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Tuesday, 29 May 2012
Page: 6131

Mr KEENAN (Stirling) (16:01): I rise to speak on the Telecommunications Interception and Other Legislation Amendment (State Bodies) Bill 2012 in relation to some changes to the anticorruption infrastructure in the state of Victoria. The bill proposes to amend the principal act, the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Act 1979, to provide for the removal of the Victorian Office of Police Integrity, the OPI, which has been abolished, and the substitution of the Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission—which strikes me as a very literal name—as an authority eligible to intercept telecommunications. In order for an agency to be declared, the Attorney-General must be satisfied that the law of the requesting state makes provision for the agency to comply with the original Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Act's record-keeping, reporting and inspection obligations. The state must also enter into an agreement to pay all expenses associated with the issues of warrants issued to the agency.

The bill provides for Victoria to legislate for a public interest monitor which will be given specific oversight functions. These include the power to question officers of agencies and to make submissions on any application for a warrant by a declared agency. The bill also makes consequential provisions to the Taxation Administration Act 1953, the Privacy Act 1998 and the Crimes Act 1914 to substitute the Independent Broad-Based Anti-Corruption Commission for the Office of Police Integrity in those statutes. Clearly, the Victorian government supports these particular measures.

As the bill's explanatory memorandum states, Victoria's parliament has recently passed the Victorian Inspectorate Act 2011 and the Victorian Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission Act 2011 to establish these two new oversight bodies. The Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission will have a broad jurisdiction, as the name implies, responsible for investigating, exposing and suppressing corruption involving or affecting all public officials in Victoria. Section 16 of the Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission Amendment (Investigative Functions) Act will repeal the Police Integrity Act 2008 of Victoria, abolishing the Office of Police Integrity and enabling the Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission to exercise its functions in relation to all Victorian public officials, including the police.

I want to point out the hard work that Australian security agencies do at the moment in protecting our freedoms and the outcomes they achieve in making Australia a safer place. I certainly get the impression that not all Australians are aware of the threats that have been faced by our country over the last few years and the seriousness of the plots that have been foiled by our intelligence and law and order agencies. I will not go into all the details, but members in this place would be very familiar with some of the very serious plots that members of our community have made against government infrastructure and military infrastructure, and clearly our law enforcement and intelligence agencies are having a great deal of success in disrupting this sort of activity. However, there are some dark clouds on the horizon. The Labor Party has consistently targeted our national security agencies and our border protection agencies with both funding cuts and personnel cuts. These agencies seem to have become an easy target at every budget for the savings the government believes it needs. Labor's response to escalating violence on our streets and chaos at our borders is to significantly cut the resources that are available to the agencies the Australian people expect to police these things. Customs and Border Protection, our front-line border protection agency, has had a total of almost $26 million cut from its overall budget, and 750 staff have been cut from Customs since Labor came to office.

Labor has also made cuts to the Australian Federal Police. They have had a budget cut of $133 million, meaning they are going to have to stretch their existing resources significantly further. In the last two budgets alone Labor has cut 97 staff and stripped a massive $264 million in funding from the Australian Federal Police, making it even harder for them to protect our communities and enforce national security.

Labor has also attacked the Australian Crime Commission, which has seen their budget cut by $4.5 million, and 36 staff in total have been taken from the agency since the Labor Party came to power. In the context of the Australian Crime Commission, that is a very significant percentage of their resources. In fact, that is 30 per cent of their workforce. Clearly the Australian Crime Commission are under siege from these cuts and they are going to find it very difficult to do the job entrusted to them in the face of these very significant resource setbacks.

I make those points in relation to this bill dealing with law and order and our intelligence agencies in the context of noting what a good job they do. But they are doing that job in defiance of the very difficult circumstances the Labor Party have put them in. In relation to the bill itself, the coalition is satisfied that it does balance access to communications with appropriate independent oversight. I know that the Victorian Liberal government was very keen to get that balance right and has made sure that the privacy of individuals is respected under its new broad based anti-corruption body. Therefore, we support this bill going through the House.