Save Search

Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Current HansardDownload Current Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Tuesday, 27 November 2012
Page: 9825


Senator HUMPHRIES ( Australian Capital Territory ) ( 13:29 ) : I rise to speak on the Law Enforcement Integrity Legislation Amendment Bill 2012. The purpose of the bill is to amend the Crimes Act 1914, the Australian Crime Commission Act 2002, the Telecommunications Interception and Access Act 1979, the Surveillance Devices Act 2004, the Customs Administration Act 1985 and, for good measure, the Law Enforcement Integrity Commissioner Act 2006. On behalf of Senator Brandis, the shadow Attorney-General, I wish to note that the majority of Commonwealth law enforcement officers, whose behaviour and conduct is in a sense affected by this legislation, need to be recognised as honest, hardworking, good people who are dedicated to protecting their communities. However, it is a fact that criminals do target law enforcement officers due to the nature of their work as they have often obtained or have access to sensitive information, which makes them potential targets. Corrupt conduct can take many forms including improper association, conflict of interest, abuse of power or office, fabrication or destruction of evidence, inappropriate disclosure of information, theft and fraud. Some kinds of corrupt behaviour involve committing a criminal offence; however, other kinds of corruption, while not criminal, may still undermine the integrity of the Commonwealth law enforcement agency they work for. The coalition firmly believes that there should be zero tolerance for corruption in the public sector. We urge the government to take steps towards eradicating corruption which undermines the integrity of our agencies and their ability to achieve their mission to protect our communities and our borders.

Integrity tests are operations designed to test whether a public official will respond to a simulated or controlled situation in a manner that is illegal or would contravene an agency's standard of integrity. Examples of integrity testing include leaving valuable goods or money at a simulated crime scene to test whether an officer steals the item or, often, putting false information into a database to catch an officer suspected of unlawfully disclosing information. It is important to note that integrity testing is not entrapment or inducement. Entrapment is where an officer is induced to commit an offence they would not otherwise have committed, whereas the aim of integrity testing is to give an individual clear and equal opportunities to pass a test or to fail a test. It has been reassured to the coalition that the tests encompassed in this legislation will be carefully designed and carried out in a way which upholds this important distinction. The introduction of integrity testing at the Commonwealth level was recommended by the Parliamentary Joint Committee on the Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity on 21 November 2011. In evidence provided to the Parliamentary Joint Committee on the ACLEI inquiry, a number of issues associated with integrity testing were raised including cost, impact on morale, legal issues such as inducement and the effectiveness of integrity testing as an integrity measure.

The bill also makes significant changes to ACLEI's jurisdiction. Consequently, increased powers need to be thoroughly examined to ensure any privacy or use and disclosure of information issues are addressed appropriately. The Australian Federal Police Association, in their submission to the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee inquiry, noted:

It is commendable that the AFP executive is considering the implementation of an integrity testing regime at a time where there is no known widespread corruption in the organisation. This provides a stark contrast to the often cited example of wide-spread corruption in New York City during the 1980s and 1990s which lead Mayor Rudolph Giuliani to commission the Mollen report. The results of that report lead to targeted testing being adopted and soon thereafter it was consequently in every Australian state jurisdiction, including the Northern Territory.

The coalition is of the firm view that, for the most part, our agencies are not plagued with widespread corruption. However, it is important to ensure Australia never approaches anything like the level of corruption seen in New York and other jurisdictions around the world.

The amendments contained in schedule 1 will firstly introduce targeted integrity testing for staff members of the Australian Federal Police, the Australian Crime Commission and the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service suspected of corrupt conduct. Secondly, it will increase the jurisdiction of the Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity, ACLEI, to include CrimTrac, AUSTRAC and prescribed staff at the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry.

The purpose of schedule 2 is to enhance the powers of the CEO of the Customs Service to deal with suspected corrupt conduct and to bring those powers in line with powers currently available to the AFP Commissioner and the Australian Crime Commission CEO.

I want to expand upon the amendment in schedule 1, which is to introduce integrity testing for the Customs Service. In their submission to the Senate inquiry, the Customs Service said:

Having regard to the significant increase of Customs and Border Protection's role at the border, in controlling the import of prohibited items including weapons and drugs, access to highly sensitive and classified information and working closely with other law enforcement agencies. The consequences of corruption or misconduct in connection with the service's law enforcement role are very serious.

I have to say that it is a shame that this Labor government has not seen fit to couple this legislation with an increase in funding for our Customs Service to help them perform these integral duties such as controlling the import of illicit drugs. In the 2008-09 budget Labor cut $58.1 million in funding for customs cargo inspections. As a result, customs has been placed under great pressure and have been asked to do more with less—putting customs officers at risk of being vulnerable to being used by organised criminal syndicates.

In March this year, Customs were unable to detect 220 guns which were smuggled into Sydney through the Sylvania Waters post office, which is in the electorate of the shadow minister for immigration, Mr Morrison. New South Wales Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione called this alleged smuggling operation 'perhaps the biggest illegal syndicate doing this type of illegal gun trafficking that Australia has seen'. However, this Labor government refused to refer this incident to a specific inquiry into either Customs or Australia Post. Labor refused to ask themselves the hard questions about the effects that their damaging budget cuts have had on our border and law enforcement agencies. I ask the question: how can the Minister for Home Affairs, Mr Jason Clare, continually deny that the $58.1 million cut in funding that Labor implemented, stripping air and sea cargo screening of valuable resources, has contributed to illegal weapons being smuggled across our border and into our communities.

Air cargo inspections have dropped from 60 per cent under the former Howard government to a dismal 8.3 per cent under this Labor government. With these kinds of drastic cuts to cargo screening, illicit drugs and weapons are flowing through with ease onto our streets and into the hands of organised criminal syndicates. Customs, in their submission to the Senate committee, also noted:

This measure was formerly referred to as 'loss of confidence'. This terminology has been changed to better reflect the intent of the legislation and provide assurance to workers and the community as to how this power will be implemented.

If Labor were serious about the integrity of our borders, they would stop the spin and look to reinstate the damaging funding cuts which they have made to the Customs Service and which are damaging the integrity of our borders. That would be an appropriate response to the present situation.

Let me conclude by saying that the coalition takes the issue of corruption very seriously and supports efforts to prevent corruption in Commonwealth law enforcement agencies. Corruption and abuse of power not only are threats to Australia's national security but also compromise the trust the community has in the role of those vital agencies. The coalition supports the bill in principle and supports measures to eradicate corruption in the public sector but recognises that more than simply passing a bill of this kind needs to occur to make our fight against those things more tangible and more effective. It is with those reservations that I commend this bill to the Senate.