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Tuesday, 29 May 2012
Page: 6132

Mr HAYES (Fowler) (16:07): The Telecommunications Interception and Other Legislation Amendment (State Bodies) Bill 2012 makes amendments to four Commonwealth acts to facilitate telecommunications interception and access powers for the Victorian Independent Broad-Based Anti-Corruption Commission. I will not canvass that aspect of what the shadow minister said but it was correct. Telecommunications interception is a very, very powerful weapon for contemporary law enforcement. I know firsthand its importance in protecting the community from not only terrorism threats but also on a day-to-day basis the ravages of serious and organised crime.

In delegating authority to state and territory law enforcement bodies the Commonwealth must be assured of the integrity regimes that apply there to supervise the conduct of those interception powers and the approval of those interception powers. The Victorian government has established an Independent Broad-Based Anti-Corruption Commission with similar powers to ICAC in New South Wales and similar bodies in other states. I do not know why they did not call it ICAC like everybody else did; they have chosen a slightly different name. This body has the ability to investigate and disrupt issues of corruption within broad based areas in the state of Victoria, including the Victoria Police. As I said, interception is very strictly regulated and, as a consequence, the Commonwealth must be assured. Under the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Act 1979, an agency is not able to be declared an interception agency unless the minister is satisfied that, firstly, the agency is an eligible authority for the purposes of the act; secondly, the state law meets the prescribed oversight arrangements; and, thirdly, that the state has entered into an agreement to pay for interception costs. I also know firsthand how wide ranging those costs can be, particularly in respect of targeted operations.

Much has just been said by the shadow minister about constraints on our law enforcement agencies. I do admire his capacity to politicise anything, including when we are trying to do something with a mutually-beneficial objective, such as increasing the strength of our law enforcement agencies to protect our communities. He knows as well as I do that, in terms of contemporary law enforcement, this is not just about police on the street. This is about having a regime which is very much intelligence based in pursuing serious and organised crime, which has the technology to combat and compete with that deployed by organised criminals, and which can ensure that the act and regulations support the use of those technologies to defeat criminal enterprise. Possibly very similar to our modern-day military, we are moving more and more towards greater use of technology in combating serious and organised crime. My friend failed to mention the 500 additional police in the Australian Federal Police since 2007. This is not just people who are employed under the Australian Federal Police Act; this commitment is based on 500 sworn police officers—people who actually carry a badge and a gun. These are real police, not security guards or office staff.

When it comes to law enforcement, I think it behoves us not to try to politicise these issues but to concentrate on what is necessary to ensure that our police officers—who are charged with the very serious responsibility of protecting our community—have the necessary resources, tools, equipment and regulatory support to allow them to do their job—which is to protect our community. I for one believe that it takes a very special sort of person with a very special sort of courage to wear the police uniform and discharge their duty on behalf of our community. They do a fantastic job and I think we need to work very closely with them to ensure that they have the resources, tools and equipment they need to do the job and protect our communities.

The interception ability is something which I know is absolutely key to addressing serious and organised crime. Increasingly it is only through interception that issues of planning are uncovered so that the police can be in a position to disrupt and, in doing so, prevent criminal enterprise in respect of a particular operation. If you can deter or prevent a crime, you are also protecting those who are potential victims of a crime, because for every crime there must be a victim. So, to some extent, modern-day policing is about preventing criminal enterprise as opposed to do what the criminal lawyers might want to lecture us on, which is: wait for the crime to be committed, then collect the evidence. If you have got enough evidence you make a prosecution.

Mr Simpkins: Lawyers: what would they know?

Mr HAYES: I am going to be followed by a former police officer, so I am sure he can take up this line as well.

Ms Hall: A military police officer.

Mr HAYES: Former AFP, I think, too. This is part of a suite of technologies that is absolutely crucial for combating serious and organised crime. It is great to see that the Victorians have now come on board with their new organisation, the Independent Broad-Based Anti-Corruption Commission, with the same or similar powers to the Independent Commission Against Corruption. They will be able to delegate, to authorise and to supervise conduct of telecommunication intercepts.

In leaving this debate, one of the points I think must be understood by all of our state and territory jurisdictions is that, whilst we refer to criminals as being a bunch of crooks, the truth of the matter is that they are businesspeople. They will, like any business, pursue a window of opportunity to make a profit. They are profit-based organisations. We need to ensure that we disrupt their profits and their enterprise, and one of the ways we do that is through using modern techniques—particularly, in this case, telephone intercepts.

The bill is an important step in ensuring that state bodies responsible for the detection, investigation and prosecution of serious and organised crime have the ability to access investigative tools which are contemporary in nature and certainly have an absolutely proven track record through most of our police jurisdictions of being the vehicle by which prosecutions have been made. I do not think I need to go on. I think my friend is about to take over and probably continue that line, hopefully supporting our police. I commend the bill to the House.