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Monday, 29 October 2012
Page: 12387

Mr MORRISON (Cook) (16:06): I rise to speak on the Law Enforcement Integrity Legislation Amendment Bill 2012. The purpose of the bill is to amend the Crimes Act 1914, the Australian Crime Commission Act 2002, the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Act 1979, the Surveillance Devices Act 2004, the Customs Administration Act 1985 as well as the Law Enforcement Integrity Commissioner Act 2006. I wish to note at this point that the overwhelming majority of Commonwealth law enforcement officers are honest, hardworking, good Australians who are dedicated to protecting our communities. However, it is a fact that criminals do target law enforcement officers due to the nature of their work, as they often have access to sensitive information.

Corrupt conduct can take many forms, including improper association, conflict of interest, abuse of power, fabrication or destruction of evidence, inappropriate disclosure of information, theft and fraud. Some crimes of corrupt behaviour involve committing a criminal offence. However, other kinds of corruption, while not criminal, may still undermine the integrity of the Commonwealth law enforcement agency an officer works for. The coalition firmly believes there should be zero tolerance for corruption in the public sector and we urge the government to take steps towards eradicating corruption, which undermines the integrity of our agencies and their ability to achieve their missions to protect our communities or our borders and as consistent with the high expectations that our community has in these agencies.

Integrity tests are operations designed to test whether a public official will respond to a simulated or controlled situation in a manner that is illegal or that would contravene an agency's standard of integrity. An example of integrity testing includes leaving valuable goods or money at a simulated crime scene to test whether an official officer steals the item. Often false information is put into a database to catch an officer suspected of unlawfully disclosing information. It is important to note that integrity testing is not entrapment or inducement. Entrapment is where an officer is induced to commit an offence they would not otherwise have committed, whereas the aim of integrity testing is to give an individual clear and equal opportunities to pass a test or fail a test. It has been reassured to the coalition that the tests will be carefully designed and will be carried out in a way which upholds this distinction.

The introduction of integrity testing at the Commonwealth level was recommended by the Parliamentary Joint Committee on the Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity on 21 November 2011. In evidence provided to the PJCACLEI inquiry, a number of issues associated with integrity testing were raised, including cost, impact on morale, legal issues such as inducement, and the effectiveness of integrity testing as an integrity measure.

The bill also makes significant changes to ACLEI's jurisdiction. Consequently, increased powers need to be thoroughly examined to ensure any privacy or use and disclosure information issues are addressed appropriately. The Australian Federal Police Association noted in their submission to the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee, who is conducting an inquiry into this bill, as follows:

It is commendable that the AFP executive is considering the implementation of an integrity testing regime at a time where there is no known widespread corruption in the organisation. This provides a stark contrast to the oft-cited example of widespread corruption in New York City during the 1980s and 1990s which led Mayor Rudolph Giuliani to commission the Mollen Report. The results of that report led to targeted testing being adopted, and soon thereafter it was consequently in every Australian state jurisdiction including the Northern Territory.

The coalition is off the firm view that for the most part our agencies are not plagued with widespread corruption; however, it is important to ensure that Australia never approaches anything like the levels of corruption seen in New York and other jurisdictions around the world. Eternal vigilance on these matters is what is necessary in our view.

I now turn to the amendments contained within the bill. The amendment contained in schedule 1will introduce targeted integrity testing for staff members of the Australian Federal Police, the Australian Crime Commission and the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service suspected of corrupt conduct. It will increase the jurisdiction of the Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity to include CrimTrac, Austrack and other prescribed staff in the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry. The purpose of schedule 2 is to enhance the powers of the CEO of Customs to deal with suspected corrupt conduct and bring those powers into line with powers currently available to the AFP Commissioner and the ACCC CEO.

I wish to expand upon the amendments in schedule 1, which is to introduce integrity testing for Customs. In their submission to the Senate committee, Customs said that, having regard to the significant consequences of Customs and Border Protections role at the border and controlling the import of prohibited items, including weapons and drugs, access to highly sensitive and classified information and working closely with other law enforcement agencies, the consequences of corruption or misconduct in connection with the service's law enforcement role are very serious.

It is a shame that this Labor government has not seen fit to couple this legislation with an increase in funding for Customs to help it perform these integral duties, such as a controlling the import of illicit goods. In the 2008-09 budget, Labor cut $58.1 million in funding for Customs cargo inspections. As a result, Customs has been placed under greater pressure and been asked to do more with less, putting Customs officers at risk of being vulnerable to being used by organised criminal syndicates. This year in March, Customs was unable to detect 220 guns which were smuggled into Sydney through the Sylvania Waters Post Office, which is in my electorate of Cook. New Wales Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione called this alleged smuggling operation perhaps the biggest illegal syndicate doing this type of illegal gun trafficking that Australia has seen. However, this Labor government refused to refer this incident to a specific inquiry into Customs or Australia Post, independent of these organisations. Labor refused to ask itself the hard questions about the effects its damaging budget cuts have had on our border and law enforcement agencies.

How can the Minister for Home Affairs continue to deny that the $58.1 million in funding that Labor stripped from air and sea cargo screening has not contributed to the problems which have been outlined in this place and many others when it comes to goods and other matters being smuggled across our border and into our communities? Air cargo inspections have dropped from 60 per cent under the Howard government to a dismal 8.3 per cent under this government. With these kinds of drastic cuts to cargo screening, illicit drugs and weapons are flowing through with ease onto our streets and into the hands of organised criminal syndicates. The only thing better than an old gun is a new gun.

Customs in their submission to the Senate committee also noted that this measure was formerly referred to as 'loss of confidence'. This terminology has been changed to better reflect the intent of the legislation and provide assurance to workers and the community as to how this power will be implemented. If Labor were serious about the integrity of our borders, they would stop the spin and look to reinstate the damaging funding cuts they have made to Customs and reinstate integrity to our borders. We take issues of corruption very seriously and support efforts to prevent corruption in Commonwealth law enforcement agencies. Corruption and abuse of power not only threatens Australia's national security but also compromises the trust that the community has in their role.

The coalition supports this bill in principle and supports measures to eradicate corruption in the public sector. Due to the nature of the wide-ranging amendments, the Senate committee is currently inquiring into this bill and is not due to report until 20 November 2012. The coalition reserves the right to move amendments in the Senate, pending the recommendations of the Senate committee when it hands down its report.