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Thursday, 12 May 2011
Page: 2561

Australian Federal Police

(Question No. 575)

Senator Ludlam asked the Minister representing the Minister for Home Affairs, upon notice, on 4 April 2011:

With reference to the attendance of Australian Federal Police (AFP) officers at public rallies:

(1) Were any AFP officers deployed at the Deaths in Custody Watch Committee's rally at the Western Australian Parliament on Tuesday, 22 March 2011; if so: (a) why; and (b) what is the AFP's interest in the activities of the committee.

(2) Are AFP officers ever 'off-duty'; if so, in what circumstances.

(3) Can an AFP officer attend a protest rally in a personal capacity; if so, in what circumstances

Senator Ludwig: The Minister representing the Minister for Home Affairs, has provided the following answer to the honourable senator's question:

On 22 March 2011, two AFP staff attended the Deaths in Custody Watch Committee rally at the Western Australia Parliament. One staff member was at the rally for approximately 10 minutes. The other remained at the rally until it concluded. Both staff members were on duty at the time they attended the rally.

AFP staff routinely attend Issue Motivated Group (IMG) events. This affords the AFP an opportunity to observe, engage with event organisers and IMG leadership, identify IMG concerns, obtain knowledge in relation to planned IMG activities, identify Commonwealth implications arising from IMG activities and assess any risks to Commonwealth interests arising from IMG activity or planned activity.

Engagement enables the AFP to improve relationships and communication with IMGs and provides knowledge of the intentions of particular IMGs and individuals of concern in relation to Commonwealth issues including security issues.

The AFP regularly attends rallies and events in relation to a diverse range and number of IMGs.

The AFP did not have a specific interest in attending this particular event other than continuing to maintain liaison with the Deaths in Custody Watch Committee. The AFP officers liaised with the organiser, a spokesperson and members of the Deaths in Custody Watch Committee.

(2) AFP sworn Police members who are off duty are still compelled by Oath or Affirmation to act should they witness a criminal offence

(3) Yes; on the basis that participation did not pose a conflict with their duties, contravene professional standards, or otherwise not be in the public interest.