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Monday, 22 June 2009
Page: 6777


Mr HAYES (8:40 PM) —On behalf of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on the Australian Crime Commission, I present the committee’s report entitled Examination of the Australian Crime Commission annual report 2007-2008, together with evidence received by the committee.

Ordered that the report be made a parliamentary paper.


Mr HAYES —It is an honour to speak on this report. Firstly, it is an opportunity for me to thank Alistair Milroy, the former CEO of the Australian Crime Commission, for guiding the organisation through its transition period from the National Crime Commission to the Australian Crime Commission and building the organisation into an impressive, crime-intelligent and the premier strategic law enforcement agency in this country. This is an organisation that both sides of parliament can have pride in—certainly pride in the commitment that is shown by officers of the Australian Crime Commission.

I also take the opportunity to welcome John Lawler, the former distinguished Deputy Commissioner of the Australian Federal Police, who now takes over the role of Chief Executive Officer of the Australian Crime Commission. John comes at a time when the challenge for law enforcement in this country is great and the need for professional and technically sophisticated law enforcement is essential. Law enforcement collaboration amongst all our jurisdictions is absolutely paramount. As I said, the challenges are there. I think that the way that this organisation is now shaped puts it in a position to actually meet those challenges with a view to protecting society and ensuring that assistance is given where necessary to our state and territory law enforcement agencies.

I also should not let the opportunity pass to comment on Mick Keelty, the retiring Commissioner of the AFP and Chair of the Australian Crime Commission. Mick has given sterling service to this country. He has certainly guided both the Australian Federal Police and the Australian Crime Commission through some difficult times but, in terms of his commitment to law enforcement, he has left a very solid position and a positive legacy for those who shall follow. I wish Mick all the best in his change of life. I am sure that he will go on to bigger and better things elsewhere and continue to make a commitment to the community, as he has done throughout all of his career.

I would just like to say a few things about the report. I have spoken on this on previous occasions. As you know, the Australian Crime Commission is a body that has coercive powers, but more recently, in the last couple of years, the trend that has started to emerge is defiance of those coercive powers. In terms of serious and organised crime groups, we have individuals who would much rather risk a jail sentence than cooperate with the coercive powers of the commission. To that extent, some would say that they get their comeuppance at the other end of the equation, but the ACC is a body to assist the community by investigating serious and organised crime. If a matter is delayed for 18 months while it is progressing contempt proceedings through the courts, an investigative trail would ordinarily go cold. For people at the front line, particularly in relation to drug importation, those investigations regrettably become redundant.

Again, I find myself indicating that we do need to do something about this. We need to ensure that either the coercive power is respected and cooperation given or, alternatively, where there is a failure to cooperate, that swift and pretty decisive action is taken. That is, a form of contempt proceeding should be started immediately and it should be respected by the judicial processes through the courts as opposed to giving suitable respite—and 18 months is very much a suitable respite—for organised criminals. We have carried further resolutions in that respect to tighten those proceedings and to look at a statutory definition of contempt, ensuring that there is a suitable amendment made to the Australian Crime Commission Act 2002. I also pay specific regard to the dedication and professionalism of the secretariat. (Time expired)