- Parliamentary Business
- Senators and Members
- News & Events
- About Parliament
- Visit Parliament
LEGAL AND CONSTITUTIONAL AFFAIRS LEGISLATION COMMITTEE
Australian Federal Police
- Committee Name
LEGAL AND CONSTITUTIONAL AFFAIRS LEGISLATION COMMITTEE
Australian Federal Police
- Sub program
- System Id
Table Of ContentsDownload PDF
Previous Fragment Next Fragment
LEGAL AND CONSTITUTIONAL AFFAIRS LEGISLATION COMMITTEE
(Senate-Monday, 18 October 2010)
Australian Law Reform Commission
Administrative Appeals Tribunal
Australian Human Rights Commission
Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre
Australian Institute of Criminology
Criminology Research Council
Australian Crime Commission
National Native Title Tribunal
Australian Customs and Border Protection Service
Rear Adm. Barrett
Australian Federal Police
Australian Security Intelligence Organisation
Australian Government Solicitor
Family Court of Australia
Federal Court of Australia
Mr G McDonald
- Australian Law Reform Commission
- ATTORNEY-GENERAL’S PORTFOLIO
Content WindowLEGAL AND CONSTITUTIONAL AFFAIRS LEGISLATION COMMITTEE
Australian Federal Police
CHAIR —I welcome officers from the Australian Federal Police. Commissioner Negus, good afternoon to you and your team and welcome to estimates. Do you have an opening statement that you wanted to provide to us?
Mr Negus —Yes, I do have a very brief opening statement to cover off on a few issues. I would like to place on the parliamentary record the passing of Sir Robert Mark and also briefly address an issue relating to our key performance indicators that arose during the last estimates hearing. First of all, I would like to acknowledge the contribution of Sir Robert Mark to policing in Australia. Sir Robert was a former commissioner of the Metropolitan Police in London and died on 30 September 2010 aged 93.
As some of you may know, Sir Robert played a significant role in the establishment of the AFP more than 30 years ago. Following the Hilton bombing in February 1978, the Australian government engaged Sir Robert to report on the organisation of police resources in the Commonwealth. In his report tabled in parliament later that year, Sir Robert recommended that the Commonwealth create a new force that incorporated the Commonwealth Police and the ACT Police. He also recommended that the new organisation be called the Australian Federal Police. The Australian government accepted these recommendations and in July 1978 royal assent was enacted to the legislation. On 8 June 1979 Sir Colin Woods was appointed the AFP’s first commissioner. In later years Sir Robert returned to Australia to provide advice to government, including the introduction of complaints against police procedures. I would like to acknowledge his significant contribution to the Australian and international law enforcement arena and also record our condolences on his passing.
During the last estimates hearing Senator Brandis raised the omission of conviction rates from the AFP’s key performance indicators for 2010-11. At that time I undertook to review this matter and I am able to advise the committee of two outcomes. Firstly, although conviction rates were omitted as a KPI from the PBS for the AFP for 2010-11, they will be reintroduced within the additional estimates in November 2010. Secondly, as reported in the AFP’s annual report, which was tabled last week, convictions were achieved in 96 per cent of cases which reached a court decision. So far in the 2010-11 financial year, we are tracking at 97 per cent against a target of 90 per cent in this area. That is the completion of the opening statement.
CHAIR —We are going to go to questions. I am going to go to Senator Ludlam because he has been here for quite a while waiting.
Senator LUDLAM —Thank you. There are three issues that I would like to raise—probably all of them I have raised with you before. If we could start with cybersafety. In May 2008, the government announced that it would spend $49 million over four years under the cybersafety plan, which would result in 91 additional AFP officers working in online child protection by 2011. So we are two-thirds of the way there. Can you tell us how many additional officers have been employed to date to work on online child safety since this announcement?
Mr Negus —I will just have my officers look for the actual figures, but I can tell you that there has been a significant commitment to meeting that requirement. Certainly, our online cybersafety and child protection area is one of the most effective units in the AFP and has made a significant number of arrests in that environment over recent years, but I will have the number for you very shortly.
Senator LUDLAM —That is great. I will just move through these questions until you are ready to table that material. In that light, I am interested to know how many investigatory officers were assigned to the online child exploitation task force for the financial years 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2010.
Mr Negus —I have just been handed something, so if you could just give me two seconds I will have a look. As of 1 October 2010 there were 91 officers, including 56 under the coordinator of high-tech crime and child protection operations, committed to child protection operations more broadly. So, just to be clear on that, 91 officers have actually been assigned to those responsibilities, as you articulated in your opening. Ninety-one of them have been placed in that area. Fifty-six of those come under—and this is more of an internal thing—the coordinator of high-tech crime and child operations. The others would have been more broadly spread through the child protection area within high-tech crime. So there are 91 there, as was foreshadowed.
Senator LUDLAM —Where are they all based? Are they all here or are they distributed throughout the states and territories?
Mr Negus —There is a large number here in the ACT, in our headquarters, but they are dispersed through the states and territories as well.
Senator LUDLAM —Is there somebody with those responsibilities in each state and territory?
Mr Negus —There are child protection teams which come under our broad investigations area, but they are assigned those responsibilities.
Senator LUDLAM —I am specifically interested in the online child sexual exploitation portfolio, if you will. Is there somebody from the AFP with those specific responsibilities in each state and territory?
Mr Negus —Yes, there is. The way our structure works is that we are coordinated from Canberra but each of our investigative functions has a responsibility in each of those states. So there are people who report functionally back to Canberra but perform those duties in each of those states.
Senator LUDLAM —Okay. Do they work directly with the state and territory police departments and their relevant communities?
Mr Negus —They do—not directly as in a joint operational team every day, but certainly there is a large degree of interaction between them. And I know that up in Queensland there has been a particularly significant joint effort against child protection operations.
Senator LUDLAM —It has been put to us, I think actually by some former AFP officers who were with the high-tech crime unit in the media, that we could do with a much higher degree of collaboration between the state and territory forces. So obviously the expertise is based out here but that is really quite uneven. So Queensland maybe, as you say, have gone a long way in that regard. Maybe some of the other states and territories are lagging. What have you got in mind, or is there anything in process at the moment, to improve collaboration with the states and territories?
Mr Negus —One of our key strategic principles for the AFP is to improve our stakeholder relationships and work more effectively with our partner agencies. I know there is a lot of work being done, particularly in the high-tech crime space, to make sure that we are leveraging off the capabilities that do exist in the states and territories. Certainly if there are opportunities for those things to be done the AFP will be the first one to the table to make that happen. There have been issues over the years of different capability developing in different areas. The AFP is trying to take a national and international coordination role in this area and certainly bring our state and territory colleagues to the table in a much more coordinated way. As you would be aware, we do receive referrals from overseas quite regularly in these areas where people are identified accessing international websites in that online environment. We triage most of that material and we do work then with the states and territories for them to investigate components of that because it would not be capable of being done just by the AFP. So there is a level of cooperation and certainly where we can we work effectively with them in that environment. We can always do more and we are working towards that.
Senator LUDLAM —So, for example, what was raised with me was the instance of a parent or somebody ringing the local police department to report something that their kids found online and then the local police department not necessarily having the expertise or the capability to know what to do with it. Is there any initiative that you guys can point us to now where you are moving to take some kind of a national presence at that front end or will that be left to local state and territory departments?
Mr Negus —As a group of commissioners we do talk about this area. It is not surprising that perhaps the odd front-office constable working in a location might not be as au fait with the broader sort of national procedures as might otherwise be, but we are working to make sure that all of our forces know what to do when this occurs. We are certainly working in the online environment to have ‘report abuse buttons’ available where people can actually hit a button on screen which translates directly to the AFP and we can triage that material and send it out to the appropriate area. Upskilling all police across the country is something I know all my fellow commissioners are very much aware of, and we need to make sure that we do that for the future because it is a real issue.
Senator LUDLAM —Well, a one-stop shop, whether it is a button or some kind of console or something, that is what I mean.
