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Monday, 29 October 2012
Page: 12393

Mr CLARE (BlaxlandMinister for Home Affairs, Minister for Justice and Minister for Defence Materiel) (16:32): I thank all members for their contribution to this debate and for their support for this important legislation. As all members have said in their contributions, the overwhelming majority of law enforcement officers are good, honest, hard-working people—but it is a fact that, because of the nature of the work they do, they can be targeted by organised crime. Because this is a fact, we need to ensure that we have the right legislation and the right frameworks in place to identify corruption where it occurs and weed it out—and to prevent it in the first place. That is why I have brought this legislation before the parliament.

The bill contains important amendments to give our law enforcement agencies the power to prevent corruption and the tools and powers to weed it out. It contains three key measures. The first is the introduction of targeted integrity testing of Federal Police, officers of the Crime Commission and officers of the Customs and Border Protection Service who are suspected of corruption. Secondly, it doubles the number of law enforcement agencies covered by ACLEI. Thirdly, it strengthens the powers of the chief executive officer of the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service to deal with suspected corruption.

This strengthening of the powers of the CEO of Customs includes three things. The first is the power to authorise drug and alcohol testing. The second is the power to issue orders, including mandatory reporting requirements where staff will be required to report suspected misconduct. The third is the power for the Customs CEO to make an order declaring that the termination of an employee was for serious misconduct. I will expand on that third point just for a moment, because I know there have been some concerns raised about the power and whether an appeal right should exist. This is a power which will not be exercised lightly and will be reserved for the most serious cases of misconduct, corrupt conduct or criminal activity. An advisory panel will be established to consider whether the criteria set out in this legislation for the making of a declaration of serious misconduct has been met.

The panel will then consider and advise the chief executive officer as to whether there is a reasonable basis to terminate employment, and that will include consideration of the following: (1) satisfying itself that the definition of 'serious misconduct' for the purposes of the declaration that has been made; and, (2), if it is having or is likely to have a damaging effect on either the professional self-respect or morale of staff or the reputation of the agency.

Customs and Border Protection Services is continuing to undertake consultation with unions and staff on the administration of this provision. A dismissed employee will be able to seek review of the decision in the Federal Court under the Administrative Decisions (Judicial Review) Act 1977. They will also be able to pursue other claims in connection with their employment or their dismissal, such as unlawful discrimination.

As I said in my second reading speech a few weeks ago, this is the first tranche of reforms that I will bring forward. They are the sorts of things that the former government should have done but did not. More work needs to be done to make our law enforcement agencies more corruption resistant, and I am working on those reforms now and will bring them forward when they are finalised. I commend this important legislation to the House.

Question agreed to.

Bill read a second time.

Ordered that the bill be reported to the House without amendment.