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Tuesday, 24 February 1987
Page: 555

Senator GIETZELT (Minister for Veterans' Affairs)(10.27) —I move:

That the Bill be now read a second time.

I seek leave to have the second reading speech incorporated in Hansard.

Leave granted.

The speech read as follows-

The purpose of this Bill is to give statutory recognition to the Australian Protective Service and its officers and to clarify its powers. This will make the performance of protective security duties much simpler from a legal viewpoint. The Bill will also resolve a number of administrative problems which have been caused to the service by the lack of a statutory identity. It will not give rise to additional costs to the Government.

In October 1984 the Australian Protective Service was created. Most of its members were transferred from the Australian Federal Police into the Public Service where they formed the core of the new body in the then Department of Administrative Services. They went on operating as uniformed, disciplined and, where necessary, armed officers but they were no longer police and did not have police powers.

The Protective Service was a new departure in Commonwealth security arrangements. As a first stage the Government agreed that property protection functions only would be handed over to APS. As the Service has proved its effectiveness it has been given a wider range of responsibilities.

Besides its regular property protection work it now provides all the custodial staff for immigration detention centres and performs routine security duties at the official residences of the Prime Minister and the Governor-General.

Its services are also available to meet ad hoc requirements for guarding people and property either in conjunction with police or where the risk level does not justify a police presence. Some such tasks have included escorts for art treasures and protection for visiting foreign VIPs.

Of course, there will continue to be a need for police services in the personal protection area.

The Protective Service is not equipped to carry out close personal protection duties but it is now clear that it, too, has an on-going role to play in personal as well as property protection.

Because of these developments, the Government decided it was time to take stock of the Service's legal position. When the Service was set up questions of legal powers and duties were less urgent than the practical problems involved in building a uniformed and disciplined service.

In October 1984, speaking for the Opposition on the Australian Federal Police (Amendment) Bill, Mr Steele Hall raised the question of possible legislation for the Service and my colleague the then Special Minister of State indicated to the House of Representatives that consideration was being given to the question.

As the Service's role has grown it has become increasingly clear that relying on existing law is not really satisfactory. Commonwealth law on protective security has been built up on the assumption that the only major government body working in this area will be a police force.

Provisions to give appropriate powers to Commonwealth officers outside the police are generally very cumbersome when used for a body of over 600 people. And the law is unclear about just what powers of arrest are available to such officers and how they should exercise them.

Now, in the Government's view, that situation is administratively inefficient and unfair both to the officers and to members of the public who may have to deal with such officers. So the Bill I am now presenting is intended to do two things.

First, to make sure that officers of the Australian Protective Service have all the powers they genuinely need to perform their full range of duties. Second, to ensure that the private citizen is protected against abuse of those powers. Because of this my colleague the Minister for Local Government and Administrative Services has obtained advice from outside the Public Service on the human rights issues involved so as to ensure that this Bill provides adequate protection to the rights of individuals.

The Bill is divided into four parts, two of which deal with definitions and mechanical matters.

Part II provides a legal identity for the Protective Service and its officers, sets out its functions and provides appropriate controls over the way in which it operates.

Part III deals with the powers and duties of Protective Service officers. It sets out the circumstances in which a Protective Service officer can make an arrest. It provides a code of conduct and procedure on the way in which an arrest is to be carried out and the arrested person is to be dealt with afterwards.

Briefly, the effect is that a Protective Service officer can exercise much the same power of arrest as a police officer can in immediate response to any of the listed offences. However the Protective Service officer must put the arrested person into police custody as soon as possible. The officer has no special power to arrest a suspect some time after the offence has been committed. This is because the Service does not have an independent investigating or prosecuting role. It merely responds to immediate needs associated with its protection role.

Part III also provides for proper identification of officers on duty. It releases the service from State and Territory licensing and registration requirements which are not aimed at the Commonwealth and merely cause inconvenience to both sides. This release concerns such things as firearms and handcuffs, use of which is strictly controlled by the Service.

Honourable senators may notice that there is no reference in the Bill to custodial powers. I will just note here that my colleague the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs is planning regulations under the Migration Act to cater for the needs of immigration detention centres, including a code of custodial powers and duties.

As for the present Bill, I believe that it provides a good balance between providing for efficient and reasonable security and protecting the citizen against unreasonable use of government powers. I commend the Bill to the Senate.

Debate (on motion by Senator Peter Baume) adjourned.