Mr Negus —We do have a number of national working parties which the AFP is involved in as well. This is taking on board the particular areas of expertise within the states and territories. We get together with those people and look at ways of going forward. Certainly the head of our high-tech crime area is here sitting in the back and I am sure he will take that on board as an example of perhaps what we might be able to do. I have just been told there is a child protection committee, a national one, which the AFP sits on, again working towards fixing these issues. It is an escalating problem, as you have identified. We do have one of our officers embedded with the Western Australia Police, for example, to work in that team to again create better linkages between the two. We do work with the other states and territories certainly on a needs basis operationally. As I said, if there are any opportunities the AFP will be the first one to the table to commit resources to working collaboratively.
Senator LUDLAM —Where does that committee sit? Under whose auspices is that?
Mr Negus —It comes under what is known as the ANZPSA group, which is the Australia and New Zealand Policing Support Agency, and it is chaired by the Western Australia Police but has representatives from all of the states and territories and the AFP on it.
Senator LUDLAM —On the instance that you referred to before that you might be referred traffic—if I understand you correctly—originating in Australia, which is people potentially located in Australia hitting websites overseas, how common is it that are you getting those kinds of referrals and what are your powers to trace where that material is originating from or who is receiving it?
Mr Negus —It is a fairly regular occurrence, unfortunately. You would have read in the papers and in releases we put out about large rings of paedophiles or large rings of exploitation material that we do take down. The powers are subject to, and depend on, where the product originates from. Some are more difficult than others, but we work through issues such as mutual legal assistance and those sorts of practices, work with our partners overseas, particularly the FBI—we have a very strong relationship with them—but the normal constraints about international presentation of evidence and those sorts of things apply.
We are working in a strategic alliance group with the FBI to look at better ways of speeding up that mutual legal assistance process, and I have spoken to the secretary of Attorney-General’s Department about that. So there is a lot of work going on behind the scenes looking at some of the problems as they arise to make sure that we are on the front foot trying to actually fix them, whether that be through better cooperation or looking at proposing legislative change or other amendments that might need to be made.
Senator LUDLAM —Thank you. It looks as though you have reached the figure of 91 a year early. Are you still recruiting or will that now plateau—that is, the number of officers employed?
Mr Negus —Through a range of different internal mechanisms, we have managed to squeeze a few more staff out of our budget envelope and we have a few more staff than we thought we might actually have. So we have met our target there early. That will be a matter of ongoing judgement about where those extra resources need to be placed and as they come through the recruitment college we have an operational committee that looks at the needs of what is coming through the door. I should say in some instances where there are major operations where we might execute 10, 20 or 30 warrants all at the same time and internationally coordinate those, a lot more people than 91 will be involved in that process and we draw them from other parts of the business to actually go through that operational phase and then they return back to their normal business units.
Senator LUDLAM —But the investigators would be drawn from the—
Mr Negus —The investigators would be drawn from there, yes.
Senator LUDLAM —In terms of the increased funding and staffing levels, has that led to a noticeable or documented change in the level of prosecution for these kinds of offences?
Mr Negus —We would have to take it on notice to give you figures, but I think at the last estimates I spoke about more than 300 people being prosecuted for those sorts of offences, and I am sure that has gone up since then. It is a simple task. With more staff available to investigate these offences, more prosecutions are undertaken. We are trying to take a national coordination role in this in that we do not do everything ourselves because we physically cannot. We need to engage the states and territories to help us out. So many of these things are a national effort and arrests made in Queensland or Victoria by the state police there may well have been coordinated through here but then go on to the statistical sheets, if you like, of those particular police forces.
Senator LUDLAM —Maybe I will just look forward to anything that you are able to table that will—
Mr Negus —I should have mentioned it before, but one of the things that we are very proud of is that we have been part of a thing called the Virtual Global Taskforce, which is a group of seven countries committed to fighting child abuse across the world; and places like the UK and the US are involved in this as well. We have just been elected as the chair of that group and Neil Gaughan, who is sitting behind me, will take over that international role as the chair of the Virtual Global Taskforce. A range of cybersafety programs such as Think U Know, which the Minister for Home Affairs launched during the last year, have all emanated from that group. I think it is a really positive message about the way Australia is taking this seriously in that some of the innovative things that we are doing in that space have been recognised and we have been given the responsibility to chair that group.
Senator LUDLAM —Maybe come February we might ask Mr Gaughan to come to the table and report directly on what has happened.
Mr Negus —I have had a couple of figures just given to me now. From August 2005 to 1 October 2010, 609 offenders have been charged with 837 online child sex offences. Some 95 offenders have been charged with 151 online child sex offences between October 2009 and 30 September 2010. So in the last 12 months there have been 95 offenders with 151 online child sex offences.
Senator LUDLAM —Thanks very much for fishing that out so quickly. I want to turn to a different area and probably a different bunch of people. Does the AFP have a specialised unit for investigating suspected war criminals or perpetrators of war crimes residing in Australia?
Mr Negus —We do not have a special war crimes unit, but it is contained within our crime operations portfolio. We do, however, have people who have been specifically trained in the investigation of war crimes and they have been overseas and received training in places like the Hague on that type of incident.
Senator LUDLAM —How many people would you say have got that kind of specialised expertise?
Mr Negus —I am sorry, but I do not have that data with me. I could certainly take it on notice and see who has done that training.
Senator LUDLAM —Yes, if you could. Has there been such a unit in the past or has there been maybe, if not a unit, some looser affiliation of people charged with investigating these sort of people directly?
Mr Negus —Over the years we have received a range of referrals relating to war crimes. There is not a great history in prosecution. In fact, there have been no successful prosecutions in Australia over that period of time. So teams have been formed and dismantled depending on what cases are available. But over the years there has been a significant number of investigations undertaken and there are some ongoing as we speak.
Senator LUDLAM —The legislative framework here in Australia makes it very difficult to prosecute people if the activities commenced before certain dates. Can you tell us how many people the AFP has investigated for potential war crimes or crimes against humanity and genocide over the last 12 months?
Mr Negus —I think I do have those figures. As of 1 October 2010, the AFP has received 88 referrals in relation to allegations of war crimes.
Senator LUDLAM —Since last October?
Mr Negus —As of 1 October. That number is since 1997. So between 1997 and 1 October 2010 we have received 88 referrals. The status of the referrals is that we have seven active investigations, two matters are before the court, three have been terminated, 12 were not accepted after an evaluation obviously identified there was insufficient evidence to go ahead and 64 have been finalised.
Senator LUDLAM —Is the information about the active investigations in the public domain?
Mr Negus —Some of them would be, but certainly we would not be talking in any detail about what those seven are. There are obviously some that people are well aware of.
Senator LUDLAM —Does the AFP investigate the conduct of Australian corporations overseas in situations where they are suspected of complicity in current war crimes, crimes against humanity or genocide as per the Commonwealth Criminal Code, as you would if they were implicated in such activities here?
Mr Negus —Where matters are referred to us, yes, we do.
Senator LUDLAM —Are there any that would fall into that bracket at the moment?
Mr Negus —I do not have a breakdown of what those seven investigations are. But I do not believe so, from the nod from my deputy commissioner.
Senator LUDLAM —I just have one or two questions on some matters that were raised with Foreign Affairs and Trade people earlier today about investigations of Australian embassy officials who went to Ambon in late August of this year. They made inquiries about the allegations of torture by an Indonesian police unit, I believe, or paramilitary unit, known as Detachment 88. Is that an outfit that the AFP has a direct relationship with in a training capacity?
Mr Negus —We do have a relationship with them in a head office environment in Jakarta. We do not get involved in any operational activity, although some of the members from Detachment 88 would have participated in AFP training courses over the years. I am sure you are familiar with the Jakarta Centre for Law Enforcement Cooperation. It has trained almost 7,000 people over the last seven or eight years. I am sure some of the people from that detachment would have gone through those training courses.
Senator LUDLAM —We do not have any idea how many presumably that come and go?
Mr Negus —We do not engage on a day-to-day basis with Detachment 88. As I said, in the operational environment we do provide some training. I think some work is also undertaken in the forensics area and post bomb blast analysis. We do things on their request.
Senator LUDLAM —I understand that the nature of our role with Detachment 88 was particularly around counterterrorism activities. But that unit, over a period of three or four years, has been implicated in arrest, torture and indefinite detention of pro-democracy protesters with no links to violent protest or terrorist organisations at all. What would it take for the AFP, or have you been asked at any stage to withdraw support or not train individuals with known associations with that detachment?
