded model that has supported CrimTrac's services for over a decade at no cost to the budget.

The merged agency would be supported by a new Intergovernmental Agreement to ensure that it maintains a focus on providing national information systems to police, as CrimTrac currently does.

These systems and services are critical to supporting day-to-day policing and the investigation of all forms of crime, from terrorism through to street crime, to drug trafficking, to domestic violence.

Australia has first-rate—in fact, world-class—police and intelligence agencies that are highly capable, professional and committed to protecting our community.

We need to make sure that these agencies continue to have access to the tools and information they need to do their job.

Merging CrimTrac and the ACC continues this government's commitment to ensuring Australian law enforcement agencies are in the best possible position to protect us from criminal and national security threats.

The merger will enrich the ACC's critical intelligence function with direct access to CrimTrac's national police information holdings and sophisticated information technology capabilities.

This will improve the quality, access and timeliness of the intelligence that the merged agency provides to law enforcement and intelligence agencies.

Improved intelligence will better equip these agencies to detect and disrupt significant threats, such as terrorism, international drug trafficking and cybercrime.

Key measures

The merger bill contains a number of amendments to give effect to the proposed arrangements for the merged agency.

Primarily, the merger bill amends the Australian Crime Commission Act 2002 (ACC Act)to enable the merged agency to carry out all of CrimTrac's functions. These functions will be referred to as 'national policing information' functions under the merged agency structure. This includes making national information-sharing systems available to police and providing nationally coordinated criminal history checks.

The merger bill will also change some of the merged agency's governance arrangements. Currently, the ACC and CrimTrac are both governed by boards. Following the merger, there will be a single board overseeing the merged agency.

The amendments enable the board to set high-level priorities for the merged agency's new national policing information functions. They also provide the board with additional, specific functions currently exercised by the CrimTrac board.

Amongst other things, this includes making recommendations to the relevant Commonwealth minister about expenditure from the National Policing Information Systems and Services Special Account.

The special account was established under the Howard government to support CrimTrac to develop and maintain new and existing information-sharing systems for Australia's police forces.

These amendments will ensure that state and territory police commissioners will continue to play a key role in decisions that directly affect their agencies.

The merger bill will also make changes to the merged agency's information disclosure regime. These ensure that the merged agency can continue to share national policing information, in the same way as CrimTrac currently does, and provide nationally coordinated criminal history checks to a range of stakeholders.

Continuing the CrimTrac funding model

CrimTrac is entirely self-funded through revenue generated primarily from criminal history checks. This has allowed CrimTrac to provide services to police and the community at no cost to the budget.

The measures in these bills will ensure the continued financial security of policing information services.

The charges bill will allow the merged agency to impose charges for certain services, in order to fund or subsidise the provision of other services to police and the community.

The merger bill will provide a mechanism for the board, which comprises representatives from each jurisdiction, to make recommendations to the Commonwealth minister regarding these charges. This reflects the national nature of the merged agency and its national information holdings.

The merger bill will also allow the merged agency to charge fees on a cost recovery basis for discrete services, separate to the revenue mechanism in the charges bill.

The revenue that CrimTrac currently generates accrues into the National Policing Information Systems and Services Special Account.

This allows revenue generated by CrimTrac to be kept separate from other Commonwealth funds and readily invested in national policing information services.

The merger bill will continue the special account, set out the funds that must be credited to the account, and the purposes for which the account may be debited.

These provisions ensure that the special account will continue to support the provision of information-sharing systems and services to police.

Consistent with this, the merged agency will only be able to use the special account for CrimTrac-type, national policing information purposes.

Conclusion

These bills implement an important merger of Australia's two key law enforcement information and intelligence agencies. The merged agency will be better able to fulfil its role as Australia's national criminal intelligence agency, supporting and informing the efforts of law enforcement agencies all around Australia.

At the same time, the merged agency will continue to provide nationally coordinated, high-quality information technology systems and services to Australian police, which are critical to supporting their day-to-day operations.

I, therefore, commend the bill to the House.

Debate adjourned.