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Thursday, 26 February 1987
Page: 680

Senator GIETZELT (Minister for Veterans' Affairs)(12.13) —in reply-In the last decade several attempts have been made to regularise and legitimise the protective services that are required by the Commonwealth Government. There has been an evolution in this process. I thank the Opposition for its support of the legislation. However, Senator Archer has raised some red herrings. For example, it was Senator Archer's own Government which, some 7 or 8 years ago, moved down the path of distinguishing the roles of a police officer and a protective service officer. The designation of the Commonwealth Police was changed to the Australian Federal Police. There was a protective services component to the new force. So the previous Government-the present Opposition-recognised the need for defining more clearly the roles which need to be played.

We live in times when the protection of persons and Commonwealth property is an important function of some public authority. The previous Government recognised that. We have a scarce resource in our police and their responsibilities. Therefore, in a period of violence and white collar crime there is a need for the Australian Federal Police to have their functions and responsibilities defined and any suggestion that the establishment of the Australian Protective Service is merely the establishment of another police force is to be refuted. It has no basis. The establishment of the APS is designed to make certain that the scarce resource of our police is applied in the areas where it is most needed. It was recognised by the previous Government, as it is recognised by this Government, that it is a misuse of a resource for fully trained officers with all the essential skills to be placed purely on guard duty. That does not take away the responsibility of having a specialist protective security service. The issues that have been raised by the Opposition ignore the fact that within the whole security area we have the private security organisations whose responsibilities are not distinctly different from the responsibilities we have here. So it has to be accepted that the APS will not be a law enforcement agency; it will be primarily a protective service agency. To that extent the skills will not be as essential as they are in the other areas of responsibility of the Australian Federal Police. The APS will have a limited law enforcement power, and that is set out very carefully.

As the legislation indicates, the APS will not have a concept of rank or discipline to the extent that exists within the Australian Federal Police or, for that matter, all of the other police enforcement agencies. We believe that the existing Public Service disciplinary provisions and the way in which Customs officers and other public servants exercise their disciplinary powers are adequate. Therefore, they will exist in respect of the specialist protective service which is embodied in the proposed Act. So this is not something which is extraordinary or has been plucked out of the air, as it were, by the Government; it is something that has evolved. We believe that in those circumstances the Opposition was correct when it said that it supported the legislation with some reservations.

In answer to some of the specific points that have been raised, we do not see that this group of men and women have a responsibility for what might take place outside of the Parliament. That special area still has its designation and responsibility. Consequently, there is a recognition of the need to define the areas in which this group of men and women will carry out their particular functions.

Similarly, it is not suggested that the Australian Protective Service group will be involved at airports. We accept that that is a specific area of responsibility where we need a much more highly trained and specialist group. In respect of the matter of training raised by Senator Archer, it will be confined to the roles defined in the Bill, covering firearms, law and security. There is no distinct difference between what the Government envisages in the role to be carried out here and the role of the private security firms. If we accept that they have a defined role and play an important part in the functions of looking after private organisations, we do not believe that there is anything wrong with the Commonwealth adopting the same principles so far as our areas of responsibility are concerned.

The Australian Protective Service will be part of the Public Service. Whilst there are obviously some misgivings, we have learnt from the period since 1984 and we will be keeping the matters that have been raised by the Opposition, both in the other place and here, under review. The legislation should be supported, recognising that there are always matters in which changes will take place and that we will keep those matters under review. Should it be necessary, the Government will accept its responsibility to take whatever action is necessary, even legislative action.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.