Mr Negus —No, we have not been asked to withdraw support. I should say that all the training that we undertake with all of our overseas endeavours certainly has components of human rights—certainly has standards which we would expect of police in this country. We do our best to make sure that is understood. We would certainly not be complicit in any activities that encouraged or tolerated that sort of behaviour.
Senator LUDLAM —What happens next then? We have quite well-documented cases of human rights abuses by Detachment 88. We do not know whether the AFP or others have trained those individuals. What do we do then when such a unit is implicated in those sorts of abuses of torture and so on?
Mr Negus —I do not have any ready answers for you. I have not seen anything other than the media article that has detailed some of this material. It is something we would have to examine. Again, our working relationship with the Indonesians across the board is a very good one. We work very collaboratively with them. We have not seen and we are certainly not involved in the day-to-day operational activity of them. If we saw anything that could be described as the way you have described it, certainly it would not be tolerated. It would be raised with the appropriate authorities in Indonesia.
Senator LUDLAM —We have seen it now, so have you raised it?
Mr Negus —I am saying that firsthand we have not seen that, from the AFP’s experience working with these people in a head office environment. Again, I would have to examine what the allegations were and how many of those were substantiated to look at that. We would also have to talk to our Foreign Affairs colleagues about what action the Australian government might want to take in that regard.
Senator LUDLAM —They do not seem to be very interested in taking any action at all. I am wondering, are you committing here to do that or you still sound like you are speaking in the abstract?
Mr Negus —Again, I do not have a good understanding—other than reading the media article that you are perhaps talking about—I do not have any definitive evidence or I have not seen any definitive reports. Certainly, my own people have not seen or been involved in any of that type of behaviour.
Senator LUDLAM —It is unlikely, I suppose, if you are dealing with head office in Jakarta, that you would be witnessing brutality or the kind of activities that are reported in the press. So will you undertake for us now to conduct your own investigation or at least talk to the—
Mr Negus —Senator, it was also reported in the press that the AFP were sending a team over to investigate, Detachment 88. That is patently false.
Senator LUDLAM —I understand that.
Mr Negus —We do not have any capability or right to go to a sovereign country and investigate their police force. Other than to assess what material is available and then talk to our Foreign Affairs colleagues about what might be an appropriate response, again this would need to be shown to be proven. I have not got that material in front of me, so I could not really give you that commitment.
Senator LUDLAM —But are you undertaking to do that now—to at least talk to your Australian colleagues?
Mr Negus —I am certainly going to have a look at it, Senator, and see what issues are there. My experience, as I said, dealing with our Indonesian colleagues has been a very positive one. I have not seen, as I said, anything to suggest the nature of the material you are talking about.
Senator LUDLAM —Well, there are 60 or 80 pro-democracy activists in indefinite detention at the moment, some of them tortured and some of them in hospital. I suspect that we may have a real problem on our hands if we are paying money. Again I do not know whether you can confirm this for us, but the article indicates that our support for that detachment in particular is in the order of some millions of dollars, including training and expertise and the time of your personnel. I would hope that we would take some kind of interest in whether we are enabling that kind of brutality in any form.
Mr Negus —As it has been raised, as I said, I undertake to have a look at it, but again I do not have anything at my disposal at the moment to make any judgements one way or the other.
Senator LUDLAM —I will leave it there, thank you very much.
CHAIR —Mr Negus, just before I go to Senator Barnett for questioning, I want to highlight the fact that the Senate’s Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee was provided with a parliamentary committee trip just prior to the federal election. We went to Indonesia and Singapore to look at a range of issues. No doubt you have feedback that we got a very professional and comprehensive briefing from the Australian Federal Police officers, particularly in Jakarta. We got quite a detailed summary of what Detachment 88 has been up to. Then we jumped on a Garuda flight, but I will not detail how exciting that was, except to say that Julie Dennett is probably just smiling and saying that she was right. We went to the Jakarta Centre for Law Enforcement Cooperation at Semarang. It is a really impressive and fantastic operation.
Mr Negus —Yes, it is.
CHAIR —We have not yet tabled our report in parliament. That will be tabled next week. I would urge you to get a copy and have a look at it, because it makes some very complimentary comments about the work that your officers do, particularly in Jakarta. Perhaps now that I have the opportunity I should place on record our thanks for the work that your people are doing over there. You should be incredibly proud of them. It was very useful and very informative, and we got a lot of benefit from our trip.
Mr Negus —Thank you, Madam Chair. Certainly I appreciate the comments. Like you, I am very proud of the work they do there. We have a very good relationship in Indonesia and it is working very well to protect this country and its people from a threat of terrorism in South-East Asia. I really appreciate your comments.
CHAIR —We managed to attend a graduation ceremony at the college, actually, in Semarang. You probably heard about that.
Mr Negus —I have been to one myself, yes.
CHAIR —It was wonderful to see so many people from right around the world taking the opportunity to actually benefit from the knowledge and the expertise that our people have and the way in which we pass that on. It is a very impressive operation. I think it is one that all Australians ought to know about, and you should be particularly proud of your men and women. They are doing a great job.
Mr Negus —Thank you, again.
Senator BARNETT —Through you, Chair, can I just associate myself with those remarks and pass on my thanks and appreciation for the work of you and your officers in Indonesia. I note the good work that they do under tough conditions. I had no idea, and I think Senator Crossin and others were not fully aware, of the extent of the service that we are providing in Indonesia. We were very impressed, particularly with the ceremony and those there who are undertaking that training and education. That facility is seen to be first class and well regarded throughout the region. I would also note that we have made a number of recommendations in our report which will be tabled shortly. I draw those to your attention and to the attention of other policy makers—Mr Wilkins and others—who may have an interest in that report.
Mr Negus —Thank you again, I appreciate the comments.
Senator HUMPHRIES —Could I go to the progress with the implementation of the commitment made by the government in May 2008 to increase the number of sworn police officers in the AFP over five years by 500. Does that commitment still stand? It has not been abrogated or modified as a result of any subsequent events?
Mr Negus —No, it is still in place.
Senator HUMPHRIES —Could you perhaps—and you may take this on notice—give us an indication of how far we have come down the path over two financial years of delivering on that promise? I assume you have some projection of how many more officers you intend to recruit in the next couple of financial years to achieve that target?
Mr Negus —That promise was phased over a period of five years. It was 30 in the first year, 30 in the second year, 40 in the third year and then 200 in each of the forth and fifth years. We are coming up to a phase of quite large numbers in recruitment. Those 30, 30 and 40 have been recruited. In fact, the AFP over that period of time, through a range of internal efficiencies, has managed to increase its number of sworn police far more significantly than that. We are actually ahead of our target if you add what we have done internally to the additional funding provided by the government to meet that target.
Senator HUMPHRIES —So the 40 were to be recruited in the 2009-10 financial year?
Mr Negus —The 40 is in 2010-11—this financial year.
Senator HUMPHRIES —So we can say at the end of this financial year that we would expect to have 100 more AFP officers than was the case in May 2008—a net increase of 100?
Mr Negus —That is right.
Senator HUMPHRIES —Can we have the number of officers in the AFP as of May 2008?
Mr Negus —I am sure we have those figures here. I am just being reminded that that was an election commitment so it was from the date of the election rather than from May 2008. It really goes back to November 2007.
Senator HUMPHRIES —All right.
Mr Negus —So as at 28 November 2007 there were 2,696 sworn police officers in the AFP. At 1 October 2010 there are 3,044 sworn police officers in the AFP. This is an increase of 348 sworn police officers over that time. If you take this year into account, we are about 276 ahead of the target. That has been generated through some changes in management structures and the way we have moved supplier expenses—so travel and office expenses, vehicles and those sorts of things—into our operational areas to actually try to increase the number of staff. That has been a very successful process.
Senator HUMPHRIES —The tenor of then Minister Debus’s announcement in May 2008 was that this extra resource would be directed towards tackling domestic and transnational crime and combating activities of organised crime syndicates. Is it fair to say that 100 of those additional 348 police are indeed in that area?
Mr Negus —Yes, it is. Shortly after I became commissioner we structured our operational areas to focus on organised crime. We now have a serious and organised crime area and a crime operations area. The bulk of those people would be in those locations?
Senator HUMPHRIES —I assume that those increases are premised on a certain rate of turnover of existing AFP staff. What is the predicated or assumed rate of turnover?
