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Thursday, 26 February 1987
Page: 678

Senator ARCHER(12.06) —The Opposition does not oppose the Australian Protective Service Bill. However, it would be fair to say that we find certain aspects of it quite extraordinary. Many areas have not been adequately covered in the debate in the other place nor in the speech by the Minister for Local Government and Administrative Services (Mr Uren). I hope that we will be able to get a little more information today.

My first concern is fairly fundamental: I am not sure how many police forces or law enforcement agencies we need in Australia. To set up yet another one is, I find, quite perplexing. To form another law enforcement agency and to include it in a department which is outside the normal law enforcement area strikes me as even more difficult to understand. As a result, we are left in the situation of trying to establish what is the chain of command when it comes to law enforcement.

The easiest way I can explain that is to refer to two particular areas-the two sides of the front steps of Parliament House. I went there one night a couple of weeks ago and saw an Australian Federal Police officer on one side of the steps and an Australian Protective Service officer on the other. I said to the police officer: `What happens here if something goes wrong? Do you give him orders or does he give you orders?' He replied: `As far as I am concerned, he does not exist'. So I went across to the Protective Service officer and said: `Do you take orders from the AFP or do they take orders from you?' He replied: `I haven't the faintest idea. As far as I am concerned, I am on my own'.

If that is the case, it is time that we tidied things up. If it is not the case, I believe it is time we informed the officers of both services as to who is in charge or what happens if something goes wrong. I understand that the only reason we have these services is in case something goes wrong. It goes further than that. If one goes to an airport one may see State police on the front steps and Federal police, Protective Service people, or security guards, and Customs officers inside. I am not sure where any of those people fit or who takes orders from whom. I suggest that diversifying the lines of command and the lines of authority must weaken the system tremendously.

This situation also leaves gaps in the jurisdiction as to where one starts and where one finishes. Criminals and people with criminal intent have the very happy knack of working out where those gaps are and starting there. It is also the place they go to if they want to organise a bit of corruption; they go right to the edge of the line. I would like to know: At what top level do we get some co-ordination? I would also like to know whether there is some sort of a user pays system for APS services. I would like to know whether the numbers of people who are appointed to various positions are decided upon by the Protective Service or by the department which would like to have protection. Accordingly, if this service is to be provided perhaps it would be a good idea if the customer department knew what the service cost so it could make adequate provision to pay for it.

The former Special Minister of State, Mr Young, in his second reading speech in the other place made mention of training. He said that officers of the APS would be well trained in matters of the law and so on. However, `well trained in matters of the law' leaves a certain amount open. I would like to know what law the officers would be trained in, how long these education courses would take, who would conduct them, where they would be conducted and what level of proficiency would be achieved. I would also like to know what fire-arms training officers would have. I will come back to fire-arms later. I would also like to know a bit more about their training in apprehension and search and matters of that sort. The question of the carriage of arms is almost Keystone Cops stuff. We need to consider the question of inter-service transfers. What would be the position if an officer of the Australian Federal Police were able to secure a position of higher rank in the Australian Protective Service or the other way around, not that that is likely to be the case. We need some information on whether this situation is likely, how the rates of pay in the two services will be structured and so on.

Concerns have been expressed to me about the powers of the Minister and what he can do. We need to be given more idea of the areas where ministerial discretion and direction will apply. That does not seem to be spelt out very clearly. I realise that the Bill contains a list of laws under clause 13 (2) (a) as to the areas where an offence within the meaning of this Bill can arise. I find quite extraordinary the limits to which the operations of the Protective Service can go. Difficulties will be created by people committing offences in one area and a Protective Service officer saying: `That is nothing to do with me. I am specifically banned from assisting a police officer who may be trying to achieve something if it is outside the realms of what is covered by the Protective Service Act'. Many loose ends seem to be causing concern to people involved in the law area in this respect.

Wearing numbers and carrying identity cards is desirable, but it seems to go to quite ridiculous lengths and strengths. To charge a person within one's own organisation a fine of $500 for failing to have his number, unless he has lost it because of the act of another or an unintentional omission, is a sledge-hammer on a gnat. It is ridiculous. The obvious plea will be that it was an unintentional omission. To put a $500 penalty on something from which one could always escape on that ground is absolute nonsense.

The Scrutiny of Bills Committee has raised the question of the onus of proof in this area. I did not pick up where this matter was discussed in the House of Representatives. It may have been discussed. I would like to know more about it. The fact that arms can be used to protect an officer but are not to be used to make an arrest or to apprehend anybody is a ridiculous definition. I believe that anybody who is given authority to carry a weapon may use that weapon by automatic implication. It applies to criminals. It should apply to law enforcement officers. I cannot see any difference between saying `Yes, you can carry this weapon' and saying `but you cannot use it'. This is quite ridiculous, when one knows that the people one is dealing with may well be armed themselves.

I trust that the definition as to what officers can do as far as the protection of property as distinct from people and various things like that are a means of regularising the situation. The statutory recognition that is being sought by the Bill is all right, but I would like the Government to give it a lot more thought and consider what it can do about the major and real operational problems surrounding interdisciplinary matters between services.