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Monday, 29 October 2012
Page: 12391


Mr HAYES (Fowler) (16:22): I rise to support the Law Enforcement Integrity Legislation Amendment Bill 2012. As Chair of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Law Enforcement and a member of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on the Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity, I am very proud that the government has picked up these recommendations that were made unanimously by the committee, as referred to by the member for Cowan. One thing about this committee, at least as long I have been associated with it, is that it has always acted in very much a bipartisan fashion and its recommendations are carefully crafted, as is the case here with regard to strengthening anticorruption and integrity measures within its jurisdiction.

The Parliamentary Joint Committee on Law Enforcement's jurisdiction initially covered the National Crime Authority, which became the Australian Crime Commission, and the Australian Federal Police. With the changing pattern of activity, the committee has been of a mind for some time that that should be widened to encompass other jurisdictions that equally have access to either sensitive or specific information about operations that could be affected by serious and organised crime. And that is what the bill does; it responds very positively to those recommendations and enacts them—maybe not in full but certainly enough to satisfy the committee that the government is acting to do something specific to give greater confidence in the integrity of our law enforcement agencies.

Part 1 of the bill enables targeted integrity testing. That is something that I know now exists in state and territory police jurisdictions but to date has been foreign to the Australian Federal Police and the Australian Crime Commission.

After having discussions with the various organisations representing police officers, including the Police Federation of Australia as well as the Australian Federal Police Association, their issue was not about targeted integrity testing; their issue was more associated with, if this was just going to be at random, it could be tantamount to entrapment, et cetera, and also it was a reflection on the level of confidence we had in the officers of those authorities. Each of the organisations representing police officers were in favour of targeted integrity testing because, as they indicated, the thing they value more than anything is the preservation of integrity within their profession

This legislation is not something that contravenes the application of employee rights; it is not something that is seen to be calling into question the integrity of specific officers, other than those who are suspected of acting in such a way that those actions could amount to a criminal charge attracting a sentence of I think it is more than 12 months. This is where the professional standards organisations of the law enforcement bodies already have good reasons to suspect criminal activity is at play, that this would enable senior officers of professional standards sections to go out and target and test the integrity of suspected officers. For those who represent the police profession, this is seen to be a good thing. It is seen to further support the preservation of integrity within law enforcement and also the integrity of all those officers who serve.

There was also a recommendation to expand the jurisdictions that could be subject to ACLEI oversight. Part 2 of the bill deals with that. The recommendation was to extend ACLEI oversight to AUSTRAC, which is the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre; to CrimTrac, which is doing vital criminal mapping as well as computer work which is being used by all states and territories at the moment; and also to Customs and the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry. These are certainly major changes, and with them obviously there is a change in the work of the Commissioner for Law Enforcement Integrity in respect of his staffing and also the ability to conduct investigations amongst those wider based agencies.

As I say, this measure will extend ACLEI's jurisdiction, which was previously limited only to the AFP, the ACC and Customs. It is designed to extend the reach of ACLEI to those areas where there is what would be regarded as a potential high level of risk by infiltration of organised crime groups and ensuring that ACLEI is in a position to make all possible endeavours to prevent, detect and investigate suspected instances of corruption.

Part 3 of the bill will also make amendments to the Crime Commission Act 2002, the Surveillance Devices Act 2004 and the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Act 1979. Again, these are vital in terms of implementing the integrity testing regime. The variation of the ACC's act will enable them to now have targeted integrity testing within that organisation.

Earlier this year the government took steps to ensure that ACLEI's jurisdiction was extended to Customs and its staff, and this legislation will now extend that much more broadly. From talking to officers of the AFP, they see this as extending the jurisdiction to all those who naturally fit in what would be considered a law enforcement role. All those organisations which will now, under this bill, be covered by ACLEI undertake, in their own way, law enforcement activity on behalf of the Commonwealth.

Further adjustments will be made to the Customs Act to allow various activities which are similar to what occurs in the AFP and the Australian Crime Commission—that is, to rules relating to drug and alcohol testing of staff. Further, if a police officer is suspected of a serious breach of integrity, clearly there is no point in having the person wait around—retaining access to vital and sensitive information which could corruptly be spirited off to other areas. So in each state and territory jurisdiction there is what is known as a commissioner's confidence arrangement. This arrangement was also extended to the Australian Crime Commission last year in light of certain activities which occurred there. The government considers it appropriate for the CEO of Customs, in ensuring the integrity of his organisation, to have a similar confidence provision. The bill does not do anything to circumvent the normal industrial rights available to a staff member aggrieved by the employer standing them down. But the arrangement ensures the integrity of the operations of these organisations by ensuring that the person can be denied access to sensitive information by the commissioner—or, in this case, the Customs CEO.

As the minister is here, I will conclude by saying, on behalf of the committee, that it is very gratifying the government has acted so swiftly to pick up our recommendations. It shows that this government is concerned to do everything possible to ensure the integrity of our law enforcement agencies.