Mr Negus —I am pleased to say that our sworn attrition is at an all-time low. It is under two per cent. I will just get the figures here for you. It is on page 2. The attrition rate for sworn police officers is 1.97 per cent, which is almost historic lows for the AFP. The attrition rate for the broader AFP, which takes into account our protective service officers—our unsworn officers as well—is 3.05 per cent. So it is still a fairly low number. So in many ways it has been useful when we are trying to grow the organisation to have such a small number of people leaving the organisation at the other end.
Senator HUMPHRIES —Yes, indeed. So the cut that was announced as a result of the recommendations of the federal audit of police capabilities of $23.5 million will not affect the achievement of those targets that you have just referred to?
Mr Negus —The $23 million—I am just checking—Roger Beale made recommendations to government, which were then accepted, that we could retain the savings from those areas and then reinvest that back into the organisation over a period of time. This goes to the all-in model in aviation. There is a range of different things that the savings are derived from, but the government has agreed that that should be reinvested back into the AFP over time.
Senator HUMPHRIES —Great. Can I get you to table on notice how many sworn AFP officers were deployed in that core investigative capability in those areas that I referred to as of November 2007 and as of today, please.
Mr Negus —We would have the split for 2007. So I will certainly happily table those on notice.
Senator HUMPHRIES —Thank you very much. Could I turn to the article which appeared in yesterday’s Canberra Times about the sackings and resignations of officers who had been deployed overseas. I am sure you have seen the article. Was it substantially correct in terms of the number of staff who resigned or who have been sacked?
Mr Negus —The numbers quoted were essentially correct. I take exception to the headline, but you can only control what you can control.
Senator HUMPHRIES —Yes. If we could all control headlines, we would all be doing very well indeed. Can we have an idea of the nature of the complaints that were made that in turn led to those dismissals?
Mr Negus —I have certainly details of the three AFP appointees who were terminated. Is that what you were after or do you want a broader—
Senator HUMPHRIES —Yes, please.
Mr Negus —In 2004 an AFP appointee deployed to the Solomon Islands engaged in a sexual relationship with a local contrary to what commander’s orders stated and also provided then false information whilst under direction with our professional standards team when the matter was being investigated. So his employment was terminated in 2006. Also in 2004 an AFP appointee deployed to the Solomon Islands engaged in a misuse of a corporate travel card and various breaches of commander’s orders, including fraternisation. Again, employment was terminated in 2006. In 2005, the third of the people who were dismissed was deployed to the Philippines and engaged in the fraudulent use of corporate travel card and impersonating a local police officer. His employment was terminated in 2006 as well. They are the three who were terminated. There were 15 others who have resigned, as was outlined in the article. About 103 complaints have been substantiated over that time between January 2003 and when the article quoted the figures, which was June 2009.
Senator HUMPHRIES —Were any of those 15 offered voluntary redundancies before they made their decision to resign?
Mr Negus —We do not offer voluntary redundancies to people who are under investigation. Either they resign or we dismiss them. So certainly, I have not got that explicit detail, but I can be very, very confident that that would not be the case.
Senator HUMPHRIES —Okay. You can advise me that that is not the case.
Mr Negus —Yes.
Senator HUMPHRIES —Thank you. But it is fair to link complaints made about each of those 15 to their subsequent decision to resign.
Mr Negus —My understanding is that they were all under investigation for a variety of different things and they chose to resign. I do not know the severity of each of those allegations. I must say that in the 103 substantiated matters a very large component—in fact the majority of those matters—were seen as being minor disciplinary matters. Management action was taken and the person moved on with their career, and no further action was required.
Senator HUMPHRIES —It may be useful to have a list of the nature of the sorts of complaints that led to that step. I do not want the complaint next to a name or anything like that.
Mr Negus —This may assist you to start with. The 15 AFP appointees resigned whilst the subject of investigation. There were allegations of serious misconduct. They involved issues including the misuse of corporate travel cards; again, fraternisation with the locals; and providing false information whilst under direction. It is a sad case that occasionally we will have people who will be interviewed for relatively minor matters, but if they do not tell the whole truth when they are being interviewed it becomes an integrity matter and they are subsequently dismissed. These people have chosen to resign. More broadly, as I said, there was a full gamut of matters. If you look at the numbers here, you will see there have been over 4,500 deployments of AFP personnel. Some of those complaints are of the same person multiple times. Since 2003 there have been 100 substantiated complaints over that period of time.
Senator HUMPHRIES —Is it fair to say that the rate of complaint about overseas deployed AFP is lower or the same as it is for the AFP domestically?
Mr Negus —I do have some statistics here which I could find. The short answer is that the statistics do not suggest there is any greater rate overseas; in fact, it is a lower rate. I just do not have the figures right at hand. Currently across all of the AFP there is one complaint received for every 33 AFP appointees; overseas it is one in 52. So one in 33 in Australia; one in 52 offshore. That is per annum.
Senator HUMPHRIES —So it is a lower rate.
Mr Negus —It is lower offshore. That is not surprising in many ways because, even though these people work in difficult environments, in their predeployment training there is a substantial amount of discussion about their behaviour. I or one of my senior executives will speak to each of these deployed groups and tell them that they are ambassadors for this country and that their standards of behaviour must be exemplary. They are working in very close confined environments where their peers and the supervisors have very good visibility of all of their actions 24 hours a day.
The other thing that was pleasing for me when I looked at this matter was that around 80 per cent of the matters that were referred came from internal AFP personnel. So their peers are seeing their behaviour and not accepting it as being proper for the environment and reported it, and those matters were accordingly investigated. So, from a culture perspective, it is pleasing that the peers are identifying that behaviour and putting these people in.
Senator HUMPHRIES —The 80 per cent peer initiated complaint rate would be much higher than for domestic officers, I assume.
Mr Negus —I do not know, but I suspect that is right. Most of the complaints in the ACT, as I am sure you remember, come from members of the public.
Senator HUMPHRIES —Yes. Thanks for that. I will move on to a couple of other issues. How many AFP officers were sent to the Delhi Commonwealth Games?
Mr Negus —We sent 14 people and we had two people who were on the ground there in Delhi as our liaison officers. So 16 in total.
Senator HUMPHRIES —What role did they play in New Delhi?
Mr Negus —Of the 14 officers whom I talked about being deployed, one was the AFP forward commander, two were team security liaison officers for the venues, two were team security liaison officers for the athletes’ village, two were close protection liaison officers, two were investigators, two were intelligence officers, two were high technology crime officers who provided technical support to the joint command post, and one was a logistics officer. Then, as I said, there was a senior liaison officer in Dakar who went over to provide support and a senior liaison officer from India.
Senator HUMPHRIES —Is it usual to provide an AFP presence for Commonwealth and Olympic Games teams?
Mr Negus —It is something we have done. They are purely there in liaison roles; they do not have any operational policing capability. They are not armed. But they are there to facilitate the transfer of information from officials and local law enforcement authorities to teams and to organisers.
Senator HUMPHRIES —Can I move on quickly to some other areas—airports. Can you provide me with a breakdown of AFP staff who are federal agents or sworn officers—I will rephrase that—who are uniform police in Australia’s airports, how many people might be classified as protective service type positions and, if you have the information, how many state and territory police officers are stationed in our airports?
Mr Negus —Currently we have 420 protective service officers across the 11 designated airports and we have 291 state police.
Senator HUMPHRIES —Those 420 protective service type police are being upgraded, I understand—the positions are being upgraded to full uniformed sworn officers.
Mr Negus —That is right. After Roger Beale’s review we are moving to an all-in model where there will be an homogenisation, if you like, of the sworn police and the protective service officers where we will just have sworn police performing both roles at the airport.
Senator HUMPHRIES —When will that process be completed?
Mr Negus —It is a three- to five-year transition time. We are about almost a year in now. We are looking, as I said, at about three to five years. We are working with the states and territories, working with a range of other groups as well—with the unions and others—on making this as smooth a transition as possible. Just last week I went and opened the first protective service officer transition program. They do 16 weeks training to transition to become full sworn police officers. We opened that last week. It is the first foundation course of that process.
Senator HUMPHRIES —Moving again to another area, I noticed the other day that we sent 16 AFP officers to Afghanistan. Is that the totality of our commitment in Afghanistan as far as Federal Police are concerned or did they join other officers?
