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Wednesday, 18 February 1987
Page: 191

Senator ARCHER(5.11) —I move:

That the Senate take note of the paper.

I would like to deal with that part of the annual report of the Department of the Special Minister of State which deals with law enforcement. I am pleased to see the new Special Minister of State (Senator Tate) in the chamber because I offer to him my full co-operation and that of other members of the Opposition in trying to get a greater commitment than was exhibited by the former Minister. The new Minister has a major task, and I am very pleased to see that the newspaper reporting of his appointment said that dealing with organised crime was one of his major intentions. It certainly is needed. The morale of the Australian Federal Police can be gauged very much by the number of resignations, the complaints by the unions and the various police officers who have gone public with their complaints. This is most uncharacteristic, but it is typical of an organisation which is not in the best of regard.

When we look over the various inquiries that there have been and the reports that have been made we look at the action that has been taken by the Government, which has been very little indeed. I mention the Coastal Protection Unit, an organisation which has 21 officers and 10 staff members to cover 37,000 miles of coastline. I mention the Drug Offensive. I would certainly request that the Minister now turns the publicity into an enforcement phase. I mention the Australian Bureau of Criminal Intelligence which has never been manned or equipped as per the agreement of establishment, and the Government has systematically refused to do so. Then there is the Federal Police. It has had token increases in staff numbers. I urge the Minister to read the reports and make a ministerial statement on his attitudes and intentions as far as the upgrading of that body is concerned. I would like him to produce the Government's commitment, not its promises. There can be no relenting on the pursuit of crooks, not just the old vice and violence type but also the modern ones-the barons of business, the white collar gentlemen crooks, those who direct and fund the crime, those with impeccable connections and friends in high places and, most of all, the corrupt offices that go with it. This work will need greater emphasis on specialist officers, either by getting them through university courses, by lateral, non-ranked entry or by other means. The success or otherwise of the new Minister will be judged entirely by the action he takes, not the inquiries he runs or the procrastination that he now follows. While he pursues these issues, he can be assured of every co-operation from me and the party for which I speak.

I am looking through the bundle of papers that I have in this regard. To give honourable senators an idea of the problems that exist in the law enforcement aspects, the Director of Public Prosecutions, in his annual report of 1985-86, said:

. . . unfortunately the AFP does not have the resources to cope with more than a few of the large number of cases referred to it . . .

Again, he said:

This unsatisfactory state of affairs can only undermine the deterrent value of prosecution in this area.

In relation to the Health Insurance Act he stated:

The legislation is generally in an unsatisfactory state for the purpose of prosecution . . . the legislation is vague and ambiguous.

Again, he states:

Another major difficulty we face in the staffing area is the resources required to prosecute the `bottom of the harbour' cases inherited from former Special Prosecutor Gyles Q.C.

Another report states:

The criminal element has little to fear from Customs on the waterfront except through his own carelessness.

So it goes on. There is welfare fraud. The joint task group in the AFP review of resources was presented with cases of serious criminal activities but had no power to follow them through. The Customs Inspection Service which deals with the duty evaders is now at saturation point in trying to cope with the flood of cases. I leave it to the Minister to ensure that these areas are adequately staffed and adequately resourced if we are to make any meaningful approach to the attacks on organised crime and particularly drug related crime.

Question resolved in the affirmative.