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Thursday, 1 March 2012
Page: 2594

Mr HAYES (Fowler) (12:11): I would like also to follow in the same vein on this 150th anniversary of the New South Wales Police. I thank the member for Cook, whom I know is also the son of a police officer, for his very fine remarks. One thing I do know from growing up, particularly growing up in the back blocks of Sydney, is that it was not necessarily all that popular to boast that you were a son of a police officer in New South Wales. I also know that one of the things that really did differentiate policing and still does now is the reasons that people choose to wear the uniform of a police officer. I had occasion to ask my dad that once, but I will come back to that a little bit later.

I wanted to say that, in addition to being a son of a police officer, I have also had the opportunity over many years to represent police in every state and territory of this country as their advocate in various tribunals, which has given me a very broad insight into policing generally. One thing that does unite police officers—I have asked many in the witness box, 'Why did you choose to become a police officer?'—is that, oddly enough, they were almost the exact words that my dad said to me: they joined the police to make a difference. I think that is really what is the case. It did not matter when I started acting as advocate for police—in whatever state I was in, the men and women who take the responsibility of protecting our nation and ensuring there is safety on our streets were all motivated by one thing: making a difference.

I really think it takes a special type of person with, quite, frankly, a special courage to put their hand up to do that. It is a profession in itself that is much demeaned. I am sure nobody likes being pulled over. No-one likes to be cautioned. But, without people being so selfless as to go take on an occupation such as policing with a view to protecting our community, there would be anarchy. Police officers, quite frankly, are a microcosm of our greater community. They are the ones who uphold the law. Perhaps in many instances they may not like everything they have to do, but they get up, work their shifts, go out day or night and experience dangers and see various things out there that, thankfully, none of us here will probably ever have to experience in our lifetimes. And yet they do that.

Regrettably and unfortunately, it does take a toll on police officers. Across the nation we only hold our male police officers for 12½ years, which is a lot different from when Scott's and my dad were in the force. For female police officers it is about nine years. It is an occupation that has a very high burnout rate, and that is something we need to stay focused on. We need to protect the people who are protecting our community.

Andrew Scipione is a very good friend of mine, and he is doing a fantastic job as New South Wales Police Commissioner. He has been a very unifying force—and not in the New South Wales Police Force. I oversee the law enforcement committee, which oversees the Australian Crime Commission, so I have regular contact with all the police commissioners. I have seen the spirit of unification Andrew brings to that august body and his role in promoting the idea that you cannot have criminal loopholes because that migrates crime around the country. He is a strong believer in consistency and also in the profession of policing itself. To Andrew and all his colleagues, all the men and women of the New South Wales Police Force, I wish you well on the 150th anniversary of the force. I think Andrew did the right thing by bringing back the word 'force'. My dad, in his retirement, reeled when it became the police 'service'. He reckoned that was akin to it being the Public Service. He said the police must be a force to be reckoned with. Those sorts of comments have been put forward around the kitchen table to most of us who have grown up in police families.

It would be remiss of me not to take a moment to mention Scott Webber and the New South Wales Police Association, with whom I have had a very strong association for many years. They represent everyone from probationary constables to the Commissioner of Police. They do so properly, they do so with respect and dignity, and they put police officers in New South Wales first and foremost. I congratulate them and their members on the sterling job the association does in New South Wales.

This bill amends a number of criminal justice legislation aspects which need to be revised. In particular, it is critical for making sure we have contemporary methods to combat crime. Crime is not static; it is ever-changing. As a consequence, if we are going to empower those to whom we want to give responsibility for enforcing our laws, we as legislators must be vigilant in ensuring that they have the appropriate tools and regulatory support to do their jobs. The majority of the amendments before us deal with collecting and using DNA in criminal investigations and enshrining the protection of persons whose DNA samples are being investigated. These amendments will ensure our criminal legislation is effectively on par with the 2010 DNA forensic procedures review of the Crimes Act by Peter Ford. The amendments in the bill will ensure a more transparent and simplified process of collecting and using DNA forensic material in criminal matters. They will also ensure the protection of the privacy of all those involved in an investigation, particularly in relation to children.

It is critical to nail this down and get it right. I was around when the former government some time back, to their credit, brought in a national DNA database. The whole idea was to have national consistency associated with that. That was a very good thing; it is a very good policing tool. But it was highly regrettable when, in the Peter Falconio case, a person was swabbed and their DNA was collected in Adelaide and then it was found that it was not admissible in a court in the Northern Territory. Regrettably, although everyone left Canberra with their hands over their hearts saying we will have a national DNA database supported by consistent state and territory based regulation, the amount of customisation that occurred simply meant that the investigative procedures applicable in one state were inadmissible in another territory. That could have jeopardised a very serious murder investigation. In terms of policing generally, I do not think there is anyone in law enforcement now that would take their position that they are state rightists. As I said at the outset, crime is an export commodity. Criminals do not look at the Constitution, nor do they read a geographical map when they want to plan or commission crime. They certainly look for windows of opportunity. That is why we should strive to have national consistency in our laws when they relate to crime and to ensure that we do not provide incentives and opportunities for those who seek to profit from the misery of others by the commissioning of crime itself.

In terms of the issues about forensic materials, I think that is good. It certainly takes leadership and it will make a significant difference. In respect to schedule 2, the amendments to the Australian Crime Commission Act of 2002, the bill will ensure more efficient cooperation and sharing of information between the Australian Crime Commission; Commonwealth, state and territory agencies; and the private sector. The ACC CEO will be given the ability to share information with various industries exposed to serious and organised crime threats. This is very important in terms of the ACC and its extensive powers. It is a question of authority. It has very stringent standards put on it as to the security of its information and where it cannot be taken. However, to do its job effectively as our premier criminal intelligence agency, if you like, it must be in a position not only to notify and advise its partner groups, and each of the state and territory police agencies—Australian Taxation, Customs, et cetera—but also to actually advise organisations that are being infected or are highly suspected of being infected by serious and organised crime groups themselves. This will give the CEO of the Australian Crime Commission the protection and ability to do that.

I will be very brief in finishing up, because I know the minister is in here at the moment. In terms of extending the maximum term for the integrity commissioner, apart from being Chair of the Joint Standing Committee on Law Enforcement, I also sit on the Joint Standing Committee on the Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity and I see firsthand the good work that Philip Moss, as Commissioner for Law Enforcement Integrity, and his team do. Some time ago, the committee unanimously moved that there should be an extension—that the government should give consideration to extending the term from a five-year to a seven-year appointment. That has occurred as a consequence of that recommendation; I am very pleased the minister took that up. Philip Moss, having initiated the procedures of the commission itself, has done much to set the framework of law enforcement integrity. We strongly support his activities and are particularly pleased that the minister has sought to pick up that recommendation. As I have been given the wind-up, I will hand over to the minister.