Mr Negus —They joined other officers, Senator. We have a total of 28 there. There were 12 deployed over the last couple of months and this completes the contingent changeover which occurs during, as I said, October.
Senator HUMPHRIES —Where are they based? In a single place or across the country?
Mr Negus —No, they are spread between three locations. We have 21 of those in Tarin Kowt, which is the military base, and they provide training there to the Afghan National Police. We have three in Kandahar, who again provide a range of intelligence and tactical liaison between other groups, and then we have four in Kabul who are looking more at the strategic objectives of what is being achieved there with the Afghan National Police working closely with the NATO training mission and again influencing what happens in the major crimes task force and those sorts of areas in Kabul.
Senator HUMPHRIES —They do not provide any protective services at the Australian Embassy in Kabul?
Mr Negus —No. In fact, we have protective services provided for them for working in those environments. So we have our own private security employed in Kabul, for instance, to transport them around Kabul.
Senator HUMPHRIES —You would be aware of reports relatively recently about an endemic problem of corruption within the Afghan public service generally, if I can put it that way. There was a report in the Sydney Morning Herald a few days ago that suggested that there were Afghani police who are certainly involved in the drug trade and other allegations made about that. Given the prevalence of bribery as well, reportedly, within the Afghan public service, including police, what training do the AFP have before they go there to identify those sorts of practices and deal with them as part of their role?
Mr Negus —They all go through predeployment training, both through the AFP and also with the military, to help them work in those environments. The 16 that we farewelled just last week have all worked in various missions throughout the world. So these are experienced people.
It is a competitive process but we look to send very experienced people who have worked in difficult environments before with fledgling police forces or people who are still growing into their role to enforce the rule of law, so they have good background and good skills in that regard. The training itself is focused on values and ethics and those sorts of areas and we make sure that that is institutionalised within the training curriculum and influencing what is happening going forward. There is no doubt we are starting from a low base. Literacy levels, education levels and the level of corruption that exists through Afghanistan, not just in the police but more broadly, are difficult issues to deal with. But we have trained almost 700 officers in Tarin Kowt. We have trained just under 150 in the major crimes task force in Kabul. These are people who are warming to the training and we are giving them some basic skills to go forward. As I said, whilst we are starting from a low base, it is a step and it is a vital step obviously in that country’s development.
Senator HUMPHRIES —If an AFP officer involved in training Afghani police were to see or get credible evidence of an Afghani police officer taking bribes, would they be trained to report that to higher authorities to counsel the police officer concerned? What would they do?
Mr Negus —Again, we are there under the auspices of NATO and there is quite a defined reporting regime in NATO which coordinates the training of police across the country. So there are defined chains of command, if you like, and they certainly would not tolerate that. In fact, in a successful operation they ran not so long ago they arrested a senior police officer for corruption offences in a joint task force in Kabul.
Senator HUMPHRIES —The AFP arrested him?
Mr Negus —No, sorry. When they arrested him the task force did under the mentorship, if you like, of the AFP officers working there. So these are again small steps but they are significant. We are seeing police officers being arrested and prosecuted through the judicial process for corruption type offences, and that sends a pretty strong message to the rest of the police force.
Senator HUMPHRIES —Jumping again to something else, we are all well aware that between the time of her election as Prime Minister and a period shortly after the federal election special security arrangements were made for the Prime Minister with respect to her home in Altona in Melbourne. Can you just outline what those arrangements are, given that they are no longer, presumably, in operation?
Mr Negus —More broadly, we do not talk or speculate, whether it be the Prime Minister or the Leader of the Opposition, about what happens during the election campaign because their security and future security operations may well be compromised by detailing locations or methodologies or transport arrangements of what might happen there. So I would certainly prefer not to step into that area. If there is a specific question you would like to ask on—
Senator HUMPHRIES —Okay. Can you indicate the cost of the arrangements that were made?
Mr Negus —The AFP certainly do not keep a record of costs. I think Prime Minister and Cabinet certainly would be the place to refer that to.
Senator HUMPHRIES —Does that mean Prime Minister and Cabinet reimburse AFP for the costs that they incur of having officers stationed at places like that?
Mr Negus —We have protection officers that are funded as part of our core business to do that. The cost of AFP officers would be something that is known to us, but the cost of accommodation and those sorts of things certainly we would not have.
Senator HUMPHRIES —I have a couple of questions about your annual report. I am looking at the Drug Harm Index that describes quite a sharp drop in the extent to which a key performance indicator for the AFP is being met in that respect. I note also in the table on page 31 of your annual report that there are very substantial reductions in the weight of drugs seized throughout this last financial year. What do you attribute that to?
Mr Negus —I am sure you have seen in there as well that there are two sides to this story. Certainly with regard to our Drug Harm Index the numbers by weight have dropped significantly over that period of time, and there is no denying that. Interestingly, over the same period of time the numbers by seizure—so each particular seizure—rose by 62.5 per cent. So we seized a lot more individual seizures but the weights were a lot less. Some of that can be attributed to different methodology.
We have certainly run a number of proactive investigations about people sending narcotics to this country through the post in smaller amounts. We know historically that that has been something that has evolved and people will take that opportunity. I can say categorically that we are working with a range of partner agencies, including Customs, the ACC and others to address that. In a very proactive operation a few months ago, we arrested about 25 people in one week, including three people in South America who had sent cocaine to this country.
The other thing to examine is how these things are measured. Year on year, one-off individual large seizures can impact upon those numbers. With the seizure, for instance, last week of almost 500 kilos of cocaine in Queensland, if that had been two months ago our Drug Harm Index target would have been met. This year we are off to a good start. It does not change the fact that last year the weights were down.
The other thing is that part of the Drug Harm Index also measures the AFP efforts offshore. That was also well down on previous years. I am told that the way it is measured is that it has to be determined to be definitely heading for Australia for it to be counted in our offshore statistics. We work in a range of joint investigations across the world. Where the destination of the narcotics is unknown or can be only partly attributed to Australia, they are not counted in those statistics. I am told if even only a small percentage of the joint investigations that we actively were involved in had been used, we would have blown that international KPI off the chart. But it is just a matter of the way that these things are used. We are modifying our KPIs into this year to give, I think, a better feel for that. But again, it can be influenced by one-off large seizures and, as I said, changes in methodology for how narcotics are brought into the country.
Senator HUMPHRIES —I suppose one way of reading the fact that there are more seizures but smaller amounts in each case could be that drug smugglers are, in fact, making their shipments in smaller lots to protect more of their consignments, as it were. Is that a reasonable interpretation of the evidence?
Mr Negus —Certainly that is a reasonable interpretation. I think that is part of the answer. The evidence and the intelligence we have is there are still large shipments of narcotics destined for Australia. As I said, we saw almost 500 kilos last week. We do not resile from that fact. We are working with Customs and with our partner agencies around the country, state and territories, as well as the ACC to look at the waterfront, to look at how methodologies have changed and to really try to keep pace with what is very much a changing environment. Every time we intercept something, the organised criminals find a new way of hiding it or a new way of getting it into this country. Again, things like corruption and sophisticated concealment methods are all the things that we are working very hard to try to get to the bottom of. We have instituted a new waterfront task force in Sydney, with a very multi-agency approach to look at issues around that. All these things are something that we are certainly not sitting on our hands about, but it is a difficult task.
Senator HUMPHRIES —I assume you can extrapolate from the price that is being paid for drugs on the streets of Sydney and Melbourne how many total drugs are reaching the streets of Sydney and Melbourne. Do you monitor those sorts of prices? Do you have an idea of whether those indicators would suggest that fewer drugs are reaching our streets than was the case 12 months ago, for example?
Mr Negus —Certainly I do not have anything at my disposal here. Certainly our analysts and others do monitor drug prices and we look at that. Unfortunately, the size of the market is such that you have to take a fair whack out of it to make an impact on the price. We have seen that with previous big shipments, where it has not moved the price very much at all, if at all. I do not think it is a great indicator because of the size of the market, unfortunately.
Senator HUMPHRIES —It could be the best indicator in some respects, almost.
Mr Negus —Well, it does give you that, I suppose, yes.
Senator HUMPHRIES —All right, jumping again to protection services. I notice there has been a significant drop in the level of client/stakeholder satisfaction, close personal protection principles from 92 per cent the previous financial year to 81 per cent in the most recent financial year. I assume that the number of people we are talking about in that category who are clients or stakeholders is quite small. What do you attribute that drop to?
Mr Negus —I might just hand over to Deputy Commissioner Drennan, who has responsibility for that particular area, and I can come in at the end if I need to.
Senator HUMPHRIES —Sure.
Mr Drennan —Thank you, Senator. You are correct that the sample size there is quite small. What we found is that some of the people we surveyed were not the ones that we were actively engaged with. Secondly, we had not actually done any work with those people to ensure they understood fully what the survey was about.
What we have done as a result of that—and we are preparing for the next business satisfaction survey now—is ensure that the list of clients who are surveyed is more extensive so we can get a more accurate picture. We are engaging with those prior to the survey to ensure that they understand the significance of the survey. We are ensuring that the manner in which we provide the service to them is what they expect. In short, we are proactively engaging with them to ensure we have the correct people and they understand the importance of the business satisfaction survey.
Senator HUMPHRIES —I do not quite understand what you mean by saying that they previously were not aware of the nature of the survey or the nature of the services being provided to them. What do you mean? Surely they are either satisfied or dissatisfied with what is going on with respect to their close personal protection?
Mr Drennan —The business satisfaction survey covers a broad range of issues. It is actually about ensuring that people understand what the actual issue is and that we are talking to the correct person. If the business satisfaction survey is sent to a department and is dealt with by people who are not actively engaged with the AFP then the response we get may not be as accurate as if it went to the person who was actively engaged with the AFP.
Senator HUMPHRIES —So is there evidence that people who were not actually being protected have responded to the survey?
Mr Drennan —People with administrative responsibility for supporting those people as opposed to the actual person for whom the protection is provided.
Mr Negus —There is a very high target set of 90 per cent of people who are satisfied or very satisfied in that regard. Last year we achieved 81 per cent, which is still a relatively high number, but, in the close personal protection space, we insist on this being a very strong relationship. I think we have learnt some lessons about that from last year. Traditionally those numbers are in excess of 90 per cent. For a few years I remember they have been at 100 per cent. We need to make sure that we are getting the questions right and getting the service right.
Senator HUMPHRIES —Can I ask whether the present or previous Prime Minister or their office have indicated any dissatisfaction with the services they have received?
Mr Drennan —The survey responses from individual people are anonymous so that we can ensure that people will provide a frank response. Who actually provided the individual response is not part of the information that comes back to us.
Senator HUMPHRIES —How do you handle an anonymous complaint from the Prime Minister’s office? How does that work?
Mr Negus —Usually it is not an anonymous complaint from the Prime Minister’s office. Through the survey the answers provided are anonymous. That is part of our normal survey process to make sure the survey stands the proper test. If there are concerns or issues during a period of time—whether it be from the Leader of the Opposition or the Prime Minister—we would certainly look to remedy those very quickly. I am pleased to say that those are very infrequently received.
Senator HUMPHRIES —Someone other than the AFP does the surveying?
Mr Drennan —The University of Queensland.
Senator HUMPHRIES —You may have heard that evidence was given to another committee today that there was some commentary on headgear being worn into Parliament House. I understand that Ms Graham from the Department of Parliamentary Services indicated that there would not be a requirement for security staff in the building—that is, obviously not the people outside the building but the ones admitting people to the building—to ask a person wearing a balaclava to remove their balaclava. I wonder whether the AFP had any view about the security implications of people entering Parliament House wearing balaclavas?
Mr Negus —I did not hear the evidence given in the other committee. Personally, I would have some concerns about someone wearing something into a secure environment which may disguise their identity. But, again, I do not know the circumstances of the evidence that was given.
Senator HUMPHRIES —I recommend that you have a word with the people from the Department of Parliamentary Services if that is the evidence that they gave—and that is what has been reported in the media. I also noticed an article in the Canberra Times only a couple of days ago about the purchase of $1.5 million worth of armoured vehicles from BMW. Can you tell me why these vehicles, rather than an Australian-made product, were chosen for the protection of Australian and foreign dignitaries?
Mr Negus —Certainly. The BMW X5 Security was selected through a comprehensive evaluation and tender process to be the most suitable replacement vehicle for the ones that currently exist. The BMW X5 Security meets the specifications required for a close personal protection security vehicle for use in providing CPP to high-risk individuals. The AFP uses alternative Australian manufactured non-armoured vehicles—and these BMW X5s are factory light-armoured vehicles. So we use Australian manufactured non-armoured vehicles for providing CPP for lower-risk individuals. So these five are only part of a broader fleet, and the rest of them are Australian made.
The AFP considered a range of armoured vehicle alternative options available within the Australian market and found that no Australian manufacturer provides a suitable purpose-built light armoured vehicle alternative. The BMW X5 Securities are Australian design rules compliant, allowing them to be registered in Australia—which, again, is a concern. These vehicles carry a lot of extra weight in the bulletproof glass and other protection that is available. They will be used by AFP personnel as escort vehicles and in the normal conduct of their close personal protection duties.
A range of options were canvassed. We certainly have a requirement to buy Australian vehicles where we can but, again, these vehicles, being factory armoured, provided all of the requirements that were needed and were seen to be the best vehicle after that comprehensive evaluation and tender process.
Senator HUMPHRIES —So it is not possible to make security adjustments to a Ford Territory or some other Australian manufactured car?
Mr Negus —You can do it, and, in the past, we have done it with certain vehicles. That usually costs pretty much the same as what these ones do, except the windows do not wind up because of the weight of the glass. They wear out their brakes every time you drive them three laps around the block and there are a whole range of other processes about emissions and the greenhouse effect of these vehicles. They are not standard designed to carry the sort of weight and be the sort of vehicles that they are. The German-made BMWs are. They meet all Australian standards at a very similar cost. I think $300,000 per vehicle is not cheap, but when you buy a Statesman or something like that and then try to retrofit them, it becomes a very expensive exercise. They do not have the handling or the capability which would be of use to our officers to get out of tight situations when you need them to.
Senator HUMPHRIES —Yes. I have not noticed the Prime Minister being driven around in a BMW at this point in time. So I assume she is not one of the beneficiaries of the more secure vehicles. That is a comment rather than a question. Can I move to a question about operation—
Senator Ludwig —Just before you do that: as I recall, you prefaced your remarks with comments about foreign dignitaries or Australians being carried in these vehicles. I do not believe that that is actually the case. I think they are used by the AFP. I will ask Mr Negus to clarify that. I am not sure myself, but I just want it not to be left on the record, in a response by you or a question by you, that that was the case.
Senator HUMPHRIES —Okay.
Mr Negus —I am sorry, I did not pick up the introduction to the question, but certainly they are not to be used to carry foreign dignitaries or Australian dignitaries. These are for the AFP protection officers who escort them. They are escort vehicles. Traditionally, most of the vehicles that are used by foreign dignitaries in high-risk situations—and these are for high risk—would already be factory armoured. For instance, if President Obama were to visit, the vehicles he would bring would already have a degree of protection afforded to them. These are for our own officers as escort vehicles.
Senator HUMPHRIES —Okay. Thank you for clarifying that. How many AFP officers are involved in Operation Rune—the investigation into the Securency issue?
Mr Negus —We currently have 23 officers working on that case.
Senator HUMPHRIES —Can you give us an update on where that investigation stands at the moment?
Mr Negus —Again, I will preface my remarks by saying that the matter is still an ongoing investigation, so I am somewhat limited in what I can say. But I can certainly update you on some of the recent activity in that regard. As you would be aware, this matter has been going for some time. On 6 October 2010, the AFP executed search warrants on six residential addresses in Victoria and seized an amount of property. On the same date, in coordinated raids across the world, the United Kingdom authorities executed nine search warrants. Two people were arrested for questioning in the UK. Those people are yet to be charged. They have been released and have not been charged. On the same date, Spanish authorities executed two search warrants in Spain relating to the matter. As a result, evidentiary material was seized but no persons were arrested and charged. This is a very complex investigation. It has been going for quite some time. Again, it is progressing and progressing well, I think. I receive regular personal briefings on this case. But we are not at the point yet of completing the investigation.
Senator HUMPHRIES —Thank you. I have other questions which I will place on notice.
Senator BARNETT —Tasers have caused a good deal of interest and media speculation, particularly in different jurisdictions. Could the AFP provide its policy view with respect to the use of tasers—by whom and where it is appropriate?
Mr Negus —We have a fairly restricted use of tasers. At the moment they are only available to members of our advanced warrant teams. These are people who receive additional training and do high-risk search warrants where there is quite often forced entry into premises—those sorts of things. Also, tasers are available to our police tactical groups, which are the SWAT team equivalents, to put it in common terminology. They are not available to everyday federal agents or officers on the road here in Canberra who do community policing.
Senator BARNETT —Have you expressed your views in terms of the appropriateness of the use of tasers to your colleagues in the various state and territory jurisdictions?
Mr Negus —It has been something we have discussed. As you said in your opening comment, there is no standard policy. It is something we have talked about, but it is a very difficult issue to get consensus on. It ranges from the full spectrum of a very restricted use to a very wide use across the states and territories. It is up to each of those individual governments and police forces to make their own judgements. We have fairly restricted use. We think that is appropriate in the ACT particularly. We are doing a review at the moment on the operational use of tasers in the ACT. I spoke to the ACT Minister for Police and Emergency Services, Simon Corbell, just the other day about this. He, like me, is looking forward to the review being completed, and we can make some judgements then.
Senator BARNETT —Who is undertaking the review?
Mr Negus —I am not sure of the exact person doing the review. I think it might be an internal review, but I do not have the name of the person.
Senator Ludwig —As I understand it, it is the Australia New Zealand Policing Advisory Agency. They might have commissioned the review, but I am not sure who will conduct it. We will take it on notice and find out.
Senator BARNETT —Is that for and on behalf of the ACT or—
Mr Negus —The ACT is doing a separate review. I think this one might relate to a broader review. We have had discussions amongst commissioners. Again, it has been a very problematic area in which to get any form of consensus.
Senator BARNETT —You have your police management capability unit—I have forgotten the correct name of it. Does that have a policy position on tasers?
Mr Negus —I am not sure of the unit you are actually talking about—unless you are referring to ANZPSA, which is the Australia New Zealand Police Support Agency, who provide support to the commissioners and to ministers in that regard.
Senator BARNETT —No, I was referring to the Institute of Police Management, I think it is called. Do they have a view on these issues?
Mr Negus —No. They are basically an education facility. The policies regarding each of these areas are really up to the respective state and territory governments or commissioners.
Senator BARNETT —It has been considered of such importance that ANZPAA has now got a view and they are undertaking a review. Who is undertaking that review and when will that review be reported?
Mr Negus —I think I probably need to go back two steps to make sure we are on the same track here. The review that is being undertaken in the ACT is an internal review, and that will come to the chief police officer in the ACT and me and the minister. ANZPAA has provided some support to all of the commissioners under the senior officers group. This group is under the ministerial council on emergency services for police, which the Minister for Home Affairs sits on. They have provided some support in the past, but there has been no group consensus or review that I am aware of that has actually been taken by ANZPAA. There has perhaps been some research but no policy view. I am just reminded that there has been some operational advice provided by ANZPAA which says that perhaps you should avoid shooting to the chest cavity and those sorts of things. That is advice and that is already part of our training.
Senator BARNETT —Is that advice available to the various state and territory agencies?
Mr Negus —That has gone out to all of the state and territory agencies as well, yes.
Senator BARNETT —Is that a public document? Is that to be made available? Can we see it?
Mr Negus —The advice is certainly public. I am not sure if it was a report or just an advising.
Senator BARNETT —Thank you. My last area of questioning relates to a report in the Northern Territory on 27 September under the heading ‘Government knew of people smuggling’. I do not think this has been covered. It states:
An unnamed federal government agency knew of plans to bring a boatload of asylum seekers to Australia before the voyage began but did not inform police, a court has heard.
It goes on to say:
... claims were referred to the Australian Federal Police ... and the boat, known as SIEV 46, which had set off from Malaysia, was intercepted some 236 nautical miles ... from Christmas Island on June 26.
‘I accept that this was the first time the AFP had any knowledge of this boat,’ Judge Tupman said.
Can you provide further and better particulars regarding that incident?
Mr Negus —Since those comments were made in the court, we have reviewed the matter. The agency, which I would prefer not to name—the other agency—actually did provide the AFP with some sensitive information. Because of its classification it was not placed on our broader systems. It related to a separate issue, but it was not available to the investigators who were investigating the people-smuggling case. It certainly was not material in the aspects that have been alluded to in the newspaper article, but it certainly could have been of use to the investigators. This is about having information which is classified as secret or top secret available to people working on systems that are at a much lower classification level, and the AFP is taking some steps to make sure that that would not happen again. So it really was not the fault of the unnamed agency. It really went to the way the AFP treated the material because of its classification. The timeframes were very compressed and it had not been transferred on to the lower level system to make it available for the investigators involved in the case.
Senator BARNETT —So you are saying it was a system failure?
Mr Negus —Certainly the information did not get to where it needed to be because of the classification issues. Those have been addressed, or are being addressed, as we speak—in looking at how to transfer classified material to make that open to investigators to use in their day-to-day investigations.
Senator BARNETT —Let me go back a step. You accept there has been a system error where something occurred which was not done in an appropriate fashion in accordance with usual protocols—or did they follow usual protocols and there was a system error?
Mr Negus —The systems let us down. What happened was that there is no system to actually allow this to happen. We are in the process of rolling out a top secret system in the AFP—an IT system—which would allow us to then transfer this material accordingly. We do have vaults in each of our offices. We do treat sensitive material such as this very carefully on a daily basis, but transferring some things into that operational environment, which is at a lot lower classification, has been problematic. Working in our new building, which we have just moved into in the last few months, IT systems are beginning to be rolled out which would cater for this type of material and allow it to be transferred much more easily.
Senator BARNETT —Clearly it would have been sensitive information. It would have been secret information. For the life of me, I cannot quite comprehend why it would not have been passed to the relevant authorities within the AFP. But you are saying that did not happen. You are also saying it will not happen again. How can we be confident it will not happen again—because of these new IT systems you are putting in place? Is that correct?
Mr Negus —Senator, I did not say it will not happen again. It is subject to human frailties, and people make mistakes. But this process will be greatly aided by the new IT system we are putting in place. It allows connectivity with our partner agencies at that secret level and between offices. We are talking about the Sydney office and what happened in Canberra here, and transferring that material at a top secret or secret level becomes problematic for us without those IT systems. A top-secret vault in our Sydney office to house that material appropriately has just been commissioned and should be completed shortly. So we have had our issues with this sort of material, but I would like to make clear that I am certainly not being critical of that other agency that was named. The way that the article was constructed in the newspaper is not far off the mark, but it does not properly represent what happened.
Senator BARNETT —Why can’t you name the agency if they are not at fault?
Mr Negus —Well, they are not at fault, but again the nature of the material and how it was collected becomes a matter of classification. To name the agency puts them in a difficult position, I think.
Senator BARNETT —All right. My final question relates to an article on page 1 of the Age, on 9 September, with the headline ‘Asylum boat crews freed’. It states:
Ten Indonesians who helped bring asylum-seeker boats into Australian waters have been secretly flown home without facing people-smuggling charges that carry long mandatory jail terms.
Australian Federal Police decided the ‘personal circumstances’ of the crewmen justified the use of discretionary powers to free them.
That would probably be concerning to members of the community who read that. I am sure you have a response. I am wondering if you could let us know your feedback on that one.
Mr Negus —I might just pass to Deputy Commissioner Colvin, who has responsibility for the people-smuggling area. He is our Deputy Commissioner of Operations.
Mr Colvin —We are obviously aware of the article that you refer to. The information in the article is close to accurate, but it is not quite accurate. Certainly again, as the commissioner has already said on an earlier piece, the headline is probably not quite reflective of the truth of the matter. But it is fair to say that, as part of the process, the AFP investigates crew members, people who are involved with the bringing in of the asylum seekers into Australia. As part of that investigation we make a number of determinations. One of those is about their age and their culpability in the actual endeavour. The criminality attaches to the person’s role as a crew member on that vessel or whether they were a crew member at all. If there is not sufficient evidence and there is not a case that we can prosecute, then those people are returned. It is not a secret return. It is a normal part of the process of the investigation of these members.
Senator BRANDIS —What does their age have to do with it?
Mr Colvin —Their age comes into it in terms of the Commonwealth prosecution guidelines. There are a whole range of guidelines that are controlled by the Commonwealth in terms of when a prosecution should or should not be advanced.
Senator BRANDIS —I understand that, but the age is merely one of the ingredients of culpability, is it not?
Mr Colvin —That is exactly right. If we were to come across a minor, for instance, whose culpability was such that it required prosecution, then they would be prosecuted. However, we need to lead evidence of that level of culpability or criminality. If it is a minor whose role was very minimal and we cannot lead—
Senator BRANDIS —I understand that, Assistant Commissioner Colvin. I thought you were saying that age was a stand-alone criterion.
Mr Colvin —No, not at all.
Senator BRANDIS —I would not have thought so.
Mr Colvin —No, age and culpability.
Senator PARRY —I think Senator Trood had some questions.
CHAIR —We are breaking at 6.30 for dinner.
Senator TROOD —I understand that. Commissioner Negus, I understand you have answered a few questions about the deployment in Afghanistan. Senator Humphries has confirmed with you that the number of AFP officers there is 28.
Mr Negus —That is right.
Senator TROOD —There has been a suggestion—and I would ask you from where—that there may be an increase in the deployment of AFP officers in Afghanistan. Is that correct?
Mr Negus —There has certainly been some discussion about that with the Australian government. I think the Minister for Defence also has spoken publicly about a request that was made of him for additional policing resources. But, again, nothing has been decided at this stage.
Senator TROOD —So this was a request made by the Afghan government, was it?
Mr Negus —I could not tell you that. The defence minister has spoken about a request for additional police resources that was made of him on a recent trip to Afghanistan. I have discussed that with my own minister here, but nothing has been decided.
Senator TROOD —What sort of additional numbers are we talking about, do you know?
Mr Negus —The number that have been spoken about publicly is 15.
Senator TROOD —Do you have 15 officers that you can deploy in Afghanistan were you to accept this opportunity?
Mr Negus —Our international deployment group is quite a large cohort of people who are in places like Sudan, Afghanistan, the Solomons and Timor. The rotations of those are such that we think we could probably provide additional staff if they were required, but again there has been nothing settled. Importantly, with Afghanistan, a lot depends on the location of the proposed training, the security systems that are in place and whether it is inside a place like Tarin Kowt or in a different location that requires additional security. There are a range of issues that would have to be fully considered before we could actually commit to that. As I said, at this early stage we have really just been in discussions on that.
Senator TROOD —So are you actively considering this request?
Mr Negus —I think the Australian government is best placed to consider that. We have been asked whether we could supply the officers. The answer to that is yes, given the conditions that I have talked about. If that comes to fruition and we can meet all of those conditions that I have talked about, then we could supply those officers.
Senator TROOD —But I assume you have to satisfy yourself that the conditions under which they would be deployed meet your principles and criteria for the deployment of officers in relation to security et cetera. Are you actively undertaking any kind of consideration of those matters at the moment?
Mr Negus —Not at this stage, because it is too early in the case. I do not think any decision has been made. We have not even actively looked at where the location might be and what the circumstances would be from there, because a lot depends on that physical location and the environment.
Senator TROOD —Do you keep statistics on the number of Afghanis trained?
Mr Negus —We do, yes.
Senator TROOD —How many have you trained to date?
Mr Negus —So far in Tarin Kowt there have been 682 Afghan National Police trained. We have also trained a range of people in Kabul who are part of the major crimes task force. There are 143 of those. It is a separate environment but we have trained them as well.
Senator TROOD —How do you determine the length of your mission? In relation to defence, for example, we understand that the training force brigade is part of the obligation under the ISAF forces. How do you determine whether or not you will complete your mission or when you will have completed your mission? Do you have an aim in terms of the number of Afghan police officers you are training? What are your criteria?
Mr Negus —We have two years of funding for our deployment into Afghanistan. That will be reviewed at the end of that two years. It will be a decision of the Australian government.
Senator TROOD —So you are expecting to be there at least two years—
Mr Negus —Two years.
Senator TROOD —And you will train as many people as will be made available to you in two years, is that right?
Mr Negus —Our focus is on Oruzgan Province. That is where the majority of our trainers are. We have trained just under 700, as I have mentioned. There are about 2,600 officers in Oruzgan. We plan to train at similar levels. We hope to get another 1,000 over the next year or so. Again, I think we then need to make decisions about the effectiveness and the ongoing issues around who else is yet to be trained and how we can actually assist in that regard. The security situation and all those issues will become important as well.
Just to finish that thought: the training that we provide is inside Tarin Kowt. We do not go out and mentor them in the field. This is a training course of six weeks. They come in under the guidance of NATO and us, and they are provided with basic human rights skills, policing skills and survival skills.
Senator TROOD —Do you keep statistics on the retention rates after training?
Mr Negus —Certainly with the people on the ground there is an ongoing mentoring relationship where they can come back in and speak to individuals. I do not have any of the statistics about retention rates. The Afghan National Police, unfortunately, sustain numerous casualties. One of the statistics I saw is that for every one Afghan soldier killed there are five police killed in that environment. It is a very dangerous environment in which they work. I do not have any particular follow-up on attrition rates and those sort of things.
Senator TROOD —There is presumably a difference between retention—that is, officers trained and continuing with their careers—and those who are killed in the line of action. I presume those are different statistics.
Mr Negus —Certainly. I have just given an example that shows it is a difficult environment these people go back out to operate in.
Senator TROOD —Do you know whether the retention rate is high or low?
Mr Negus —Broadly, what I have been told is that retention rates in the Afghan National Police are a problem. That is something that other people, as part of their transition force, are working to reduce because, again, if you train people, you want them to be part of that force going forward.
Senator TROOD —And the attrition rate may also be a problem, is that right?
Mr Negus —Certainly it could be across the police force, yes. I do not have specific figures for Oruzgan. It is just a general thing.
Senator TROOD —So if the retention rates are low and the attrition rates are high, that is an equation which is not going in the right direction.
Mr Negus —I do not think I said attrition rates are high.
Senator TROOD —No.
Mr Negus —It is a difficult environment, absolutely. We are working with NATO to get the best outcomes to identify the people most worthy of this training—the people who are going to be there and who will be the most effective in this environment to enforce the rule of law. But it is a difficult environment in which they work and it is a difficult environment in which my people work. There are only 28 of them. This is the point. To look at 2,600 in Oruzgan: with the Afghan national police around 96,000 and looking to grow to 120,000 over the next few years, it is a large police force and we are doing our bit in one part of it.
Senator TROOD —Do you do the assessment as to the people who are being trained or is a decision made about recruits and they are then given to you to train?
Mr Negus —We do the latter. NATO actually select the people who are there to be trained and they are provided to us and we work in conjunction with them on the ground. So it is not just an AFP led mission there; there are a range of other people who contribute to training in Tarin Kowt.
Senator TROOD —Thank you, Commissioner.
CHAIR —That leads us to the dinner break.
Senator BARNETT —Can I just put on notice the three reports that I have indicated I would appreciate a copy of, if at all possible—the Beaton Research and Consulting report review of the AFP legal area; the Inspired Solutions report, ‘Business analysis services for high-tech crime operations’; and the University of Queensland return on investment study for fraud investigations report.
CHAIR —All right. Commissioner Negus, I thank you and your officers for your attendance this evening. We do not have any other questions for you, so you are free to go. Just before we break for dinner, though, I need to advise that we do not need the CrimTrac agency, the Insolvency and Trustee Service, the Director of the DPP and the Office of Parliamentary Counsel. So those four agencies can go. I am sorry to have made you sit here this afternoon without being a bit more definitive, but at least you might get home before dinner time—if they have saved you any! After dinner we are going to go to ASIO and the Australian Government Solicitor and then to the courts and then after that we will go to the departments. There has been a request, Mr Wilkins, that perhaps officers from the department who are responsible for the restructure of the courts may want to sit at the table at the same time as the courts appear at eight o’clock, if that makes it easier. I will see everybody back here at eight o’clock.
Proceedings suspended from 6.35 pm to 8.00 pm